Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat has been underserved in the modeling market. There are a
lot of -4s out there in 1/72 and 1/48 scale, but the only kit in 1/48 comes
from HobbyBoss. The primary differences between the -3 and the -4 are the
armament (4 50 cals to 6 50s), the configuration of the cowl cooling flaps,
and the lack of a wing fold on the -3. The U.S. Navy's pre-war
identification schemes during its yellow wings period provides for a neat
looking airplane. I decided to do the 1/48 HobbyBoss F4F-3 and Hasegawa's
"Yellow Wing" boxing in 1/72. The Hasegawa kit is really a -4 with
instructions on how to fill the wing fold and cowling recesses and extra gun
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Hasegawa kit builds up without any particular problems. I used Perfect
Plastic Putty, a water based filler, for the wing fold and cowl lines without
much success. While the putty, white in color, goes on smooth it shows through
the Model Master yellow chrome enamel on close inspection. I didn't prime the
wings and cowl so that may be the reason. I've never had "see through"
problems with PPP before. The HobbyBoss kit is highly detailed and most of it
goes together without a hitch. However, the fit of the engine inside the cowl is
a major headache. This is the second time I've built a HobbyBoss Wildcat and
each time I couldn't get the nice detailed engine to fit inside the cowl. This
time I did a lot of sanding on the piston cylinders and finally got a tight fit.
If you have built the trouble free Tamiya Wildcat, the engine issues on the
HobbyBoss kit will drive you to distraction. So, on to the real reason for this
double build: the paint job.
The basic airframe painting started with Alclad II gloss black primer, followed by Alclad II polished aluminum. The yellow wings were airbrushed with Model Master chrome yellow. I painted the wings and fuselage separately before connecting them...saved a little time with masking, but I probably wouldn't do it again. The cockpit for Grumman Wildcats was not interior green or green zinc chromate but a darker bronze green call Grumman Green. I have been using Humbrol bronze green for this color and like the way it looks. I used Eduard masks for the canopy on each airplane.
During the 1930s, the U.S. Navy had a colorful way of identifying carrier planes. The carrier that the squadron was assigned to was given a specific color to paint the tail. The colors were Insignia Red, White, True Blue, Black, Willow Green, and Lemon Yellow (No "Orange Orange"). Willow Green was assigned to the planes of VF-4 later VF-41 on the USS Ranger. Model Master Willow Green was airbrushed onto each model. Airplanes were divided into multiple sections of 3 for the squadrons assigned to each carrier. Regardless of which carrier a squadron was assigned to, the section colors remained the same. So, all carrier aircraft in the first section (1-3) received an identification color of Insignia Red; second section (4-6) White; third section (7-9) True Blue; fourth section (10-12) Black; fifth section (13-15) Willow Green; and sixth section (16-18) Lemon Yellow. The appropriate color was applied in a fuselage band, to the cowling and on the wings, usually supplemented with a thin pin stripe.
The lead airplane in the section had its cowling painted in the designated color. The airplane on his starboard side had only the top half painted in the same color with the airplane on the port side having the bottom half painted. Both of the models show the Willow Green of Ranger. The HobbyBoss Wildcat has the Insignia Red band on the fuselage, wings, and entire cowl indicating it was the flight leader for the first section. The Hasegawa Wildcat has the White band on the fuselage, wings, and entire cowl indicating the flight leader of the second section. The chevrons on the wing and the fuselage band were easy to apply using kit supplied decals. However, the Hasegawa kit has a major error. It supplies an aftermarket decal sheet from Aeromaster but this only provides the white diagonal stripes for the top of the wings. A photo of the airplane shows the chevrons on both the top and bottom of the wings. I ended up using some white chevrons from the 1/48 Yellow Wings decal sheet #48-021 "Wildcat fuselage bands and wing chevrons" that worked in 1/72 scale!
The final identification marking came in the form of letters and numbers assigned to each plane and painted on the fuselage. Section leaders were assigned # 1,4,7,etc. The airplanes on the leader's starboard were assigned # 2,5,8,etc with the port plane in the section assigned # 3,6,9, etc. The number was then placed to the aft of the fuselage band. In the middle of the band is the letter F for fighter. (Other aircraft on the carriers were assigned letters to match their role: B for bomber, S for scout and T for torpedo.) Finally, the number of the squadron was placed in front of the fuselage band. The HobbyBoss kit 41-F-1 translates as follows: VF 41 (Squadron), Fighter, Leader of Section 1. For the Hasegawa kit, 4 -F-4 the space after the 4 was intentionally left blank. It was originally VF-4, which would soon change its designation to VF 41 in January, 1941. A photo of this airplane clearly shows the white diagonals on both the top and bottom of the wings. So, its translation, once the "1" was eventually painted on, would be VF 41 (Squadron), Fighter, Leader of Section 2. The neutrality marking on the forward fuselage dates these Wildcats as being part of the neutrality patrol in 1941.
This was a learning experience as far as learning bout the colors and how they were applied. I think next time I am going to build the old Monogram F4B-4 as the 2nd or 3rd aircraft in a section with their half painted cowls.
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