Saturday, June 22, 2013

Polikarpov I-16 type 4

This little Rata was built several years ago. It is the A-Model version of the Polikarpov I-16 type 4, and it was quite difficult to assemble. The kit had very well defined engraved panel lines, but that was the most redeeming feature. It is supposed to be one of the more accurate I-16s around, but I would not have a go at it again. The Hasegawa kit is so much simpler to assemble, although it is claimed that it is not as accurate a representation.

The I-16 is finished in colors typical of the VVS in mid-1941, and the unit markings are fictional.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Beast from Beth Page: Grumman F6F-5, VF-27, USS Princeton (CVL-23, 1944)

The Grumman Hellcat had the most favorable kill ratio of any allied fighter of WW2. It also helped that both the Japanese Army and the Navy had deplorable training standards by the end of the war. The Hellcat was indeed a beast, weighing in at 12,598 lb (5,714 kg) and with a wingspan of 42 feet and 10 inches (13.06 m). It had a maximum speed of 380 mph (610 km/h) and a range of 945 miles (1,520 km). The Hellcat was armed with six .50 caliber machine guns and it could carry both bombs and rockets in various combinations or even a torpedo. All Hellcats were built at Grumman's Beth Page plant on Long Island.

VF-27, the squadron that this aircraft belonged to, was activated at NAS Norfolk in April 1942 with the designation VGF-27 and equipped with Wildcats. The unit first saw action over French Morocco during Operation Torch and it remained aboard USS Suwannee for eight months. VGF-27 was re-designated VF-27 in March 1943 and deployed to Guadalcanal. The unit was refitted with Hellcats in the United States in early 1944 before embarking on USS Princeton. The cat's mouth markings were applied while stationed at Kahului NAS on Maui, mainly by the squadron artist, Robert Burnell.

June saw VF-27 flying missions against both Saipan and Tinian, and it participated in the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" on June 19th. On September 21, VF-27 flew a fighter sweep over Manila, claiming 38 IJN and IJAAF aircraft in the process. Formosa was also attacked before the Princeton returned to the Leyte Gulf as apart of Task Force 38.3. On October 24. VF-27 claimed 36 enemy aircraft, and four VF-27 pilots became "aces in a day", but Princeton had been hit at 0938 that same morning. A single bomb exploded in the midst of the Grumman TBF Avengers that were armed on the hanger deck. There were several explosions, and she could not be saved due to the heavy fires on board. The USS Princeton was sunk by US torpedoes seven hours later. This was the end of VF-27s war cruise, and as the Hellcats landed on other carriers, some navy commanders had opinions about the cat's mouth insignia, and they were promptly painted over. The unit had claimed 136 victories, out of which 104 were claimed on three days.

VF-27 was eventually reformed on USS Independence and one more victory was claimed before the war ended. The unit was disbanded on November 26, 1945. Ten pilots became aces and seven were lost.

The model is built out of the Hobbyboss Easy Assembly kit. I did get a couple of the easy assembly kits to entertain my daughter, who has decorated her room with some very colorful re-interpretations of both old and modern aircraft as well as a pink and yellow Typhoon class SSBN. It is, however, nice to share a hobby and it provides lots of quality time accompanied by good music. The Hellcat kit sported a good fit, excluding the canopy, with nice engraved panel lines. The livery is - obviously - insignia blue all over, although the nose art decals were a bit difficult to get to settle properly. I added seat belts to the cockpit and a radio antenna. Considering the cost of the kit, it was adequate, although I may want to try building the much-praised Eduard Hellcat kit at some point in the future for a more accurate model.