Friday, February 7

Build Review: 1/48th scale North American FJ-2 Fury from Kitty Hawk

Gary has long been interested in the US Navy aircraft of the cold war period, so when Kittyhawk announced this kit he put his hand up for it. The 48th scale North American FJ-2 Fury is in effect a navalized F-86 Sabre - so the bridge between the first jets and latter variants is in evidence right the way through this build. The first part concentrates on the cockpit as you will see in part I...

Build Review: North American FJ-2 Fury - Build Review
From Kitty Hawk 
Kit No #80155
1/48th scale
Price €44.48 EUR / 49.35 USD  from Hobbylink Japan
Facebook Link for Kittyhawk Models
The North American FJ-2 and FJ-3 Fury were a series of swept-wing carrier-capable fighters for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The FJ-2 resulted from an effort to navalise the United States Air Force's F-86 Sabre. These aircraft featured folding wings, arrestor hooks and a longer nose landing strut designed to increase angle of attack upon launch and to accommodate a larger oleo to absorb the shock of hard landings on an aircraft carrier deck.
By 1951, the Navy's existing straight-wing fighters were much inferior in performance to the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15 then operating in the Korean War; the swept-wing fighters in the Navy's development pipeline, such as the Vought F7U Cutlass and Grumman F9F Cougar, were not yet ready for deployment and so as an interim measure, the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics ordered a direct development of the swept-wing F-86E Sabres, designated as the FJ-2 Fury.

The first production aircraft flew on 22 November 1952. The FJ-2 incorporated many modifications designed to allow carrier operations: The track of the main landing gear was widened by eight inches, the outer wing panels folded upward, and the windscreen/canopy was modified to give the pilot a better view during approach to the carrier. The FJ-2 also featured an all-moving "flying tail" without dihedral. The Furys armament differed from the standard F-86E-10 by having four 20-mm Colt Mk 12 cannons with 600 rounds per gun instead of the six Colt-Browning M3 .50 machine guns of the Sabre.
Outwardly, the FJ-2 was hard to distinguish from an F-86, apart from navy paint and the gun muzzles of the 20 mm cannons. The engine was the General Electric J47-GE-2, a navalized version of the J47-GE-27 used in the F-86F. The naval modifications of the FJ-2 had increased weight by about 500 kg over the F-86F, but had not succeeded in delivering a fully carrier-capable fighter. As a result of a number of deficiencies identified during carrier suitability testing, it was decided to issue the majority of the production FJ-2s to the Marine Corps for land-based operations until these problems could be solved (which ultimately came to pass with the FJ-3 and subsequent FJ-4).
KIT OVERVIEW - Kitty Hawk 1:48 FJ-2 Fury (80155)
Kitty Hawk has recently released a new tooled 1:48 FJ-2 Fury. Maybe it's just my imagination but this kit seemed to have had an extended design and development period after being announced by KH quite some time ago. I think it's fair to say that Kitty Hawk doesn't exactly have a stellar track record with early jet subjects (their Banshee and Cougars being examples) and I suspect that someone at KH has been taking a long hard look at their research and design and I think this new Fury kit is proof of that.
Kitty Hawk has opted to model the early FJ-2 and Fj-3 Fury's and (so far) no mention has been made of kitting the later FJ-4, which is to be expected as there are already existing kits (Grand Phoenix and HobbyBoss) of the FJ-4 in 1:48th scale.
A quick look in the box reveals a pretty standard KH offering, with three main sprues, decals and photo-etch fret. Kitty Hawk seems to have obtained a level of consistency in their injection moulding process these days and so the number of mal-formed or short-shot parts is minimal. I've also noted in their latest kits that the sprue gates are much smaller and more sensibly engineered so as to make the cleanup process far easier.
The kit has a number of minor errors (like any kit) and plenty of places where you can choose to add extra detail. I'll cover each of these (at least the ones I found) during my build in more detail. Overall I could not find any major clangers and that is certainly a step in the right direction for Kitty Hawk.

The Included Figures
Another nice addition (included at no extra cost in the base kit) are two nicely moulded resin figures. I particularly like the pilot figure as he is posed boarding the aircraft, which is a great deal better than a traditional static pose.
Kitty Hawk is also well known for being generous with the number of marking options provided in the kit and this release is no exception. Full-colour painting and marking profiles for five Marine Corp natural metal aircraft are included. As usual with Kitty Hawk kits I suggest you apply caution regarding the accuracy of the markings and colour callouts. It's always wise to perform your own research and to that end, I would point you at a very useful thread about the Fury (including this kit) over at

The real aircraft - all from the US Marine service, are pictured below:

VMF-122 "318" #132000 in all over Aluminium
VMF-235 Death Angels "22" #131975 in all over Aluminium
VMF-312 Checkerboards "5" #130257 in all over Aluminium
VMF-334 "13" #132055 in all over Aluminium
VMF-451 "12" #131987 in all over Aluminium
The decal sheet is jam-packed with markings for the five USMC aircraft. Often I find KH's colours to be a bit off particularly with the colours of the national insignia (the blue in the stars 'n bars for example) being off to my eye.
BUILDING - Kitty Hawk 1:48 FJ-2 Fury (80155)
Kitty Hawk just loves to give us open panels. It's a good bet that if a panel could be opened on the real aircraft then KH (or indeed any of the Chinese manufacturers) will give us that option in plastic. Sometimes it's a monumental pain in the rear end because in the likely event you want to close the panel it only ever 'almost fits'. Having said that the decision by KH to optionally display the gun panels open is actually a good one IMO, and further, I'm happy to report that if you close them (like I will) they fit darn near perfectly (KH proving me wrong again).
Whether you display the outer panel open or closed you will still need to assemble the compartments as they form part of the cockpit sidewalls support structure. Kitty Hawk does a credible job of providing a nicely detailed bay, ammo feed chutes and the 20mm cannons themselves. A few wires and cables are really all that would be needed to make this area a nice showpiece.
The ejection seat of any aircraft model always forms the centrepiece of the cockpit, even more so with the canopy open. Kitty Hawk has definitely done their homework on the design of the kit seat. The general shape and details of the seat are very good. They have included the parachute fitted in-place on the back of the seat, which is realistic as the pilot would attach his parachute and the seat harness when he boarded. This small detail is particularly relevant when you realise that the resin pilot figure (shown earlier) included by KH in the kit is designed to be boarding and he is not wearing any parachute.
The fully assembled kit seat has the basic shape and dimensions of the North American seats fitted to the early Fury's. I did a bit of digging and determined that with a few simple additions from plastic and wire that it could be dressed up a bit. 
 The supplied PE straps are not bad but I have over time become less and less of a fan of PE belts as it very challenging to get them to fall naturally on the seat sides and back.
After some searching I was able to obtain sufficient reference material to have a crack at detailing the seat, focusing on the headrest as I felt this was a little oversized and under detailed (and would be the most visible part of the finished cockpit anyway). From the various drawings, I found it seems the North American seat went through subtle changes during the life of the Fury with the emergency handles being present on one or both sides of the headrest as an example.

This reference picture of the seat being lowered into the aircraft are of interest to the modeller

...As is this technical drawing of the seat.
And so after the usual amount procrastinating and navel-gazing, I finally managed to add enough detailing to satisfy myself. The belts are made from 0.2mm lead foil with the PE buckles being liberated from an old Eduard RAF belt set (in 1/32nd scale believe it or not). The oxygen hose is simply 0.3mm copper wire with some 0.2mm lead wire wrapped around (it is actually way easier to do than you are thinking). 
For a lot of the sheet plastic parts I turned to my Silhouette Portrait cutter to provide me with precise parts, some of them down to 1 x 1.5mm in size. As usual brass rod and copper wire were employed as needed.
With the seat itself dealt with I turned my attention to the cockpit tub. You can see from the assembly instructions that KH suggests you attach the sidewalls to the tub before fitting into the fuselage.
I opted to attach the gun compartments (and cockpit sidewalls) to each fuselage half first. This allowed me to more accurately add detail ribbing to each sidewall and eventually paint these areas as one. Note that one ejection pin hole had to be dealt with (the circular disc you can just see) on each side before adding the sidewalls.
My reference photos revealed a couple of things that KH had omitted completely in the cockpit area. The most obvious one was the ejection seat rails and associated armour plating fitted directly behind the seat between the rails. I don't know why but many kit manufacturers forget the seat rails (which are kind of important and very visible). The other area that needed some TLC was the shelf behind the seat. Deeper digging revealed that this housed several items of equipment and certainly was not left blank.
The seat rails were added from Evergreen 261 .060" (1.5mm) channel. The rear shelf took some more effort as my research showed that this section was in fact not flat but recessed and bevelled from the side. I fabricated new parts from .010" sheet card and also noticed that the early Furys had a radio compass dome antenna fitted directly behind the seat (much like the F-86 Sabre). I used the Silhouette cutter to create the little platform onto which to mount the antennas glass dome. 
A lead wire was used to add some cabling to make the area look "busy". This will all be under the canopy on the finished model, so still visible.
A final test fit of the new parts within the fuselage revealed mission successful. I really enjoy this part of modelling but do realise that not everyone will want to go this far. I would, however, encourage you to 'have a go' sometime as I think you will be surprised how easy it is and how rewarding it is when you finish.
The remainder of the cockpit parts received some minor detailing but really did not need any corrections that I could find. Note the lovely raised detail achieved by KH on the main instrument panel. This just goes to show what they are capable of when they take the time.
It was now time for some paint. Kittyhawk colour callouts indicated the use of GUNZE C336 Mr. Color Hemp BS4800/10B21 which is a soft green colour and it got me wondering. I had assumed the cockpit would be overall black (like the FJ-1) or grey (like most early jets). However, as I dug deeper the evidence started to mount that FJ-2s (at least early on) were painted in a bronze-green. The best images I found were taken from a North American 1953 training video on YouTube which I assume is of a simulator but nonetheless a very bronze-green. Museum and restored photos also pointed to a green colour being used.
After having a hunt around my paint drawers I settled on a bottle of MRP-132 INTERIOR BRONZE GREEN which was designed for use on WW2 aircraft (like the P-47) but looked to my eye a spot-on match. Other shades of khaki and olive drab were used to hand-paint the seat details like the parachute and straps. This was followed by a light oil wash and final dry-brush using Tamiya enamel X-11 Chrome Silver to show scuffing and wear.
For the instrument panel (which you may remember had such nice raised detail) I groaned when I saw the horrible decal provided by KH. I turned instead to my Airscale instrument decals. Airscale offer a full range of instrument faces (and placards) for aircraft of most eras and scales. For this job I chose their Post War Allied Jet sheet which I think you will agree makes quite a difference to the final result.
Kitty Hawk actually did a much better job on the side console decals and after trimming off the carrier film I was happy to use them over top of the raised panels. If you struggle with getting decals to soften and conform to detail like this consider using a stronger setting solution, such as Mr Mark Softer. It's one of the strongest decals solutions I have used, so be sure to do a little test on any new decals before committing. The cockpit received the same oil wash and dry-brush treatment as the seat to provide some depth and restrained wear to the parts.
Another round of test fitting to make sure I had not forgotten anything, this time with the canopy on. It is encouraging when the extra you put in is visible on the finished model like this. The main forward IP shroud and rear canopy shelf were painted using Tamiya Rubber Black as I find pure black too stark for 1:48th scale.
Gary Wickham

Part II of this story can be found at this link...

Thanks to Kitty Hawk Models for the kit – check out all of their stuff at their website or Facebook page… 
If you like Gary's models then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...