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Shar2

Grumman TF-9J Cougar. 1:48

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Grumman TF-9J Cougar

1:48 Kitty Hawk

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History

Initially, the Navy envisaged no requirement for the Grumman Design 105, believing that the Lockheed T2V-1 SeaStar would fill all its requirements for a carrier-capable two-seat trainer. Nevertheless, Grumman was authorized to complete an F9F-8 airframe (BuNo 141667) as a two seater under the designation YF9F-8T. To provide space for the second cockpit, the forward fuselage was extended by 34 inches. The two crew members (student in front, instructor in rear) sat in tandem under a large rearward-sliding canopy. An auxiliary windshield was provided internally ahead of the instructor's seat, which enabled the aircraft to be flown with a partially-open canopy. To save weight, two of the four cannon were removed and the ammunition capacity was reduced. The first flight of the YF9F-8T took place on April 4, 1956. In the meantime, the T2V-1 Sea Star had run into lots of problems with its boundary-layer control system, a feature which was in the mid-1950s still a relatively new innovation. In addition, the T2V-1 was unarmed and could not be used as a weapons delivery trainer. This led the Navy to take a fresh look at the two-seat Cougar, and they eventually acquired 399 production F9F-8Ts between July 1956 and February 1960. The production F9F-8Ts featured some structural strengthening, and most were fitted with a in-flight refuelling probe in the nose, which increased overall length from 44 feet 4 1/4 inches to 48 feet 8 3/4 inches. Late production F9F-8Ts were equipped at the factory with the capability of carrying two Sidewinder missiles under each wing, but this capability was seldom retained in service.

The type entered service with the Naval Air Training Command in 1957. They equipped five squadrons. The F9F-8T played an important role in training most of the pilots who were later to fly combat missions in Vietnam. The F9F-8T was also used for the first demonstration of the Martin-Baker ground level ejector seat when Flight Lt Sydney Hughes of the RAF ejected on August 28, 1957 from the aft cockpit of an F9F-8T while flying at ground level at 120 mph. Later, F9F-8Ts were operated by the Naval Parachute Facility at NAS El Centro, California for ejector seat tests. For these tests, they were operated with the rear section of their canopies removed.

A radar-equipped night fighter version of the F9F-8T was proposed by Grumman in 1955. It was to have carried an AN/APQ-50 radar and was to have been equipped with an all-missile armament. However, the performance was considered insufficient to warrant production. In 1961, Grumman proposed a modernized version of the F9F-8T with updated systems and a Pratt & Whitney J52 turbojet in place of the J48. However, the Navy selected the Douglas TA-4F instead, and the updated two-seat Cougar project was abandoned.

In 1962, the F9F-8T was redesignated TF-9J in accordance with the new Defence Department Tri-Service designation scheme. In 1966-67, four TF-9Js of H&MS-13 were used in the airborne command role to direct airstrikes against enemy positions in South Vietnam. This marked the only use of the Cougar in combat. The two-seat TF-9J continued to serve with the Navy long after its single-seat relatives had been retired to the boneyards. The last squadron to use the TF-9J was VT-4, which finally relinquished its last TF-9J in February 1974.

Two F9F-8T trainers were acquired by the Argentine Navy in 1962, and served until 1971. The Cougar was the first jet to break the sound barrier in Argentina. One aircraft (serial 3-A-151) is on display at the Naval Aviation Museum (MUAN) at Bahía Blanca, while the other was sold to an owner in United States

The Model

This all new kit from Kitty Hawk has already caused something of a stir within the modelling forums, probably more due to the fact that the single seater/s will also be released than the twin seater was first. There of course have been some concerns expressed about some area, particularly the shape of the windscreen and the canopy, but from what I can see in my hand it looks pretty accurate and not like the pre-production test shots. Although, having said that the main canopy could have done with more of a bulge and undercut on the sides as, while it is there in the kit part it’s not really bulging enough. The rest of the kit is beautifully moulded with no sign of flash, as we expect from new kits these days. There are a few flow lines on the wing surfaces, but they don’t impinge on the surface detail. The ejection pin marks are mostly in non-visible areas with only the ones on the cockpit side consoles that may cause concern. Although these will be covered up by the console decals it might be an idea to fill and sand them down to ensure they are not visible under the decals. There are no sink marks visible on the review sample, but the sprue gates are quite large and will need some care in removing the parts. In fact this and the rather soft styrene makes the kit feels a little like a short run injection moulding. There are six sprues of medium grey styrene, one of clear, a small etched brass sheet, the decals and a ball bearing to be used as nose weight. The well printed instruction booklet is beautifully printed and the drawings are nicely done although some care will be need as there are areas that aren’t all that clear as to parts location.

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Construction begins with the assembly of the ejection seats. Now, the kit comes with both types of seat fitted to the Cougar, the early aircraft were fitted with a Grumman designed seat, whilst later aircraft were fitted with Martin Baker seats which had a better ejection envelope and quickly replaced the earlier seats. The Grumman seats are each made up of six styrene parts and a photo etched harness, whilst the Martin Baker seats are made up of four styrene parts plus the etched harness. With the seats assembled it’s onto the rest of the cockpit. The cockpit tub is fitted with the rudder pedals and joysticks for each pilot, followed the instrument panels and there supports. Decals are provided for the side consoles and panels, Alternatively the modeller can use the instrument panels and side consoles found on the etched brass sheet and carefully paint them to suit. The front, rear and mid bulkheads are now attached along with a few detail parts, plus the coamings for front and rear cockpits. The two side panels are then fitted, producing a solid cockpit tub.

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Before the cockpit can be fitted to the front fuselage section, the nose undercarriage bay is constructed, which also contains the airbrake bay. This is made up of the bay roof to which the four bulkheads that make up the nosewheel bay are attached as is the rear bulkhead of the airbrake bay. The nose wheel consists of the main oleo, lower leg/yoke and a two piece nose wheel/tyre. There are two nose vents that need to be fitted from the inside of each half of the nose fuselage before the cockpit tub and nosewheel bay, complete with nose wheel are sandwiched into position between the two, not forgetting the ball bearing which I presume needs to be glued intot eh extreme nose as it's not actually mentioned. The instructions now call for the various eternal vents and aerials to be fitted to the nose section, along with the nosewheel bay doors, airbrakes, their respective retraction jacks, refuelling probe, clear blast screen, gunsights and intake splitter plates. It might be an idea to leave some of the more fragile items off until later to prevent breakages/loss.

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The assembly of the midships section of the fuselage begins with the construction of the three part inner main wheel wells which are then attached in their respective positions on the under fuselage panel. These are followed by the tail hook, (which can only be posed retracted), and the inner bulkheads of the wing fold joint complete with separate hinges. The inner wing upper sections are now attached, and if building an earlier version of the aircraft you will need to fit four small plates to the inner walls of the air intakes. Each main undercarriage is then assembled from a single piece oleo, complete with the scissor link, (which looks really fragile and will require careful removal from the sprue gate), and the single piece main wheel, which, when fitted into position has the retraction jack fitted. The colour callout for the jacks moving part is red, which leads me to assume a ground lock is fitted, thus not suitable for a landing display. The red section will need to be thinned down a bit then painted silver for anything other than a parked display with the undercarriage extended. Continuing the construction the tail bumper is added to the rear of the centre section whilst the lower anti-collision light is fitted to the front. The central beam between the main undercarriage bays is attached followed by two aerials to the rear, one on either side of the tail hook bay. The main undercarriage doors are then attached. As per the nose section, a lot of the above parts should be left off until after the build is complete to prevent breakages and loss.

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The tail section is now assembled with the construction of the tail pipe which is made up of two halves and the rear engine face. This is than sandwiched between the two halves of the tail section which includes the fin and upper rear fuselage. To this the upper and lower rudders are fitted along with the single piece horizontal tailplanes. The completed tail is now attached to the centre fuselage section.

The outer wing panels are made up of upper and lower sections and the wing fold panel. To the wings separate two part ailerons are attached as are the navigation and landing lights. The completed wings are then attached to the inner wing panels at the wing fold joint. If the wings are to be posed folded then a couple of the tabs will need to be removed first and these are clearly indicated in the instructions. Before the nose section is attached the centre spine panel is attached to the top front of the centre section, as are the upper anti-collision light, the photo etched spoiler panels and photo etched wing fences. With the nose section attached it’s just a matter of attaching the six pylons, (three per side) the windscreen, with added photo etched rear view mirrors, and canopy.

Weapon loads provided in the kit include two drop tanks, four AIM-9B Sidewinders, and four 2.75” rockets. The drop tanks are made up of upper and lower halves, the Sidewinders as single fuselage including two front and rear fins, with a separate pair of front and rear fins added. The rocket pods are again in upper and lower halves closed off with front and rear panels. The Sidewinders and rocket pods also come provided with pylon adaptors

Decals

The decal sheets, printed by Kittyhawk themselves are very well printed in register, with good colour density and opacity. There is minimal carrier film and the decals are slightly glossy. The largest of the two sheets contains the majority of the markings complete with a full set of stencils, with the smaller sheet containing the instrument panels and Argentine insignia. The four options are:-

  • TF-9J Cougar of H&MS-13 as used in Vietnam
  • TF-9J Cougar of the Blue Angels
  • TF-9J Cougar of Training Squadron 10 (VT-10)
  • TF-9J Cougar of the Argentine Navy

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Conclusion

This has the hallmarks of a great looking kit straight out of the box, although the cockpit really could do with extra detail and I’m not really sure about the fuselage breakdown, but surmise that this is due to the other versions projected to be released. The choice of markings is very nice too, particularly the Argentine machine. All in all a very nice package, but one which I feel will require some care and plenty of trial fits to get right. Highly recommended with the above caveats.

Review sample courtesy of

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and available soon from major hobby shops.

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