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Giorgio N

Aeronautica Militare Italiana F-86E(M): the day fighter

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What would a Canadian of US origin coming from Britain have been doing in Tuscany in the late '50s? Most likely enjoying the beauty of the countriside, travelling from town to town, maybe on one of those exquisite Italian built convertibles, exploring the historic cities and finally having a great dinner accompanied by a few glasses of Chianti or Brunello.

Unless of course said Canadian etc. was a Sabre, as in that case she'd have been serving in the air defence role with what is maybe still today the most famous unit of the Italian Air Force: 4th Stormo based at Grosseto, in Southern Tuscany.

I realise that the introduction may sound a bit convoluted, what about the Canadian/US/Brit and so on ? Well, this is simply what Italian Sabre day fighters were: Canadian built aircraft of US design that reached the country after passing from Britain. The Sabre is afterall a US designed aircraft, and one of the most famous. Italian aircraft were however not US built but were Canadair manufactured Sabre Mk.4. What does Britain have to do with them ? Simply all Italian Mk.4s were former RAF aircraft.

 

The history of the Sabre Mk.4 should be pretty well known on this forum: they were the result of the RAF realising that with the advent of the MiG-15 their current fighters (mainly the Meteor F-8) were suddently obsolete while the Hunter was still far from reaching service. For this reason over 400 Sabre Mk.4 were ordered, from Canadair, all paid by the USAF under the MDAP scheme. Being US funded, the RAF Sabres remained US properties and once these were retired with the arrival of the Hunter in 1955-56 they were returned to the USAF. None of the aircraft however made it to the US as in the meantime the American government had decided to supply these machines to other countries. The Mk.4s were so refurbished in the UK by Airwork at Dunsfold and delivered to Italy and Yugoslavia under the US designation F-86E(M)

The Italian Air Force received their 179 Sabres between 1956 and 1957 and these equipped 2 wings: 4th and 2th Aerobrigata (earlier Stormo and later Stormo again... the Aerobrigata name for a wing sized unit was relatively short lived). It is one of the aircraft from 4 Stormo that I'll be building here.

 

Some may remember that I mentioned the Italian Sabre Mk.4 in the build thread for my Vampire in the Brits Abroad GB. Some of the history related to the Vampire is closely related to the history of the Sabres, that replaced the Vampire in both 2nd and 4th Aerobrigata. If interested, you may find this history here:

 

 

Let's focus on this build though, starting from the kit I'll be using: the 1/72 F-86F from the set Italeri issued to celebrate the Frecce Tricolori aerobatic team 50th Anniversary.

I bought this as a second hand item and for this reason the box was not in great shape, hence I don't have it anymore. It would have looked like this:

 

77984678-1a1d-4d7f-b145-88219d2f5233.jpg

 

(Picture from the Web, I'll take it down if it's not allowed)

 

Italeri F-86F??? Guess most have never heard of any Sabre from Italeri, and they are right. Of the kits in this set actually none was an Italerimould ! The MB.339 would be the closest, as was made by Supermodel and Italeri now owns all Supermodel tools after having bought the company. The G.91R was from Revell while the Sabre was the pretty nice Academy offering.

Academy and Italeri have collaborated quite a lot in recent years with several kits exchanged between the two companies. That the kit came from Korea is also quite evident when looking at the sprues, that are in sealed bags:

 

f634b534-3ce7-4a1d-91c8-e11f7f243a6f.JPG

 

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I will show details of the sprues in future posts, in any case this kit is very sharply moulded in hard grey plastic and features very nice detail. The Academy Sabres IIRC are from the same tools made for Hobbycraft and are somewhat inspired by Fujimi's Sabres. There are a couple of issues that I will sort during the build.

 

Italeri only added instructions and decals to these kits, decals that will not be useful for my build but are actually pretty nice:

 

dcf8e4e6-ae2f-4ab1-b30a-68e61b45004b.JPG

 

As nice as the Frecce Sabres were, I've always wanted to build a camouflaged 4th Stormo aircraft since I saw a Frog Sabre with Microscale decals representing one of these aircraft when I was 13 or 14. Now it's the time to do it !

The Microscale sheet may have included these markings but today I have a better source. The Airfix kit ! When first issued the Airfix Sabre in a box with markings for one USAF aircraft in Korea and one for a camouflaged 4th Stormo machine. Brilliant !

I may build the machine from the Airfix box or build a different one using the numbers from a Tauromodel sheet. I actually have two Tauro sheets with numbers for camouflaged Sabres: one has the square style used by 4th Stormo aircraft while the other includes rounded numbers as used by 2nd Stormo. The former also includes both square and rounded numbers in black for a natural metal aircraft. I also have a sheet with a full set of stencils for both camouflaged and natural metal Sabres. Here below are the stencils sheet and the one with the square numbers

 

8ea1d661-8f85-4771-b797-d940669e0daf.JPG

 

No picture of the Airfix decals yet as I have to dig in the stash first to get to the box. For this reason my last picture for today is of the Eduard Zoom set that I may use to add some more detail to the Academy kit:

 

c26577b7-7d90-4ad9-9297-311543ed85aa.JPG

 

Now the Eduard set is designed for the Fujimi kit but most parts should also fit the Academy one. I love these old Zoom sets as they gave enough parts to add detail to the cockpit and some other areas while at the same time not being overly complex. Their price was also great, look at the original tag: € 2.50 ! Two Euro and Fifty Cents ! Granted, they were not precoloured, they were not self adhesive, they only gave a small number of parts, but they were IMHO a good compromise between detail, complexity and cost. Today Zoom sets may be nicer from other aspects, but I miss the old ones like this...

 

I've already wrote too much, so thanks for everyone for reading til the end. One more point though: some may ask why I simply didn't build the Airfix kit.. one reason only: I find the Academy kit nicer to build, mainly due to the sharper parts and details. I will build the Airfix kit with different markings at some point anyway.

 

 

Edited by Giorgio N

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I've bookmarked this, G! I have the Hobbycraft boxing of this kit, bought second hand at a local show, and I intend to build it in an Italian version.

 

:popcorn: :beer:

 

Ciao

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nice project again!

 

and NO, you are not talking/ writing too much! I really enjoy the read! (have a Alleycat Vampire in the meantime by the way...... :) )

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15 hours ago, giemme said:

I've bookmarked this, G! I have the Hobbycraft boxing of this kit, bought second hand at a local show, and I intend to build it in an Italian version.

 

:popcorn: :beer:

 

Ciao

 

Thanks ! Hope that my build will be useful for your project. These kits are nice but suffer from a few accuracy issues. The fuselage is said to be too fat, and there's nothing that can be done about it. The airbrakes are too square and this can be corrected and I will correct it. IIRC the wheels are also not right, I'll see if it's worth replacing them or what... there may be a few other things, guess I'll find out during the build.

 

12 hours ago, exdraken said:

nice project again!

 

and NO, you are not talking/ writing too much! I really enjoy the read! (have a Alleycat Vampire in the meantime by the way...... :) )

 

Thanks, glad to hear this ! And good to hear you got the Alleycat Vampire, I've never bought one but I've read it's a very nice kit.

 

Back to this model, here are the decals and the instruction sheet from the Airfix kit:

 

70c3b716-8c03-42c0-8e7a-94767a3e06bb.JPG

 

The markings for the Italian aircraft only take a small part of the sheet, not surprising considering how colourful the USAF aircraft is !

Regarding the camouflage scheme, this was applied by Airwork following RAF specifications, so we have Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey over PRU Blue. Mind, not all RAF Sabres were in this scheme as a number had silver painted undersides. All reworked aircraft however ended with PRU Blue undersides.

Later in their career these aircraft were stripped and left in natural metal but soon a number of panels were painted in light grey. From what I understant these panels were painted in grey as small cracks were easier to spot on a painted panel compared to an unpainted one.

The Airfix instructions also show a bomb being carried... this never happened on Italian Sabres, as ground attack missions were the job of units equipped with the F-84G and F. So for an Italian Sabre Mk.4 it's either fuel tanks or nothing. Fuel tanks interestingly were sometime painted silver, I may choose these just to add some more colour.

 

One aspect to keep in mind when building these aircraft is that when reworked they all received the so-called 6-3 wing without slats. Sabre Mk.4 in service with the RAF had both the original narrow-chord slatted wing and the later unslatted 6-3 wing, but the latter was retrofitted on many aircraft that left the factory with the former. When the aircraft left the RAF they all received the 6-3 wing. From a modelling point of view this is good as there is no F-86E or F kit available on the market with the narrow-chord slatted wing. Both my Academy kit and the Airfix one represent the 6-3 wing. Academy have a box for an F-86E but this is incorrectly labeled as the wing in the kit is actually a slatted 6-3 wing, as used on the Canadair Sabre Mk.6

However the Italian Air Force also received 3 Sabre Mk.2! These had been given to the RAF in advance of the main order for the Mk.4 and for some reason ended in Italy. They retained the original non slatted narrow-chord wing. but I don't know if any of them served in frontline units or what.

 

 

 

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There's already a lot of useful info in this last post, G! :thumbsup:

 

Ciao

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This is rapidly shaping up to be another interesting and informative thread on your chosen subject Giorgio :D 

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Will try and follow this - it will be interesting.

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A nice read giorgio, I look forward to the build

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Giorgio,

 

A great subject and another good intro from you.

 

One thing I found out over the years is that at some point, some of the Italian aircraft had their cockpits repainted - not an easy task so it must have been when the aircraft were already stripped out like during major servicing.  Originally the cockpits would have been black but some were repainted in dark gull grey like the later Sabre 5, 6 and F-86F's.

 

Shame there's no really definitive kit of the earlier versions of the Sabre, maybe one day...

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Finally some pictures !

I have actually started this model a while ago but I wanted to post pictures when I had something to show, particularly in the cockpit. And let's say that that the cockpit gave me problems, a lot of problems !

This is what Academy supplies:

 

e5c7d6be-ec1b-4f58-9c26-ffb27de12c97.JPG

 

Raised details on the panel and consolles are not bad, but the instrument panel is a bit too small compared to pictures of the real cockpit, so I decided to use the panel from the Eduard set. I also took the pedals and the seat footrests from there, and here I had the first problems as no matter what glue I tried to use these parts didn't stay in place. Weird ! In the end I managed to glue everything in place.. and then the real problems started ! The tub didn't want to fit. I had to sand the sides in several places to make the part fit in the fuselage halves and during this work I lost the pedals... brilliant ! Then another problem became evident: the tub is integral with the upper intake duct, the lower being integral with the front wheel well. When I finally managed to glue everything in place, aligning the wheel well, the instrument panel ended being too far forward... it's not much, but can be noticed. This also means that a gap is now present between the rear cockpit decking and the fuselage. This will not be visible once the canopy is in place but clearly I'm not happy. For this reason I decided to limit other works on this model, I'll keep it a bit more OOB than planned. Anyway, here's the tub with the panel in place

 

9feb967e-d4b3-4bb5-a6f3-6acf08ce1c97.JPG

 

You can see that a sliver of plasticard was inserted between upper and lower intake duct. This was needed to keep the wheel well closer to the fuselage profile while aligning the upper side to the front intake part.

You can also notices that the black cockpit means that a lot of the detail of the Eduard parts is now not much visible... oh well...

Speaking of cockpit colours, as Wez said this was originally black as in the original RAF service and at some point the cockpits were painted in grey. A few years ago I tried to find when this happened, logic suggested that this could have been during the same works that resulted in the Sabres being stripped to natural metal, but I found a few exceptions. In any case I'd go for black for a camo aircraft abd grey for an unpainted one... yes, there were exceptions but life is too short to follow all exceptions.

 

 

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With the cockpit tub in place, it was time to close the fuselage. The front ring had already been glued when I added the cockpit as this part was used to align the tub/intake duct to the fuselage. The kit would benefit from a better alignment than what Academy gives and the modeller is left guessing how to properly fit the tub in place. My advice is to use the front wheel well and the intake ring... although as you now know the cockpit will end up too far forward. Or at least this is what happened on my kit, others may differ.

 

One  thing I didn't like was the exhaust. Academy correctly represents the rear end of the J47 engine, this however is too close to the end of the fuselage, in the real aircraft this would be much more forward. I considered reworking the area but then gave up, to give the impression that the part is further inside the fuselage I painted the whole part black with the detail only slightly drybrushed in a metallik dark grey. At least fit of the fuselage halves was very good, with only a light sanding and a touch of filler needed in some areas.

 

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With the fuselage halves closed I decided to correct one of the errors of this kit: the shape of the airbrakes. These are too square on the Academy Sabres (and on the Fujimi ones) while they have a better shape on the Airfix kit. As the aibrakes will be glued open (a common configuration for Sabres on the ground), I decided to use the Airfix parts as templates to cut a slice of plastic from the lower end of each of the Academy brakes, This slice was then glued on the corresponding brake well and sanded flush with the fuselage. The final result is not too bad

resized_0c735fc1-61b0-41e7-beca-e345376a

 

With this done, I glued the wing parts together. At that point I couldn't resist trying to dry-fit these to the fuselage

 

resized_d4b660ee-20ba-4b87-bba7-862d3602

 

Fit is pretty good here, but the main wheel wells will need some plasticard to close the gaps with the inner fuselage sides.

Notice how I also glued the instrument panel coming in place. And that gap at the rear of the decking...😡

 

 

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Wow, that's a lot of progress, G! :wow: :clap: Looks like she's almost ready for painting! :pilot: 

 

Ciao

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Looks nice Giorgio.  I especially like that you have a decent air brake to work with.  Excellent alterations!

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This one isn't exactly falling together easily but you look to be taming it in fine style Giorgio.

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Thanks guys !

Have to say that I'm having very little time to spend at my bench lately, anyway fortunately this is a relatively easy kit to build (apart from the cockpit position problem....).

The main airframe parts are now glued together. Fit of the wing was quite good but I had to add some plastic stripes in the wheel wells to eliminate some serious gaps.

I also glued in place the windscreen, not before adding a few more bits to the instrument panel coaming

 

resized_042a94ce-3b97-4f0a-9e6e-cde618af

 

resized_dc2b23f2-f3e1-48cb-8904-7dee95f8

 

With these parts in place it was time to mask the windscreen, the canopy aperture, the exhaust and the intake and start spraying some primer

 

resized_e512bdf7-89eb-4b66-9ef9-5eb4d410

 

As often happens, the primer showed a few areas that will require attention, like the windscreen fairing and the rear fuselage.

 

 

 

 

 

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Looks pretty good to me :clap:

 

Ciao

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Yes Giorgio this one is looking great. You're making good progress with it :thumbsup: 

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Thanks ! it took me a while to sort all the small gaps but I should be sorted now. And ahaving sorted these, it's time for a coat of proper paint, starting from the dark grey.

When these aircraft were refurbished by Airwork, they were repainted in the same RAF scheme that had previously worn: Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey over PRU Blue.

Actually not all RAF Sabres were so painted, as a number had silver undersurfaces, but all refurbished machines seems to have been painted with PRU Blue undersides. Not that I can complain, I consider this scheme as way more interesting than the variant with silver undersides.

 

My plan was to use Lifecolor's Dark Sea Grey but this for some reason didn't work. The pigment was separated from the carrier and for all my efforts I couldn't use this paint (that should now go in the bin, but being paint must be taken to the local disposal centre...). Fortunately I have a pot of the gloss variant of the same paint from the same Lifecolor, and this worked much better.

Painting was done with my trusted H&S Ultra following my usual technique: a first coat of paint lightened with a lighter grey (in this case Medium Sea Grey) followed by a coat of base paint with added Vallejo Glaze Medium to add some depth. Since pictures of these aircraft don't show too much weathering, I went for a restrained effect

 

resized_91be8f7e-17c2-47cb-8c48-bfb32a1a

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Sweet! :clap:  :clap: 

 

Ciao

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wondered having choosing not to use the italian decals on mine if we'd see them used for this GB

 

anyway as its in the thread OP not to much of deviation, as you seem to be versed in italian colours, what shade of blue is actually used on the MB339 by the  Frecce's? Is it an RAL shade, an FS shade or something else? 

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23 minutes ago, PhantomBigStu said:

wondered having choosing not to use the italian decals on mine if we'd see them used for this GB

 

anyway as its in the thread OP not to much of deviation, as you seem to be versed in italian colours, what shade of blue is actually used on the MB339 by the  Frecce's? Is it an RAL shade, an FS shade or something else? 

 

No problem, some deviation is good.. besides, my Sabre comes from the Frecce Tricolori box so the Frecce blue is on topic.. 😁

The colour used on the MB.339 is indeed an RAL shade, RAL 5013 that is also part of the Aeronautica Militare catalogue as Blue Nr. 5. This colour is almost identical to FS 15050. Xtracolor offers this colour in their line as X374, specifically meant for the Frecce scheme

The same colour was also used on the older G.91 while there are doubts on what blue was used on the Sabres, with some mentioning a darker colour.

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12 minutes ago, Giorgio N said:

 

No problem, some deviation is good.. besides, my Sabre comes from the Frecce Tricolori box so the Frecce blue is on topic.. 😁

The colour used on the MB.339 is indeed an RAL shade, RAL 5013 that is also part of the Aeronautica Militare catalogue as Blue Nr. 5. This colour is almost identical to FS 15050. Xtracolor offers this colour in their line as X374, specifically meant for the Frecce scheme

The same colour was also used on the older G.91 while there are doubts on what blue was used on the Sabres, with some mentioning a darker colour.

Thanks giorgio, tried couple of revell blues but not RAL5013 found them way two dark, will see how revell5013 comes out (I use acrliycs) or order some lifecolour 15050

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