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Mike

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat (A19004) 1:24

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Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat (A19004)

1:24 Airfix

 

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The Hellcat was a tough flying barrel of a 'plane, used extensively in the Pacific Theatre during WWII by the US Navy, as well as the British Fleet Air Arm.  It was propelled (excuse pun) by the powerful 2,000hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double-Wasp, the same as used by its faster stablemate the Chance Vought Corsair.  It was a rugged aircraft that could absorb substantial damage, more so than the faster Corsair, so it was well-used and well-liked by the pilots.  It was faster than the Zero, which was of a much lighter construction and couldn't absorb the punishment a Hellcat could.  It came into service in 1943 and there were over 12,000 built before the end of the war, with it playing a substantial role in giving the Allies air superiority toward the end of the conflict.

 

It was the replacement for the Wildcat, although it bears a very strong family resemblance that makes differentiation tricky for the uninitiated.  The pilot was well protected by armour around the cockpit, and the fuel tanks were self-sealing, something that wasn't present on the Zero that led to some fiery shoot-downs, some of which were captured on gun-cameras and are occasionally shown on documentaries.  By the time the -5 came into service, the 18-cylinder P&W radial engine was more powerful, the airframe tougher, and the forward visibility improved by the addition of a flat, armoured windscreen panel.  There were Nightfighter variants throughout the production run, which were the last of the type to be withdrawn from service in the 50s, but the day fighter -6 was the direct replacement of the -5, with an even more powerful engine with water injection and supercharging driving a four-bladed prop.

 

In British service is was initially named the Gannet Mk.I, which is heresy as there's only one Gannet and that's from Fairey ^_^ The name was soon changed to Hellcat for simplicity's sake, with the Nightfighter named the Mk.II.  The Bearcat was the final replacement of the Hellcat, keeping the cat naming theme that continued until the F-14 entered the Danger Zone.

 

 

The Kit

The initial reaction to the announcement of this kit at Telford probably wasn't everything Airfix could have hoped, but since then the level of excitement has risen, helped by its inclusion in the recent James May documentary about Airfix and Hornby, which also featured one of our very own members who was responsible for building the pre-production sample with that information helping design the instructions.  It is the third of Airfix's reawakened interest in Superkits that restarted with the 1:24 Mosquito, and has continued with 2014's Typhoon, a reboxing of which we reviewed this week here.  We've seen a few builds already thanks to the documentary and a few examples that have gone out early due to what seems to have been a bit of an early dart by one of Airfix's stockists.  Our sample has arrived and it's another large box that is well-filled with sprues, many of which are the full size of the interior due to the fact that they have been moulded in pairs with a central "spine" holding them together.  We've had to remove those and split the sprues up to be able to get them into the photobooth, so we end up with fifteen sprues in grey styrene, one in clear, a large decal sheet and a thick instruction booklet that will keep you busy for quite a while.  The painting and marking guide is provided on two sheets of glossy A3 paper on both sides with another containing stencilling instructions printed on one side.

 

First impressions are excellent, as the surface detail that was first seen on the Typhoon has been replicated on this kit, with oil-canning, riveting and a few lapped panels visible on the main parts, which will give the finished model additional realism once painted.  The detail is continued into the inside with a fully detailed cockpit and engine compartment plus further fuselage detail behind the pilot and inside the wing in the shape of wheel and gun bays.  Add to this the foldable wings, optional raised or lowered flaps, landing gear and a choice of weapons, and we have a literal super kit.  The detail and engineering has to be seen to be believed and the 310 construction steps gives a clue to how much has gone into this kit.  If you're going to break down the cost between the hours of entertainment you'll get building it, it will be extremely good value.  If you're going to break the price down on part count you'll get similarly good value, and if you look at the sprues it's a similarly good ratio of smiles per pound.  Each sprue has been protected by its own bag, and the clear parts have been cocooned in paper towel, then a bubble-wrap bag, and finally a similar style bag as the rest of the sprues, which indicates that Airfix are taking no risks when it comes to clear parts on their more recent kits.

 

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Construction begins with the option of building the kit with the wheels up and in flight, wheels down and wings unfolded, or wheels down and wings folded for storage.  This will impact your choices later, so choose now, walk through the instructions looking at the silhouettes at the top of the pages making notes and you'll have less chance of getting confused later.  The steps are in the new 3D style with the previous step's parts highlighted in red, and where necessary there are captions that will assist us with our builds, some of which will have been added due to experiences during the pre-production builds mentioned earlier.  You also have the option to leave many of the panels open or off completely, so you'll still have some choices to make throughout the build.  The final one of the initial options is to add an electric micro-motor to the heart of the radial engine to give your model an attractive spinning prop.  There are even custom parts to allow you to do this, and the routing of the wire is mapped out for you.

 

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After drooling over the sprues and the decision making, the build begins in earnest with some actual plastic that makes up the cockpit floor, which has a number of ribs added along with the control column and its linkages.  The aft bulkhead is detailed with fire extinguisher and headrest, then fitted to the rear along with the H-shaped foot rest for the pilot's feet when they're not pushing on the rudder pedals, which are fitted to the shorter front bulkhead.  Details such as instrument panels with decals and extra parts, the crew seat with seat cushion, lap belts and the shoulder belts, as well as other mechanical parts fitted to the cockpit tub, while ribbing, and more controls/instruments are installed in the sides of the fuselage halves, which prevents sink marks associated with moulded-in parts, then the cockpit is positioned in the port half for further construction. Another bulkhead with tanks is fitted behind the cockpit and the arrestor hook is applied to its bay with two small frames fitted forward of it, a scrap diagram showing the completed position of all the parts.  The radio gear is built up and placed on three palettes suspended in the aft fuselage, and the instrument panel with either moulded-in dial fronts or flat fronts in clear parts and a styrene front panel installed over the top. There are also decals at the bottom of the sheet, with their location called out on the back page of the instructions booklet.  Before you close up the fuselage, you may need to open up two holes in the bottom centreline to accept the external fuel tank later.  A choice of retracted or deployed tail wheels are the final dceision before closing up the fuselage, after which a central panel on the underside and the lower half of a fuselage frame aft of the landing gear are added.

 

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The wings are next to be built up into a full-width assembly that will be installed later in a similar style to the real thing.  It starts with the centre lower section with stiffeners added around the landing gear bays, a short length of spar that will be visible if you're lowering the gear, and you'll also need to drill some holes if you are planning on fitting the bombs.  The retracted gear is fitted along with its wheels, which are made up from two parts tyres, and three layers that make up the hub, and are used in all three options.  Another spar part and ribs are added to the inside of the lower skin, and this is then made up with the upper wing halves.  The gear down option differs by adding more internal detail and leaves off the gear legs for now, then the outer wing's lower interior is made up with masses of ribs inside to stiffen things up and add the compartments for the three wing-mounted .50cal machine guns.  These parts are common to all versions, and the machine guns have separate hollow tips for more realism, plus ammo cans feeding them.  The aileron hinges and hinge-point for the wing fold is glued to the inner edge, then the whole process is repeated on the other side, save for the wing light that is only fitted in the leading edge of the port wing.  The gear-down inner wing is then added to the wing uppers, and if you're fitting the wings unfolded, the joints between inner and lower outer wings are inserted, sanding to width if necessary, and then added to the inner by sliding in the tab first and then gluing the assembly in place from below.  A small panel is slid into place next to the open gear bays, and the open or closed gun bay doors are added to the upper wing, then the fuselage is dropped in place on top, with the clear wingtip light covering the lights with bulbs inside that you should paint green and red.  The folded wing version has short sections of the upper wing added to the top of the lower mid-section, and the wings are made up separately with more detail in the joins, plus cranked joining tabs fitted to the outer wings for later insertion.  Meanwhile the ailerons with their separate trim tabs, the flaps and inserts are fitted along with the gun bay covers, which are more than likely fitted closed when the wings are folded, although the open option is also included for completeness.  The fuselage is dropped on the short centre wing panel, and then we're back to the common parts of the fuselage.

 

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Firstly, the fuselage intake is fitted under the wing after construction with the exhaust vent closed or open 14o if not carrying a fuel tank, or 5o if the tank is present.  The tail feathers with their separate elevators and rudder are next, with their posable trim tabs that take us to the other end of the airframe, then it's back to the engine, which starts with a tubular shaft that can take the motor if you can find one.  Currently it's a bit rare, with only a couple on eBay for 2-3 times their RRP, and out of stock at Airfix.com.  Hopefully that situation will be resolved soon, as kits of this size deserve the extra attention.  There are a couple of extra parts for this option, but otherwise the engine is built the same way, with the pushrods added early on, the cylinder banks, separated by another ring from the front bank, with the motor or styrene axle added to the front and covered up by the reduction gear housing, after which the wiring loom hardness is slid over, and the fun part begins (that's semi-sarcastic if you didn't twig).  Airfix have supplied a full set of diagrams from front and back as well as cross-sectional diagrams for you to add ignition leads to all your pistons using a colour coded system which designates the length of 0.7mm wire you need to use.  Although this will take some time and effort, it's well worth it at this scale.  The complex tangle of exhaust collector pipes are added next at the rear of the engine, done in steps to reduce confusion and at the back various ancillary parts are affixed, with magnetos and such attached to the bell housing at the front.  The engine mounts and more exhaust pipes are still to add, and the exit pipes have separate tips with hollow ends for realism.  This goes on for a couple of pages, taking it slow to avoid mistakes, including various tanks and the tubular mounts almost last into battle.  A number of ducts are added front and rear to aid cooling, and a header tank is strung between the top two mounts, with the chin scoop trunking slung under the engine and married up with the cowling ring which has the lower section as a separate assembly to obtain the correct shapes.

 

The front bulkhead needs detailing before the engine is installed, so a set of styrene wires and hoses are added, partly inside the leading edges of the wings, with location aided by a translucent diagram that has the parts picked out in red.  Ancillary equipment, the stays for the intercooler flaps and the intake trunking are put in place before the main engine assembly is glued in place, using some sturdy-looking pegs that fit into holes in the bulkhead, and helping to line up the two lengths of intake.  The cowling for the very front of the fuselage is put into position part-by-part, covering up all the engine mounts, plus a small panel in the leading edge of the wing, the intercooler flaps in open or closed positions, and the supports for the engine cowling panels, which you can either install completely, or leave off in full or in part to show off your painting of the complex engine.  The cooling flaps are last, and these too can be posed open or closed.

 

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Moving onto the landing gear, which is only appropriate for the land-locked options with folded or open wings, the struts are substantial and made up from two halves, with a large mating surface in the front of the bay, the retraction jack and separate oleo-scissors.  You'll need to add some brake hoses from wire before you install the captive gear doors, and the small flip-up forward doors, then the wheels you made earlier.  The tail wheel can be made retracted or deployed by using a different yoke and the same two-part bay door, with the assembly fixing to the bulkhead at the front of the bay by three tabs for strength.

 

The flying surfaces for the remainder of the options are next with the flaps spread over the wing join in two parts, and the ailerons fitting to their three hinge points which have helpful guides to set realistic deflections of both the aileron and its trim tab.  Here the instructions take a break to build up the stores carried by the Hellcat, then take up the addition of the delicates such as the pitot probe, aerials, formation lights, IFF lights under the fuselage, the two part canopy, which can be posed open or closed, and the prop which has a different rear part if you are using the motor, then the prop is fitted to the front (it has a separate rear section), and the spinner is placed on the centre boss.  A couple of diagrams show where the aerial wires go, but you'll have to use your own material here as none is supplied.  The remaining two pages detail the final fitting of the folded wings, which begins with the little drop-down trapezoid-shaped flap at the break, then the wings themselves which slot in on their big tabs, after which you add a couple of linkages to complete the job.

 

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Let's go back to the weapons and tanks for a moment.  The Hellcat was rigged to be able to carry bombs and rockets as well as additional fuel in a centreline fuel tank.  All these are included in the kit, and at 1:24 scale they're quite large.  There are two each of the 500lb and 1000lb bombs, which come in two separate halves, plus a separate tail section and spinner inside the tail.  These then attach to the aircraft by two pins via short pylons of three parts each.  There are six 5" HVAR (High Velocity Aircraft Rockets) rockets in three parts and these have moulded-in rail-less pylons and fins.  These also attach to the wing via two pins that are at an angle, so that the dihedral of the wing is countered and the rockets hang vertically.  The bombs fit on the inner wing, while the rockets are attached to the outer folding panel, and the 150 gallon drop-tank sits on the centreline.  The tank is made up of three main parts plus two additional straps giving eight attachment points and requiring the removal of a small pin that hangs from the centreline.  To reiterate, the intercooler flap can only be posed closed or at 5o with the tank fitted.

 

 

Markings

Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.  There are four options on the sheet, with a full side of glossy A3 paper devoted to each option in full colour and all the paint codes on each sheet so you don't have to flip pages all the time.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • F6F-5 "Paper Doll" flown by Lt. Carl A Brown Jr., VF-27, USS Princeton, Oct 1944
  • F6F-5 VF-12, USS Randolph (CV-15), May 1945
  • Mk.II "Operation Sunfish", No.808 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Khedive, East Indies, Mar-Apr 1945
  • F6F-5 Flotille 1F, Carrier Arromanches (R95), L'Aéronavale, Indochina War, 1953

 

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The stencils are covered on another sheet of glossy A3, with quite a few dotted around the airframe.  These small details make a model for me, so it's worth putting them all on the airframe, and there are even stencils included for the prop, bombs and rockets with only the drop tank escaping adornment.

 

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Conclusion

Golly!  What a big, detailed, impressive kit of this WWII slugger, as you can see above, straight from Airfix's build.  My usual scale is 1:48, but this thing is really quite exciting from a detail point of view from the box, and will keep your average modeller busy for quite some time, especially if you're planning on putting your heart and soul into the build like it deserves.  They're selling fast, so don't hesitate.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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Thanks for the great review. I just got notified by FedEx that my two copies have been delivered to my doorstep in Central Connecticut awaiting my arrival home. I wonder if they are the first copies of this kit to arrive in the US?

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47 minutes ago, VMA131Marine said:

Thanks for the great review. I just got notified by FedEx that my two copies have been delivered to my doorstep in Central Connecticut awaiting my arrival home. I wonder if they are the first copies of this kit to arrive in the US?

Two? :o I guess we'll never know unless you hold a poll and every modeller in the US takes part :hmmm: might be tricky...

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DPD will be delivering my kit between 15:30 and 16:30 today, Friday 21 June!!  😁

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Thank you for the review. I'm very tempted now. Looks like Airfix has done an outstanding job with this kit. Does anyone know what their next 1/24 project will be?

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Unfortunately mine will have to wait until after payday, I'm hoping there isn't a rush.

 

For me though it will be British Pacific Fleet - JW779 flown by S/Lt WH Atkinson RCN who served with 1844 NAS HMS Indomitable during Operation Iceberg.

 

12.04.45 Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” Destroyed. Kawasaki Ki61 “Tony” Probably Destroyed, E. coast Formosa.  Grumman Hellcat II JW779/W1?? (note:- 1839 NAS aircraft)

 

All I need to do now is try to find out what the aircraft side number...  I'm hoping IanG might know and trying to find some masks to spray my own markings...

 

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Posted (edited)

Even without the review I was being tempted (since the reveal at Telford in-fact….. :laugh:).

 

The review just cemented my decision, and one is now winging ✈️ its way to me from the Airfix Warehouse!

 

 

Edited by treker_ed

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Just now, treker_ed said:

The review just cemented my decision, and one is now winging ✈️ its way to me from the Airfix Warehouse!

Well done that man! :clap2: It's a lovely looking kit :)

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Hey Mike, great review! As there are no pictures of the clear parts or the inside of the fuselage, I wonder if Airfix includes the option to open up the small windows aft of the cockpit and add glass. These were on early production -5s and I just would be interested to know if the option is available.

 

Thanks!

 

Michael

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5 hours ago, MichaelSatin said:

Hey Mike, great review! As there are no pictures of the clear parts or the inside of the fuselage, I wonder if Airfix includes the option to open up the small windows aft of the cockpit and add glass. These were on early production -5s and I just would be interested to know if the option is available.

 

Thanks!

 

Michael

Nope, that will require a bit of DIY in cutting out the relevant sections and letting a bit of glazing from some thin clear sheet stock. 

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9 hours ago, MichaelSatin said:

Hey Mike, great review! As there are no pictures of the clear parts or the inside of the fuselage, I wonder if Airfix includes the option to open up the small windows aft of the cockpit and add glass. These were on early production -5s and I just would be interested to know if the option is available.

 

Thanks!

 

Michael

In addition to the windows, which I don't think would be terribly difficult as the area in question is pretty flat and thus making clear panes would be fairly simple, note that the armor plating around the headrest was a different shape as well.  It was scalloped on the sides to allow the pilot to be able to see out of those small windows.

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I just received mine yesterday, very lucky it was a present from my dad for my birthday in April. The box is huge and the weight of it with all those parts. The instruction booklet is like a magazine, really looking forward to building it!

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Now received (26/06/19) - and what a great kit. And what a blooming massive construction manual...… But I do like what they have now done in the front, and hope that they continue with it in the rest of the new releases going forward!

What's that you ask?

 

A list of all the paints being used - Humbrol number and name, in numerical order.

 

This makes it so much easier when converting between Humbrol and another brand (eg Tamiya) no more hunting through the instructions and searching out all the paint references, 2 or 3 times to make sure you've got them all, before making a conversion chart to your favoured paint brand. Still need to convert, but the list is already there for you! :like:

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3 minutes ago, treker_ed said:

A list of all the paints being used - Humbrol number and name, in numerical order.

I liked that it was printed on each decal option's page so you're not constantly flipping back & forth.  Sometimes it's the little things :)

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Nice review Mike, clear and very good photography, mine was place into my grubby mits by the postman today.

 

Cheers

 

Den

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On 6/23/2019 at 2:45 PM, Work In Progress said:

Nope, that will require a bit of DIY in cutting out the relevant sections and letting a bit of glazing from some thin clear sheet stock. 

Thanks for that answer! A concern is that Paper Doll may have had those small windows, as I believe the -5s assigned to VF-27 were fairly early models. Hard to be sure as I can't find any clear photos, but could be an issue.

 

Michael

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39 minutes ago, MichaelSatin said:

Thanks for that answer! A concern is that Paper Doll may have had those small windows, as I believe the -5s assigned to VF-27 were fairly early models. Hard to be sure as I can't find any clear photos, but could be an issue.

 

Michael

In Edward's rendering of "Paper Doll" for one of their 1/48th releases, they show the aircraft with the rear windows. There are also profiles on the internet that have them but I haven't seen definitive proof via an actual photograph. Others may know more.

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Mike, I’ve sent through a ‘thanks’ like however I’m now not too sure if this was the right thing to do. Reading all this, looking at those lovely photos and eyeing off those French Aeronavale roundels has me now wanting one of these fantastic kits.... I really don’t need it, but boy do I want one! 

 

Cheers.. Dave 

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12 hours ago, Rabbit Leader said:

 I really don’t need it, but boy do I want one! 

 

 

I know! tempting this kit is....

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Mine arrived today.  Oh my word!  Big box!   BIG KIT!!!

 

The instruction booklet is like a magazine in itself. :yikes: 

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