by Tommy H. Thomason

Monday, September 25, 2017

Douglas A3D-2P/RA-3B/ERA-3B Skywarrior

Phil Clayton is building the Trumpeter ERA-3B kit with the Steel Beach update set and asked for clarification on the location of some of the details. That led me down the usual rabbit hole of research in the process of resolving some issues that I uncovered in the process of answering his questions.

I hadn't spent much time on the ERA-3B because it was restricted from carrier operations and fulfilled a vital but peripheral Navy mission, training the crews of Navy ships and aircraft to operate in a hostile electronic-warfare environment.

All eight ERA-3Bs were originally delivered as A3D-2Ps, a photo-reconnaissance "Version" of the A3D-2 bomber. Like the other Versions, the interior had been permanently rearranged to provide a cabin aft of the cockpit.
In the case of the A3D-2P, the cabin was divided into two compartments, one for cameras and the other for photo-flash cartridges and bombs, separated by a bulkhead.

Another distinctive feature was the addition of a periscope sighting system providing a downward view through windows on the underside of the radome.
The view ports dominated the instrument panel.
The long narrow fairing on the lower side of the fuselage housed the doors that could cover the camera ports as did similar ones on the belly.

When the RA-3Bs began to be supplanted by the supersonic RA-5Cs for reconnaissance, four were repurposed in the early 1970s to be ERA-3B electronic-warfare aggressors, BuNos 144827, 144832, 146446, and 146447. Note that the last two were delivered with the Cambered Leading Edge (CLE) wing, readily identified by the addition of a leading edge slat between the wing and the fuselage.
The major external differences were the addition of a "canoe" on the belly like the EA-3B's; four ram-air turbines, two on each side of the fuselage, for additional electrical power; a extended aft fuselage for chaff dispensing; flare/chaff dispensers on the lower sides of the aft fuselage; and several antennas.
The bulkhead between the camera compartment and the bomb bay was removed and crew seats added for two equipment operators.
An escape hatch (19 above) was added above the aft compartment.
In the early 1980s, four more RA-3Bs were converted to the ERA-3B configuration, BuNos 142668. 144838, 144841, and 144846. However, these appear to have been delivered with a smaller canoe, a different tail cap, different antennas mounted on the sides of the fuselage in four locations, and a change in the antenna under the nose.
Rick Morgan Photo

Of the original four ERA-3Bs, at least BuNo 146446 and 7 were converted to this configuration.

An excellent walkaround of a near abandoned 146447 by Bill Spidle can be found HERE

Note that the RAT hubs and propellers have been replaced by a conical fairing. It was not unusual to see one or even two RATs on operational ERA-3Bs with the fairing.

The Trumpeter A-3 series continues to disappoint. A detailed build article of the ERA-3B kit (the early configuration) by Philip Cavender is provided HERE

Note that it's missing two of the four RATs and numerous antennas. Not apparent from this angle, but the radome leaves a lot to be desired as well. The cabin is also taken directly from the EA-3B kit, so it has four seats instead of two, but since nothing can be seen of it, that's a moot point.

However, Steel Beach has come to the rescue with an accessory kit for the later configuration (small canoe, etc.) reviewed by Haagen Klaus HERE

Note however, that the ECM pods appear to have the outward bulge along the outer side that is not on the ALQ-76 pods used by the ERA-3B according to Rick Morgan. Another stores option is the ALQ-167 "Bullwinkle" pod, an example of which is in the Revell F-14D kit.

The Trumpeter engine nacelles are inaccurate but might be acceptable to most given all of the other inaccuracies. However, an excellent replacement set is available from HYPERSONIC

The Trumpeter canopy is equally off-putting. Hypersonic has a replacement in work but availability is TBD.

More later after comments are provided by my subject-matter experts...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Things Under Wings - Before Douglas High-Speed External Tanks

 I've updated my post on the 150 and 300-gallon tanks in use before the introduction of the Douglas high-speed tanks thanks to research by David Collier. See

Monday, August 21, 2017

F-4 Phantom ACLS Radar Reflector

ACLS is the initialism for Automatic Carrier Landing System. For more, see

Up until now, I'd never seen a good picture of the radar reflector as incorporated on the F-4 Phantom although I'm sure there must be one or more in the F-4 books that I don't have. This was the best I could come up with. There was a door under the nose and a corner reflector extended from the compartment it was housed in.

Thanks to Angelo Romano, we now have one:
It took me a few minutes to figure out how it folded up even with this illustration in hand, which depicts the reflector from behind:
If you look closely at Angelo's picture above, there is a line on the panel on the left (on the right side of the F-4) that shows where it folds in half. It is then sandwiched between the upper panel and the one on the right to form a very compact package that can be stored in the space available.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Relying on Museum Pieces for Accuracy Part 3

Restored airplanes, either static or warbirds, can lead a kit manufacturer and/or modeler astray from an accuracy standpoint. Missing parts, ersatz replacement parts, flat oleo struts, one-off test program modifications, etc. have all resulted in kits and built models with errors. Sometimes, however, what's there is ignored or disbelieved. A case in point is the Douglas AD (A-1) Skyraider vertical stabilizer.

In addition to thrust, the propeller on a single-engine airplane creates other forces that must be taken into account. Consider the following for a propeller turning clockwise from the pilot's point of view. When the propeller is inclined nose up to the relative airflow, the down-going blade produces more thrust on that side than the other, resulting in a turning moment to the left (this effect is known as P-factor). The turning propeller also creates torque, causing the airplane to roll to the left; opposing this requires right stick, which increases lift on the left wing and therefore potentially drag and a turn to the left (some aileron-control designs compensate for this). When the airplane is on its takeoff roll, the torque also puts more pressure and therefore more drag on the tire on the left side of the airplane, causing a turn to the left. The swirl from the propeller, equivalent to downwash from a wing, impinges on the vertical fin, pushing it to the right and therefore the nose to the left.

In other words, a lot of right rudder (which results in a turn to the right) can be required to oppose these forces that cause a left turn. They change with the throttle setting and, in the case of P-factor, angle of attack. More powerful engines and bigger, heavier propellers result in higher forces. The flight-control forces to counteract them decreases with airspeed. As a result, the designer of a powerful single-engine, propeller-pulled airplane sometimes provides a built-in assist like a vertical fin with the leading edge angled left, providing a right rudder effect.

The Douglas AD (A-1) Skyraider incorporates such a feature, with the fin angled left at three degrees.

You'll note that the fin also appears to have a cambered airfoil, creating lift to the right as in the application of left rudder. My guess is that this isn't as effective at low speeds during a high-power wave-off as the angling of the fin to the left (right rudder) but is important in a dive (the AD was designed as a dive bomber) when the fin angle created too much "right rudder" at that low angle of attack, reduced throttle setting condition at fairly high speed.

This is my picture of the fin of the AD Skyraider at the National Naval Aviation Museum that shows the airfoil and the angle to the left relative to the dorsal fin that can be seen forward of the red anti-collision beacon.

Byron (SpadGuy) Hukee (see provided this picture of a Skyraider's rudder.
If you look closely, you'll see a kink in the trailing edge of the rudder just above the location of the horizontal stabilizer. You'll also note a difference in the fairing of the fuselage into the fin between the left and right sides of the airplane.

An even more striking example was provided by Ed Barthelmes (see of the AD-5's vertical fin leading edge. Its air inlet and dorsal fin provide an excellent perspective of the fin's offset to the left side of the fuselage.

The old Airfix 1/72 kit of the AD Skyraider incorporated this feature. Some modelers have erroneously gone to the trouble of removing it...

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Relying on Museum Examples for Detail Accuracy: Part 2

Today's example is the gorgeous "F7U-3M" at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola.
This picture is from the walkaround section of Britmodeller curated by Julien and in this case credited to Bootneck Mike. For more, see

I hadn't noticed it until F7U expert Al Casby of Project Cutlass pointed it out to me, but the external tanks are almost certainly bogus. External tanks are not often seen on the F7U-3 (even though it was short on endurance) but if present, they would have been either the standard Douglas-design AERO 150-gallon tanks, the very similar Fletcher 150-gallon tank, or the bespoke belly-mounted tank. These tanks have no fins and their afterbody has a distinctive upward sweep.
 Don Hinton Photo Cropped

 I suspect that they are either the 200-gallon tank that was carried by F-86s.
Or even more likely, given the flange on the left side of the NNAM tank, the one for the F-100s (see

Note that this F7U was delivered to the Pensacola museum with these tanks installed so they weren't a goof by the workshop at the National Naval Aviation Museum.

These are what the F7U-3 tanks should look like:
Note that the pod under the belly was also a fuel tank that could be jettisoned. (A very similar pod could be carried in its place that contained 2.75-inch folding fin rockets.)

For other detail issues with this airplane from an accuracy standpoint, see

Friday, July 21, 2017

F-111B Monograph: Buyer Beware

Steve Ginter was my first and still favorite publisher. See

I prefer to write about the also-ran, unappreciated, much-maligned aircraft that were not flown by operational squadrons. Few publishers would consider even a paperback monograph on one of those little-known (in most cases for pretty good reasons) programs. Steve has been willing to front the printing of a monograph on whatever esoteric loser I am interested in writing about, which has sometimes been a loser from his standpoint as well. (You would do us both a favor if you'd order my excellent—don't just take my word for it; see the review on Amazon—monograph on the XFL-1 Airabonita, from him. He has plenty.)

He did finally sell all of my F-111B monographs that he printed, mainly because that was almost 20 years ago. You'll see that he doesn't include it on his website.

However, it is for sale on Amazon. Unfortunately, some of what is being sold is not one of the originals but a "print-on-demand" version. I haven't seen one but I've been told that that at least some are not very good reproductions, indifferently reproduced on low-quality paper. There is now a review on Amazon to that effect. A known purveyor of them has graciously agreed to stop at my request, but I'm not sure that was the only supplier and of course there are the extant copies.

What to do? I have no control over what's out there and legal action would be a waste of time and money. I can only suggest that you ensure that what you're buying is an original, unless of course you don't need good quality pictures.

For a limited time, you can also buy the monograph directly from me, which will include a multi-page errata document that corrects and augments information in it. For a quote, email me at

Friday, June 23, 2017

F3D (F-10) Skyknight Post Synopsis

Unfortunately, the "Whale" doesn't get the respect it deserves. Portly and underpowered from the beginning, it eventually received one of the most derogatory nicknames of all time, "Drut". However, it may well have been the longest-serving combat airplane used by the US military during the Vietnam War (depending on how you keep score, the C-47 might have that title).

I've recently updated one of my posts on the F3D for the variations in the overhead hatch configuration:

Two of my other posts on the F3D may also be of interest:

Friday, June 9, 2017

Relying on Museum Examples for Detail Accuracy

You really shouldn't. Today's extreme example of why not is the Vought F6U on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola.

It was created from an incomplete F6U hulk by retired Vought employees at the Vought Aircraft Heritage Foundation. For an illustrated description of the process, see One entire wing and many other parts had to be created from scratch. As a result, there were some liberties taken.

This is what a production F6U should look like:

Note the difference in the canopy and the shape of the tip tank (the reproduction has simple conical additions to the front and back of a cylinder). Another major error is the location of the bullet fairing on the empennage. It should be directly aft of the stabilizer. Unfortunately, repair of this F6U was begun at the New England Air Museum and this was their contribution.
The actual fairing was not round and it incorporated a taillight. The F6U reproduction also has a brace between the fuselage and the fairing as well as a longitudinal stiffener on the tail cone that weren't on the airplane when it was delivered or in service.

Vought retirees had to provide the landing gear from scratch so the struts are approximations, available wheels were used, and the outboard main landing gear doors were reduced from two to just one.

 For another of my posts on the F6U that includes links to others, see

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Skale Wings 1/72 AD Skyraider Folded Wings

Skale Wings is a new plastic model kit company located in Ukraine. Their first product was the AD-5W Skyraider, which I reviewed here:

Their latest product is a 1/72 folded AD wing conversion. Folded wings are a notable feature on almost all carrier-based airplanes but the detail of the exposed joint can be daunting, not to mention the lack of support for the folded wing when rendered in scale. In fact, the wings on the aircraft are usually supported by externally installed struts after the airplanes are parked.

Since I'm not sure that I have the final instruction sheet (I made recommended changes and suggestions) or photo-etch, this is a work in progress.

This is a test-shot build from Skale Wings:

Note the amount of photo-etch in the fold joint.

As a follow-on to their AD-5W kit, the parts include a pair of canopies, one representing the original "blue room" version and the other, the one with the cabin hatches bulged as they should be for the AD-5W and AD-5Q.
The plastic is pretty thick but parts are provided to slide the pilot's side back and open the rear hatches if desired.

Note that the pilot's canopy could be slid back independently of the one over the right seat and that the aft end of the canopy structure comes more to a point rather than being rounded.

The plastic sprues and photo etch:
One nit is that the wing spar is not fully represented on the the wheel wells.
Note that separate parts are provided to represent the sway braces on the outboard wing pylons (the inboard pylons were included with the AD-5W kit).

The forward-facing main landing gear doors have a cutout for the AD-5 catapult hooks that were mounted on the main landing gear legs but they aren't quite accurate. The bulge should be narrower. See the link above for a comparison of the single-seat and AD-5 doors.

It should be noted that this conversion kit can also be used with the Hasegawa Skyraider single-seat kits to add folding wings, since it provides the details for both types of wheel wells. However, to accurately represent any of the AD-5 versions, the lower center wing part needs to be modified to eliminate the oil cooler air outlet and the catapult hooks.
On the other hand, for a single-seat AD-4 (most of them anyway) or -6/7, you'll have to add the armor plate or cut up the Hasegawa wing for its armor-plated center section.

The folded wings will also be sturdier if you add support struts (which are not provided in the kit). This was a red, telescoping piece of ground-support equipment that was placed in holes in the fuselage and outboard wing panel.
 The location of the hole in the wing:
The hole in the fuselage was in different locations in the single-seat and multi-seat Skyraiders:
The AD-5  strut was therefore in place at a steeper angle.

The strut could be telescoped for compactness and was sometimes carried along on a cross-country trip for use when secure wing folding was desired where this particular piece of support equipment might not be available.

Note that since the wing was mounted at a small angle of incidence on the fuselage and the aft hinge was lower than the forward one, the wing tilted slightly back as it folded.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Complete F-111B Repaired

It's just come to my attention that some of the illustrations in my earliest F-111B post,, were not accessible by clicking on them. That would enable you to view them in a larger size and save them if you wish, which is what I intended. Those are all fixed now. Let me know if this occurs on any other post so I can fix them. Also, please let me know if you come across "broken" links. Those are inevitable but I'd like to delete them or find a substitute if I can.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kitty Hawk 1/32 T-28C

Glen Coleman has announced that Kitty Hawk's T-28C follow-on to its well-received T-28B/D kit will be available in June.

Not my scale so I don't have personal experience with its predecessor, but this is an illustrated build review of it that includes high praise:

Glen provided photos of a model built from the kit:
As you can see, typical of Kitty Hawk, internal details, positionable control surfaces and canopy, and external stores are provided. (Never mind that the front canopy is on backwards; these display models are usually built from test shots without benefit of the instructions.)

One problem with T-28 kits is that some represent the early T-28A canopy, which bulged upward more than the later T-28A and subsequent canopies.
The fuselage in the foreground is the early version. The one in the background and this one on a T-28C are the later one.

For a good reference, get this early Steve Ginter monograph that featured the T-28:
It can be ordered here: It doesn't include a three-view of the T-28C, so here is one suitable for checking dimensions:
Also a guide to the differences between the B and the C:
Note the difference in propeller diameter.

Several marking options are provided:
Note that the one marked as VF-84 is a warbird for which I'm pretty sure that there wasn't an example in Navy service. Similarly, my guess is that the tail code TN represents a warbird owner's initials. (Both of these have an N number on the fuselage, another clue.) I'm not sure that there was a C in the air drone controller scheme (the BuNo provided for that one was assigned to a T-28B). If you're a stickler for accuracy, you should keep that in mind as well as the fact that some of the walkaround photo collections on the interweb have warbird subjects.

One thing that caught my eye was the tailhook installation. I suggest that it look more like this:
Note the separation between the bottom of the fuselage and the rudder. The front of the hook point should be shaped more like a horse's hoof: