Kit Review: Italeri 1/48 scale Kit No. 2660; F-7F 3N Tigercat; 111 parts (106 in grey styrene, 5 clear styrene); price US$37.00
Advantages: only kit of this aircraft in this scale; nicely done rendition of a Korean war workhorse with good armament selection
Disadvantages: somewhat spartan cockpit layouts
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: For all Korean war fans
I've always like the Tigercat as one of Grumman's late war "hot rods" that got a new life in Korea, albeit far from its original design as a long-range heavy fleet interceptor. In its radar equipped "Dash 3N" variant, it was excellent at what was dubbed "truck plinking" in the Gulf War and disruption of Chinese Volunteer/Korean Peoples' Army supply lines.106 F7F-3N two-seat night fighters (Italeri had a problem with the designator, but they're not alone in goofing these things up) were produced between May 1945 and June 1946, basically very similar to the earlier F7F-2N two-seaters but with a new longer nose and radar fit. The radar replaced the four nose-mounted .50 caliber machines, but with four 20mm cannon in the wing roots it was still more than capable as a fighter. While it was soon outmoded and began to be replaced with the new jet-powered F3D Skyknight, the Tigercat was still in front- line service when the Korean war broke out.
Having no basic need for night fighters at first, the Marines converted them over to the night intruder mission where they excelled. They flew missions until April 1953 and over the course of their combat career in Korea they managed to shoot down two PO-2 "Bedcheck Charlie" night bombers. Unfortunately, they also lost 27 F7F-3N aircraft with 37 crewmen either killed in action or missing in action.
A normal combat load for the aircraft was a full ammo load for the20mm guns, two 5oo or 1000 lb bombs or napalm tanks, and eight 5" rockets; total external ordnance was up to 3,220 pounds.
ESCI came out with a very nice series of 1/48 F7Fs a number of years ago, and then the molds passed into the hands of AMT. When they gave up the ghost, the molds then moved on to Italeri who has thankfully re- released them. As I have the aforementioned fondness for the Tigergcat and also Korean war aircraft, I finally found one at an IPMS show still shrinkwrapped and snapped it up. I found out to my disappointment that the kit came with vinyl tires. One had eaten into the wings and another had totaled the decal sheet.
Happily Italeri has fixed both problems and now they include nicely done two-piece styrene tires with this kit. They also have a totally new decal sheet with four options vice two.
The kit itself is not bad, with fine recessed panel lines and fairly nicely done wheel well interiors and engines. I always thought the cowlings looked odd, but close-up photos on Cybermodeler show them to be quite accurate. The struts and wheels are also well done.
The cockpit and radar operator's area are spartan at best, and could use some TLC or even figures. Due to the awkward and cramped radar operator's "seat" (he is located right over the main wing spar and main fuel tank, and even the back of the canopy had to be bulged for him to hunch over the radar!) it is unlikely anything other than a purpose-built figure would fit in that area. Call me a child of the1950s, but I like figures in cockpits rather than tape or etched brass origami!
The ordnance is reasonably well done and includes two 1000 lb bombs, eight 56" rockets and a centerline drop tank. The bombs and tank come with sway braces, always a nice touch in this scale. The model also comes with a prototypical (!) 55 gallon drum with crate on it to balance the aircraft. Apparently F7F-3Ns were tail heavy and if parked unfuelled would "rock" back onto their tails, making it a pain to service them. Ergo the ground crews would put something under the tail to hold them upright!
The finishing options cover four aircraft: VMF(N)-534, NAS Miramar1946 (blue with white markings, no bars, and no stencils); VMF(N)-542, Kimpo air base, Korea September 1950 (blue with full markings except for BuAer numbers); VMF(N)-513, Kangnung air base, Korea, winter 1951-52 (black with white numbers and lettering); and VMF(N)-513, Pyongataek air base, Korea 1952 (black with red numbers and lettering). While the last two sport very few markings (it tended to give away the aircraft at night, especially if caught by headlights or searchlights) the VMF(N)-542 aircraft most certainly would have had them and it is a shame the decals do not provide them.
Overall a nice kit and good place to start.
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.