by Fulvio Felicioli
The F9F-2b Panther was a modification of the early F9F-2 Panther, and saw extensive use in the Korean conflict.
The F9F-2b was fitted with underwing bomb racks for 8 bombs and an improved engine. Two underwing racks were also capable of carrying drop tanks in addition to the wing tips tanks. F9F-2s were the Navy and Marine Corps primary attack airplanes during the Korea war, but their use as fighters was largely overshadowed by the more successfully USAF F-86 in this role.
The Panther was a good plane for the attack role, mainly thanks to its stability as platform and to very good flight talent.
You might have noticed that my Panther is a conversion of the old Monogram 1/48 F9F-5. For this conversion I reshaped the tail (not as sharp as the F9F-5) and removed a little thin in the rear of the fuselage, to reduce its total length compared with the F9F-5. While I was at it, I decided to fold the wings and to scratchbuild the engine. At the time I did not know what I was letting myself in for!
First I needed an engine. I didn't want to scratchbuild it completely, so I had to look for something that was at least similar. The ideal (in theory...) solution was to use Monogram's F-80 engine, but I found that it was good just for the early F9F-2 (not "b" variants), so I withdrew with disappointment (I had just buy the F-80).
Having seen Tamiya's Mig-15, and having collected a lot of references about F9F-2b (specifically an original Grumman manual thanks to my friend Rino Righi), I was able to start the work. Modification and adjustments Mig-15 engine needed is quite large, but at the end I was able to obtain a good replica of the "Nene" that was the "b" variants carried engine.
Scratchbuilding the wing folds was not so complicated - just a few plasticard sheets, rods and a lot of patience. I have to point out that the main wing structure is quite fragile, and that my Panther was badly damaged during is first visit to a model show. Following this mishap, I reinforced the wing folds with a piece of brass forced into the main wing hinge, this time with better result.
Another main modification done is the pilot's console. The "b" variants was scaled in two steps and not flat as in the Monogram kit. Again, some plasticard sheet addressed this challenge.
Eduard provides a P.E. sheet for the Monogram kit: with very little modification needed, it was excellent for my purpose. With this exception, all the details found on the model are scratchbuilt.
Panel lines were rescribed and the trolley is scratchbuild.
Marine's Panthers wore a faded livery due to its land-based operations. To achieve this effect on my model, I used Gunze acrylics paints followed by an opaque coat of Humbrol clear.
Silver scratches were achieved using a silver pencil and the general faded aspect of the model by lighter coats of the Navy Blue. A very light oil wash was applied as a finishing touch. Yellowhammer decals supplied the codes and insignia for VMF-311 Squadron.
This is a small model, but it gave me a large amount of satisfaction.
The project was born simply but eventually evolved into a very complex one.
Although the Monogram kit is not completely up to today's standards I think it is still a valuable model and with some effort it is possible to achieve good results.
If you appreciate early years of the Navy aviation like me, don't neglect the Panther. It was a very good fighter, and I think it is a must in any Navy fighters collection".
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Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Fulvio