Known by contemporary aviators as the “Drut” (think backwards), Douglas’ F3D Skyknight was developed as a carrier-borne all-weather fighter. It ended up having poor deck-handling characteristics and saw only one carrier squadron deployment. But the Skyknight gained success with the U.S. Marine Corps in the Korean War, downing six enemy MiGs and one prop plane during that conflict. Other versions served the Navy as night-fighting trainers and electronic-warfare platforms in Vietnam.
Sword’s Skyknight allows fans of 1/72 scale to dispense of their decades-old toylike Matchbox kits; the new model is superior in every way except fit. Fine recessed panel lines grace the surface, and the parts provide an adequate cockpit interior and gear wells. The only option in the kit is a choice of 150- and 300-gallon drop tanks. Decals provide markings for three U.S. Marines Korean-service aircraft with VMF(N)-513, and Skyknights from Navy squadrons VC-4 and VF-14. A second boxing of the kit (SW72075) offers EF-10Bs from the 1960s.
It didn’t take long to build the Skyknight, although dry-fitting and refining the mating surfaces of the engine nacelles took considerable time. The instructions have some problems; the diagrams show some details on the smaller parts that are not molded on the parts, leaving you to guess which way the parts should go. The shrouds around the exhaust cones (part Nos. 47 and 48) are reversed – 47 should go on the right, 48 on the left.
Sword suggests adding weight to the nose, but not how much. That’s OK; I packed the nose cone full of lead shot. The tiny pitot head is shown too far forward on the nose in the assembly drawing, but accurately in the marking profiles.
The fuselage has molded-on exterior conduits that were added to only a few jets used by Raytheon in the 1970s for missile tests. I shaved them off. The wings were a bit thicker than the stubs for them on the fuselage. I recommend carefully gluing the three parts of the canopy together while gluing them to the fuselage at the same time. The larger drop tanks weren’t available in the early ’50s; I used the small tanks.
I painted the model gloss black first, but decided to paint the drop tanks, interiors of the gear bays and doors, and wheels gloss sea blue. The decals are great; the red lettering is bright and stays that way on the dark paint job. The white lettering on the Navy birds looks thin and may go dim; consider getting two kits and doubling up on those markings. I’ve got doubts that the VMF(N)-513 Skyknights carried the lettering on the upper right wing, but I put them on anyway. I used a neutral gray wash on the panel lines, then finished with Testors Acryl clear flat.
This little night fighter took only 22 hours to finish. It sat nose-high at first, so I studied photos in Alan Carey’s F3D Skyknight In Action (Squadron/Signal, ISBN 0-89747-685-9) and Steve Ginter’s Naval Fighters Number Four: Douglas F3D Skyknight (Naval Fighters, ISBN 0-942612-04-3) and determined the nose-gear strut was too long. I clipped out half of the oleo section with sprue nippers, then reinstalled the severed fork and wheel.
I’m definitely going to do another Skyknight as a Vietnam-era EF-10B — and sell off my short stack of Matchbox kits.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the April 2014 FineScale Modeler.