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Kitty Hawk 1/48 scale F9F-8/-8P Cougar

Kit:KH80127 // Scale:1/48 // Price:$49.95
Kitty Hawk
Subtle recessed panel and rivet detail; detailed gun/camera bay; good shapes; lots of options; decent fit; beautiful decals
Gun/camera bay detail forever hidden; no explanation of options in instructions; compressed nose gear strut; Sidewinders too modern
Injection-molded, 276 parts (18 photoetched brass), decals
This is the first 1/48 scale injection-molded kit of Grumman’s swept-wing Cougar since … well, since forever. The Cougar was the principal carrier-borne fighter of the mid-1950s, paving the way between the straight-wing jets of the Korean War period (Panthers and Banshees) and the supersonic era (Tigers, Skyrays, Demons, Crusaders, and Phantom IIs).

Kitty Hawk’s single-seater follows its two-seat TF-9J trainer kit, and, not unexpectedly, includes many of the parts common to both versions. However, this kit comes with two complete sprues of parts for the photoreconnaissance F9F-8P as well. It appears that Kitty Hawk at one time planned on issuing the -8P as a separate kit, because one of the clear sprues has all the camera windows and a spare canopy. Another large sprue contains ordnance and pylons. The Sidewinders provided are AIM-9Ls, but late Cougars carried AIM-9Bs.

Options include early- and late-service Cougars, and folded or spread wings. Subtly recessed panel lines and rivets mark exterior surfaces. The cockpit detail is good, with photoetched-metal instrument panels and consoles, and decals to provide color. Oddly, there is no throttle lever. The photoetched-metal harness appears too skinny and short.

Detailed landing gear bays are let down by wheels that seem simplified and a nose strut molded compressed with an undersized scissors. I replaced the oleo section with a longer piece of styrene rod and fashioned a new opened scissors.

I had read online reviews of Kitty Hawk’s two-seat Cougar criticizing it for its quality of plastic and glue compatibility. I had no such problems.

But you’ll have problems building the kit if you don’t do a little research and carefully study the optional parts. The instructions don’t help, showing but never explaining the options.

In a nutshell, of the marking choices provided on the decal sheet, all the jets had the early Grumman seat.  Only the photo Cougars had splitters, some may have had underwing pylons, and some of the relevant squadron’s jets had refueling probes. Study photos of the jet you build.

Step 4 offers a lot of choices. Photos show most early jets didn’t have tiny raised air scoops and anti-collision beacons, so I left them off. The intake splitters were not on the jet I chose, so I left them off. Notches for the splitters in the intakes are filled with small shims in Step 11.

I carefully assembled and painted the detailed gun bay in Step 5, thinking that I could attach it to the fuselage and leave the nose cone loose. That way I could remove the cone and display the detail. That didn’t work, because it’s nearly impossible to get the cannon barrels aligned exactly with the openings in the nose every time it is replaced. Leaving the nose off or attaching it permanently were my only choices. I suspect the same problem would apply to the camera bay detail and photo nose.

If you want to fold the wings, follow the assembly steps. But if you want to spread them, you’ll have to leave off the little hooks (parts Nos. E37 and E38) on the inner faces and sand away some hinge detail so you can get a flush fit. A long, thin tab on the upper surface of the wing root fits into a slot on the upper surface of the outer wing when it is folded. The tab must be removed to spread the wings — you can use it to fill the slot in the outer wing section. I wanted to check the fit of both attitudes, so I folded one wing. When properly installed, the slot/tab and little hooks hold the folded wing at the proper 80-degree angle.

I airbrushed my Cougar with Testors Model Master enamel gloss sea blue and applied Alclad II polished aluminum for the leading edges. I painted the tips of the wings, stabilizers, and fin gloss red, although decals for the wingtips are provided.

I was pleasantly surprised with the decals. They appear accurate and, after just a few judicious slices, the designs formed perfectly around the compound curves of the nose with help from Solvaset.

In addition to the VF-121 bird, the decals include markings for a gray-and-white jet from VF-61 (the refueling probe is appropriate for this one), a Blue Angels performer, and two recon aircraft: a gray-and-white plane from VFP-61, and a white-and-orange photo Cougar from a training unit. The instructions’ full-color marking illustrations are gorgeous, but some items are not quite right. The photo Cougars should have intake splitters.
I spent 29 hours on this blue beauty — and it makes me want to build more in 1/48 scale, a break from my 1/72 scale focus.

You don’t have to be an expert to build this model, but you should spend time with references and studying the kit options to make it right!

Note: A version of this review appeared in the May 2015 FineScale Modeler.
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