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Sword McDonnell F3H-2 Demon

Review of the 1/72 scale aircraft kit with some colorful markings

McDonnell’s first shot at a supersonic, radar-equipped fleet-defense interceptor, the F3H Demon was handicapped by the development of its powerplant, the infamous Westinghouse J40. A redesign with a better engine resulted in an adequate fighter, but it was bettered by its contemporary, the Vought F8U Crusader. Eventually, Demons were replaced by the iconic F4H Phantom in the early 1960s.

Sword’s new kit surpasses earlier efforts by Emhar, RAREplanes, and Airmodel. It features fine, recessed exterior detail, a good cockpit with choice of resin ejection seats, two-piece canopy, Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles, and a pair of drop tanks. The decal sheet in this boxing provides markings for two Demons. A second boxing with different decals is labeled as the F3H-2N/M and contains identical plastic parts.

Assembly starts with choosing one of two resin ejection seats. It’s nice that Sword offers the late Martin-Baker seat as an alternate, but it was equipped in late Demons with BuNos of 146709 and later, and none of the Demons offered on the decal sheets in either boxing were late jets. So use the two-part early seat (parts U1 and U2).The fit of the finished cockpit to the forward fuselage is not precise. The instructions do not indicate a need for nose weight, but I added some lead BBs to the nose cone just in case.

You’re faced with another choice in Step 9. The fuselage is molded with the Demon’s early long beaver tail, but a separate later shorter beaver tail is provided, too. The short tail belongs on Demons with BuNos from 143403 and later, correct for the aircraft depicted on the decal sheet. My sample’s short beaver tail had deep sink marks that needed to be filled and sanded.

There’s trouble in Step 13. The assembly diagram shows a small, unnumbered block added to the rear deck (Part 34) behind the ejection seat. There is no part in the kit, so ignore it. However, the diagrams show an incorrect assembly of the rear deck. The deck should be installed flush in the assembled fuselage, covering the opening behind the seat. Part 36 should be glued inside the rear of the canopy. Unfortunately, you’d have to shave off much of the raised detail from the deck to allow Part 36 to clear it with the canopy closed.

Sword provides several photo-etched (PE) brass parts for thin, flat details, including the braces inside the intakes and the shell deflector plates behind the gun ports. I chose to duplicate these items with pieces of 0.010-inch styrene strip so I could glue them in place with solvent cement.

The emergency barrier snags are molded onto the leading edge of the wings. PE brass snags also are provided, but using them would involve cutting into the leading edge with a razor saw and attaching them with super glue. I passed on that option, but did install the large brass wing fences. The perforated spoilers are also brass and I installed them after painting and decaling.

The kit comes with a pair of Sidewinders, but they look like a later type than the Demon carried. I rounded off the noses to partially correct them. You also get a pair of Sparrow I test missiles and a pair of Sparrow III production missiles. The tiny pins on the missile pylons and shallow holes in the wings make attaching the weapons stores difficult. Also, the diagrams show the shorter pylons being attached outboard, while photos show they should be inboard. I left off the drop tanks as they were rarely carried.

The nose gear strut represents a compressed oleo section, but the model sits correctly despite it. Missing is one retractor strut and the two shrink struts that are in front of the main strut.

Sword provides the static pressure boom on the right wing, but there is no pitot tube in the kit. It should be at the base of the windscreen. Also missing is a small tube on the leading edge of the fin. I’ll make them from thin stainless steel tubing someday. Funny, all of these details are shown in the markings diagrams but are not in the kit!

I painted with Mr. Color lacquers and kit decals seemed thicker than previous Sword releases and were easier to handle. The model looks fine despite missing bits.
I put 19 hours into my Demon. When I build another, I’ll redo the nose gear strut to better represent its unique structure.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the September 2019 issue.
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