This TRAM equipped A-6E carries unusual desert camouflage, applied for Operation Desert Storm, where VA-36 Roadrunners operating from the Red Sea were able to penetrate deep into Iraqi territory, on "Scud Busting" missions. As armament I have added Snakeye conventional bombs and Rockeye cluster bombs.

CLUSTER BOMBS The A-6's vital role in Operation Desert Storm highlights the controversy and contradiction surrounding the use of cluster bombs. These weapons release hundreds of tiny bomblets that are ideal for attacking armoured columns and dispersed/hidden soft targets, such as Scud missile launchers.

This role was vital during Desert Storm, protecting many Coalition troops' lives and also preventing Scud attacks on civilian personnel (including children) throughout the Gulf (many Scuds were launched against Saudi Arabia) and in the cities of (non beligerant) Israel.

However, it has been established that unexploded cluster bomblets are a major cause of post-conflict injuries to civilian populations, especially children who are often attracted by the bomblets' small size and colourful warning markings. Typically 15%, but sometimes up to 80% of bomblets fail to explode on impact.

As a result, more than 100 nations have now agreed to remove cluster bombs from their armouries.

Grumman E-2C Hawkeye, VAW-123 "Screwtops", USS AMERICA, Red Sea, January 1991.

This particular kit is made by Chinese company Lee and bears a very strong resemblance of the Fujimi kit. It is the same kit that you can find in Heller boxes with French markings, although this one came from a bookshop at less than half the Heller price. Link to build page

Grumman's E-2 has remained in front line service since 1964, steadily evolving as new technology has become available. With its distinctive rotating radar, the Hawkeye is one of the most complex and largest aircraft ever to serve onboard an aircraft carrier. Its primary role is the control and direction of fighter and strike aircraft at a distance from the Carrier Group, but it can also act in surface surveillance, SAR and communications network relay roles, with Hawkeyes providing a key component of the US Navy's Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC).

This model represents an aircraft of VAW-123 Screwtops Squadron, serving onboard the USS AMERICA during Operation Desert Storm. E-2s from the AMERICA operated in both the Red Sea and the Gulf during the war

Vought F-8E Crusader - VF- 162 "The Hunters", USS ORISKANY, Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, 1966

The Hasegawa Crusader is a reasonable model that assembles without drama and looks good when finished. It really isn't up to modern standards, since panel lines are discretely raised, whilst cockpit detail and the ejector seat are very basic. The very prominent intake is also a gaping see-through hole into the fuselage. The kit provides the option to raise the wing, but not to lower flaps and slats - unfortunately one was not possible without the other on the real thing, but it is such an unique feature on this type that it would be a shame to omit it. Alternative decals are provided for a US Marines aircraft with additional pylons and bomb load for the ground attack role Link to build page

Having produced one of the most successful naval aircraft of WW2 (the F-4U Corsair), Vought went through a difficult patch in the early 1950s, with several innovative designs failing to make an impact. A government-directed factory move from the east coast to the west coast to reduce national strategic vulnerabilities did not help, but Vought fought back spectacularly with the superb F-8 Crusader design, the USN's last aircraft designed with gun armament as its main weapon. An innovative wing design could change incidence to assist landing, yet allowed supesonic flight.

After a remarkably short and successful development period, the Crusader gave excellent service particularly throughout the Cuba Crisis and Vietnam War, then in its reconnaissance role, right into the late 1980s. At 19:3, the Crusader would be credited with the best kill ratio of any American type in the Vietnam War, althogh a total of 170 Crusaders would be lost to other causes, including AA fire during the war.

Despite the variable incidence wing, Crusaders were notoriously dififcult to land on a carrier - large ventral strakes were added to improve directional stability, but castoring and very soft nose gear arrangements made any landing an alarming sight with the aircraft swerving along the deck with its cockpit close to the ground.

Crusader and Corsair together

Ling Temco Vought A-7A Corsair - VA-153 "Blue Tail Flies", USS ORISKANY,

Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, 1966

Hasegawa's Corsair kit is even older than their Crusader and dates from the period of collaboration with Frog, whose style it closely matches. Despite a "chunky" feel, it is well engineered and easy to build, but detail is very sparse, particularly around the cockpit (a blob-like seat only) and nose (which ends in a blank wall about 1cm into the intake. A large armament load is included, but again is very crude in detail. I had a lot of difficulty with the declas on this one as they were very translucent, reluctant to leave the backing paper and split apart when applied.

 Link to build page

As combat attrition in Vietnam began to bite, the USN looked to replace A-4 Skyhawk aircraft losses with a new design. To speed acquisition the design had to be based on an existing design, leading Douglas to propose an enlarged Skyhawk, North American an "Super Fury" (one assumes similar to the Super Sabre) and Vought (now owned by Ling Temco Vought) to propose the winning design; a simplified Crusader derivative.

Despite lacking the radar, variable incidence wing and afterburner (supersonic flight was not needed), the Corsair's family resemblance was clear and was mirrored in its very short development cycle and operational success. Capable of carrying an incredible bomb load (more than a WW2 Flying Fortress), Corsairs were also adopted by the USAF, with aircraft of both services seeing combat in Vietnam toward the end of the war and remaining in front-line service with the USN until the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.

Bell Boeing MV-22B Osprey, USMC 2012.

ESCI's kit of the Osprey is available in several versions and has been re-issued by Italeri.

It is based around the prototype aircraft, so requires quite a lot of modifications to make it look like the current operational variant.

Link to build page

After a long and very painful development, the radical MV-22 Osprey is now in widespread service with the USMC and USAF Special Ops Command. Still marred by controversy and scandal over its unclear safety record (there have been several crashes this year alone), alleged battle vulnerability, premature engine wear and fraudulent maintenance and incident recording at USMC bases, the Osprey is a fascinating design, half helicopter, half conventional plane, that is intended to allow the USMC to transit form amphibious ships to operating areas ashore at very high speed.

Plans to arm the aircraft and use it in other roles seem to have been put on hold for now, mainly due to budget constraints, but Bell Boeing continue to market it aggressively to potential overseas buyers.

Two Ospreys attended the 2012 RIAT and Farnborough airshows, putting on an impressive display of the aircraft's unique capabilities.

Grumman F-14 Tomcat - VF-14 Tophatters US Navy, USS John F Kennedy, Spithead, Portsmouth UK 1976.

Another e-bay impulse cheapy buy. Italeri's Tomcat is a nice kit, albeit with raised panel lines. Watch how you attach the main gear legs though - the fixing hole goes straight through, such that your carefully assembled pivoting wing can easily become fixed! The kit supplied decals are very grey and unimaginative. I much prefer the 1970s grey white USN schemes, so these colourful Modeldecal markings from the stash replaced them.

The Tomcat was probably the ultimate Fleet Fighter; a key component of NATO's naval forces throughout the late 70s , 80s and 90s. Tomcats, with their long range air to air AIM-54 Phoenix missiles provided the outer layer of air defence.

Nevertheless, times move on; not only were the Tomcat's systems and airframes becoming long in the tooth, but the end of the Cold War left it without a realistic role. The final Tomcat variant attempted to overcome this by giving it a ground attack capability (the "Bombcat"), but its days were numbered. Iran continues to operate locally modified F-14s in air defence and strike roles.

McDonnell Douglas F4H-1 (F-4B) Phantom II, VF-74, USS Forrestal, Vietnam 1967

The Airfix Phantom is certainly not the best kit 1/72 Phantom kit available, but it is cheap and colourful ! This one has a Fujimi canopy fitted as its own was missing; this gives the fuselage a bit more volume, which looks much better in my opinion. Much to my surprise, it is actually quite a pleasant, well fitting kit and the decals were very effective; tough, but thin and stretchy - which is needed for that large red bit (incidentally it isn't blotchy like that in real life - seems to be JPEG compression artifacts).

The Phantom was (and still is) a superlative aircraft in all respects. This early USN aircraft is marked for an aircraft of VF-74, present onboard the USS Forrestal at the time of its horrific flight deck fire, during operations of the Vietnamese coast. Zuni rockets from an aircraft parked on deck fired accidentally, setting fire to a large number of armed aircraft on deck. Many fight deck crew were killed and injured whilst fighting the massive fire and explosions that followed.

North American FJ-4B Fury, VA-126 US Navy, NAS Miramar, 1961.


Revell, 1/72, originally Emhar Link to Build Page

In many respects, the US Navy's Fury looks like an F-86 Sabre on steroids, but whilst it shares a direct family link, it is a very different aircraft.

One of the few post-war US Navy fighter aircraft never to have fired a shot in anger, it was a contemporary of the British Scimitar and powered by a licence-built version of the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire engine, as used in the Hunter, Javelin and Victor.

Furies saw little service in the fighter role; like the Scimitar, they were quickly moved to a strike role, including the ability to carry a Mk.12 Nuclear Weapon on their port middle pylon.

AV-8B+ - VMA231 "Ace of Spades" US Marine Corps 2001

Hasegawa OOB. Italeri Mavericks

The AV-8B is the US designation of the Harrier II. The most advanced version is this AV-8B "plus", which has a substantial night and bad weather capability thanks to its Infra Red night vision system and its radar. The main user is the US Marine Corps, although the Italian and Spanish Navies also operate the AV-8B+ and are able to use the AMRAAM Air to Air missile from their aircraft, giving it a potent fighter capability.


Friends & Allies - Part 2a US Navy, USMC and USAF


In no particular chronological order - aircraft of the US Navy and US Marines :

Grumman A-6E Intruder - VA-36 "Roadrunners"

USS Theodore Roosevelt, Op Desert Storm, 1991

An old Frog release of a Hasegawa mould, with minor alterations and after-market transfers from High Decal Line. Link to build page

Grumman's Intruder was the main USN carrier based attack aircraft for 33 years, from 1963 to 1996. Seeing combat service in Vietnam, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya and the first Gulf War, it was specifically designed as a low level penetrator, able to carry a substantial load of conventional or Nuclear weapons at high subsonic speeds in all weathers. Indeed, the A-6E variant carried the heaviest offensive load of of any carrier-based aircraft during its 25 years of service. As a contemporary of the British Buccaneer, it was equally innovative in its aerodynamics and onboard systems.

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