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F7U-3M Cutlass

Fisher Model and Pattern 1/32 F7U-3M Cutlass Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2011 Manufacturer Fisher Model and Pattern
Subject F7U-3M Cutlass Scale 1/32
Kit Number 3209 Primary Media Resin/Brass/Photo-Etch/Vac
Pros Another magnificent resin release Cons Minor decal error (see text)
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $279.00

First Look

F7U-3M Cutlass
F7U-3M Cutlass
F7U-3M Cutlass
F7U-3M Cutlass
F7U-3M Cutlass

Prior to World War II, Vought Aircraft Company was turning out a variety of capable combat aircraft for the US Navy and Marine Corps including the F4U Corsair, OS2U Kingfisher, SB2U Vindicator, and more. While not quite as successful with getting their designs accepted as companies like Grumman, Vought was pushing the edges of the envelope with innovative concepts including the XF5U Flying Pancake and F6U Pirate. As the war ended, the US Navy was pushing hard for new aircraft designs that were powered by turbine engines. Vought stepped up with the F7U Cutlass.

Learning their lessons from the jet-powered F6U, the F7U was a unique design with two engines (early jet engines were notoriously unreliable) and no horizontal stabilizers. Early Cutlasses were powered by non-afterburning Allison J35 engines which made the F7U seriously underpowered. The Westinghouse J46 would power the F7U-3 and did have an afterburner, but even the additional thrust didn't come close to meeting the F7U's power needs. Nevertheless, 288 examples were produced and this version entered operational service with the Navy in 13 squadrons. One of the notable variants of the F7U was the F7U-3M which was one of the first aircraft to be armed with the new radar-guided air-to-air missile, the Sparrow missile. Of the 288 F7U-3 variants built, 98 were built as F7U-3M with another 48 F7U-3 airframes converted to the F7U-3M standard.

In operational service, the Cutlass' lack of power and poor reliability led many squadrons to 'beach' their aircraft (not go to sea) or beach them in mid-cruise. Others struggled through their deployments but sought to replace the Cutlass as soon as possible. The Blue Angel demonstration team took two aircraft for their solo performers to help promote the aircraft, but reliability of the type even caused the Blues to ditch their aircraft at NAS Memphis and the solo pilots returned to their F9F Panthers.

Here is Fisher Models' latest masterpiece, the 1/32 F7U-3M Cutlass. This is their largest and most complex model to date, but when you unwrap the kit for the first time, you can see the excellent design and casting applied to this kit that is characteristic with the entire product line. Molded in tan resin, the detailing in the parts is fantastic.

Look at the forward fuselage - it is one-piece and just needs the cockpit finished and stuffed inside (along with the nosewheel well) and you're ready to attach the two-piece rear fuselage and wings. Okay, it's not quite that simple. If you simply plugged those wings into the fuselage with cyano, you'd have those wings coming loose. Here's where Paul Fisher's aeronautical engineering skills come into his model designs. The reason that rear fuselage isn't one piece is because you need to build a resin wing box that joins the two wings together and carries that structural strength through the rear fuselage.

Now look at the castings for the intakes - look at the cast-in detailing for the various auxiliary inlet doors that allowed the engine to breath at low speeds. There is a two-piece engine compressor face located at the end of each integral intake duct.

The cockpit is up to Fisher's usual high standards and there's one interesting note to go with this part of the model. When you look at the instrument panel and other key parts, you'll note the magnificent detailing cast into each of these parts. You see, Fisher Models is several steps ahead of the pack in model-making technology. Where some innovative companies use CAD technology to cut their molds, Fisher Models also uses CAD technology to design many of its parts, but then they use the latest generation of 3D printers to make solid masters from which your kit is cast from. Cool stuff!

While you can't see all of the small parts in these images, you'll see that there are lots of parts that make up this aircraft. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Super-detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable leading edge slats
  • Positionable elevons
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable rudders
  • Brass (G-Factor) main landing gear struts
  • Separately cast tires and wheels (makes painting SO much easier)
  • Intake ducts down to the engine compressor faces
  • Full-depth afterburner chambers
  • 4 x early Sparrow missiles with launch rails and pylons

Decals

There are four markings options in this kit:

  • F7U-3, 139917, VA-116, NB/203
  • F7U-3, 129597, VA-212, G/210
  • F7U-3, 129703, VX-4, XF/29
  • F7U-3, 139871, VX-4, XF/23

The decals come on four sheets and are nicely printed. Two sheets provide the distinctive markings for each of the four aircraft options and the other two sheets provide standard markings, walkways, and a complete set of maintenance stenciling.

Note: If you opt to build XF/29, the bureau number is mistakenly printed as 139703 and you can simply rob the 129 prefix from G/210 to correct the number.

One other notable mention is the instructions. The assembly steps have clear photos to accompany the notes and the color profiles/decal placement sheets are also nicely done. What I particularly appreciate is the two pages of diagrams to show the relative shading for the bare metal Cutlass flown by VX-4 so you can use your favorite Alclad shades to finish the model without having to find and interpret period photos (unless you really want to).

This is Fisher Model's largest and most ambitious project to date. I think this will be a must-have addition to many modelers' kit collections as this is easily the best Cutlass model ever produced. When you see the proportions of the nose, canopy, wings and fuselage, you can see that Fisher Models really got this unique aircraft correct.

This kit is highly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Fisher Model and Pattern for this review sample.

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