Planet Models 1/72 F-91-III Thunderceptor Radar Version Kit First Look
By Bruce Craig
|Date of Review||May 2007||Manufacturer||Planet Models|
|Subject||F-91-III Thunderceptor Radar Version||Scale||1/72|
|Kit Number||143||Primary Media||54 Resin parts, two vacuform canopies, one decal sheet, and four pages of instructions|
|Pros||Good subject, generally good resin castings, recessed panel lines and other details not overdone, thin castings, little evidence of pin holes.||Cons||Potentially weak landing gear struts, fuselage halves don't match up, incorrect blue on decals, moderate cockpit detail, no provision for posing open canopy, cost.|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$60.00|
The Republic F-84 series and derivatives (primarily the XP-91 and the YF-96A) have not enjoyed the popularity of, say, the F-86 which got the front-page press in Korea. However, like the P-47 which earned its wings more as an attack aircraft than a fighter, so too did the Thunderjet earn its wings more in the role of ground attack. Consider that the Thunderjet flew more sorties during the Korean Police Action than all other UN-associated aircraft together. But that's not all.
Having done extensive research about the F-84 series, I'm of the opinion that this first (straight-wing) -- and arguably second (swept-wing) -- generation series was used for more experimental "entering the jet age" programs than just about any other aircraft. To list a few of the programs: in-flight refueling both probe-and-drogue and flying-boom; Tip-Tow and Tom-Tom wing-tip towing; FICON parasite; ZELMAL zero take off and mat landing; periscope visuals development for the aborted XF-103 Thunderwarrior; NACA duct research (commencing with YP-84A 45-59482); reverse thrusters (both Thunderjet and Thunderstreak); YRF photo-recon; and, for the XF-91s, inverse taper wings, variable incidence wings, butterfly tail, rocket motors, radar installation development, etc. The list is not complete without the "Thundermirage" decoy program in Belgium (I have never inquired about the Thundermirage take off-run).
Yes, the series had a reputation for requiring long take-off runs, often assisted with RATO canisters that gave rise to jokes about the F-84 being a "gravel sniffer" and to nicknames such as "Ground Hog." Nevertheless, it was otherwise generally liked by its pilots and was certainly a stable platform for bombing and strafing missions. And, not many aircraft series served in front-line service for forty years as did various versions of the F-84 starting with the F-84C through the F-84F and RF-84F.
Though the XF-91 was not specifically an F-84, many of the features of the two airframes built -- 46-680 and 46-681 -- were derived from the F-84 and they certainly show a family resemblance. I welcome any, hopefully good, model of any of the variations of this series; therefore I ordered one of these kits when it came to market.
To be clear, I did not buy this kit to build the model; rather, I bought it as part of my ongoing project to document the Republic F-84 series including the offshoots, of which the two Thunderceptors were a part. The main reason I won't be building it is because I build only 48th-scale models; this kit, like my other 72nd "Thunder" kits bought for review purposes, will be donated to Oregon Historical Modelers Society, Portland, Oregon (of which I am a member) for their annual kit auction.
The kit comes in a sturdy cardboard box that opens at the ends. The box art is clearly a modified version of a photo from the USAF Museum web site. The 43 numbered resin parts (for several of which there are 2x or 4x), two vacuform canopies, and one decal sheet are packed in a five-compartment bag. The two fuselage halves are individually in two compartments, the two wings in a third, and the two pylon-mounted external fuel tanks in a fourth. The fifth compartment contains the vacform canopies and decals plus a two-compartment bag containing the more-fragile small parts.
Inspection of all parts reveals generally good resin castings with recessed panel lines and relatively minor flash, especially for cast parts. However, most of the small parts are attached to their casting blocks and must be cut away. Remember, this is 1/72nd scale, so some of these parts are very small and delicate. A fine-toothed saw, a sharp blade, and patient fingers are in order. I have to admit that during unpacking the small stuff for documentation scanning, the casting with parts 10 and 11 was dropped and not found. Bummer. Otherwise, all parts are documented with the scans herewith.
My first dry-fit was of the two fuselage halves, which revealed that the left fuselage half is 1/16" longer than the right half. Also, the aft top of the vertical fin on the left half was broken off. Many of the parts, including the fuselage forward of the ejector (Republic's term for the tailpipe), are nearly as thin as injection-molded parts could be. Part 39, the intake "mouth" is very thin and fragile, and is a good representation of the manufacturer's ability to cast thin parts. The horizontal and vertical stabilizer control surfaces are separate parts, while, mysteriously, the control surfaces in the inverse-tapered wings are integrally cast.
The main gear on the XF-91 is a rather complicated assembly with tandem wheels. In 1/72nd scale, the parts for building up the gear are small, along with needing to be cut from their casting blocks, and I expect they will test the patience of even an experienced modeler. As all the main and nose gear parts are resin, my suspicion is that they are not sufficient to hold the weight of the model. It seems to me that these parts, at least the struts, would have better been metal castings. Those who build this model will have the final say.
Cockpit detail is moderate, perhaps adequate as there is no provision for posing the vacuform canopy (two are furnished) in open position. The seat is a quite delicate casting, and the foot-rest on the part in my kit was badly bent, most likely during removal from the mold.
The pylon-mounted auxiliary fuel tanks as furnished with the kit are a discrepancy from the box art and instruction illustrations which reflect the photo of this aircraft as on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio. This caused me a "Hmmmm, what's going on here?" as the tanks are essentially similar to the wingtip tanks as normally used on the Thunderjets. Inspection of a photo of this aircraft when it was at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edward Air Force Base shows the "Thunderjet-type" auxiliary fuel tanks in place on the pylons. Vely intelesting! So another mystery is why the box art and instructions show one style of auxiliary tank while the parts in the kit are the other style. Even so, they appear to be correct as 46-680 appeared for some of its days at Edwards.
The decals reflect the minimalist livery on the real aircraft; registration of the red is slightly off, but more noticeable is that the blue is much too dark, being nearly black. As an aside, the decal sheet includes a credit to "DEAD Design" ... um ... okay!
I did not inspect the parts with a magnifying glass, but ordinary inspection revealed only one pinhole in one of the wings. Recessed panel lines are relatively fine as are other details including vents and such. Some of the parts showed surface blotching from mold release, others did not. There are no locating pins or tabs for any parts except the wheel spindles. Otherwise, parts location is by slightly raised areas, such as for the wing and horizontal stabilizer attachment points on the fuselage.
The XF-91 in any of its iterations (original [XF-91], "radar-nose" [XF-91A], or V-tail [XF-91B]) is, in my opinion, a very interesting airplane and worthy of being produced in model form. The only other version of the Thunderceptor I'm aware of is the Lindberg 48th scale representation of the "original" Thunderceptor version; that kit has minimal detail, has grossly-sized raised panel lines and rivets, and the canopy and spine are inaccurate.
This kit, as a representation of the little-documented "radar-nose" version, is a good addition to the "Thunder" lineup. However, being resin and in 72nd scale, it is not going to be an easy build.