Special Hobby 1/48 AF-2S Guardian Kit First Look
|Date of Review||June 2015||Manufacturer||Special Hobby|
|Kit Number||48135||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch, Resin|
|Pros||Very nicely details, resin engine, well designed||Cons||Experience with limited run kits helps|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$65.95|
One of the greatest things about our hobby is learning something new about the subject we are interested in. One of the planes I have been interested in on the peripheral was the Grumman AF-2 Guardian. I knew it was there. I knew it had some unique features like the canted engine and I knew it was a deceptively large aircraft but not much more than that.
The genesis of the Guardian started with the Navy's inevitable need for a follow up to the mighty TBM Avenger. The Navy's confidence in Grumman as the premier producer of naval aviation was firmly in place with the Wildcat, Hellcat, Avenger and the new kid on the block, the excellent Bearcat just starting production. The Navy turned to Grumman with their criteria for a new high-speed torpedo/scout bomber. The decision to make it a hybrid jet/prop powered aircraft with an enclosed torpedo bay. The intake for the jet engine would be in the wing leading edge with the exhaust below the rudder. A second crewman, bombardier/navigator, would be set slightly to the right and slightly aft of the pilot in the large cockpit area.
The XTB3F-1 made its way off the drawing board and into the test phase in October of 1944 with three prototypes made. There were many problems with the hybrid jet/prop combination and Grumman's focus on the all new F9F Panther. It was decided to drop the jet component of the design completely. The war ended before the first flight could be made and new navy requirements were changing the design from a torpedo/scout bomber roll to the newly emerging art of anti-submarine warfare. The Guardian got a second lease on life and took on a new mission.
When the Guardian resurfaced, the second front seat was removed, two crew positions were added in the fuselage and the torpedo bay was faired over with large APS-30 radar and enclosed dome. A third (forth including the pilot) crewmember could be added to operate sonobuoy equipment. This version was dubbed the AF-1W "Hunter", while another version was outfitted with searchlight, 5 inch HVAR rockets, four 500 lb bombs and four MK-54 depth charges and a homing torpedo internally stowed. This version was dubbed the AF-2S "Killer". Another version of the hunter was made with a magnetic anomaly detector and a few other upgrades to augment the fleet of Guardians.
The first pair of Hunter/Killers arrived at Key West ready for service in 1950. Its implementation into the fleet was full of teething pains such as brake problems, equipment and training problems followed too. Squadrons finally got the hang of the Guardian but were never totally comfortable with the two aircraft teams and how to be most effective with them in the ASW arena. With limited success and a high accident rate, the Guardian was replaced by the immensely competent S-2F Tracker, nicknamed the "Stoof", after being operational with the active duty Navy for only four years and retired from the Naval Reserves in 1957 closing its chapter in the ASW roll. The Guardian did get a third lease on life by time with the U.S. Forestry Service.
As of right now there are two airworthy AF-2S and three static display AF-2S aircraft in different museums. You can see one in person at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola Florida, Pima Air Museum, Tucson Arizona still wearing its firefighting livery and one more with the Commemorative Air Force in Mesa Arizona as a memorial to Vice Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was a Guardian pilot early in his very interesting naval career.
Right off the bat I will tell you that you need the Grumman AF Guardian book by Ginter. ISBN: 0-942612-20-5. It is a must for your research and a gold mine for the very limited information available to the average modeler. Special Hobby took on this subject with their kit SH 48135 earlier this year. The only 1/48 scale kit available to us on a very limited and expensive level was the Collect Aire AF-3S. Our very own Fotios Rouch built one and it can be found here.
The Special Hobby effort comes in a sturdy box with nice art depicting a Hunter/Killer team. The directions are in pamphlet form with a quick history on the front and a very nice kit part breakdown. There are red "X"s on all the parts that are not for the particular kit since the Hunter version has many parts in common with the Killer version. Printed in color and done in an exploded 30 degree isometric drawing style, the instructions are clear and very well done but with some errors. The instrument dash panel (#D10) is not illustrated for you to install prior to the front windscreen.
The instructions also call out the tail planes in reverse order. Once you try to install them you will see that they just need to be swapped. The wheel hubs do not match the restored version in the Pima museum but does match the eight spoke wheels of the CAF and Pensacola Museum samples. The kit comes with the eight spoke wheels. I am always a little weary of using museum pieces as the definitive reference only, especially on such rare aircraft.
The last page is the color and decal reference page and is also done in color. There are only two choices you have on a very well printed decal sheet. One scheme is from Oakland NAS and one is from the USS Saipan. Caracal Decals (#48078) are working on some aftermarket decals to include the firefighting version soon.
The kit is casted in a medium grey plastic with absolutely no flash. I think it needs a good soap and water scrubbing to remove any oils and factory grime from the surface. Something you should do all the time anyway. The surface detail is very well done and to scale. All panel lines seem to be accurate to the very limited information I have and the fuselage and wings scale out to line drawings I have. The parts layout is very well done and logical. I did have only one half of the "guppy" radar shield that should have been clipped from my kit. The other opposing tree it is absent. Not a big deal at all. There is a lot of fine detail and the kit is not over engineered as seen on many new kits lately.
A nicely done resin engine with a seat, prop hub and some scoops is complimented by a pleasant little photo-etch set add value to the kit. I would have liked to see the prop cast as one piece but that is just personal taste. The clear parts for the canopy, light lenses and the spot light cover are very well done. The large canopy does have some slight distortions when you get right up on it but that can be polished smooth or a quick bath in Future Floor Polish could level it out. The fuselage crew stations are limited in detail giving room to the scratch builder, aftermarket resin caster to have something to look forward to.
I am really looking forward to building this kit. This is an unusual subject that has really caught my interest. I hope after this review it has caught your interest too.