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F2A-2 Kit

Tamiya 1/48 Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2005 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo Scale 1/48
Kit Number 61031 Primary Media Styrene, Metal
Pros   Cons  
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit
F2A-2 Kit

Brewster & Company was founded in the early 19th century as a manufacturer of horse-drawn wagons and carriages. In 1920, the Brewster & Company Aircraft Division started out as a vendor to the Naval Aircraft Factory producing aircraft floats. Soon they were also producing sub-assemblies for Chance Vought and Grumman. Nevertheless, the engineers at Brewster wanted to develop an aircraft design of their own.

Brewster's first aircraft opportunity was for a low-wing, all-metal, two-place, torpedo/bomber/reconnaissance aircraft. The design was approved by the US Navy and designated SBA. Production of the SBA was diverted to the Naval Aircraft Factory and the production aircraft were designated SBN-1.

The next opportunity was for a new generation of monoplane fighter that could operate from aircraft carriers, this requirement coming in the late 1930s. Two designs would move forward out of this competition, the Brewster F2A and the Grumman F4F. Brewster succeeded in with their new design that was named 'Buffalo' and orders came in from overseas for this new fighter.

In the hands of the Finnish Air Force, the Buffalo was achieving 3:1 kill ratios against Stalin's fighters, while in the Pacific, the aircraft was faring better than its Japanese counterparts. What sealed the fate of the aircraft was its developer - Brewster. Aggressive marketing resulted in four times the orders than the production capacity of the Brewster factory. Federal directives for overseas deliveries meant that US Navy orders were a low priority in order to get aircraft out to allies in combat. The company was then caught in the middle of an arms scandal arising from the Spanish Civil War. The consequences of all of these woes put the company under government control, its production facilities were used to build sub-assemblies for Grumman and Consolidated, and it was ultimately shut down in 1944.

The full potential of the Buffalo was never realized due to the problems within the company. The US aircrews that would take the Buffalo into action against the Japanese at Midway were not yet combat seasoned, and the veteran Japanese pilots decimated the defending F2As and F4Fs.

Nevertheless, proof that the aircraft was capable came out of that same battle. Captain William Humbert, USMC, was attacking a Japanese bomber when his F2A was jumped by Zeros. A 20mm round blew a hole through the fuselage but the aircraft was okay. He dove the aircraft down to the surface of the ocean and used the airspeed gained in the dive to extend away from a single Zero that followed. When Captain Humbert had sufficient lead on the Zero, he reversed the aircraft and flew head-on towards the Zero. He opened fire with his machine guns until he passed the A6M2, then saw the aircraft fly into the ocean. In the right hands and with the right tactics, the Buffalo had held its own as it had in service with Finland, Dutch East Indies, Australia and New Zealand.

With the 'old' 1/48 F2A-2 from Tamiya, the 1/48 F2A-1 and Model 239 from Classic Airframes, and the 1/48 F2A-3 from Special Hobby, I thought we'd take a few minutes to look at the differences between these aircraft.

  F2A-1 F2A-2 F2A-3
Spinner Small spinner ahead of propeller Large spinner enclosing propeller hub No spinner
Propeller Hamilton Standard Prop Cuffed Curtiss-Electric Prop Cuffed Curtiss-Electric Prop
Engine R1820-22 @ 950 hp R1820-40 @ 1200 hp R1820-40 @ 1200 hp
Length 26' 0" 25' 7" 26' 4"
Wingspan 35' 0" 35' 0" 35' 0"
Mods   Cowling shortened by 5 inches; vent removed behind cockpit; ventral window changed; array of dorsal air vents aft of cowling Nose lengthened by 10 inches between cowl and wing

For export sales, the Brewster Model 239 was an F2A-1 without the tailhook or ventral window, and used a ring type gunsight. The Model 339 series were variations of the F2A-2, also without the tailhook or ventral window, and used a fixed or reflective gunsight. Some had pneumatic tailwheels, many had fixed (non-retracting) tailwheels. Other subtle differences existed between air forces, so check your references, but this brief run-down gives you a starting point.

Tamiya's 1/48 Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo kit is one of their early offerings and has been for years the only Buffalo available in injection-molded styrene. Now that Classic Airframes and Special Hobby have entered the Buffalo market in 1/48 scale, it's time to take a closer look at this classic kit.

The kit is molded in silver styrene and four parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. My kit has been around long enough that many of the parts have long-since fallen off of the trees.

The kit accurately captures the look of the open cockpit floor that allowed the pilot to see through the ventral window. Details in the cockpit are minimal and a bit crude, but Eduard has released a set of pre-colored photo-etch to bring this F2A-2 up to date.

Assembly of this kit, as with most Tamiya offerings, is fairly simple and will result in a nice looking model. In addition to the photo-etch improvements needed in the cockpit, the wheel well area might need some work to capture the landing gear retraction system between the cockpit and the engine firewall.

Comparing the kit parts to the line drawings in the Kagero F2A Buffalo book revealed a few minor issues:

  • The rudder is noticeably too short. This can be corrected with a little surgery
  • The nose is shorter than the F2A-1 as called out in the Kagero book, but it appears that Tamiya shortened the nose behind the cowling instead of shortening the cowling itself. This will take a little more work to correct if one was concerned
  • The horizontal stabilizers are noticeably too large and the shape of the elevator/tailcone line needs to be fixed - this will require surgery on the fuselage halves and the inboard sections of the elevators to get the shape correct
  • The kit features the Hamilton Standard propeller instead of the cuffed Curtiss Electric. This is okay if you're doing the export Model 339, otherwise you'll need a different prop for USN/USMC service
  • The array of dorsal vents that ring around the nose are portrayed as long slots on the kit

The one detail that is an irritant to me is the one-piece canopy. The canopy cannot be positioned open. The good news is that Squadron (and I believe Falcon) offer replacement vac canopies that can be positioned. Note the slot in the windscreen for the USN telescopic gunsight. You'll need a windscreen without that slot if you're doing the Model 339. Squadron has both.

Decals are provided for two examples:

  • F2A-2, BuNo 1412, 2-F-7, VF-2, USS Lexington
  • F2A-2, BuNo 1409, 3-F-11, VF-3, USS Saratoga

Despite its age and warts, this kit is still the only F2A-2 on the market (for now) and with the help of the great drawings in the Kagero book, the Tamiya kit can be 'tweaked' into accuracy, though only another Buffalo buff would even notice the changes. Straight out of the box, it still looks like a Buffalo, and this remains a popular kit among modelers.

References:

  • Brewster F2A Buffalo, Andre Zbiegniewski, Kagero, 2003, ISBN 83-89088-14-2
  • F2A Buffalo in Action, Jim Maas, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1987, ISBN 0-89747-196-2

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