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Collect Aire 1/48 AF-3S Guardian Kit Build Review

By Fotios Rouch

Date of Review July 2004 Manufacturer Collect Aire
Subject Grumman AF-3S Guardian Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4849 Primary Media Resin, Vac
Pros One of the very best kits Collect-Aire has produced to date Cons Price will keep some builders away
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Out of Production

Build Review

The Grumman Guardian was the successor to the Grumman Avenger. The success of the Grumman Avenger during the war led the US Naval Bureau of Aeronautics to ask Grumman in 1942 for a replacement carrier-based torpedo bomber. Initial development started in 1944.

Initial development prototypes were too heavy for the carriers of the day and were canceled. In 1945 Grumman brought out two radial prop/ turbojet hybrids. Test flights proved that the jet engine was problematic and useless. As time was flying by with aircraft development the Navy requirements were changing too. So in 1946 The Navy required an ASW aircraft instead. Grumman proposed a two plane team to fit the task with one being the hunter and one being the killer.

Both prototypes were converted to fit the new roles.

The Guardian was ordered into production with the AF-2W being the hunter (accommodating a belly mounted AN/APS-20 ocean search radar) and the AF-2S being the killer (search light and short range radar). The first AF-2S Guardian flew on 17 November 1949 and the first operational aircraft went into service in October 1950.

The Guardian was the biggest single-engine piston aircraft ever flown operationally by the US Navy. It was driven by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-48W Double Wasp radial engine, providing 2,400 HP.

The AF-2W had a crew of four and was unarmed. 153 AF-2W Guardians were built.

The AF-2S had a crew of three and could carry 4,000 pounds of ordinance including depth charges, bombs, a homing torpedo plus 12.7 centimeter (5 inch) HVARs mounted on underwing pylons. It could also drop sonobuoys. The AF-2S mounted AN/APS-30 targeting radar in a pod under the right wing and a searchlight in a pod under the left wing. 193 AF-2S Guardians were built.

A second variant of the AF-2S was built in 1952 identifiable by its Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) gear with a boom on the right side of the fuselage. This variant was designated the AF-3S and 40 were built. The last Guardian rolled out in March 1953.

The total Guardian production numbered 389, including the prototypes

The Guardian conducted patrols in Korean waters from March 1951 through May 1953. It was soon replaced by the Grumman S2F Tracker.

The Guardian retired from the Navy on 31 August 1955. A number of Guardians were purchased by civilians and were used as water bombers.


  • Wingspan: 60'.8"
  • Length: 43' 4"
  • Max loaded weight: 25,000 pounds
  • Max speed: 315 MPH
  • Service ceiling: 32,500 feet
  • Range: 1,305 nautical miles

Collect-Aire brought out the whole Guardian family in one kit back in the late nineties. The kit provides all the external parts for all three variants. Decals are provided for two variants and the interior is good for one of the variants.


Since I had already built the AF-2W I decided to build the AF-3S. I liked very much the MAD boom plus the scheme in gray/white with an orange "reserves" band. I opted to pose the doors and hatches closed since there was no 2W interior provided in the kit.

This is one of the very best kits Collect-Aire has produced to date. The talent of this specific maker is totally apparent throughout the kit design. The kit basically could have been an injected kit outright the way the parts are broken down. This specific maker is a modeler too and he thinks as a modeler for the modeler. This is evident in the elegance of this kit's execution. For example the wings come in top and bottom portions just like an injected kit. It is customary by many resin kit makers to design the wings as solid parts and cast them as monolithic resin piece. This makes production easier for the resin shop and that all it is good for. The bad side is that it makes for heavy parts. If they are warped it is pain to straighten the out. Heavy parts put too much stress on the landing gear. In any case this specific pattern maker always tries to follow this route.

The model is very easy to put together. I only opted to modify a few things like cutting open the canopy and making clear lenses for the wingtip navigation lights. Everything fits very well and little fidling is required. It was very pleasing to see also a very nice rivet job done all around the cowling (most likely with a jeweler's bead tool). The model is amazingly even in all proportions and from left to right. This is still my favorite all around top maker.

I used gloss gray and white from Testors. I used xtracolor International Orange for the reserves band.


I made my own decals for the Los Alamitos logos and the 7L tail id. The kit decals are great in quality but the aforementioned logos were much too big and did not look close at all to the photos of the said plane as photographed in the Ginter book. After the model was painted and the decals were set, I sprayed a coat of semi-gloss satin finish and applied light weathering with pastels. I used EZLine elastic thread for the aerials. I like how it stretches and ho tight it is I just wish it would be of a circular cross section as opposed to flat.

I most certainly recommend this kit to any Navy aircraft collector. Very buildable and of great quality. Since I built this kit Collect-Aire had started using a nicer version of their resin mix that comes out in cream color and smells a bit less. I promptly purchased another Guardian bringing the total to three kits. I think the third one might become a water bomber conversion!


I also want to thank my wife for making me a painting of the Guardian in the same configuration as my model. I sure am glad that she has taken aviation art as a hobby and she now paints next to me when I do my modeling!

For more of her artwork visit: