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Updated: 5 hours 44 min ago

T-33A/RT-33A Shooting Star

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 08:09
Product Image Review Author:  Hub Plott Aviation Collectibles

This book is from the Italian Aviation Series and covers the T-33A/RT-33A mostly in Italian service. Like several other Italian aircraft book series this one too provides text and captions in both Italian and English.

Chapter one is an introduction to the design, where chapter two covers its design and beginnings with the USAF. Chapter three by far the book's largest at 45 pages covers the Shooting Star's (better known in the USA as T-bird) service to the Italian AF. The first T-33 was received in July of 1952 and the type served the IAF until March of 1982 a career of almost 30 years of uninterrupted service. Chapter four covers the use of Canadian built CT-133 in a hail preventing operation. Chapter five is a modeler's note section with building the 1/72 Heller kit of this aircraft. The book concludes with technical data and acknowledgements.

The text is well written and provides a very interesting story of T-33 service in Italy. The real treasure of this book is the many photographs, mostly in color that illustrate the wide range of liveries worn by these birds in Italian service. The 8 color profiles also provide some very colorful schemes for the modeler to be inspired by. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the T-33 or its service in Italy. If you like the T-33, you will find something of interest in this book at a very reasonable price!

My thanks to Casemate for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity

Skybolt - At Arm's Length

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 08:02
Product Image Review Author:  Paul R. Brown Fonthill Media

In the aftermath of World War Two, the United States and the Soviet Union were not the only powers who pursued and developed nuclear weapons. Both France and England pursued the development of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons after World War Two. The problem came in developing reliable and effective methods of deploying these weapons. In the immediate aftermath of World War Two, prior to the missile age, the only option was the manned bomber. Unfortunately, as antiaircraft systems became more effective and sophisticated, questions began to arise with respect to the ability of the manned bomber to penetrate these defense systems and reach their targets with gravity bombs.

While the 1950's saw the development of England's V-Bomber force with the Valiant, the Victor and the Vulcan, the British government also realized that the continued development of surface-to-air missiles to augment traditional anti-aircraft guns meant that it needed to look at options to allow its bombers to stand-off from their targets and avoid penetrating very heavily defended target areas. The increasing reliability, capabilities and accuracy of ballistic missile systems also raised issues of the survivability of the V-bombers based in England.

In an attempt to maintain a credible level of nuclear deterrence, England looked at a number of systems ranging from ground launched ballistic missiles, short to medium range air-to-surface missiles to long range stand-off air launched missiles.

Skybolt - At Arm's Length examines many of these programs looking at the pro and cons of the systems as applicable to England as well as the political climate in which they were proposed and developed. Mr., Hill also steps back and discusses issues that were apparently glossed over as the British military and government strove to find an acceptable solution, such as overlooking the fact that unlike the United States, England would only have a few minutes warning of a ballistic missile attack, so unless England kept a substantial portion of if V-bombers on airborne alert at all times, very few would ever get airborne at all.

In order to increase the survivability and lethality of its V-bombers, England approached the United States about being allowed to participate in the development and deployment of the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile. Unfortunately, as the Skybolt was being developed for employment on the B-52, many aspects of its design caused issues for its use on the RAF's Victors and Vulcans which would have required a lot of modifications either to the carrier aircraft or the missile itself. However, as it became clear that other options were not feasible, England placed more and more reliance, both militarily and politically, on Skybolt being the solution for England. The cancellation of Skybolt by the Kennedy administration in the early 60's caused a panic for British military planners and a political rift between England and the United States which was only partially resolved when the United States agreed to provide England with the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile system

Mr. Hill examines both the military and political discussions surrounding the Skybolt affair using contemporary documents prepared by many of the high-level participants in these discussions and offers an interesting peek into the workings of the British government and military at the time. He also includes an interesting chapter discussing what British options might have been had the United States not provided England with the Polaris system.

For those interested in British military and political strategies and thinking of the late 50s and early 60's this will be an interesting read. For modelers there are also some interesting illustrations of some of the weapons options that were proposed and examined for the Victor and Vulcan bombers along with photographs of mock-ups or test examples of some of them on Vulcans, Victors, B-52's and even one on a B-47.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it to those interested in British nuclear policy and weapons research and development in the late 50's and early 60's.

Thank you to Casemate Publishing for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for letting me review it.

At the Forward Edge of Battle: A History of the Pakistan Armored Corps 1938-2016 Volume 1

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:56
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra Helion & Company

Some decades before Pakistan became a separate nation, India had its own armored corps serving as a colonial force. Realistically, it was more of an armored unit in name than in fact, as early on their British overlords put them right at the bottom of the list in terms of supplies, even as World War Two swept the globe. Unspoken (for the most part) at the time was the belief that Indian "natives" were, perhaps, a wee bit too unsophisticated to manage large mechanical devices like armored vehicles - colonial thinking at its best.

Nonetheless, these Indians did what they could with lorries and a few outdated armored cars, fighting with some distinction on the desert front in Africa, first in Iraq and then Syria, coming up against the dreaded Afrika Korps at Gazala, by this time equipped with a number of gun portees which they used with good effect against both the Germans and Italians. They would then go on to fight against the Japanese in Burma, becoming one of the few British Commonwealth units to engage all of the Axis forces during World War Two.

After the war was over, of course, Britain was reconsidering its colonial policy in the face of growing restlessness among the locals. This eventually led to the "Great Divide" in which India sheared itself into separate Hindu-dominated and Muslim-dominated countries.

After all this time has passed, it's hard for us to fathom the heartbreak, misery, suffering and death inflicted on millions as a result of this political decision, but the consequences are felt to this very day. As the "Pax Britannica" ebbed and the British pulled out, the entire Indian armored service was forced to choose up sides, with both Muslims and Hindus fleeing under severe hardship and often in great danger from hysterical and bloodthirsty mobs.

One major consequence of the "Great Divide" - at least as it pertains to this book - is that almost every military action the Pakistani armored corps has undertaken since has been against their former colleagues. Nothing is uglier than civil war, and this one has been a sparking point now for almost 70 years.

This well-written overview covers all this in good detail, including the efforts the Pakistani Armored Corps leadership undertook since the breakup to obtain more modern equipment than the various U.S. war surplus Shermans they mostly had in their fledgling years. This has included newer M-47s and M-48s as well as captured French AMX13/75s and other similar pieces of equipment. As this is only volume 1, I assume their more recent acquisition of Soviet equipment will be covered in more detail in the second volume.

Overall, this book is a good study of a sometimes much-maligned fighting force - one that has proven its mettle on more than one occasion despite the obstacles thrust upon it. They have established a fine reputation over the years, and this book covers that and more in excellent detail. It's an aspect of 20th century wars in Asia I had very little understanding of until I got this journal - highly recommended for anyone interested in the smaller armored forces in the world.

My thanks to Helios and Company for publishing this fascinating piece and to IPMS/USA for letting me broaden my horizons a bit. Most interesting!

JUST PAINT - How To Paint Your Military Model

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:28
Product Image Review Author:  Allan Murrell MMP Books

This is a book that provides you details of how to finish and weather military ground vehicle models. It has detailed chapters on 10 different and varied model kits.

The detailed chapters are very well illustrated with very well-presented photographs. The methods and materials used are very well shown and will help move your knowledge and work to a new level.

I found this book very helpful and used some of the ideas already on my latest build of an early Tiger 1. The methods depicted and described are great and will lead to better finishes. The only criticism I have is that it could have been improved with more written descriptions with each photo shown.

I recommend this book to everyone whatever level of modeling you are at.

Thanks go to MMP Books for providing this book to review and IPMS USA for allowing me to review it for them.

American Sport Car Drivers (1910's)

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:15
Product Image Review Author:  Bill O'Malley ICM

This kit contains two figures, a man and women in sporty attire. The figures are a nice companion to ICM's Model T 1913 Speedster American Sport Car, kit no. 24015. For this review I posed them with ICM's Model T Touring Car.

The kit comes in a 10 x 7 1/2 x 1 1/2 light cardboard box with a slip cover with box art. The box top includes a painted rendering of the two figures and artistic suggestion for painting of the figures. The instructions come on a single 8 1/4 x 11 1/4 sheet with the sprue layout and color list on one side and the assembly diagrams and painting instructions on the reverse side.

Both figures come on one sprue molded in a medium gray plastic. The parts of the figures have nice detail, although slightly soft. There are some rough spots in the plastic on the figures faces, and there are mold seams that will need to be cleaned up. Both the man and woman have nice facial expressions. The woman looks quite surprised, and the man looks like he's yelling.

The woman fits together fairly well although filler was required at most of the joints. She is wearing a flowered bonnet with a scarf that is molded to appear like it's blowing in the wind. Sculpting of the face, bonnet, and scarf are good. Some sculpting of the bonnet and the woman's head are necessary for them to fit convincingly. The overall impression is very nice.

The man is wearing a sporty coat with calf-high boots, and a cap with goggles. I added a photoetch strap for the goggles as none was provided with the kit. The man assembles in nine pieces and some filler putty is required at the joints. I had to change the position of the arms and one leg to fit in the Touring Car.


These are some nice figures with interesting poses and nice detailing of the clothes. There are some rough spots in the castings and sculpting is required on the woman's bonnet to get a good fit. I did not test the figures in ICM's American Sort Car, but they fill nicely into the Model T Touring Car. These figures would be a nice addition to any of the ICM Model Ts.

Thanks to ICM for producing these nice figures and providing review samples to IPMS.

Model T 1911 Touring with American Motorists

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 07:02
Product Image Review Author:  Bill O'Malley ICM Background

Another of ICM's beautiful 1/24 car kits, this one a 1911 Model T Touring Car. The Touring Car body had two rear seat doors in addition to the front seat doors, two bench seats, and a foldable canvas top. This release also includes two figures, a man and a woman, in period attire. ICM's kit is an easy build with nice fitting parts and without a lot of small parts.

ICM's Kit

The kit comes in a 9 x 12 x 2 1/2 light cardboard box with slipcover. The box art depicts the vehicle in a dark green color with brass accessories, the male figure driving, and the woman in the backseat. The canvas top is shown in a medium gray color.

The kit comes on five sprues crisply molded in a light gray color, one clear plastic sprue, and four white vinyl tires. The detail on the parts is simple, but very good, with no apparent flash and very minor mold seems.

The instructions come in an 8 x 11 1/2 stapled pamphlet with 16 pages and 56 assembly steps. The front page gives a brief description and technical specifications of the model T touring and paint colors called out in Model Master numbers. The first two pages of the instructions includes diagrams of the sprues. The back page of the instructions includes black-and-white side profiles with color call outs. No decals are provided with the kit.

A separate page of instructions is provided for the figures with the sprue diagram and color callouts in Revell and Tamiya paints on one side, and assembly instructions and color suggestions on the opposite side. The figures are provided on a separate sprue and have good detail, although simplified. The faces are expressive with a slight smile on the woman's face and a subtle smirk on the man's face.


The first series of steps, six through seven, assemble the model T's engine. The parts fit nicely, there is almost no flash on any of the parts and the mold seams are very minor. The fan blade part B26 is fairly thick, so I scraped the edges to thin it down a little bit. The kit builds into a fairly nice, but simple representation of a Model T engine. ICM has molded spark plugs on top of the cylinder head to add wiring if desired.

The Model T's chassis is assembled in steps 8 through 21. There is no separate frame for the chassis, just two frame rails molded on the underside of the floorboards. The floorboards, fenders, and running boards are all molded as one piece, which simplifies body assembly. The radiator mounts to the front axle which then mounts to the chassis. Make sure that the radiator is perpendicular to the ground. The steering box, B24, gets mounted to the frame in step town. Refer to step 21 to show how the box should be installed. The rear axle and springs are one piece which is then mounted to the driveshaft and underside of the chassis.

Prior to assembling the chassis, I painted the chassis subassemblies, wheels, and suspension pieces. I Assembled the body as shown in step 28 and the body panels go together nicely and form a nice secure assembly. I dry fit the body to the chassis and everything aligns squarely. Some putty patching was required on the rear body panels. I then painted the fenders and body exterior the finish color using Mission Model Paints MMP144 pearl deep green.

Returning to the chassis assembly, the muffler, steering arm, and front control arm P7 are installed in steps 18 and 20. The front control arm mounts to the underside of the engine block, not to the steering box as it appears in the diagram. Refer to step 21 to see the control arm after installation.

White vinyl tires are provided with the kit rather than the black tires shown on the cover art. There are two different tire sizes, with the rear tires being slightly larger in diameter. The tires have quite a bit of flash, which I removed with a razor blade and sanding stick. I left the white tires unfinished except for rubbing graphite on the treads to show some wear.

Assembly of the model T body begins in step 25 with the firewall, which I painted in a wood color. There are some ejection pins on the firewall that need to be repaired as they will be visible. The engine hood is 3 Pieces, center hinge and right and left hood pieces. Cutting the hood sections along the molded hinge is necessary to pose the hood open, and would be very difficult. I did not want the hood open, so I glued the hood sections and center hinge to the firewall. This was clamped to the back of the radiator to get a tight fit. The center hood hinge section needed to be trimmed slightly to fit behind the radiator.

The model T's body and interior are assembled in steps 28 through 38. The body builds into a nice, solid, well-fitting assembly. There were no problems with the body or interior.

Step 42 and 43 build and install the model T's canvas top in the up position. The top is molded very smooth and could use some folds or ripples to provide some texture. The parts fit together and to the body nicely, although it's not a very rigid connection. There is no top provided in the down stored position.

Lanterns for the sides of the vehicles are built in steps 47 through 50. The lantern bodies require quite a bit of cleanup and the clear lens and brackets are both over-scaled.

The horn for the Model T is assembled and installed in steps 51 through 50. The horn is molded with a cover or cap over the bugle end which is typical of Model Ts. I made the mistake of trying to hollow out the bugle end, which did not work well. It would be better just left alone.

Painting instructions for the Model T are provided on the last page of the instructions to finish the car as shown on the box art.


Man and woman figures dressed in period attire are included with this release of the Model T. The figures have good detail although somewhat soft for 1/24 scale. Box art shows the man driving the vehicle and the woman sitting in the rear seat. The woman's skirt is assembled in three pieces that go together well although filler putty is required at the joints. Both the man and woman have fairly stoic expressions with a slight smile. Facial detail is very good. I plan to also use ICM's American Sport Car Drivers 1910s which will be in the front seat. I modified the touring kit motorists to sit in the rear seat.


This is another great kit by ICM. The kit goes together easily and the parts fit nicely. There are not a lot of small parts, so the kit could be built by less experienced modelers and still provide a nice model. More experienced modelers can add detail and have an enjoyable build.

Thanks to ICM for producing these nice Model T kits and providing review samples to IPMS.

Type AG 1910 London Taxi

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 06:51
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra ICM

In 1905, Renault produced a relatively inexpensive two-cylinder vehicle which in the next few years was so popular that it became the primary taxi vehicle in both France and England. The French taxis, of course, would go on to achieve historical prominence during World War One transporting French troops rapidly to the front lines in what would become known as the "Miracle of the Marne."

ICM's Type AG 1910 London Taxi is a variant of this same vehicle, with modifications that would be typical for a British market. It shares most of the same molds as ICM's earlier French Taxi but includes a separate sprue for the alterations, for a total of 6 sprues plus vinyl tires. Like the French version, this kit features a very nice representation of the miniscule two-cylinder engine as well as nicely detailed chassis and landaulet body.

The kit begins with the assembly of the chassis frame, and you'll want to be sure that the cross-brace (Part A42) has the notches facing toward the front of the frame. This slipped by me during my build and I had to wrestle the part off and around fairly late in assembly - something I wouldn't recommend doing. The next step involves the attachment of the fenders, and you are asked to drill a hole on one fender for one of the British-specific parts - a tubular assembly whose function initially baffled me. After much deliberation it dawned on me that this was an umbrella holder! Very British indeed.

At this point you begin assembly of the body, and once again have to drill some holes, this time to mount the "a-ooga" horn. The horn itself comes on two parts and really should have the bell drilled out, although this is a tricky operation due to its shape. Frankly, my Dremel and I lost this battle, although it's not particularly visible on the finished model.

After this is the assembly of the body to the chassis, and there are some very fine fender supports (Parts D5) which insert onto the chassis and then UNDER the fenders. Then follows the engine assembly, which makes for a charming little machine with one caution - the location of the exhaust pipe to the engine is obvious, but where the other end goes under the body is not. It should actually feed through the small opening between the outside of the chassis and the fender assembly. I left mine off until late in the build, and there were a few contortions involved before I figured this all out, using the location of the muffler assembly as a guide.

One thing I should probably mention was that there appeared to be a lot more flash for a model of this age than I was expecting - even to the clear sprue. I'm not sure of the cause of this, but it was easily remedied through the usual modeling methods. Just be aware that some flash if not cleaned properly will definitely interfere with the build.

On another note, if you're going to assemble this with either of the landaulet doors open, you may want to replace the clear window with some thin acetate, the thickness of the clear plastic being otherwise quite obvious. Also, the doors lack any interior detail whatsoever so you may want to scratch a door handle as well if you go this route.

For the purposes of painting, it's best to assemble the entire landaulet top canopy as a single piece rather than adding it onto the body in parts as suggested by the instructions. This canopy assembly was the only place in the entire built where I was obliged to use a smidge of putty to blend things together. The fit is good enough that the canopy can be added after assembly and painting of the body.

Painting is a relatively easy affair as the body is all one color with the chassis itself being black. A good metallic brass color can be hard to manage, and I actually had to hand paint it with some chrome silver added to allow a somewhat more realistic look. There are decals included both for the taxi meter and license plates, although the kit does not actually provide the flat plates for these latter decals to go on. I surprised myself a bit by simply carefully cutting them off the decal sheet, backing and all, and gluing them dry onto the model.

I think what delighted me most about this kit was the relatively fast assembly for such a delicate structure. I had the whole thing together ready for painting in less than a day, and the painting completed the next day. Not bad at all for such a jewel of a vehicle.

Frankly, this was just a fun model to build. I love the final look and if ICM keeps up with its habit of releasing figures to go with their vehicles, with any luck we'll have some passengers and coachmen from this period available soon to create that quintessential foggy London street scene. I can hardly wait! All in all, a lovely, well-made kit that creates a charming little gem of a model. Heartily recommended. Jolly good show!

My thanks to ICM for the creation of this charmer, and to IPMS/USA for the chance to take a shot at it. Be safe, friends, and happy modeling!

Alpha Abrasives Plastic Sanding Needles

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 06:44
Product Image Review Author:  Jim Stepanek Alpha Precision Abrasives Inc.

This is a review of the Alpha Abrasives plastic sanding needles

I wasn't able to find the assorted sanding needles on the Alpha Abrasives website. There were only individual packages of course, medium, and fine.

The needles are evidently made in a two-part mold because there are two mold lines running down the shaft. Not very good if you want to sand a round hole. The mold lines would cause a nick in the hole.

Another item is the point. When/if you break the point or round it off, how are you supposed to get the point back?

While they may be useful for sanding contours, I can't see them being used on round holes like a headlight or taillight.

Thank you to IPMS for allowing me to review this product.

Tiger Battalion 507

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 00:56
Product Image Review Author:  Bob LaBouy Greenhill Books Tiger Battalion 507

The Table of Contents provides this basic outline:

  • Chapter 1 Formation and Induction, Heavy Panzer Battalion 507
  • Chapter 2 First Operations: Tarnopol-Brody-Kowel
  • Chapter 3 Arrival on the Eastern Front
  • Chapter 4 From Baranovicze to Scharfenwiese
  • Chapter 5 The Battle for the Narew Bridgeheads
  • Chapter 6 A Resting Place at Zichenau-Mielau
  • Chapter 7 The Fighting between the Narew and the Vistula
  • Chapter 8 The Partial Return to Sennelager
  • Chapter 9 The Battle of Paderborn

As a preface to this very interesting book, the author, Mr. Schneider provides a snapshot of himself, aged 19, Schneider volunteered for the Panzer Arm in March 1941. He was one of the first five men sent to the Eastern Front. He took part in the Caucasus campaigns and joined the Heavy Panzer Battalion 507 in 1943. He next moved on to the panzer grenadiers where he was given a Wanderer bicycle, a Panzerfaust, an assault rifle, and was sent to fight the US Army on the Western Front. His decorations included the Panzer Assault Badge and the Iron Cross Second Class."

In this book, which took four years to complete the German to English translation, the author provides a great deal of insight into his life as a young Wehrmacht soldier, as he was introduced to the promising life as a member of Panzer force and as a Tiger tank crewman.

There is also a great deal of details about how the Wehrmacht army was recruited, trained, and organized. I really had very little knowledge about the actual organizational of a typical heavy tank battalion nor the complexity of its organization. As the Battalion was trained and fully equipped with its 45 Tiger tanks, and counted amongst its primary components of staff command group, a signals platoon, armored reconnaissance, pioneer, flak, repair, recovery, admin, provisions and baggage platoons, as well as three heavy panzer (with 18 Tiger I's each), and a workshop company.

The various diary entries provide a better and more detailed insight of their daily activities than I had previously understood.

There are a large number of black and white maps provided to guide the reader over the various battlefields. This book is based on the number of personal notes, letters, and diary entries of the numerous survivors of Heavy Panzer Battalion 507, collected during reunions and from 1977 through 1982. It is essentially a diary tracking the Battalion over the years from 1943 to 1945, covering the 500 days it existed.

Several aspects of this book are most rewarding.

  • There are 200 photographs included from private collections providing numerous great photographic details which I found very interesting as a scale modeler (e.g. the numbering styles used on the tank turrets, extra tread pieces carried on the tank facets and turrets and the use of rolls of wooden poles carried to help in swampy areas).
  • As a modeler very interested in the Tiger tank (I am the in-law of a former Tiger tank commander, captured and made a POW after the Battle of Leningrad), I found the wealth of black and white pictures extremely interesting. The images will provide the launching point for several more Tigers and allow me to build and paint more interesting vignettes.
  • Deployment and value of the radio controlled P4 tanks, which was found not to be a useful device.
  • A continual underlying acknowledgement that the war was a fruitless attempt to win from a military standpoint. For example, there are numerous statements that the Herr were prevented from undertaking various decisions based upon decisions from Hitler because of 'political reasons.' In describing the 'catastrophic year of 1943' I found this particular statement very descriptive: "The battlefield was lit up; our ears rang with the crazy shrieking. Rybalov (3rd Guards Tank Army General) had swarms of T-34s roll towards us with blinding searchlights and howling sirens, and as they approached the German lines the T-34s kept firing. Crouching low on the tank hulls, not visible because of the searchlights, were their infantry--it was a hellish spectacle with a psychological effect. And it worked, psychologically and otherwise, for the firepower of those T-34s was enormous, and the thin German lines crumbled."

But the German Panzer troops in Battalion 507 continued to fight, regardless of the eventual outcome.

My thanks to Casemate Publishers and Greenhill Books for their review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for my opportunity to thoroughly enjoy, read, and provide this review.

Alpha Graphics Professional Sanding Film

Wed, 08/12/2020 - 00:09
Product Image Review Author:  Bob LaBouy Alpha Precision Abrasives Inc.


This is a review of one of the many Alpha products designed specifically for scale modelers. 

I have long been a fan of Alpha products in many of their forms.  Especially their micro sanding pads which allow me to perform very finely detailed sanding and polishing.  With this 5 pack I can use the entire sheet of sanding film or by combining the sheet (or smaller cut pieces) use them in model sanding.  I also use smaller pieces cut into strips and held in place with double sided tape and mounted on small popsicle sticks.  Alpha Graphics has produced their products for over 75 years and long established their reputation for high quality, long lasting sanding products.

From the manufacturer's statements:  "These abrasive sheets have razor sharp grit embedded in a double coating, producing a long-lasting resilient product.  This product will not peel or crack, even under heavy use and strain!  The Professional Sanding Film is washable and reusable.  This package contains one sheet of each 150, 320, 400, 600 and 1000 grit providing a gradual progression from coarse to fine grits for superior results.  This product is a must have for any hobby medium including wood, plastic, or metal." 

These sanding sheets are 3" wide by 8" long.

Overall Evaluation: 

I have used these sanding film sheets and find them an invaluable addition to my desktop tools.  They continue to be useful after many applications and with washing I suspect they have useful life beyond the four or five times I have used them.  These sanding sheets are highly recommended.

VMFA-323 Death Rattlers/ USMC F4-B Phantoms in the Vietnam War

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 15:34
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra AOA Decals

Commissioned in 1943, this particular squadron got its nickname from some pilots who killed a rattlesnake at their first deployment at Cherry Point and then hung the skin in the ready room.  VMFA-323 was first deployed to Da Nang Air Base in 1965, losing the only Phantom ever to a surface-to-air missile shortly thereafter.  The squadron remained in Viet Nam until 1969, flying from both Da Nang and Chu Lai during that time.

AOA Decals is making a name for themselves with some of the very best decals found on the market.  Whisper-thin, spot-on register, easy to apply and with excellent opacity, they really make for an extremely pleasant modeling experience.

This set of colorful markings features no less than three aircraft from their stay at Da Nang during 1967 and 1968- 2258, 0476 and 1422.  Every detail difference in markings is clearly shown in the instructions, and the set includes the extremely complete stencil decals created by AOA decals specifically for their Marine F-4s.  What you get is actually three decal sheets - one for the specific markings for these aircraft, one for the national markings and a VERY large and complete sheet of stencils.  This latter sheet alone features literally hundreds of individual stencils covering the entire airframe including weapons pylons.  Registration is perfect and the film is extraordinarily thin.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they lay down with no obvious silvering.   Frankly, I couldn't find a thing to complain about, except perhaps for the time it's going to take to apply them all.

I was particularly impressed with the superb instructions which are printed on high-quality paper and features pages of full color views of every single decal location.  I'm afraid that any modelers who fudge this process will only have themselves to blame.  Things couldn't be more crystal clear.

Honestly, it's not often I find decals designed so beautifully and professionally.  They vastly outstrip anything you're likely to find in any model kit at any price, and raise the level of your work to museum quality with no frustrations built in.  I cannot recommend this series enough - if you're a Phantom Phreak, these decals are an absolute must.

As always, my thanks to IPMS/USA for a chance to review (and have) these splendid decals and to AOA Decals for providing a truly top-notch product.  Fun!

VMFA-232 Red Devils/ USMC F4-J Phantoms in the Vietnam War

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 14:53
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra AOA Decals

Tracing its lineage back to 1925, VMFA-232 Phantoms began sorties over Vietnam from Da Nang Air Base in late 1967.  Flying close air support for the Marines on the ground, the Red Devils flew nearly 6,000 sorties and delivered some 6,00 tons of ordinance during their time in the 'Nam, being one of the few units capable of delivering 2,000 lb. bombs at the time.  They redeployed during Operation Linebacker and lost three Phantoms during that time (one to enemy air action), becoming the last Marine Phantom unit to leave Vietnam in 1973.  They finally surrendered their final remaining Phantom in 1988.

AOA Decals is making a name for themselves with some of the very best decals found on the market.  Whisper-thin, spot-on register, easy to apply and with excellent opacity, they really make for an extremely pleasant modeling experience.

This set of colorful markings features two aircraft from this squadron - number 3833 from their stay at Da Nang in 1972, and 5795 for when they were stationed in Chu Lai in 1969.  These two aircraft are quite distinctive from each other, and the set includes the extremely complete stencil decals created by AOA decals specifically for their Marine F-4s.  What you get is actually three decal sheets - one for the specific markings for these aircraft, one for the national markings and a VERY large and complete sheet of stencils.  This latter sheet alone features literally hundreds of individual stencils covering the entire airframe including weapons pylons.  Registration is perfect and the film is extraordinarily thin.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they lay down with no obvious silvering.   Frankly, I couldn't find a thing to complain about, except perhaps for the time it's going to take to apply them all.

I was particularly impressed with the superb instructions which are printed on high-quality paper and features pages of full color views of every single decal location.  I'm afraid that any modelers who fudge this process will only have themselves to blame.  Things couldn't be more crystal clear.

Honestly, it's not often I find decals designed so beautifully and professionally.  They vastly outstrip anything you're likely to find in any model kit at any price, and raise the level of your work to museum quality with no frustrations built in.  I cannot recommend this series enough - if you're a Phantom Phreak, these decals are an absolute must.

As always, my thanks to IPMS/USA for a chance to review (and have) these splendid decals and to AOA Decals for providing a truly top-notch product.  Fun!

VMFA-212 Lancers/ USMC F4-J Phantom in the Vietnam War

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:58
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra AOA Decals

VMFA-212 Lancers was the first Marine jet squadron to be deployed aboard an aircraft carrier in combat, serving on the USS Oriskany in May of 1965.  They conducted more than 12,000 combat sorties and dumped nearly 10,000 tons of ordinance during that time, chalking up an admirable safety record until their return to Hawaii in December of the same year.

AOA Decals is making a name for themselves with some of the very best decals found on the market.  Whisper-thin, spot-on register, easy to apply and with excellent opacity, they really make for an extremely pleasant modeling experience.

This set of colorful markings features one aircraft from this squadron - number 3813 (6) and includes the extremely complete stencil decals created by AOA Decals specifically for their Marine F-4s.  What you get is actually three decal sheets - one for the specific markings for this aircraft, one for the national markings, and a VERY large and complete sheet of stencils.  This latter sheet alone features literally hundreds of individual stencils covering the entire airframe, including weapons pylons.  Registration is perfect and the film is extraordinarily thin.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they lay down with no obvious silvering.   Frankly, I couldn't find a thing to complain about, except perhaps for the time it's going to take to apply them all.

I was particularly impressed with the superb instructions which are printed on high-quality paper and features pages of full color views of every single decal location.  I'm afraid that any modelers who fudge this process will only have themselves to blame.  Things couldn't be more crystal clear.

Honestly, it's not often I find decals designed so beautifully and professionally.  They vastly outstrip anything you're likely to find in any model kit at any price, and raise the level of your work to museum quality with no frustrations built in.  I cannot recommend this series enough - if you're a Phantom Phreak, these decals are an absolute must.

As always, my thanks to IPMS/USA for a chance to review (and have) these splendid decals and to AOA Decals for providing a truly top-notch product.  Fun!

Phantom Airframe Data (Stencil Type) F-4B & F-4J Panels and Markings

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 13:48
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra AOA Decals

AOA Decals is making a name for themselves with some of the very best decals found on the market.  Whisper-thin, spot-on register, easy to apply, and with excellent opacity, they really make for an extremely pleasant modeling experience.

I was offered a chance to check some of these out and started with their stencil set for Vietnam-era Marine or Navy Phantoms.  This set comes on one full sheet with a separate sheet for the national markings features, literally hundreds of individual stencils covering the entire airframe including weapons pylons.  Registration is perfect and the film is extraordinarily thin.  I was pleasantly surprised at how well they lay down with no obvious silvering.   Frankly, I couldn't find a thing to complain about, except perhaps for the time it's going to take to apply them all.

I was particularly impressed with the superb instructions which are printed on high-quality paper and feature a full color view of every single decal location, for a full six pages of instructions, including a small addendum sheet.  I'm afraid that any modelers who fudge this procedure will only have themselves to blame.  Things couldn't be more crystal clear.

Honestly, it's not often I find decals designed so beautifully and professionally.  They vastly outstrip anything you're likely to find in any model kit at any price, and raise the level to museum quality with no frustrations built in.  I cannot recommend this series enough - if you're a Phantom Phreak, these decals are an absolute must.

As always, my thanks to IPMS/USA for a chance to review (and have) these splendid decals and to AOA Decals for providing a truly top-notch product.  Fun!

Metal Gear to fit the 1/32 Kitty Hawk Mirage 2000 Kits

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 19:23
Product Image Review Author:  Jarrod Booth Scale Aircraft Conversions

Scale Aircraft Conversions (SAC) is a Texas based company that makes white metal landing gear for a vast number of model aircraft in all scales.

The idea behind the use of metal over the kit supplied plastic landing gear is strength. Over time plastic can give way under the weight of heavy aircraft models.

The metal parts are contained in a clear plastic tray with an attractive color backing showing product details.

This set includes the nose and main undercarriage legs, main gear retraction struts, nose leg torque links and inner main gear door retraction struts and bulkhead. They are a direct copy of the plastic kit parts, except for the main gear. The kit plastic main undercarriage legs are in two parts, while the SAC gear comes as one part. This makes the leg stronger and eliminates dealing with a glue seam.

All the SAC parts need some clean up, but, most of the mold seams found on the plastic parts have already been removed. I was able to get each item ready for assembly and painting in a matter of a few minutes. As the white metal was quite soft, I had to carefully straighten some items.

While the plastic landing gear in the Kitty Hawk Mirage 2000 kit was more than adequate and strong, the SAC gear assisted in building these parts a little easier. I would guess anyone building this model should have some experience, and, as such, the SAC gear will pose no problems. I highly recommend this product for any modeler.

My thanks to Scale Aircraft Conversions and IPMS USA for the opportunity to review this product and put it to the test on the actual model

Mirage 2000 D/N

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 19:09
Product Image Review Author:  Jarrod Booth Kitty Hawk

The Dassault Mirage 2000N is a nuclear strike variant, while the 2000D is a conventional attack version of this versatile French fighter. It has seen extensive and distinguished action in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

The Mirage was packed in a large, strong and colorful top opening box. Each sprue was contained in its own plastic bag. At the bottom there was a separate cardboard box protecting the clear sprue, a resin exhaust nozzle in a small zip lock bag and the instruction manual. The decal sheets were found in their own zip lock bag along with a photo etch fret. The complete package was superbly done and offered maximum protection of all parts. Only the two main ejection seat parts were loose from their sprues.

I had read other reviews on Kitty Hawk models that the instruction manual was the main weak spot in their kits. I studied the instruction manual to become acquainted with the model and noticed a few things. The presentation was very nice and appeared easy to follow with uncluttered, modular steps. However, as I progressed through the build, I found some confusing presentations in certain construction steps and needed to refer to the next steps to clarify what needed to be done. There were absolutely no color call outs for any parts throughout the build leaving the modeler to do their own research. Many parts were miss-numbered, but, typically it was where there were two similar parts.  A little thought and searching of the particular sprue was all that was needed to find the correct part.

At the end of the manual was the assembly of all the weapons, targeting pods and fuel tanks. The separate color weapons diagram named each one. It also indicated some of the pylons they mount onto. The weapons stencil diagram and all the plastic sprues were taken from the previous boxing of the Mirage 2000C which included all the stencil decals. There were no weapons, pylon or tank stencil decals included in this kit! Rod Lees, who recently reviewed the Kitty Hawk 1/32 Mirage 2000C (https://web.ipmsusa3.org/content/mirage-2000), was super kind and sent me the complete weapons stencil decal section from a second Mirage he had bought. Thank you so very much Rod!

A very nice aspect of the instruction manual was the glossy color, center pull out pages showing all the different aircraft that can be built with marking and airframe stencil decal placement and color callouts (Some dubious).

The model's construction was straight forward for the most part and many sections could be built as sub-assemblies. I very much liked that the sprue stubs attached to the mating surface instead of the visible outside edge on most parts. I did have to be careful trimming the remnants of the stub from the part, but, this method resulted in no damage to the lovely recessed surface detail.

Another aspect of the superb engineering of this model was the fact that there were no ejector pin marks anywhere that would be visible! However, on the back side of a lot of parts were ejector stubs that needed removing, but, cleanup was easy and again these would not be seen.

From internet research and other online builds of this aircraft in different scales, I used my best judgement on what color to paint various parts as I went along.

I started construction with the cockpit. The cockpit "tub", instrument panels, side walls and other parts were assembled and painted Model Master dark gull gray. There are decals for the instrument panels and side consoles, but, none of them were accurate for the 2000 D/N versions of this aircraft! There were virtually no switch details on the rear cockpit side consoles and the front cockpit appeared to be the same used in the previous 2000C, which was quite different to the "D".  The prominent throttle levers in both cockpits were missing as well. I scratch made these from plastic sheet and a small section of round sprue. These were painted red. As no aftermarket cockpits or photo etch were available in this scale, I used what was given. For such a stunning kit, the lack of attention to such a visible part of the model was a true letdown! There were no references to using the cockpit decals in the instruction manual either. On a positive note the decals laid down nice and accurately over the surface detail with the help of a little Micro-Sol solution.

The ejection seats, on the other hand, were quite nice with good detail. The kit supplied photo etch harnesses were fine, but, the fifth belt that ran from the front of the seat, up between the pilot's legs was missing. I made these out of tape and plastic sheet that I punched out as circles for the buckle. I used online photos to paint the seats.

Both engine intakes were built next and each part fit together precisely, except for two blow in doors on each intake. The kit supplied doors were way too small, so I scratch build the doors from Evergreen plastic sheet. There were no full-length intakes, but, very little can be seen, so this was not an issue for me. I did not install them until a little later.

A reasonably detailed SNECMA M53 turbofan engine was included but it had no means of being displayed outside the airframe. A compressor fan fit over a second compressor disk and looked great. The two-piece exhaust pipe exhibited good detail and the turbine face and afterburner ring finished off a simple, but effective, looking exhaust area. Both the compressor and exhaust sections sandwich between the two engine halves. I assembled all the accessories attached to the outside of the engine and painted everything I thought might be visible dark gray. To complete the exhaust area, a lovely resin exhaust nozzle is supplied, which I installed at the end of the build.

The nose wheel bay, fuselage and wing parts of the main wheel bays need to be assembled before the fuselage is closed. Each showed outstanding detail. Everything was a tongue and groove fit and went together nicely. The nose undercarriage leg had to be attached at this stage also. While the plastic landing gear was more than adequate, I used the SAC white metal undercarriage. Even though one of the mounting axels was square, the nose leg could be gently coerced into the retracted position and out of the way for now.

I deviated from the build sequence and added the top half of each wing to their respective fuselage sides before joining the fuselage halves together. Two large tabs on the wing root slot into the fuselage and were extremely tight. A little thinning helped obtain a better fit and ensured the wing root fillet sat flush against the fuselage side - no filler was needed. The underside wing halves were then added. I took my time to get each wing half perfectly aligned, and with the help of rubber bands and Tamiya cement, ensured a great fit.

In steps 36, 37, 40 and 41, the instructions show fitting the elevons and flaperon control surfaces before the hinge fairings. I found it better to attach the hinges first which took guess work out of positioning and aligning of the control surfaces.

The engine, wheel bays and cockpit, minus seats were attached to one fuselage half. Two vents were glued into the belly. These were numbered wrong. Also, two small windows were added in the upper fuselage. These needed trimming to fit better. Paint the inside of these aluminium or steel.

The engine attached to the fuselage via four small pins that were a little tricky to line up. Once they were lined up, the fit was fine.

Both fuselage sides fit together well. Extra care was needed when gluing the belly halves as there was a lot of panel line and hatch detail running through the seam. Luckily, the pylon I chose to use hides much of the seam. I replaced the louvers in a vent behind the nose gear bay with Evergreen sheet cut into strips, as the kit louvers joined in the middle with seams that were difficult to eliminate. The front of the forward belly vent on one fuselage side was shorter than the other requiring careful adjustment.

With the fuselage glued together, I attached the engine intakes. The fit was so good, all I needed was a thin line of Tamiya liquid glue along the seam and they were done!

There are two nose cones provided - one with lightning bars and one without. I used the former. A rudimentary radar is provided, but I didn't use it.

I don't know if nose weight was required and there was no mention of using any, but, I added some lead just in front of the cockpit for good measure.

I turned my attention to the main undercarriage. Again, I used the SAC white metal legs and retraction struts, plus plastic torque links parts required from the kit. The SAC undercarriage set was sent with the Mirage model and reviewed separately. The main and nose wheels show very nice tire side wall and rim detail, but, no tire tread. I unsuccessfully attempted to scribe in the tread pattern with my razor saw. Resin wheels are available, if needed, from Res/Kit (I ordered a set). I did not install the mail landing gear until later.

The tail includes four optional tips containing different sensors, but, no reference as to which one to use. I looked over the now separate decal and painting diagram of the aircraft I intended to build and used what I saw there (all were the same). I also found a picture of the same aircraft online and verified the tail tip was the same. Each tail piece was one piece and fit together ok. There was a slight mold misalignment at each mating surface, so some careful sanding was needed to eliminate them and improve the fit of both of these parts and the fit to the fuselage. A position light was meant to fit into either side of the tail tip, but, they were not included on the clear sprue. The instruction showed part numbers GP12 and 13, but, these were two totally different parts! I filled the hole with Testors clear cement and went on!

Once the basic airframe was finished, I spent some time researching what weapons, fuel tanks and targeting pods the "D" version would typically carry. There was quite a lot of information on the web and some great pictures. There were nine hard points: two under each wing, four on either side of the fuselage (fore and rear) and one on the belly centerline. I loaded my Mirage with two RP541/542 2000 Liter tanks, one EADS Scalp/Apache cruise missile, one PDL-CTS targeting pod, two Matra Mica EM Missiles, two Matra Super. 530 missiles and one Matra R550 Magic 2 missile.   Modifications were needed to mount some of the stuff that goes "Bang"!!!! Refer to the pictures to see where each one was mounted.

An AUF-2 dual bomb carrier was included, which was a common load for the 2000 D, but, no bombs were included. Aftermarket bombs are available, but, I didn't bother.

The fuel tanks and weapons fit together very well. Some slots for the fins were a little too tight and needed opening a bit. This was certainly better than too loose and aided in proper alignment.

I was impressed as the pylons were all one piece each - No gluing two haves together and no sink marks! A quick swipe with sandpaper took care of any mold seams.

The aircraft, tanks and weapons glue seams were taken care of and the whole lot was prepared for painting.

The canopies were nice and clear, however, they all had a seam line running through the center that turned out to be a ridge from a mold misalignment. I sanded down the mold line followed by polishing and a dip in Future Floor Wax to protect them further.  The seam line was only on the outside of each canopy. There were three canopies on the clear sprue. One is clearly for the previous 2000C model. All canopy parts were numbered wrong.

The rear canopy had two hinge tabs that allowed it to open and close, but, the front did not. The front canopy should have the same hinging setup as the rear. It is obvious Kitty Hawk intended the rear canopy to be posed open and the front closed. I attached a portion of flat sprue to the rear inside of the front canopy and angled the back of it so the canopy could be mounted open. I also had to add a length of wire for the retraction strut to reach the open canopy.

I sprayed the model with Tamiya neutral grey and black green with soft edges. The nose cone was painted with a muted black green and left flat. A gloss coat followed.

There are nine French marking schemes offered with most being quite colorful representing various anniversaries and special events. I chose the basic version on the box top as I wanted a standard squadron aircraft that showed the graceful lines of the "Flying Stiletto".

Some of the special markings are inaccurate, for example "Tiger is Coming" should have the tiger on the left side of the tail and a map of Europe on the right. Kitty Hawk has the tiger on both sides. On another aircraft, the Devil and bird option is on the left and should have a large Indian Chief on the right side, as opposed to the Devil on both sides. Nevertheless, if the modeler is not worried about absolute accuracy these marking will certainly look spectacular.

Interestingly the weapons stencil decals that Rod sent me were overly thick and needed much help to lay into panel lines, but, they were in good register and color. The color bands that ran around the various missiles were all too short requiring me to position the "short end" where the missile met the pylon to try and hide it. In the end they all looked good under a couple of clear coats. My 2000D kit decals on the other hand, were very thin and wanted to fold over on themselves. Once folded over they were stuck fast and took a great deal of care to separate. I was lucky and did not lose any decals. Some decals were pixilated and many were a little out of register. I applied Micro-Sol after placing the decal and achieved good results. Any minor silvering was taken care of with more Micro-Sol and poking with a new blade.

The decals were sealed with another gloss coat, followed by a panel line wash. Another semi-gloss coat and some touch up completed the painting.

There was still a lot more work ahead with the final assembly of all the parts I painted separately. Most of these parts went together quite nicely.

Be particularly careful of the inner main undercarriage door retraction strut/bulkhead assembly. I found it easier to sand down the tab on the top of the bulkhead a bit so it would slide (with some force) into its slot in the undercarriage bay roof. This part would be easier to assemble when building the bays before attaching them to the fuselage, although the retraction strut is very fragile and could be broken. I wanted my doors open, but, most internet pictures show these doors closed on the ground.

The main undercarriage legs, retraction strut and doors were attached and fit nicely. I lowered the nose gear, glued on the torque link and landing lights and positioned the leg in the correct position with the retraction strut.  The nose gear doors were then glued in their position and the aircraft could finally sit on her feet. The rear nose gear door is typically closed on the ground, but, the kit nose door, like the main inner doors are designed to be posed open. With the lovely detail in both main and nose gear wells it would be a shame to close the doors.

The leading-edge slats and guide rails were attached. The rails slotted into the underside of the slat but were a little tight. I trimmed them for a better fit. These were then mounted to the wings in their down position. There are two per wing.

The five fuselage weapons pylons were glued in their slots, followed by the wing mounted pylons. I had to modify most of the pylons to accept the missiles I chose to use. Wire was inserted into holes I drilled into the pylons and weapons for a stronger attachment. The two external fuel tanks were also glued to the inboard wing pylons and required no modification.

The final assembly included antennas and several navigation lights fuselage roof and belly. The canopies were attached open.

There will also be plenty of spare parts to use on future French aircraft models.

The Mirage 2000D is certainly a very beautiful looking aircraft and in my opinion the two-seater is even more aesthetic that the single seat 2000C.

Despite my frustrations with so many errors in this kit, I thoroughly enjoyed building it. The model fits together quite nicely and looks to be accurate in shape to the real aircraft. I believe the modeler needs to use some common sense and research the aircraft you want to build before starting and during the build...That's half the fun of building these kits, right? To learn more about the subject and help other modelers where needed! However, I would not recommend this Kitty Hawk model to less experienced modelers even though it was not overly difficult to build. The errors in the instructions and ambiguity in some building steps, even had me scratching my head a few times!

I would sincerely like to thank Kitty Hawk and the IPMS USA for entrusting me to build and review this Mirage 2000D.

Raiders from New France

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 17:48
Product Image Review Author:  Dave Morrissette Osprey Publishing

Osprey Publications latest in the Elite series is Raiders from New France which covers North American Forest Warfare in the 17th and 18th century. At the time, warfare was a formal affair with men in lines advancing other men's lines or the like. This area of North America at the time was wilderness, Indians and stand alone forts so a new type of warfare was developed and that is the focus of this book along with the people and weapons that fought in those wars.


The book is broken into well thought out chapters and include:


  • Introduction
  • The Beginnings- Champlain, Frontenac and La Barre- 1608-85
  • Raid Warfare-
    • Frontenac's Return, 1690
    • Anglo American Attacks on New France- 1690-1701
    • Queen Anne's War- 1702-13
    • The Fox Wars- 1712-37
  • The Final Decades- 1740s-50s
  • Men, Equipment and Methods
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index


I like the fact things are sequential so as you read, the history unfolds and develops as it really did during the time. It also helps that the book is lavishly illustrated with maps, painting and drawings showing each step or group.


The primary focus of the book is raid warfare. Raid warfare is defined as planning and executing smaller attacks on specific targets and not following the warfare of the days. The first of these was the French attack on Fort Hayes led by Captain de Troyes. To get to the fort required a travel distance of 750 miles. This was captured and then part of the force traveled another 124 miles to take Fort Rupert. This too was captured.


This format is followed between wars and skirmishes for the book until final resolution in the 1750's with the French-Indian Wars France granting all of Canada to Britain in 1763.


With each of these chapters, there are full color plates of many of the participants showing their dress. I included several pictures of these as they are wonderful reference for modelers.


The section on Men and Weapons is extremely interesting showing the rifles and knives of the time but also the tomahawks. He methods of transportation such as canoes is featured, snow shoes and many other pertinent items and methods used during the time. All is very well illustrated with period pictures and modern drawings.


In summary, this era of time was a great change in warfare methods and a time of colonization and this book covers all with great illustration. Recommended to modelers and history fans everywhere.


My thanks to Osprey books for the opportunity to read and review the book.

Gloster Gladiator Mk. 2

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 13:47
Product Image Review Author:  Gino Dykstra ICM

The Gloster Gladiator was one of the last biplane fighter aircraft to serve during World War 2, and despite its obvious obsolescence, served for the British air service surprisingly well on a number of fronts.  It made a name for itself in the early middle eastern desert war, and went on to serve in Greece and even further with a number of foreign air services.

I recently built and reviewed ICM's excellent Gloster Gladiator Mark 1, so I will mostly be pointing out the differences between the two kits.  The most noticeable is the new three-blade propeller replacing the rather clunky two-blade unit of the Mark 1.  Other differences are more subtle, including a new control panel and front windshield.  Only a small additional sprue is included to offer these differences, and you still have all the Mark 1 pieces if you prefer to go in this direction.

ICM's Gloster Gladiator Mk. II comes on a sturdy side-opening box with separate lid and features a somewhat soft gray styrene as well as clear parts. No photoetch is included, but the decal sheet offers three options, all in British service.

As with the first release, assembly begins with the cockpit area which includes the fuselage guns and a detailed birdcage-type assemble for the interior.  As already mentioned, there is a new two-part control panel included, but otherwise the interior remains the same.  The seat, as with all the ICM aircraft kits I've assembled so far, comes without seat belts so you'll be required to find or scratch a set yourself.  There is also still a large mold mark on the seat back that should be filled and sanded as it is quite visible.  As you close up the fuselage they show installing the gun sight bracket, but I would hold off on that as it is quite fragile and can easily break off during rigging.

Once the fuselage is completed, you fix the tail and the lower wing into position.  For the purposes of rigging, I studied the excellent rigging notes further into the instructions and drilled holes appropriate for feeding lines through both the top and bottom wings.  Attaching the landing gear still gives you a weak joint at the bottom of each leg, but I resolved this problem more effectively than last time by gluing the inside brake disks to the legs sans wheels, which I then attached later.  This prevented the torquing I performed the last time in an attempt to get each wheel to sit with the sanded flat side down.

You're then required to assemble the excellent engine, and this time I decided to display it more prominently than in my first build, so detailed it out with wire.  Again, you need to be especially careful in building both the shroud and exhausts, as there are two variants of shrouds AND variants of exhaust mounts.  Study this stage carefully before committing to glue.  The separate cylinder caps are only if you are not using the full shroud, but I wanted to display at least a portion of mine, so glued them all on with the exception of those that went under the top shroud section.

At this time you can begin some of the major painting, and I found it easier to paint the upper wing separately from the rest of the model to avoid overspray later.

Of course, there are a number of ways to rig a model like this, and I elected to do the through-wing thread approach as it offered the best strength with the least likelihood of grief from my fat fingers.  Like the first build, it required a little additional patience to thread through both halves of each wing, but the final result was more than satisfactory.

Both versions of this kit offer a few British aircraft markings, but I wanted to have a bit more variety so went ahead and ordered the new ICM Gladiator Mk.II in Foreign Service decals direct from the Ukraine.  However, after waiting some weeks for them to arrive (delayed, no doubt, by new postal restrictions), I finally was obliged to bite the bullet and employ decals from my personal stock instead.  Notwithstanding, the Finnish air force markings I did muster certainly create a striking contrast to the dusty and worn look of my Gladiator I, and fit the bill quite nicely.

A masking set is provided for masking the canopy.  Although it looks quite nice, I simply used my usual Scotch Invisible Tape approach along with a sharp X-Acto for good results.  Be sure to use the armored front screen option as this is the appropriate piece for the Mk. II. 

All in all, this is as excellent a kit as the original Mark I model, and makes for an eye-catching addition to any 1/32nd scale aircraft collection.  There were no serious challenges in the kit - not even the rigging - and it was a fun build from beginning to end.  I heartily recommend this kit to anyone who loves early war aviation.  ICM has apparently just released the Sea Gladiator Mk I or II in the same series, and this would present a fine opportunity to make a Malta defender for your collection as well.

My thanks, always, to ICM for creating so many of my dream kits and to IPMS/USA for a chance to build them.  This one is a stunner!  Be safe, everyone, and happy modeling!

The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter – A Comprehensive Guide

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 09:32
Product Image Review Author:  Michael A. Turco SAM Publications


This title is No. 36 in the MDF series of aircraft guidebooks issued by SAM Publications.  It is an 8-1/4 inch by 11-5/8 inch, 184-page heavy paperback book printed on high-quality glossy paper.  The beauty of this book easily lies in its many photographs, both black and white and color, of the "Missile With a Man In It", the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.  Whether a modeler or not, if you like looking at pictures of the Starfighter, you will like this book.  Photos of the plane abound from the Glossary through the Appendices. 

This volume contains much if not more of what a modeler should expect.  The book's Contents and examples of several pages are attached herewith.  While there are a number of typos and a few errors listed in the Errata below, many that would annoy a proofreader would likely be disregarded by a modeler.  They are included in this review in the hope of being corrected in a future edition, and in this reviewer's opinion that a book with such a high quality look and feel should be error free.

The F-104 had a checkered history.  It began its life as Lockheed's legendary Kelly Johnson intended after his visit to Korea to get the opinions of the pilots in that conflict, i.e., build a relatively simple aircraft with incredible performance characteristics.  It was the first aircraft to hold both speed and altitude records at the same time.  It had sharp-edged wings reminiscent of the X-3 Stiletto, padded to protect maintenance personnel while on the ground; it was the first to sport a rotary cannon; the first fighter to employ the General Electric J79 engine; and was originally equipped with a downward firing ejection seat.  These then-revolutionary features were not without their problems, and the Air Force operated the plane for a short period of time before relegating it to Air Guard units, yet another aircraft that was asked to do things it was never designed to do.  But it essentially resurrected itself in modified form (the F-104G) and was used in great numbers by allied countries, including Canada, and in Europe, the Near-East, and Asia.  This book goes to almost mind-numbing lengths to note the places, the quantity, and the variants of the F-104 built and/or flown by all the countries that used it.

One wonders how the Starfighter was selected by NATO nations over the other notable aircraft being considered at the time, e.g., the English Electric Lightning, Grumman F-11F-1F Super Tiger, French Dassault Mirage III, Saab J-35 Draken, Convair F-102 Delta Dagger and F-106 Delta Dart, Republic F-105 Thunderchief and Vought F8U Crusader.  That's one hell of a competitive list.  Termed in the mid-1950s as the 'sale of the century', the NATO market for an anticipated 2,000 multi-role fighters drew the aforementioned aircraft manufacturers into a vigorous competition.  Did Lockheed "out bribe" the other companies?  What was revealed by the congressional hearings in the 1970s was that Lockheed gave large sums of cash to various countries' high-ranking officials, those with the responsibility of choosing their aircraft.  It was an underhanded yet routine way of doing business with foreign countries back then, and its revelation became a major scandal that led to corrective laws.  Lockheed was the pilloried example for this practice, and the scandal caused the downfall of several foreign principals, including the Japanese Prime Minister who was jailed.  That's another story but is an interesting sidebar to the history of the Starfighter.



I enjoy learning about the history of the aircraft I build, in particular how the final design was arrived at.  In its initial chapter, this book discusses the early design concepts that Kelly Johnson and the Lockheed "Skunkworks" engineers came up with that led to the F-104.  Using the project numbers mentioned in this chapter, I found the early designs that are not pictured or diagrammed in the book on the Internet.  I also went hunting for the competitive bid designs by Republic and North American that the Air Force had to request under fair practices.  The book erroneously refers to the Republic submission as their Model AP-55, akin to the XF-91 Thunderceptor. It was actually their Model AP-54 that was submitted. 

The book does reveal some facts I was unaware of about the F-104.  One was the secrecy of the jet inlet half cones found necessary for supersonic flight with the J79 engines.  Published photos of the early F-104As show the inlets faired over.  Makes one wonder how the jets were supposed to breathe.  Another was the use of not only wind tunnel but rocket-launched models to test the wings and the tail strength.  I was dismayed to learn the sad truth that Korea double ace (10 downed, 11 damaged) and test pilot Iven Kincheloe, who set an altitude record of 126,200 feet (the first man into space) in the Bell X-2 in 1956, died after a downward ejection from an F-104 that had experienced engine failure.  A reported 21 aircrew were killed because of this ejection system.  I was also startled by the attrition rate of the Starfighters in West Germany.  The chapter on International Users states that 270 F-104s, nearly 30% of the total German force, were lost in accidents, with 110 pilots killed.  I doubt statistics like that would be acceptable today.

The Walk Arounds section (Appendix II) has highly detailed photos of the cockpit, fuselage access panel and stenciling of the plane, but surprisingly lacks those of the landing gear and wheel wells.  This deficiency is partly remedied by the detailed drawings in the Technical Diagrams section (Appendix I). (See photo).  A minor issue I had with Appendix I is that on pages 120-125 the numbered components are named, but not so on pages 126-129.

The Kitography section (Appendix IV), comprised of three pages of contemporary kits, aftermarket accessories and decals, is a nice feature.  Being contemporary is a fleeting thing however and I would like to have seen the older, out-of-production kits like the Monogram, Revell, Hawk, etc., listed.  These are still readily available from resellers and, while not up to present-day standards of fit and accuracy, deserve a place as a modeler's option.  Also, the Accessories list, while seemingly exhaustive, does not have E-Z Masks listed, one good source of canopy masks I have used frequently.



In Chapter 6, Modelling the Starfighter, there are descriptions of 11 fine builds of kits by Hasegawa, Eduard, Kinetic and Revell.  The general consensus of the builders is that the Kinetic kit is the best overall.  All but two of the builds are 1/48-scale, with one 1/72- and one 1/144-scale kit, each by Revell. The builds show some great depictions of finished cockpits and avionics bays.  There are also various methods shown for weathering, examples being the use of oil washes and Uschi Van Der Rosten Airbrush Splatter stencils.  Nine of the builds are European versions, with one Japanese Starfighter and one USAF F-104C in Vietnam livery. 

Most good builds contain handy tips and the builds in this book did not disappoint.  In addition to the splatter stencils used in a couple of the models which I had never seen before (i.e., the Branski and Torbinski builds), the Renshaw build of the Vietnam F-104C describes an alternate decal application method using Elmer's Glue-All, a method I've actually used in the past as a means of not having to completely gloss the model prior to decaling.  The Koervers build of a Dutch F-104G mentions his method of a once-over dry brushing of the cockpit with Vallejo Metal Duraluminum, which I would like to have seen but unfortunately was not pictured.  As a fan of splinter-type paint schemes, I really liked the camo on the Ashton Luftwaffe F-104G build and was surprised at how rough the finish was allowed to deteriorate on the Danish aircraft as depicted by Torbinski's F-104G.  Among other aftermarket items, Soulleys added the DACO 1/48 Starfighter Improvement Set to his build of an Eduard ProfiPack F-104G.  The Eduard kit uses the Hasegawa molds, the latter frequently criticized for the overdone riveting on the wings.  The DACO set provides wings, flaps, and leading edge slats devoid of the rivets.  The price of the DACO set is not listed and since at present it costs over $50, in my opinion the price should be included for readers to decide on its worth. 

Note that many of the paint brands used in the builds included in this volume (e.g., Hataka, Modeler's World, and Mr. Color) are not as widely available in the States as are Testors, Tamiya and Humbrol, the latter three being almost completely absent from mention.  

My one disappointment with this chapter was that none of the builds was of a natural metal F-104.  That's what I would build if I had the honor of contributing to a book like this one.



This book is a comprehensive depiction of the F-104, primarily from a foreign (outside the USA) perspective.  This is understandable as it is, after all, a British publication and the F-104 was more prominent in foreign usage.  The many photographs are its best feature, although I wish it had included some of the fancy paint schemes of certain Italian planes and those of the NATO meets.  How cool is it to have a tiger ripping out of the fuselage, or a cartoon cat chasing cartoon mice on a half-camo, half orange and white F-104, or a witch holding a camera painted on the tail of a recon F-104 that has stars painted all over it?  Kits and decals for the latter are available and are striking.  But if your intention is to build a European-camouflaged Starfighter, I do not believe there is a better reference available.

My thanks to SAM Publications and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.



Many of the errors are minor but are listed to enable corrections to be made in subsequent editions of the book.

  • Contents page, title of Chapter 4, Starfighters misspelled.
  • Contents page, under Chapter 5, subsection on page 70 is entitled "Colour Side Profiles".  On page 70, subsection is entitled "Colour Artwork".
  • Page 7, Line 3, states Four companies, but only three are listed. Lockheed missing from sentence.
  • Page 11, Column 2, Line 13, erroneously states Republic submitted its Model AP-55 based on the XF-91 Thunderceptor.  Republic's Model AP-54 was based on the Thunderceptor.
  • Page 15, Column 2, Line 25, "...rose from 15,700 pounds..."
  • Page 20, Column 2, last line. "A total of 153..." should begin a new paragraph.
  • Page 22, Column 2, Line 2.  Indecipherable sentence
  • Page 40, Column 2, Line 4, last word full.
  • Page 42, Column 2, Lines 16 and 21, misplaced periods.
  • Page 51, Column 1, Line 6, delete the word "or".
  • Page 52, Column 1, Line 6, extraneous "6".
  • Page 52, Column 1, Line 24, last word "made" misspelled.
  • Page 52, Column 2, Line 15, missing period after "sorties".
  • Page 53, Column 2, Line 9, refers to Republic of China Air Force mistakenly as RoKAF.
  • Page 60, Column 2, Lines 3 and 4, indeterminant whether two or four TF-104Gs were transferred.
  • Page 67, Column 1, Line 4, missing period after "squadrons".
  • Page 71, bottom side profile, F-104A illustrated with incorrect vertical tail, i.e., tail of later variants.
  • Page 86, Column1, Line 10, misspelled "Widowmaker".
  • Page 86, Column 2, Line 1, missing commas after the words "wheels" and "legs".
  • Page 88, Line 7, misspelled "painted".
  • Page 89, Column 1, Line 4, missing word "of" between "coat' and "Hataka".
  • Page 90, Column 1, Line 14, missing comma after "bay".
  • Page 92, Column 1, Line 6, missing comma after "White".
  • Page 107, Line 29, Misspelled "Grey".
  • Page 115, Column 1, Line16, misspelled "needle".
  • Page 156, misspelled "F-104S" in photo caption.
  • Page 172, misspelled "F-104G" in photo caption.

Bf 109F-4 with German Ground Personnel

Thu, 08/06/2020 - 21:53
Product Image Review Author:  Pablo Bauleo ICM

ICM Holdings has re-issued their 1/48 Bf 109F that has been around since the mid 2000s. After these years (review is written in 2020) the molds are showing their age a tiny bit. There is some minor flash in some parts, but nothing that a few minutes with a blade and a sanding stick cannot correct.

The airplane itself comes in 3 grey sprues plus a clear sprue and it includes a full engine and a cowling that can be displayed open. In addition, this particular boxing includes a set of 7 figures in summer uniform plus a dog. I believe this is the first time this figure set has been released and the sculpting of the figures is outstanding. I'm not an expert on uniforms, but I think you get 3 officers and 4 enlisted personnel.

The assembly of the model follows a typical process for an airplane, starting with the cockpit. The cockpit itself is simple, but reasonable for the scale and acceptable if you have the canopy closed. There are no seatbelts molded nor provided as a decal.

One thing I've found out when dry fitting the cockpit to the fuselage is that the cockpit itself is a bit wide for the fuselage sides to close properly. I had to sand off the front of the cockpit subassembly (ahead of the instrument panel) to get a good fit of the fuselage sides.

Another thing I decided to do was to modify slightly the nose. I wanted to show the smooth lines of the "-F" (the prettier of the all 109s!) so I decided to not assemble the engine and I glued the nose cowling panels to the main fuselage sides. After running a bit of liquid glue I reinforced the parts from the inside with extra styrene.

At this point I thought that the original engineering of the lower nose parts was a bit too complex and I created my own subassembly. I basically decided split piece #5 and piece #6 and glued them with piece #10 to be able to create an independent part for below the exhaust line and then I glued the remaining part of piece #5 and #6 to piece #4 and #3 to create a full nose. While that might sound complex, it was very simple. Just look at the images and you will see how simple it is.  I did have to add a piece of sprue across the nose to reinforce the area and set the proper distance between the side nose panels.

A secondary advantage of this modification is that simplifies painting. You can paint the exhaust and lower nose independently of the main camouflage and glue those subassemblies after the main painting is completed.

Next up were the wings. The rounded wingtips fit was a bit off. I had to sand down the "tongue" of wing-tips that is meant to fit into the slots of the main wing. Same with the flaps. Fit of the wing-roots to fuselage was pretty good.

The model was approaching the painting stage fast. There was minimal need for filler, just a bit around the nose cowling area, but some overall sanding of the seams, plus sanding of specific parts (as described) to improve the fit was needed.

Painting was accomplished with Model Master Enamels. After the painting was completed, I applied a coat of Gloss from the Tru-Color line that I have reviewed elsewhere in this website. As I mentioned in that review, I'm very impressed with that clear coat and the overall paint line.

Once the gloss coat was cured, I applied the ICM-printed decals. I would say that they are not the easiest decals ever, but they have improved a lot since the earlier decal sheets.

What I've found out is that you need to use very hot water to release them from the backing paper and that they need to be underwater longer than other decals to release. But if you do it that way, you will have few problems to apply them. They are even sturdy enough that can withstand gentle handling for final positioning. I did have one of the decals to become brittle after it was dry and peel off a bit. Oh well, that is what I call "weathering".

The decals themselves have good color density, good registry and they conformed to the shapes of the fuselage and panel lines without the need of any setting solution.

The model was approaching final assembly. The landing gear fits pretty well and the parts are handed, so you cannot mix left and right. At this point I presented the (already painted canopy) to the model and found out a small gap between the windshield and the fuselage. In hindsight I should have glued the windshield, filled the gap and then painted the model. The other parts of the canopy fit well, without gaps.

Regarding the figure set you can see how well sculped they are in the pictures. As the molds are likely very new, there is no flash or any other issue with them. Even the mold lines are very faint and easy to remove with a sharp blade. The gates attachment points are also small and easy to clean. When the figure is assembled, they are well balanced and can stand upright on their own without having to glue them to a base.

My figure painting skill is not up to par, hence I'm just showing a few of them, assembled but unpainted around the airplane.

I would summarize this build as below average in terms of fit for 2020 standards but nothing in this kit is makes it unbuildable. If you consider that the molds are 15-yr old and that you get a brand-new set of figures with it, it is a reasonable offering. If you think of it, you get a "vignette in-a-box".

Recommended for the budget-oriented modeler looking for a vignette in-a-box.

I would like to thank to ICM Holdings and IPMS/USA for the review sample.