by: Russ Amott [ ]
BackgroundThe history of the F-86 began in 1938 with the expulsion from Nazi Germany of Edgar Schmued, an engineer with Messerschmitt, because he was considered "racially unfit." At the time Schmued had been working on a design that would eventually become the P-51. In 1944 he was on the team that was asked to design the F-86 jet powered fighter for the U.S. Army Air Corps, later to become the US Air Force. The design was initially similar to Republic's F-84, but Schmued was familiar with the advanced designs the Germans were already working on, and familiar with studies in high speed flight. In July, 1945, North American sent him to Germany to study the designs of their aircraft and he knew who to contact at Messerschmitt. As a result, he had all the information on the swept wing design of the ME-262 before the official interrogation papers had been translated and delivered. He incorporated this information into design changes in the F-86 that delayed it's production by a year, but resulted in the most important and critically needed aircraft the United States would have for the next ten years.
The F-86 was designed with a swept wing, angled at 35 degrees. It used a single jet engine located in the fuselage for power. It first flew on October 1, 1947, with North American test pilot George Welch at the controls. On that date, and again two weeks later, on October 14, 1947, George Welch put the aircraft into a shallow dive and according to multiple observers, broke the sound barrier, the second time just two hours before Chuck Yeager, in the Bell X-1, broke it while accelerating in level flight. The two aircraft would remain intertwined as the tail from the high speed X-1 would be incorporated into the F-86.
The F-86A first went operational with the US Air Force in 1949, assigned to two fighter wings and a bomber wing. When the Korean war broke out jet fighters went into combat. In November 1950 the Soviets introduced the MiG 15, which was superior to all other United Nations aircraft. The US rushed three squadrons of the F-86A to Korea to combat the new threat. The aircraft were visually very similar, both being designed after the ME-262, but while the F-86 had a faster dive speed, the MiG 15 could turn tighter, fly higher, and had better speed and acceleration. Design improvements were made over time, with the F-86E being introduced in 1952, and incorporating a controllable flying tail which made it more manuverable, In 1953 the F-86F was introduced, with a redesigned wing and new engine. The "6-3" wing was six inches longer at the wing root and 3 inches longer at the wing tip. It increased takeoff and landing speed, but also increased rate of climb and decreased turn radius. The F-86 could now out turn the MiG 15. Kill ratios from the Korean war vary and are somewhat controversial, but I have seen claims varying from 8:1 to 1.8:1 in favor of the F-86. What made the difference was having a good aircraft in the hands of good pilots, many of whom were veterans of WWII. The F-86, with it's improved technology, saved the day.
The kitI have always liked the F-86 and was looking for a good kit to build. Many people have commented that the Academy kit is a good, accurate model and when I found one at my local Hobby Lobby, I grabbed it. The box art shows an F-86 which has just shot down (presumably) a MiG 15. The box says F-86F-30, but the aircraft depicted appears to be a later variant (more on this later). Inside there are 7 sprues in gray styrene and one in clear, along with instructions and decals.
The instructions are fold out type, with the kit assembly shown in 15 steps. They are clear and un cluttered, with painting called out in each assembly step. Paint is by color only, with no particular brand called out. Check references, as the instructions state to paint the cockpit gray, and Korean war aircraft had a flat black interior. You can build either a fighter or a fighter bomber with this kit, but there are no separate instructions showing any difference in build. Inn step 4, you are shown where to cut the fuselage if you wish to show the engine displayed with the tail section removed. There is a stand provided in the kit to set the tail section on. You have the option of showing the air brakes and gun bays either open or closed. Step 11 shows to install the wing slats, parts C-24 and C-25. For a Korean war F-86F-30, the wing slats were removed. To properly represent this aircraft you will have to fill in the placement holes. Painting and decal placement are called out on a separate sheet. Option 1 is for a fighter plane flown by Capt. Charles McSwain, top ace with 16 kills. Option 2 is for a fighter bomber flown by Lt. Harvey Brown.
Sprue A is the two fuselage halves. Detail is good on both sides. I removed them and test fit them together. They aligned very well with no gaps or fit issues. However, there is a lot to put between to two halves, so fit may not be so perfect once assembly has progressed.
Sprue B is for the wing assembly. Again, I test fit the upper and lower wing surfaces, with no problems or gaps. Detail is again very good and aside from the placement holes for the wing slats needing to be filled there are no issues. You will have to pre drill the holes for the placement of ordinance with the marked points all clear on the inner surface of the lower wing.
The C sprue has parts for the pilots seat, which is very basic, instrument panel, which is for the fighter bomber version only, landing gear doors and struts, air brake doors, and two different front wheels depicting the solid and see through hub, but the see through hub is still molded solid. Ejector pin marks are on hidden surfaces with the exception of two on the pilot's seat. I did not see any sink marks or other flaws. Details are very good.
Sprue D has two bell molded pilot figures, one seated and one standing. Oxygen masks are molded separately. The central intake is in two halves, with the cockpit tub on the top half and the forward landing gear bay on the lower half. Underwing pylons ad the support rack to carry the tail section are also provided here and again, details appear very good. I did not see any pin marks or sink marks, and flash is very minimal.
Sprue E has a basic but well detailed GEJ-47-GE-27 jet engine. Superdetailers can use this as a good starting point. Again there were no visible ejector marks.
There are two of sprue F, containing 120 gal tanks, 165 gal. "Misawa" tanks, designed at the Misawa factory in Japan, 750 lb bombs, M3 .50 cal mgs with ammo belts and for those interested in a post war aircraft AIM-9 sidewinder missles, along with the pylon mounts. Unweighted rear tires are also provided, with excellent hub detail.
Sprue E is clear, with the canopy, windscreen and lights provided. The canopy has the antenna wiring on the inner surface and a faint mold seam along the top, which will have to be carefully removed and touched up with Future or similar product. My wind screen has two small bubbles in the front panel. The plastic is quite thin
DecalsKit decals are clear and in register. The fuselage decals are all cut out for the air brake panels. The yellow identification bands appear a bit oversize when compared to the wings, something I have heard other modelers mention. Academy decals can also be difficult to work with and many modelers simply to opt for aftermarket replacements to avoid any problems.
ConclusionOverall this appears to be a good quality model kit. The only obvious flaw was the windscreen, and aside from a somewhat basic cockpit with a sub par seat and the wing slats not being for the F-86F-30 this will build into an excellent representation of the real thing.
I checked Academy's web site and it appears this kit is currently not in production. Too bad. It is very nice. It is still readily available at a number of retailers, both local and on line, and is very much worth getting.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.