Sunday, June 30, 2013

F4U-2 Antennas and Other Stuff

It doesn't take much to get me doing research on a subject of interest. In this case, it started out with the color scheme of the F4U-2 (see and segued to antennas. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to nail it all down to my satisfaction but at least I have some progress to report. Much of this has already been noted by Don Fenton on Hyperscale.

First, the F4U-2s were converted from some of the earliest production F4U-1s. In fact, the very first production F4U-1 was modified to be the prototype. As a result, some pictures show early Corsair features like the 360-degree cowl flaps. They subsequently received many changes before they deployed in addition to the unique hardware needed for the night fighter mission and probably some while overseas in combat. However, there was at least one exception to the "standard" Corsair configuration: the stall strip on the right wing leading edge doesn't appear on the deployed pictures of the VMF(N)-532 and VF(N)-101 airplanes.
And they might have had the taxi/landing light under the left wing, a feature on early F4Us and of benefit to a pilot flying at night from land bases:

As far as the cockpit goes, a three-inch diameter radar scope was added in the middle of the instrument panel directly under the gunsight, which was the original one with an integral reflector glass, and the bullet-resistant plate glass between the windscreen and gunsight was removed for improved visibility.
Obviously some of the instruments had to be rearranged, with the artificial horizon being moved to the left according to this mockup picture:
It looks to me like the artificial horizon was incorporated in a Sperry autopilot installation.

For some reason, the antenna mast was deleted and the bitter end of the wire antenna was terminated at the outboard end of the leading edge of the right horizontal stabilizer. A VHF radio was installed with its whip antenna on the turtleback mounted slightly left of centerline and angled left. An IFF whip antenna was mounted on the belly aft of the downward vision window. The radar altimeter required two identical antennas on the belly.

The radar altimeter antenna installation is one of the more confusing configuration details since these were at least initially mounted fore and aft of the downward vision window as shown here.

However, there don't seem to be any radar altimeter antennas in some pictures - they were probably only essential for carrier operations at night - and in others the two antennas are both mounted under the aft fuselage. My guess is that there were two alternatives (three when you count none being installed) as shown on this illustration along with other configuration details.

Some annotated pictures that might be helpful:
Note that the first picture is a VMF(N)-532 airplane as are all with 2XX side numbers. The second on is assigned to VF(N)-101, which provided detachments to Enterprise and Intrepid; these had one and low two-digit numbers. Pictures of the VF(N)-75 airplanes are scarce, as in I've seen one poor reproduction in a book.

Some F4U-2s had the armor added atop the rear of the canopy:

The biggest error in kits, including Tamiya's 1/48th F4U-2, is the radome. The fairing on the upper surface of the wing didn't taper in width as viewed from the top like subsequent wing-mounted radome installations. It didn't taper at all as it faired into the wing surface:
Don Fenton provided some guidance with respect to the Tamiya 1/48th F4U-2 kit in addition to what I've already noted above:
The 1/48 Tamiya F4U-1/2 kit has the outer wing panel fuel tank filler caps in the wrong position. Fill in existing and rescribe new ones same position but one panel line inboard. Add the handgrips to the caps if you want. And while you're at it, add the small vent tubes to underside of the wing. These go in the minute indention shown near the large rectangular hatch in the lower outer wing panel. These are characteristic of the wet wing Corsairs. Check page 23 D&S 55.
- Do not use the centerline fuel tank or Brewster bomb rack.
- Cockpit interior was painted black or Dull Dark Green, take your pick. The instrument cowl and interior of the windscreen was likely painted black.
- Use the salmon colored primer as you please for the wheel wells.
- Gear struts and the interior of the engine cowling likely remained Light Gray
- Paint over the downward vision window

For Dave Hansen's 1/32nd Tamiya build, see

Friday, June 28, 2013

F4U-2 Color Scheme

The F4U-2 was (with a couple of exceptions) modified by the Navy from production Vought F4U-1 "birdcage" corsairs to be a night fighter.
The airplanes came from the factory in a blue-gray over light gray paint scheme. They were subsequently repainted by the Navy in the tri-color paint scheme before they were deployed.

Basically, the tri-color scheme required painting the top of the fuselage, wings, and horizontal tail non-specular sea blue; the bottom of the fuselage, wings (with an exception for that portion of the wings that folded upward) and horizontal tail non-specular white; and the vertical tail, the sides of the fuselage, and the bottom of wings that folded upward non-specular intermediate blue. The sides of the fuselage could be painted intermediate blue by either of two methods, A) by blending the non-specular sea blue and white so that the result on the side of the fuselage that was vertical approximated intermediate blue or B) by painting the side of the fuselage intermediate blue and blending it into the top and bottom color "without noticeable demarcation".

This is a head-on comparison of the factory blue-gray/light gray scheme (on an F4U-1 modified with the R-4360 for evaluation) versus the tri-color scheme:
Note that it's hard to believe from this picture that the vertical fin on the left is blue-gray and the one on the left is intermediate blue or that the bottom of the fuselage on the left is light gray and the one on the right is non-specular white.

This is an example of the Norfolk-type scheme:
 NASA Langley Image #EL-2000-00231 dated 31 July 1943

For a discussion of the Norfolk scheme, see

There is an excellent illustrated article on the development of the F4U-2 and VMF(N)-532 operations by Richard Abrams in the Spring 1973 issue (Volume 18 Number 1) of the American Aviation Historical Society Journal. It is clear from the pictures that the -532 Corsairs were painted in a Norfolk-type scheme before deployment but over time the demarcation of colors and the colors themselves faded. (It appears that any F4U-2 with the side number 2XX is from -532.)

However, many illustrations (and some models) show F4U-2s over painted with black along the sides of the fuselage. Abrams states unequivocally that this was not so, although he may only have been sure about the initial paint scheme in general and VMF(N)-532 in particular. The existence of a non-standard scheme was probably based on these pictures of VF-101(N) F4U-2s being readied for take off from Intrepid. The paint scheme doesn't correspond to either the Norfolk scheme or the production Vought scheme.

Steven Eisenman has noted that there is an area of intermediate blue between the top and bottom colors on the cowl and aft fuselage, just much lower than usual on the Corsair:

Note that the vertical tail is almost certainly intermediate blue but the sides of the fuselage look darker than the top of the fuselage. Some have speculated that the sides of the fuselage were painted black, but if that were accomplished to reduce the visibility of the airplane at night, then surely the vertical tail would have been toned down as well. One possible explanation for the darker color on the sides is that it was the result of a repaint following the removal of the red surround on the national insignia with the original sea blue having faded. However, that doesn't explain the complete lack of color differentiation on the cowling. Another is that the method A was used to paint the side of the fuselage without bothering to blend the sea blue and white very much...

Dave Hansen notes that the F4U-2 pictures above were the VF(N)-101 detachment aboard Intrepid. The squadron decal on the right side of the fuselage just below the windscreen was removed when a VF(N)-101 detachment went aboard Enterprise. He also reported that these airplanes had received the additional armor plate atop the very rear of the canopy.
In his opinion, the side of the fuselage was freshly painted semigloss sea blue. For his 1/32 Tamiya build, see

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A3D-1Q Notes

The A3D-1Q was the conversion of five very early A3D-1 Skywarrior bombers for the electronic intelligence gathering mission. For more on the A3D-1Q, see

This two-view drawing is based on close analysis of A3D-1Q pictures.
 The flat spot on the bottom right side of the fuselage just aft of the radome was the location of a retractable taxi light that was subsequently located on the inside of the nose landing gear door.

If you look closely just above the hinge of the bomb bay door, you'll see a fairing that was present on on the first 12 production A3Ds:

This fairing covered the location of the catapult hooks on those Skywarriors. Instead of being located in front of the bomb bay as they were subsequently, they were located beside it about halfway back. They can barely be seen, along with the bottom edge of the fairing, in this picture by Fotios Rouch of the EA-3A at Pima:

Another feature of the first production A3D-1s was a set of steps providing access to the top of the fuselage from the forward end of the left main-landing-gear wheel well as shown here on the mockup.
 For pictures of the landing light and these steps, see Bill Spidle's pictures of the last EA-3A here:

The light color in the following picture is fluorescent red.

 I don't know what the cockpit looks like for sure.  My best guess is that the right front-seat instrument panel goes directly across the cockpit like a continuation of the pilot's instrument panel. In other words, like the Trumpeter kit's. This is an illustration of the A3D-2Q right front seat panel that does that - note that it has a radar scope, which I'm sure was required at the right front seat.

In addition, there were probably one or two panel faces of frequency detection/evaluation equipment.

Eliminating the ASB-1 system with its periscope allowed the right front seat to be moved forward. The fourth seat was reportedly added on the right side of the cockpit, located as far aft as it could go and facing forward. In any event, the aft third of the canopy appears to be opaque so what's there is not going to be very visible.

This is a pretty simple conversion from the Trumpeter A3D kit. There are small errors that you might want to fix like the entry door and main wheel hubs that are for the Versions with the cabin in the fuselage and some miscellaneous vents. Also see