Sunday, December 2, 2007

Buffalo Fever

My friend and fellow DSSers John Vitkus sent me this nice summary of the Buffalo and the 1/72 scale kits. I thought it deserved a wider audience, so John agreed to let me post it here.

Here is a mini-dissertation on Buffaloes. Boy, will you be sorry you asked!

First off, there are three different variants. In USN parlance, they are F2A-1, F2A-2, and F2A-3. For foreign orders, these were designated B.239, B.339, B.439, respectively. The final letter on foreign planes (e.g., B.339D or B.339E) stood for the recipient, in this case "Dutch" or "English," respectively.

Second, these are different variants with different fuselages between the firewall and the cockpit. The F2A-1/B.239 is the shortest and has a unique arrangement of cooling slots; the F2A-2/B.339 was in the middle, with the F2A-3/B.439 being the longest. I believe the latter two shared the same basic cooling slot arrangement, but the longer plane added about 6 to 9 inches between the firewall and the cooling slots.

Third, which variant you make depends on who used it.

a. The Finns used only B.239s, and the Hasegawa kits with Finnish markings are correct for the early (and in Pappy Boyington's opinion, the best) Buffalo. This is the only kit of an F2A-1/B.239 in divine scale. Small spinner is correct for F2A-1/B.239.

b. The Marines at Midway used the long (and heavy) F2A-3. The recent Special Hobby kit of the a Midway Buffalo is the only DS kit that correctly depicts the last (and in most opinions, the worst) Buffalo. I believe the only other user of the F2A-3/B.439 was the RAAF (US surplus).

c. That leaves the middle F2A-2/B.339. These were used prewar on Lexington (and I think briefly on Saratoga), by the Dutch, and by the British. The main differences between the USN F2A-2 and the foreign B.339s were:

1. B.339s had blunter prop spinners (Matchbox is a good size; I'm not sure about the new Special Hobby RAF Buffalo I. I believe the spinners in the Airfix and Hasegawa kits are pointier and correct for the USN F2A-2s.

2. B.339s did not have tail hooks, so they had a different tail cone which was slightly longer. Ditto re: the kits; Matchbox good for B.339; Airfix and Hasegawa correct for F2A-2; don't know about the Special Hobby B.339E.

3. The USN F2A-2s (and all USN F2As, for that matter) had a cylinder-shaped container behind the pilot that contained a life raft. The foreign B.339s did not have this.

4. USN F2A-2s used cuffed props; most foreign ones were not cuffed, but some were. Hasegawa provides both; Matchbox and Airfix provide only the cuffed prop.

5. USN tail wheels were small, solid rubber; land-based Buffaloes (including foreign planes, naturally) used larger, pneumatic tail wheels. Matchbox, provides larger; Airfix and Hasegawa smaller.

6. USN F2A-2s had telescopic gunsights; foreign B.339s had reflector sights (or sometimes just a ring/bead sight.

Can you make the Hasegawa kit into a USN or USMC bird without modifications?

If it comes with Finnish markings, NO. This is an early B.239/ F2A-1. I don't see any pictures of USN F2A-1s in camo, other than the unusual prewar Barclay camo schemes.

If it comes with USN markings, YES. There are plenty of schemes in Blue-grey/light grey and overall light gray for the F2A-2.

No comments: