There were 34 F4U-2's built for the U.S. Navy, 32 of them being produced by the Naval Aircraft Factory and two converted by VMF(N)-532. The biggest change from the -1 model was the radome added to the starboard wing. Other changes included the deletion of the starboard outboard .50 caliber machine gun to offset the weight of the radome, as well as flame dampeners on the engine exhausts and two under fuselage antennae.
With only a range of between 3 and 4 miles, the A1A airborne radar was quite primitive by todays standards. The pilot used a small scope that generated two blips, one giving direction and distance to the target and the other giving the height. These aircraft were also fitted with a radio altimeter and an autopilot.
Three squadrons used the F4U-2, VMF(N)-532, VMF(N)-101 and VMF(N)-75. VMF(N)-75 tested the aircraft while flying out of New Georgia, and on the night of November 1, 1943, a Lt. O'Neill shot down a G4M bomber. In January 1944, VMF(N)-101 became the first carrier-based Corsair squadron, and while night operations were limited, they were conducted safely. This was one of the reasons the Navy finally decided to deploy the Corsair onboard ships. The F4U-2 didn't become the primary carrier-based night-fighter as the Navy preferred the Hellcat, which admittedly was both more pilot and carrier friendly than the Corsair. However, it did contribute significantly to clearing the type for general carrier operations.
This is Hobbycraft Canada's F4U-1 "Birdcage Corsair" HC1525 with parts from Tamiya's "Birdcage Corsair" kit No. 46 to convert it to a F4U-2 night-fighter. This is part of a whole series of Corsairs put out by Hobbycraft, but it's the only one I have. I actually started this kit about four years ago, but as so often happens, other subjects diverted my interest. I dug the kit out again after acquiring the Tamiya kit. I built both company's kits in tandem, so comparisons are inevitable.
While I love the look of the completed kit, especially the radome and the blue-grey colour scheme, I would have to recommend the Tamiya offering as being far superior. The fit, detail and overall crispness of Tamiya's Corsair, not to mention numerous options, leaves the Hobbycraft Corsair far behind. That being said, you can't beat the Hobbycraft kit for value. I don't remember exactly how much I paid, but it was below $20 CDN, half of what Tamiya offer theirs for. As with most things, there's always a trade-off of some kind.
Construction started with the interior which is very basic and seriously in need of an aftermarket set. You get a seat, floor, rear bulkhead, instrument panel and control column. The only thing I added were seatbelts made from masking tape. There is also a bit of detail molded onto the fuselage sides in the cockpit area. The finished cockpit was then glued between the two fuselage sides. After a wee bit of prep work with the file and some sandpaper, the fuselage went together quite well. After the Tenax had set, the seam was easily taken care of with some fine-grade sandpaper and steel-wool. I also drilled two holes on the rear underside to accommodate the two aerials from the Tamiya kit. The cowling was next, and took a bit of effort as it was split down the centreline, top and bottom. Minimal cleanup of the seam was required here as well. The engine comes in five parts including the propeller shaft and fits between the cowling halves before they're joined. You're given a choice of open or closed cowl flaps.
The wings were next, and just as with the fuselage, a bit of cleanup will result in a fine fit. Unlike the Tamiya kit, the Hobbycraft kit's wings are molded in the extended position. You have a choice between raised and lowered flaps. I chose to depict mine lowered so I can't comment on how well the parts provided for the raised flaps fit. Each flap consists of two parts and the completed units took a lot of fiddling to get them to look anywhere half-decent. The completed wing assembly, sans flaps, was glued to the fuselage at this stage. I had to use a bit of putty at the rear of the wing-fuselage joint to get around the gap. Tenax simply can't fix everything I guess. The tailplanes were attached next and are a great fit. The landing gear came next, and while sturdy, looks a little simple.
Next I glued the main aerial, part C1, in front of the cockpit into it's locating hole, and after the glue had set, I chopped it flush with the fuselage and sanded the base smooth as per the Tamiya instructions. The radome from the Tamiya kit fit quite nicely onto the Hobbycraft wing, requiring only a little trimming. I also took the flame dampeners, underside aerials and the decals from the Tamiya kit.
I painted the two-tone camo scheme with ModelMaster enamels and used their clear gloss before applying the decals. There's only a handful of markings on the aircraft and they went on great with a little bit of Solvaset. The markings I used depict an Marine Corps aircraft serving with VMF(N)-532. A coat of semi-gloss was used to seal the decals. Hobbycraft provide you with two marking options for the kit. Both Marine Corps aircraft, one from VMF-222 based on Bougainville and the other from VMF-124. There's some scantily-clad artwork for the VMF-222 aircraft, but nothing to write home about.
All told, it was a nice and easy build. The big drawback was as I mentioned earlier, building the Tamiya offering at the same time. I should have that one up on the site in the next couple of weeks. The completed kit looks like an accurate representation of a Corsair and the experience was an enjoyable little foray into simple kit-bashing. I think it's pretty good value for what I spent on it, both in time and money.
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