by: Paul Cotcher [ ]
The Grumman CougarThe Grumman Cougar was a continuation of the F9F Panther series. While it received a new nickname, it was essentially a swept-winged Panther. Cougar prototypes were developed directly from F9F-5 Panthers, replacing the original straight wing with new swept outer wings. The first prototype flew in September of 1951.
While developed during the Korean war, the fighter never saw combat, arriving in theater as the cease fire was signed. The single-seat fighter version of the Cougar stayed in fleet service until 1959 when it was replaced by newer types such as it's Grumman stablemate the F11F.
The two seat trainer, originally deployed as the F9F-8T. Unlike the single-seat fighter the two-seat variant had a long and distinguished service, flying until 1974 when it was removed from training command in favor of newer types such as the TA-4. The two seat version, re-designated TF-9J in 1962 is also the only member of the Cougar family to serve in combat. Used by Marine H&MS (Headquarters and Maintenance Squadrons) flying out of Da Nang and Chu Lai, the "Twogar" served in the Forward Air Control role through 1968.
Cougar Modeling HistoryUnlike it's older brother the Panther, this is one of those 1:48 classic jets where we don't have the "old Monogram" kit to fall back on. In fact, the Cougar has been underserved in the modeling arena, this is the first mainstream Cougar tooling in 1:48 - EVER. There is an ancient Revell kit that was box scale, and comes out somewhere around 1:54, it is so old and out of date, that I even remember seeing this model as a kid and looking in the box thinking - YUCK. The only other attempts at Cougars in 1:48 have come from resin companies like Collect Air and limited run companies like FM. Both obviously have issues.
So it was with a sense of "it's about time" that this release comes from Kitty Hawk.
What's in the Box?Those that have opened a Kitty Hawk box in the past will not be surprised to find similar looking medium gray plastic on somewhat heavy trees with heavy sprue attachment points. What's new, at least since the F-101 was released, is that Kitty Hawk are using bigger boxes, and as a result the parts are not crunched in the box, and after a fairly detailed inspection, I could not find any sign of warpage or damage as a result of being shipped in a box that was too small.
Parts are arranged on seven plastic trees (six gray, one clear) as well as one small sheet of photo-etched parts.
Tree A: Nose section, and all parts that are two-seat specific, this tree will obviously be swapped out for a different tree when the single seat and photo-recon versions are released.
Tree B: Upper wings and fuseage wing blend.
Tree C: Lower wings, stabilizers, flaps and control surfaces
Tree D: Rear fuselage, upper fuselage and detail parts
Tree E: Lower fuselage and wing blends, wing fold details, landing gear and details
Tree G: Weapons, drop tanks and pylons
Tree GP: Clear Parts
Also included: Photo-etch, two decal sheets and instruction manual.
A quick inspection of the parts will show that the parts breakdown is overly complex due to Kitty Hawk's use of common tooling between the single and two-seat variants. Unlike some companies that have moved on to tooling new fuselages for each variant, or using slide molds, Kitty Hawk has the fuselage in this kit (like other kits, notably the F-101A/C) broken into sections that are common to all versions and then those that are specific to the two-seater.
As sink marks and warpage have been common complaints in the past, I took a detailed look through the model and could not find any that jumped out at me. This seems to be a continuing point of emphasis for Kitty Hawk, and an area where the are improving.
The question remains how easy will it be to build?
Building the TwogarConstruction follows a fairly typical sequence - particularly for Chinese kits. Instructions cover areas in the kit rather than what some of us would consider a typical construction sequence. As always I'll try to point out highs and lows as I pass through this.
As always you start with the cockpit. Two types of seat are included, early Grumman manufactured seats and later Martin Baker seats. Due to the number of accidents, serious injury and similar horrors of early jet aviation, it was found that most of the ejection seats were adding to the problem rather than fixing it. As a result, many USN types were retrofitted with Martin Baker ejection seats in the early 1960s. So if you're building this from later service through the 60s, Vietnam and in the training command into the 70s, you will want to use the Martin Baker seats. Otherwise the early types will be used. The instructions do not make this clear.
The cockpit follows the same paradigm as the F-101, no molded detail, photo-etched panels with decal overlays. This is great for some, but I prefer more relief in my cockpits. Will have to hope the aftermarket comes to the rescue here.
The nose gear well is built and all the details are added inside the forward fuselage before this sub assembly is closed and work turns to the main fuselage. Leave the gear off for now, no reason to add it until the very end so it doesn't get broken off.
Assembly turns to the fuselage, wheel wells are added to the lower fuselage and the upper fuselage wing blends are added. Here is where there is definitely some structure missing. Unlike the F-101 which contained some clever alignment gimmicks, there is NOTHING to help shape the wing blends to the lower fuselage.
This is also where you'd expect to add the intake trunks, but there are none. Trunks would have gone a long way to help add structure to this sub assembly. That said, I believe after playing with these parts (see photos) an alternative assembly method will be in order.
Instructions would also have you add the main gear at this time, as always save this for LATER!
Once you have the center/lower section assembled, move to the rear, where the exhaust is trapped in the rear fuselage and then this assembly is added to the center section.
Wings assemble raised out of the box, or lowered with minor modification. These sub assemblies are put together next and then added to the rear fuselage. There is no provision for a wing rib or any sort of structure to hold the wings in either position. A tab on the upper fuselage needs to be removed for the wings to be built lowered.
Once the wings are on, you add the upper center fuselage to the main assembly and then attach the nose. Given the fit issues, I think most of this sequence needs to be scrapped.
Assembly finishes with the pylons and weapons being added. This is straight forward. Shift the gear assembly and integration to this point.
A Better Path...So, now that you get an idea of what they recommend, let's take a look at some alternatives.
First, you will want to add some kind of structure to the inside gap between the upper wing blend and the lower main fuselage. adding the upper parts to this, whether the tail section or the upper center fuselage will almost certainly caught the joints to stress. and break.
Next, thin and cut down the tabs that join the rear fuselage and upper-center fuselage to the wing blends. Out of the box, these fit tightly and must be strained to get them in place. It is also apparent that the tabs in the upper fuselage center section DO NOT line-up with the holes in the upper wing blend pieces. See the photo at the right. If you look closely, you can see where there is light coming through the hole where the tab does not align. This mis-alignment may be at the center of why this kit is causing so many to struggle. Cut this down and the problems go away.
In fit checking the parts (see the photos to the right), it looks like everything lines up pretty well, so as always, minimize your possible seams first. Parts in the tests at the right are held together ONLY with tape, so they are loose and not nearly as good as what it will be with glue.
I believe the best construction route with this will involve building the model top and bottom rather than adding sub-assemblies to the middle.
Carefully align and assemble the fuselage sections, even adding formers and reinforcement if necessary. The first two sets of assembly photos at the right give an idea of what I'm describing. The fuselage curves align well and should glue easily.
Once this is done, and the mounting tabs have been appropriately thinned and modified, then add the upper wing-fuselage pieces to the assembled fuselage. This will allow you to adjust fit working both outside and inside the joint, much better than the process recommended in the instructions. One the upper assembly is finished, THEN add the main lower fuselage piece. The upper fuselage assembly will be much stronger than going the other way around as the instruction suggest.
Wings can then be added to the completed fuselage - with the requisite spar if you're building the wings level. Some adventurous souls may choose to add the wings to the upper and lower assemblies to make sure the wing roots align, and then assemble the WHOLE thing top to bottom.
Even if the photos don't show it, the fit and alignment appear to be good. Take your time and think outside the box and I think you'll be pleased with the result.
This kit really appears to be pretty good, but it will be incumbent on you the modeler to do your fit checking and think outside the box!
Colors and MarkingsDecals are nicely printed and cover the main four possible paint schemes for this type:
1. USMC TF-9J, H&MS-13, Vietnam - Gull Gray over White
2. USN TF-9J Blue Angels Demonstration Team, #7
3. USN TF-9J, VT-10 - Training Command Colors - white with red
4. Argentine Navy TF-9J, Overall Glossy Sea Blue
It's a new Cougar, and that should be reason enough to be excited. I know there has been a lot of meltdown about this kit (including at least one very public wish for Kitty Hawk to go out of business - seriously?), but I honestly don't see it. Nothing looks out of place from an accuracy standpoint (that might not be treading into rivet-counting land), with most of the complaints coming in the form of "nothing fits." Which I'd guess should be more properly characterized as "nothing fits because I was in a hurry on my build and I followed the somewhat non-sensical instructions."
Could Kitty Hawk have done more - absolutely - there are some tooling designs that I would have done differently, some locators that I would have like to see changed, add intake trunks, and internal bracing and support. Those would have gone a LONG way! The intakes look a little pinched to me (to narrow from top to bottom at the root), but don't spoil the overall look of the finish model.
Couple to this project the new Digital Detail and Scale (which I have already downloaded) and the forthcoming Furball decal sets (which we hope to review) with some VERY attractive markings and there is a lot to enhance this beyond the base model!
Honestly, I'm more excited to see the straight fighter version as that comes straight out one of my favorite periods of naval aviation - when Carrier Air Wings were not homogenized masses of F-18s and Glossy Sea Blue was highly decorated and then also gave way to the first gull-gray over white schemes. So I say bring on the F11F, FJ-2/3 and F7U!!!
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