by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
backgroundEasily mistaken at first glance as simply a Sabre with a chin intake, the F-86D ("Sabre Dog", "Dog Sabre", "Dogship" or, simply "Dog", depending on your reference) was actually a very different beast. Developed as an all-weather fighter, the new fighter embodied so many changes, it was initially designated the F-95A - but this was later changed to F-86D despite the aircraft having only around 25% commonality with previous Sabres. The Dog Sabre dispensed with machine guns and was built around a collision-course weapon system developed by Hughes Aircraft, in which the interceptor used an autopilot and radar fire control system to aim and semi-automatically fire a salvo of FFAR rockets. The radar necessitated a chin jet intake, and the 24 rockets were mounted in an automatic retractable box behind the nosewheel well. The rockets could be fired in salvos of 6, 12 or all 24 - al this in a sequence lasting around just one second.
The extra weight required an increase in power to compensate, so the F-86D introduced an afterburning J47 in a larger fuselage. Other changes included powered controls and, most obviously, a new horizontal tail with no dihedral and a clamshell-type canopy. Eventually, the Dog proved a very successful all-weather fighter and became the most-produced version of the Sabre, with over 2,500 built, but its entry into service was hamstrung by numerous technical problems on account of the complexity of its then state-of-the-art systems.
The kitItís only fair to point out from the start that this review is based on a very early boxing of this kit, and steps have already been taken to address the few problems Iíll mention below. As it doesnít fully match final production standards, Iím treating this review as a ďFirst LookĒ and Iíll follow it with a Blog from which youíll gain a fuller picture of the kit.
Kitty Hawkís Sabre Dog is impressively presented in a very attractive and sturdy top-opening box, with the main sprues individually bagged and the clear parts further protected in their own cardboard box. Ironically, this box shifted in transit and actually crushed the nose intake in the sample kit, so it will be stapled in place in future to preclude any similar mishaps. The kit comprises:
294 x grey styrene parts
14 x clear styrene parts
7 x etched brass parts
Decals for 6 x colour schemes
The moulding is generally very good, with some very fine detail evident. This early moulding does feature a little flash, but itís nothing to worry about. Unfortunately the sample does suffer from a tricky short-shot on the cockpit tub, so Iíll be doing a little corrective surgery in my build.
Thereís no sign of any sink marks but, as weíve come to expect with Kitty Hawk kits, there are plenty of ejector pin marks. To give credit where itís due, most are safely out of sight and the designers do appear to have made an effort to make some of those that will be seen less prominent than in recent kits, but there are still some tricky ones that youíll really want to clean up before assembly.
The surface finish is beautiful, will several levels of scribing and embossing for a nice subtle effect. Iím sure purists will feel itís still overdone for a flush-riveted airframe, but I think it should look lovely once painted.
Test fit I always try to dry-assemble the main parts of the airframe for an ďin boxĒ review, but the Sabre Dogís design makes that awkward with the forward fuselage section. Basically, itís split into four many parts, but they need the interior installed to give some rigidity. From what I can judge, they should all line up neatly, though.
The tail section is much more straightforward and clips together solidly, as do the wings. The wings also promise a good tight fit at their roots.
A few detailsConstruction begins with the ejector seat in its supporting cradle. The detailís pretty good, but this is one of the points where a knock-out pin really is very badly placed, right on the back of the headrest between raised details - just where itís most easily seen and tricky to fix. The seat comprises 11 parts, plus a basic etched harness. The latter probably wonít match up to what is almost sure to follow from aftermarket producers, but itís a nice touch to have a harness provided in a mainstream kit, as itís still not the norm.
Another 20 or so parts complete the ďofficeĒ. The side consoles and the main instrument panel are nicely detailed. Decals are also provided, but youíll struggle to get them to conform to the raised details - and they wonít look convincing in this scale if you sand the surfaces flat for the decals. However, you could always punch out the instrument faces and apply them as separate items to create an effective look.
Attention then turns to the intake trunking, onto which attach the nose gear and FFAR rocket bays. This should all begin to create the foundation needed to keep the multi-part forward fuselage stable. Where Iíll part company with the suggested sequence is by not installing the nose gear itself at such an early stage - that would simply be inviting trouble in my opinion. The kit includes two styles of nosewheel with alternative hub details. The tyres are weighted and the effect isnít overdone, so I think they should look very good.
Next comes a really quite nicely detailed J47 engine. A first count show 50 parts, so thereís masses of potential for superdetailing a stand-alone model. Sadly, it will be almost entirely hidden once the fuselage is assembled around it, and Kitty Hawk donít appear to intend it to be removable, despite the separate rear fuselage section. Unlike Hasegawaís Ď70s vintage F-86D, which also included a neat servicing trolley on which to display the completed push-fit engine, Kitty Hawkís engine appears to attach solidly to the intake trunking, to be lost for ever more.
The front fuselage is then completed with a couple of belly panels, including the mainwheel bays, and it does look as though, at this point, you can say your last farewell to the engine. Once I get to this point in the Blog, Iíll see if itís feasible to make the engine removable.
The next stages cover the rocket pack itself and the nose radar, soon followed by the wheel doors - just asking to get knocked off as you attach the rear fuselage and the wings, which are still to come. Basically, Iíll follow conventional modelling wisdom and construct the airframe before adding easily-damaged smaller details.
As noted above, the wings seem to be a good solid fit, and should need little or no filler. They feature separate slats, flaps and ailerons. The fin has a separate solid-moulded rudder which ensures a nice thin trailing edge, while the all-flying tail features delicately moulded vortex generators.
The airbrakes can be posed open, while the airframe is completed with a crystal-clear canopy. The first sample canopy suffered from some small translucent white flecks within the styrene, so Glen Coleman was kind enough to send me a replacement which is crystal clear (none of the other kits he checked were similar, so itís a classic case of Sodís Law that the review sample had the problem). The canopy features a quite a blown cross section, and Kitty Hawk have managed to achieve this without it causing a mould line to polish away. The solid areas of the canopy have a slightly frosted finish to ease painting.
Underwing stores comprise a pair of drop tanks and Sidewinders. As far as my references go, I donít believe US Sabre Dogs were armed with Sidewinders, but they could be appropriate for some of the colour schemes in later foreign service. One thing that is rather annoying is that the mounting holes are ready-opened, so youíll need to fill them for most schemes - and, Sodís Law again, the holes are punch through right where thereís some really delicate surface detailing to try to restore.
Instructions & DecalsAs noted above, the construction sequence does tend to favour what looks good on the page rather than what makes modelling good-sense. That said, the 24-page instruction booklet is very nicely illustrated and straightforward to follow - Iíd just recommend reading it carefully and then deciding on an appropriate sequence for yourself (Iíll be experimenting in the up-coming Blog to try to highlight possible pitfalls).
Colour matches are given for Gunze Sangyo paints throughout and are keyed to most details.
Decals are provided for a very interesting selection of subjects:
A. F-86D-55-NA, 53-0644, 82 FIS, USAF
B. F-86D-35-NA, 51-6171, 325 FIS, USAF
C. F-86D-40-NA, 52-3854, 181 FIS, TX ANG
D. F-86D, 84-8120, JASDF
E. F-86D, 210011, ROKAF
F. F-86D-35-NA, 51-6245, ROCAF
The decals are printed over two sheets and, at first glance, look really impressive. The large sheet (and it really is LARGE) is printed conventionally in excellent register. I did find a couple of small flaws, though, where the ink had smudged. The colours look nice and solid, although the Insignia Red of the US markings looks overly bright. Something of a concern is the dead flat finish - quite how well that will blend in on a n/m paint job remains to be seen, although hopefully a top coat of varnish will render the carrier film invisibleÖ
The second sheet is less successful, because itís printed as a pattern of fine dots. Iíve seen worse, and theyíre fine from a distance, but really do show up when viewed closely - even with my aging Mk. 1 eyeballs.
ConclusionDespite the few glitches noted in this early moulding (which will hopefully be soon ironed out), Kitty Hawkís F-86D is an impressive kit in the box, and Iím really looking forward to starting work on it. Its unconventional parts breakdown will depend heavily on how good the fit is, and it may be somewhat ambitious for less experienced modellers.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.