by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
HistoryWhen the US Air Force began to deploy jet-powered fighters, it was quickly recognized that a new aircraft was needed to overcome the transition to the new world of gas turbine engine. The result would become one of the world's best known aircraft, the two-seater trainer T-33A, ultimately the most widely used jet trainer in aviation history. It was developed from the preceding P/F-80 fighter by extending the fuselage with two plug sections and the accommodation of a second cockpit in tandem arrangement. The plane's outstanding qualities were well received and it was extensively produced by Lockheed (5691 airframes). With the licence-built Canadair CT-133 Silver Stars (656) and Kawasaki Wakataka T-33s for the JASDF (210), over 6500 were manufactured in total.
In addition to its intended role as advanced trainer, T-Birds were configured and employed in many capacities including that of combat aircraft, drone, target tow, reconnaissance, combat and tactical simulation training, electronic countermeasures aircraft, test platform and squadron "hack". In service around the world, the ubiquitous T-Bird served in the air forces of more than 30 nations through a long and storied career spanning almost 40 years, well into the 1980s.
(Source: kit instructions)
The kitWhen I came back home after a hard day of work and saw the parcel sent by Squadron in which I suspected was the new Czech Model 1:32 scale T-33A kit, I said to myself "wow, this is a big box!". The kit is indeed very large and the main parts hardly fit in the full packed box, especially the fuselage halves which are longer than those of the F-80 fighter variant. The content is the following:
- six sprues of grey injected plastic.
- one sprue of transparent plastic parts.
- one bag holding several resin detail parts.
- one photo etched fret.
- one instruction booklet printed in color.
- one huge decal sheet.
The real aircraft has a sleek and simple design and it seems as if the kit has been designed in a similar way. Less than 100 plastic parts are to be used and despite the fact that there are additional resin and PE parts included, it is surprisingly few for a 1:32 scale kit. However, this doesn't mean that the kit is simplified, the multimedia cockpit tub in particular will look very busy, but provided the fit is not too bad, this should be a straightforward and easy build.
If I'm not wrong, the plastic parts have been produced by Sword in the Czech Republic and were made using the short run technology. They are very nice though and I was particularly impressed by the surface detail and especially the representation of the screw heads. I'm sure they will look very realistic under an aluminium finish. The panel lines are very finely done as well and there are some subtle relief details for good measure. I found no sink marks on the plastic parts, even the bigger ones, but some flash is present on the smaller parts. This is not unusual for short run kits and some cleaning is always necessary. This is nothing to worry about. Separate air brakes are provided.
Sprue E(A) and E(B) have a slightly different quality. The plastic used seems harder but the moulding crisper. This is noticeable on the wheels which look almost as good as the ones provided in resin! I suspect a switch of technology by the manufacturer here. It seems as if these sprues have been produced with some kind of CAD technology. As a result of this, the cockpit tub side consoles look superb with their very realistic switches and knobs. The landing gear legs are also made with the harder styrene and this will make the model stand on stronger feet.
The resin parts made by True Details are superbly done. I always found them to be of inconsistent quality in Czech Models kits but this is fortunately not the case this time. Two style of wheels are provided, plus the aforementioned plastic ones, so you will have the choice here. But the highlights are the two pilot seats which will be great fun to paint with their moulded on seat belts. The smaller parts are mostly destined to the cockpit (rudder pedals, canopy release system, levers, switches, knobs, etc...) but intakes are also provided. Too bad nothing is present for the landing gear bays which will remain desperately empty apart from the framework.
The photo etched fret holds parts exclusively destined to the cockpit interior: two instrument panels, two cockpit sills, various console panels and... a rear view mirror. The metal parts are pre-painted and the instruments dials are crisply rendered. All in all a very useful addition.
The quality of the clear parts is excellent. It had to be the case because the long canopy is the most visible feature of the T-Bird and an irreproachable transparency is mandatory for the look of the finished model. Smaller parts are present as well (lights).
The 12 pages color instruction booklet is cleverly done. I had a taste of it's layout style in the Czech Model Cessna "Bamboo bomber" kit but I think the formula has been improved since. The construction drawings are made using CAD images and sometimes photos of a real model under construction. The instructions also feature a history of the aircraft, a parts layout, a 26 step construction sequence, a painting reference (Federal Standard), three pages of painting and marking guides and one page with a stencil placement guide.
The huge decal sheet provides markings for three aircraft:
1 - USAF T-33A-5-LO s/n 58-2106, 318th FIS, McChord AFB, WA, 1980.
2 - Luftwaffe T-33A-5-LO, No 9524 (s/n 58-0690).
3 - Belgian T-33-1-LO, FT16 (s/n 51-17463), 1969.
The first aircraft is all aluminium, the second one has a two color Gray/Green camouflage over Light Gray and the third one an attractive three tone camouflage (Gree/Dark green/Tan) over Gray. The German and Belgian aircraft also have some Fluorescent red orange paint applied on the wing tip fuel tanks. The decals have been produced by Cartograf and are of good quality. My only nitpick is the presence of english words in the German text of some stencils destined to the Luftwaffe aircraft which is a bit odd. The French text of the Belgian aircraft is ok though.
ConclusionThis is a fine kit from Czech Model and I can recommend it to every early jet enthusiast. It seems as if it won't represent a big challenge, even for an average builder, despite the fact that it is a multimedia affair (plastic, resin and photo etch). I would have liked to see a French machine amongst the proposed schemes (guess why) but I suppose you can't please the modelers of all the 30 countries which have used the T-33. I am sure that some aftermarket decal sheets will be produced soon, I know that Rennaissance are preparing French ones...
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AeroScale.