Model, Text and Photos by: Joe Frazier
Minicraft (Kit 11626) has produced several variants of this little known experimental U.S. Navy fighter. Developed in the late 1930's, Grumman hoped to win approval for this twin-engined carrier fighter at a time when the Navy was busily attempting selection of new aircraft for the Fleet. It was a big aircraft in its day, and boasted an impressive top speed of 358 mph and a climb capability of 10,000 feet in just over four minutes. The Skyrocket was to be armed with four .50 calibre machine guns and two 165 lb. bombs. Another interesting feature was a set of ten tiny weapons bays in the outer wing panels which could hold a total of 40 anti-aircraft bombs which were to be dropped among invading bomber formations!
Tested in 1941, the plane was plagued with engine cooling problems and other difficulties which were steadily improved and corrected. Even with major revisions, the location of the large engine nacelles made carrier landings difficult because the pilot could not readily see the landing signal officer. After several instances of severe damage to landing gear components, the Skyrocket was written off and the test model was disassembled at Naval Air Station New York.
Far from a failure, this important airframe began a series of twin-engined prototypes which eventually led to the very successful F7F Tigercat of WWII and Korean War fame.
Construction of the Skyrocket is a fairly uncomplicated process, but I did find several areas which caused problems, and I will pass on what I learned during this build. I chose to build the "armed version" as the kit offers a choice between the armed and experimental versions.
Fuselage and Cockpit
- The fuselage is well molded, with very fine engraving. There are a few sink holes, but these can be filled easily and sanded flush.
- The fuselage front has two strips of plastic which eventually are glued to the nose, and they are very fragile. They form the center section between the two armament doors, which can be placed in the open position to show the interior machine guns. This is the most troubling part of construction. The gun bays have little detail, and you may want to close them. If you do, there are some fit problems. I solved this by doing several things:
1. I fit some thin plastic stock under the center strips, which later served as a glue platform for the gun doors. If you don't do this, it is very hard to glue them to the two center strips and align them.
2. I also glued thin strips of plastic stock inside the forward edge of the fuselage which also served as a glue point for the end of the doors. Again, if you don't do this, it is very hard to get a good glue surface to anchor the armament doors.
3. Last but not least, thin plastic strips were glued inside the rear side sections of the nose piece. Now you have sturdy glue points which will allow you to center the armament doors and have them line up.
The cockpit consists of well molded and flash free components, and can be used from the box. I chose to use the excellent Eduard photoetch set (48-285) which allows for more detail. With some minor cutting and fitting, you can have an impressive "office," and the seatbelts and console components add a lot of visual interest.
When fitting the fuselage to the wing, you will have to use putty in places. I test fitted the parts, sanding a little at a time, until I got a flush fit. A thin line of putty made a nice blend into the wings. You will need a flush surface when you mask off the silver from the yellow painted surfaces.
If you make the production version, you will use the wing fillets (parts 15 and 16). These fit very nicely and will require little filling.
Elevator and Rudders
The elevator and rudders fit very well and required little filling. Be sure to choose which size rudder you want, depending on the version you decide to build.
Wings and Engines
Again, the wings fit well and have truly fine engraved detailing. I drilled out holes in the landing light areas and put in a drop of red and green paint as required. Then I used clear epoxy to glue in the clear lenses. Later I used a dab of putty and then fine sandpaper to sand them flush with the wingtip.
The upper and lower nacelle parts will require some work, as they don't quite fit without some adjustment and clamping. I would recommend gluing the upper cowl first (as it will show more on display). It will fit very well. After it dries, you can glue the lower portion (which will not fit as well) but now you can clamp it until set, and with a bit of putty and sanding, it will be fine.
A note of caution: Be sure you have the nacelle inner and outer sections identified so that the exhaust goes on the outside of the engine. It is really easy to miss this during construction!! I learned this lesson the hard way!!
The Eduard photoetch sets will allow you to dress up the engine fronts with wire harness and other items. When painted, they really look good, and the extra detail makes a big difference.
This is the other troublesome area during construction. You need to fit the landing gear struts to their placement holes before gluing the nacelles together. Not a problem, except that they continue getting in the way during construction. I simply "retracted" mine until I was ready to work on wheels and gear doors. Be careful here. The strut retraction parts are a bit hard to fit and also fragile.
Parts 30 and 31, the front wheel covers, will need to be reworked in order to get a good fit. This can be done by filing out the center section a little at a time until you get the fit you want. The picture shows the "before and after" results. Once fitted, they look fine.
Painting and Decals
I primed the model with Mr. Surfacer, and checked for scratches and other imperfections prior to painting two coats of Floquil Antique Silver on all the surfaces but the wings. The wings were painted with light coats of Model Masters Chrome Yellow.
Following painting, I used the standard wash technique of putting thinned oil paints in the panel lines, and then cleaning up the lines once dried with Windex and a cotton cloth.
Pastels were used to show very slight weathering, as these aircraft were maintained in a very pristine fashion.
I then gave the model two light coats of semi-gloss clear, except for the wings which I polished with DuPont's very fine polishing compound until I had a high gloss.
The kit decals are excellent and go on with no problems at all.
Props were painted silver on the front and black on the back. Kit decals worked well here also, with a bit of trimming when dry.
Gear doors were added, as well as steps, guns, gunsight and any other remaining small items. Antennae was rigged, using sprue which was streched carefully with heat once they were glued in place.
Wingtip lights were painted and coated with Future clear.
Minicraft is to be commended for making this model available. It is unlikely that the big manufacturers would have done so. It is a memorable airplane, not only because of its place in history, but this is the plane that the "Blackhawks" flew in the 1940"s comic strip of that name! In fact, I believe someone has put out a decal sheet of those famed markings! "Hawk-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-!!!
The kit is not without some minor problems, but they are easily fixed by modelers with average skills. It was an enjoyable build, and I recommend the kit to anyone with an interest in early WWII aviation and particularly experimental aircraft of that period.
Thanks to Brent and Mike at Roll Models for allowing me to produce this article for their website. I hope others will buy the Skyrocket and enjoy the build!
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