Entering service in 1950, Grumman's Guardian is unusual on a number of counts, most notably for being the largest single-engined carrier-based propeller aircraft, and for being designed as a two-aircraft "weapons system". With the sheer bulk of the radar and weaponry needed for anti-submarine warfare in the post-war period, Grumman took the radical step of spreading the load across two aircraft operating as a pair - the first as the "Hunter" with a huge radome under its belly, and the second as the "Killer", ready to attack any targets located.
With a crew of three, the "Hunter" was underpowered, even with its mighty Double-Wasp 18-cylinder radial, and suffered a high accident rate. Reading on-line accounts from former crews, though, the radar (despite its early vintage) certainly comes in for praise for its power; one radar operator tells how he vectored his pilot onto a strong signal from a range of 15 miles - only to find it was nothing more than a floating dead shark.
After a 5-year career, the Guardian was steadily replaced by another Grumman aircraft, the S2F Tracker, that could combine the Hunter and Killer roles in a single airframe. Thereafter, the Guardian served in the US Navy Air Reserve before retiring completely in 1957.
Special Hobby’s kit arrives in a very sturdy and attractive box, with the sprues and accessories bagged separately, and comprises:
90 x grey styrene parts (plus 38 unused)
13 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 unused)
37 x etched metal parts
36 x grey resin parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
The reason for the high number of spare parts is because both this “hunter” and the “killer” version (Kit # SH48135 ) share the same weapons sprues.
The first thing to make clear is that Special Hobby’s Guardian is produced using limited-run technology, so don’t take “Tamigawa” fit-precision for granted. On the other hand, you’ll find features that the mainstream manufacturers struggle to match. In fact, there are two distinct styles of production evident, with the sprues that are shared by the Hunter and Killer kits having a rather more "mainstream" look because the extra investment can be justified.
The surface of the main airframe parts has a "satin" finish with neatly engraved lines and a few appliqué panels. Overall, the airframe can do with a light polish, but experienced short-run builders will be delighted with the quality compared with the kits we saw just a few years ago. The fabric surfaces are among the most delicate I've seen in a kit - really subtle. Some modellers may want to add rib tapes, but be careful not to overdo it.
There's really no flash to speak of in the sample kit, but mould-separation marks will need cleaning up. You can see this clearly on the photo of the undercarriage leg. The designers have done a good job keeping almost all the ejector-pin marks out of harm's way.
Dry assembling the main parts is encouraging. There are no locating pins, but the fuselage halves line up neatly. The wings are moulded perfectly straight in the review sample and have substantial tabs that slot securely into the fuselage, as do those on the stabilisers. Trailing edges are reasonably thin but, as with almost any kit, so can reduce them further for a better scale look.
There aren't any "gimmicks" with the kit, so all the control surfaces are moulded in situ
and there's no option to fold the wings. The latter is probably wise in a limited run kit, because it would probably be stretching the technology to include folds - if they didn't line up, they'd be a total pain to sort out. Far better to keep it simple.
A Few Details
Construction begins with quite a nicely detailed pilot's "office" that's built up from a mix of styrene, resin and etched parts. The main instrument panel and side consoles are styrene and sport some decent detail - although I can't help thinking that resin side consoles would have looked even better, and it's hard to beat an etched panel with film instrument faces. Still, what you've got will form an ample basis for extra detailing.
Etched seat harnesses are included for both the cockpit and the rear crew compartments. To be honest, I probably won't bother installing the rear compartments, because they each only contain a seat - and I doubt even that will be visible through the small windows. The floors and bulkheads may give extra rigidity to the fuselage, but on the basis of the test-fit, I don't think it'll be needed, so I'll leave them out.
The resin engine is almost a kit in its own right, with 25 beautifully cast parts, onto which you must add 18 push rods from wire or styrene. The ignition harness looks more like that fitted to an A or B series engine, but it should be reasonably simple to replace - actually installing all the wiring will certainly keep you busy though! The exhaust stacks and intakes are resin and neatly hollowed out.
One important point not noted in the instructions is that the engine should be tilted 3 degrees to the right and downwards (this was to counteract the torque on the full-sized machine).
The propeller comprises a resin hub and styrene blades. Each blade has a square lug at its root, so it should set the angle correctly. I think using a simple jig won't be a bad idea, however.
The main wheel wells build up from several parts each, and it was here that I spotted the only two ejector pin marks that will be visible on the finished model (even these shouldn't be "nasty" ones). The undercarriage legs will need a bit of preparation to remove moulding seams, but will capture the gangly look of the originals effectively, and the wheel doors are detailed on the inside.
The wheels are very crisply moulded, but the designers may have slipped up by moulding the hubs with 8-spokes. Checking numerous on-line photos of preserved machines, you certainly see 8 spokes, but shots of the Guardian in service show 6-spoke wheels. Luckily, Barracuda Studios have just released resin replacement wheels
, so you won't need to do any surgery if you wish to change the kit parts.
All that's used from two full sprues of underwing stores is a pair of optional drop tanks. They're crisply moulded - and, certainly, the weapons for the "Killer" should look good if you build that version.
Of course, the focus of attention for anyone building the "Hunter" has to be that enormous radome slung under the belly. This is moulded in two halves, complete with the doors to the bomb-bay. Looking at vintage colour photos, this really could get quite filthy, so it'll be an ideal subject for careful weathering.
The canopy is moulded in two section, which the instructions show closed - but the sliding section looks thin enough that you might be able to display it open without it sitting too obviously proud of the fuselage.
Instructions & Decals
The assembly guide is printed in colour as an A-5 pamphlet on glossy paper with clear diagrams. The sequence of 27 stages looks quite logical (although I'd probably leave the undercarriage off until after attaching the wings), and each step looks quite manageable for anyone with some experience of mixed media kits. Colour matches are provided for Gunze Sangyo paints, along with FS codes.
Decals are provided for 2 aircraft:
A. AF-2W Guardian "Hunter", 15/BS, Bu.No. 124809, VS-21, USS Bairoko, 1954
B. AF-2W Guardian "Hunter", 10/SK, Bu.No. 124811, VS-21, USS Badoeng Strait, 1951
The decals look to be excellent quality, crisply printed and very thin and glossy.
What a monster! - In the nicest possible way! It’s one thing to know an aircraft was the largest single-engined prop plane ever to operate off carriers, but it still doesn't really prepare you for just how
big the beast is in 1:48. It's certainly going to be an impressive model when finished, and should look great in any collection of Navy aircraft. As a limited-run model, it's obviously not best suited for beginners, but anyone with a bit of experience with these type of kits should really enjoy Special Hobby's Guardian.
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