by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
Background"The North American T-2 Buckeye was the United States Navy's intermediate training aircraft, intended to introduce Student Naval Aviators to jets. It entered initial service in 1959, and was replaced by the T-45 Goshawk in 2008.
The first version of the aircraft entered service in 1959 as the T2J-1. It was re-designated the T-2A in 1962 under the joint aircraft designation system. The two-seat trainer was powered by one Westinghouse J34-WE-46/48 turbojet. The aircraft was subsequently redesigned, and the single engine was replaced with two Pratt & Whitney J60-P-6 turbojets in the T-2B. The T-2C was fitted with two much more powerful 2,950 lbf (13,100 N) thrust General Electric J85-GE-4 turbojets.
The Buckeye was designed as a low-cost multi-stage trainer. Its straight wing is similar to that used in the original North American FJ-1 Fury. Its cockpit controls are similar to the T-28C trainer. The T-2's performance is between that of the Air Force's T-37 Tweet, and the TA-4J Skyhawk. While it has no built-in armament, the T-2 has two underwing hardpoints for .50 in gun pods, 100 lb (45 kg) practice bombs or 2.75 in rockets.
All T-2 Buckeyes were manufactured by North American at Air Force Plant 85, located just south of Port Columbus Airport in Columbus, Ohio. 273 aircraft were built during its production run. The name Buckeye refers to the state tree of Ohio, as well as the mascot of the Ohio State University.
Every jet-qualified Naval Aviator and virtually every Naval Flight Officer from the late 1950s until 2004 received training in the T-2 Buckeye, a career spanning four decades. In the Naval Aviator strike pipeline syllabus and the Naval Flight Officer strike and strike fighter pipeline syllabi, the T-2 has been replaced by the near-sonic T-45 Goshawk (the US Navy version of the BAE Hawk), which is more comparable to other high performance subsonic trainers, or the supersonic USAF T-38 Talon. More recently, the T-2 has been used as a director aircraft for aerial drones. Several T-2 Buckeyes are now registered in civilian markings and regularly appear at airshows." Source: Wikipedia
The kitThere's just something about the T-2C Buckeye for me; perhaps it's a classic example of "If it looks right, it'll fly right.", or perhaps it's because the basic design is as old as I am (Yep - they did have aircraft in the Stone Age!)! But, even for a self-professed prop-head like me, this is one jet I've always wanted as a 1:48 kit.
All the more ironic then that it very nearly didn't happen. As many will know, Special Hobby's Buckeye was originally designed and produced for Twobobs Kits as a limited edition model. I bought that version, only to have my kit disappear in the post, and by the time it was clear the package would never arrive, the model had sold out.
Resigned to having missed out, I was delighted when MPM Production announced this year that they would be releasing the model themselves as part of the Special Hobby range - and I made sure to grab one this time around!
The kit arrives in a very sturdy and attractive top-opening box, with the main sprues and accessories bagged separately. Special Hobby's Buckeye comprises:
109 x grey styrene parts
10 x injected clear styrene parts
1 x vacuformed canopy (plus spare)
33 x resin parts
20 x photo-etched parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
Scanning the list of parts, anyone familiar with the Twobobs kit will spot a couple of changes: the inclusion of etched parts, and the deletion of a walkaround CD. One change which was announced in early reports actually hasn't happened - the cockpit canopy is still vacuformed.
Turning to what we have at hand, the styrene parts are pretty cleanly moulded, with few signs of flash and no sink marks - but there are quite a lot of ejector pin marks, some of which are quite major and will definitely interfere with assembly if not removed. The surface finish is typical for MPM Production's recent limited run models, with delicate engraved panel lines, and embossed fasteners and louvres. Overall, it's crisp and sharp and compares well with modern mainstream kits, and is a actually lot more subtle than some.
Test fitSo, all in all, this looks to be an excellent model of its type. But I think it is worth stressing that it is a short run model, because after the initial very positive in-box reviews of the Twobobs Kits' version, there followed some surprisingly harsh criticism in on-line forums when modellers began building the the kit.
Of course, with Sodd's Law firmly at work, I didn't read any of the adverse comments until after I'd ordered the new version! Just what you need when money's tight and you have to be careful what you buy! So I sat waiting for the kit to arrive, worrying whether I might have bought a turkey...
Finally, with the kit in front of me, and somewhat wary of what I might find, I began a test fit... Thankfully, I think that most of the adverse comments were largely down to unrealistic expectations, because no matter how well produced a limited run kit like this is, it is unlikely to match the precision-fit we are used to in the best mainstream models.
As you can see in the photos at the right, the general fit of the main parts is really pretty good. I needed to clean up the wing attachment stubs and holes a little, but the wings match well for chord and airfoil and the fuselage tapes together neatly. All in all, it promises to be a reasonably straightforward build for a model of this type.
I can see how you could easily come unstuck though, and to be honest the instructions don't help (more of that later). The fuselage is split into three main parts - two sides with a separate belly panel. This overcomes a tricky seam right down the middle through some prominent details, but it means a long unsupported joint either side where the belly panel has to match the curve of each engine pod. To overcome this, the designers would have you install bulkheads complete with the intake and exhaust trunking. That's fine - so long as everything fits. But to go ahead and glue everything firmly in place on the blind assumption that it will click together Tamiya-style is just asking for trouble. If ever there was a case for pre-planning to check each stage fits exactly, and checking again before finally cementing things, this is it. The alternative (as seems to have been the case for some hasty modellers) is lots of filler, and the loss of all that lovely delicate engraved panel detail...
A few detailsThe cockpit is a neat combination of styrene, resin and photo-etched components. A basic 7-part tub is complemented with excellent resin side consoles, controls and ejector seats. The detail and casting is great, with no imperfections in my kit. The one-piece ejector seats are particularly impressive, with a cast-on harness (although I can't help wonder if there should be more straps on the real thing?). There's a choice of styrene or etched instrument panels and, acceptable as the plastic versions are, there's really no competition compared with the superb pre-painted parts that MPM have commissioned from Eduard.
The engine intake and exhaust trunking is split lengthwise, and there's detail on the interior bulkheads which prevent a see-through fuselage, but it's likely to take a bit of work smoothing the interior seams and ensuring a neat fit.
The wings have good deep wheel wells and the undercarriage is well detailed - the legs and wheels being very crisply moulded. The tyres are unweighted.
All the control surfaces are separate, as are the landing flaps. There are hundreds of photos available online (which makes the deletion of the reference CD less of a concern in this release for anyone wanting to add extra detail) and most Buckeye's seem to be parked with the flaps raised.
The canopy is vacuformed, which will disappoint anyone who was hoping for an injected version this time. Personally, I like good vacuformed canopies, and this is a good one - crystal clear, with no blemishes and nice crisp framing. A spare is included in case of accidents, and interior details such as mirrors and the opening jack are provided. The instructions rather oddly show the canopy cut into sections even if you're modelling it closed, whereas I'm sure most modellers will fit it as one piece.
Instructions & decalsThe kit includes a 12-page folded A-5 instruction booklet. I've always liked MPM's style of instructions - I find the diagrams clear and easy to follow, and they include Gunze Sangyo colour matches keyed to details throughout. The 31-stage assembly sequence for the Buckeye is largely logical. The one area where I'd take exception is in fitting the wings before completing the basic fuselage. This seems to be for the sake of neatness in the drawings rather than easy construction, and I think it's a recipe for problems.
The kit includes decals for three aircraft, all sporting the classic red and white trainer scheme:
A. T-2C "346", Bu.No. 158884, VT-23, US Navy.
B. T-2C "600", Bu.No. 159717, VT-26, US Navy.
C. T-2C "815", Bu.No. 159173, CTW-6, US Marines
The decals are custom-printed across two sheets by AviPrint and look excellent quality. The items are thin and glossy, with minimal carrier film, and the register is perfect on my sheets.
ConclusionSome of the very harsh remarks I've read about the Twobobs Kits version will definitely make me approach the T-2C with a degree of caution, but I have to say, on the basis of the test fit, that I'm really looking forward to building Special Hobby's Buckeye. It's not a kit for beginners, but providing you take care to plan and test fit each stage, it looks like a satisfying build for anyone with some experience of short-run kits. Famous last words? - we'll see when I tackle the model next year...
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