1/48 Lockheed A-38C Turbo Lightning

Gallery Article by Alvis 3.1 on Jan 9 2011

Silly Week 2011


After WWII, the USAAF began reducing its' inventory of aircraft rapidly. Many were bulldozed or pushed off the decks of aircraft carriers. In the midst of this carnage, Lockheed had the foresight to purchase back every P-38 they could lay their hands on. In the end, they saved over 300 of this powerful fighter. Soon, they began a private venture to re-engine them with the R-2800 radial engine, and eventually the R-3350. The airframes were beefed up to allow the carriage of bombs and other external weapons, with the aim of foreign Air Forces buying what amounted to a new ground attack aircraft for a fraction of what the new jets would cost.  The Korean War intervened, and the sudden need for ground attack aircraft led the USAF to buy the Lightning again, this time in the guise of the F-38 SuperLightning . The rugged design and twin engine capability made the F-38 a popular aircraft, and 7 MiG-15s fell to their 20mm cannon. No foreign user was able to purchase one, as the entire run was earmarked for the USAF.

In the early 1960s, it was realised that jet aircraft made a poor choice to attack insurgent forces, and once again, the Lightning was re-engined. This time, it gained the turboprop power of two Lycoming T-55L-9 engines, a second seat and an enhanced radio communication system to allow for better contact with ground forces. Tiptanks allowed for long loiter times, and the inner hardpoints were plumbed to accept drop tanks as well. This allowed a Turbo Lightning to remain on station far longer than any jet could, yet the turboprops allowed a dash speed in excess of Douglas' Skyraider. Both planes were procured by the USAF, but the Turbo Lightning became the preferred plane to fly helicopter escort missions and interdiction strikes deep into North Vietnam. Once again, it also claimed enemy fighters, 3 to its' cannons, 1 to unguided rockets and 6 to the Sidewinder missiles carried for self defence.  MiG pilots became wary to tangle with the Fork Tailed Demon.

Here we see a A-38C based out of Da Nang in 1970, piloted by Captain Bob Sanchez, and carrying the nose art of "Speedy Gonzales". While the A-1 was known as "Sandy", "Speedy" was a common name for the Turbo Lightning, revealing the pride the crew had in their fast, nimble, powerful aircraft.

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Well, this took a few years to complete. I've had this idea for ages, but what to use for the engine nacelles? Well, I was in a bead store and saw little plastic vials that were perfect, so home I went and began sawing and puttying and sanding.  The rounded fronts came from a 1/32 scale 32 Ford, the tires to be specific. They were hard styrene halves, and fit perfectly.

The kit didn't utilise one single piece of aftermarket parts, but 11 kits did supply parts. The base kit is the Monogram/Revell P-38, and the cockpit section and canopy is from the Academy/Hobbycraft Canada T-33. 2 Esci/Italeri Skyraiders donated their propellers, as well as weapons pylons and pilots. The Hasegawa Weapons Set A provided most of the ordnance, except for the gun pod and the rocket pods, which also came from the Esci Spads. An Italeri Phantom F-4E provided the sharkmouth markings (copied rather than buying two kits) and a Revell Germany F-86 was the source of the early mark Sidewinders and their launch rails. An Italeri C-119 Boxcar was the source for the tail surfaces, and the old Monogram A-37 provided the sway braces. The Esci pylons were nice, but had no swat braces, so they were modified to take the braces from the A-37. The pitot tube was salvaged from a Monogram AD-6, and Lindberg provided the nice tires to make the nacelle fronts. Decals came predominantly from the Italeri Skyraider kit, with some from the P-38 and an aftermarket P-38 set for the propellor markings and stencils. The Italeri kit provided some of the airframe stencils, as did the Revell Germany F-86.

I pre- and post-shaded this model, but in the end, I didn't get results I liked. I need more practice to get those art forms down!. I used Model Master Acrylic paints, and masked with Silly Putty and a lot of tape. I was in a rush to finish it off, and as a result, the canopy fit sucks, and that's going to get fixed quite soon. Otherwise, I  am pretty happy with it, and this is a big departure for me, as I usually never do ordnance, and this is only the second plane I've done in 'Nam camo. It was fun, even the research time I spent on the A-1s and their roles.

Alvis 3.1

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Photos and text by Alvis 3.1