1/72 Heller North American T-28DZorro

Gallery Article by J.C. Bahr

 

If you have seen my article on the B-26K Counter Invader and are reading this, then you have probably come to the conclusion that I have an affinity for Vietnam era COIN aircraft.  At the time I was building the Invader, one of the references I referred to was a Squadron book on the 56th Fighter Group of World War II fame (The 56th FG later went on to fight in Vietnam as the 56th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) flying many different types of aircraft).  In this book was a very nice color photo of a North American T-28D sitting at one of the bases that the 56th SOS used.  These T-28's had been modified to have three weapons pylons on each wing that were located outboard of a .50 calibre machine gun pod just outside of the main landing gear strut.  In Vietnam the 56th SOS T-28's used the call-sign of "Zorro" and flew interdiction missions along the Ho Chi Minh trail with the B-26K Nimrods.  There is a quote from a Nimrod pilot that if there were to be a truck found on the trail, that a Zorro pilot would hit it every time.

 

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Unfortunately the Zorro's had a high attrition rate because they were single engined and were also known to shed wings because of structural fatigue from the added weight of the weapons they carried.  I read somewhere that there was a fix that helped alleviate the wing-shedding problem somewhat by replacing the aluminum spar caps with ones created out of steel.  I'm not sure about the accuracy of that as it has been a while since I did the research on this aircraft, but that is what I remember.

The Royal Laotian Air Force was provided with T-28D's and one is said to have claimed a North Vietnamese Mig-17 that got slow in front of the T-28 and was brought down by the twin .50's... embarrassing moment for the Mig pilot no doubt!

After finding the color photo of the T-28 used by the 56th SOS, I was intrigued by the color scheme on it and realized that I had an old Heller T-28 sitting in my un-built collection that I wasn't sure what to do with.

I decided to forge ahead with this project and started by sanding off all of the raised panel detail of the kit.  I then set about removing the intake on top of the cowling ahead of the wind-screen and filling this in to be flush, as the Heller kit comes boxed as a French Fennec version of the T-28 instead of the U.S. built version.  Weight was packed in the nose in every nook and cranny conceivable using bb gun pellets and moldable lead weight... this kit as well as the 1/48 Monogram kit are notorious for sitting on their tail.

The rest of the build went very smoothly only requiring a minimum of filling and sanding.  The .50 calibre gun pods I made using spares that came with the Academy P-39 Airacobra kit.  The weapons pylons I scratch-built out of sheet plastic.  All of the antennas along the rear belly of the aircraft were scratch-built using various plastic tubing, rod, metal wire and sheet plastic.  I would have liked to have changed the canopy as the kit supplied one is inaccurate in height (it should be shorter) but I decided to use it anyway and just live with it.

Painting and markings were the fun part... not much to worry about! :)  These aircraft were painted similarly to the Asia Minor camouflage scheme of tan, medium green and dark green over white undersides... but seem to have had the white undersurfaces replaced with black and the tan replaced with what appears to be Euro 1 gray.  I believe I ended up using RLM 66 interior black for this though.  For decals I used some black dry transfers for the tail codes & numbers and used a spare gray armament block on the left side from an F-4 decal sheet.

Weapons consisted of rocket pods and Mk.82's from Hasegawa weapons sets and bomblet dispensers scavenged from the Hasegawa A-1 Skyraider kit.

J.C. Bahr

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Photos and text by J.C. Bahr