1/48 Testors F8F Bearcat

Indochina Cat’

by Rick Reinbott


Indochina War -- 10,000 Day War -- Vietnam War anniversary Jan 30 2007


This is my Testors F8F-2 Bearcat converted to an F8F-1B.



I put this kit together back in 1999.  The conversion consisted of filing and sanding off the oil cooler exhaust vents under the cowling and shortening the vertical stabilizer by simply cutting out some of the plastic above the trim tab, gluing the top and bottom halves together, and puttying and sanding until the proper shape was achieved.  Model Master Dark Sea Blue was airbrushed on and, for the decals, I used the Aeromaster Sheet “U.S. Aircraft in French Service”, # 48081 (http://www.eaglestrikeproductions.com/cgi-bin/amddecals.pl?scale=48&setid=081&dbs=aeromaster&pgs=2&currpg=1&dclimg=ad48081) The decals were flawless, with no setting solution at all being used for the application.

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Well, fast forward to the first week December 2006, when I suddenly had the urge to take it out of my display case and finish it once and for all.  Within a week and a half, it was finished, with the “upgrades” consisting of the following:


·Scratchbuilt retraction struts (not included with the kit) made from two diameters of plastic rod, with one end of the larger diameter rod being drilled out and gluing the smaller diameter rod into it.  Brass wire was used to make a locating pin which was glued into a small hole drilled into the larger rod.  A small hole was then drilled into the rear of the landing strut which the locating pin for the retraction strut was then glued into.  The other end of the retraction strut was secured to the top of the wheel well with superglue.  

·Scratchbuilt brake lines made from beading wire with the retaining straps made from lead foil.   

·Scratchbuilt rear fuselage antennas made from brass wire with the aerial wire made from fishing line (4 lb. test).  

·Gun barrels filed and sanded to make them more round in appearance (have a square shape out of the box) and drilled out.  

·Paint chipping using a silver artist’s pencil.  

·Masking off and painting the wing non-skid areas by drybrushing with Flat Black.  

·Exhaust stain using chalk pastels (white, black, and reddish-brown) touched up with drybrushing of Flat White and Panzer Gray due to spraying on Testors Dullcote which made white pastel almost invisible.  

·Applying Ivory Black oil wash over engine, propeller hub, landing gear and in wheel wells.  

·Drybrushing dark sea blue mixed with flat white over the model’s topside along with drybrushing of wheel struts, wheel wells, and tires.



French Bearcats


By 1951, the French had become involved in heavy fighting against the insurgents of the Communist Viet Minh in Indochina (later Vietnam).  During this same time period, jets were replacing the Bearcat in U.S. Navy carrier based squadrons, and to assist the French, the United States, through the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, agreed to supply surplus F8F-1s and F8F-1Bs to the Armee de l’Air for service in Indochina.


Prior to delivery to the French, the F8Fs were overhauled and the fuel system was modified to meet French standards.  Shortly after delivery the French further modified the aircraft with SCR-300 radios to improve air-to-ground communications.  With these modifications, the aircraft were re-designated as F8F-1Ds. 


During the initial transition training from the Bell P-63C Kingcobra, there were a number of accidents due to the different landing approaches using the nose gear equipped Kingcobra versus the tail wheeled Bearcat.  Once these problems were overcome, the French pilots soon learned to make the most of the Bearcat’s short takeoff capability, power, maneuverability, and high performance to attack ground targets with bombs, rockets, and napalm.  The Bearcat flew its first combat mission in March 1951 with Groupe de Chasse (G/C) 3/6 ‘Rousillion’ and went on to become numerically the most important fighter of the Armee de l’Air in Indochina .  It performed well throughout its combat career, notably during the abortive defense of Dien Bien Phu in 1954.  With the fall of Dien Bien Phu , the combat career of the Bearcat in French service ended. 

The model represents a machine of G/C 1/22 Saintonge based in Tonkin in 1953.  This was one of the aircraft based on the airstrip at Dien Bien Phu to supply close air support for the garrison.  It was destroyed on March 12, 1954 when the Viet Minh began their artillery barrage at the outpost. 

Happy Modeling!



  • F8F Bearcat in action by Charles L. Scrivner, Squadron/Signal Publications (1990)
  • Vietnam : The War in the Air by Rene J. Francillion, Arch Cape Press (1987) 

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Photos and text © by Rick Reinbott