US Navy went through a number of jet aircraft types in the 1950s and into the
1960s; these failed to perform to Navy requirements for a shipboard fighter,
in large part due to the nascent state of jet engine technology, which failed
to deliver the required amount of thrust (power) to allow the airframe to
realize its design. In this list are: F4D Skyray; F3H Demon, even the F11F
Tiger. I chose to build perhaps the first and most glaring aircraft design
failures, the Vought F7U Cutlass. The Cutlass also holds the time period
record for number of pilots killed (21, in 78 accidents) trying to land the
plane on a carrier. Looking at the high cockpit atop the super tall front
landing strut, with concomitant loss of forward vision, along with high
descent rate due to its wing loading, easily explains that fact.
The Fujimi model is, to me, a very good quality kit for the small scale and price, coming from a relatively minor model maker. The kit builds into a -3M, which was configured to carry and fire four Sparrow (first generation) air-to-air missiles. In actual trials, the Sparrows were notoriously inaccurate and were eventually removed, but it was the Navyís introduction into the missile era. I naturally used all four missiles that came with the kit, painting them to look exactly as they were in reference photos.
The model went together well, without major gaps and need for putty at most joints. The cockpit was spartan, but adequate for the small scale. It can be improved upon with some cockpit instrument panel decals from another similar period aircraft kit, and handmade seat belts: there are no cockpit sets for this model and scale on the market. The model can also be made with an open canopy, but for such a basic looking cockpit, I felt the extra effort wasnít worth it.
The only trying point of the build was the main landing gear, which needs a front molded pin to be trimmed back to allow proper attachment of the forward gear door.
As for weathering, early releases of the Cutlass were left in all metal state. In the mid-1950s, the Navy went to requiring painting its aircraft in the interest of reducing corrosion fatigue on unprotected surfaces. I therefore used a preshading of panel lines and recesses areas, preferring to show my build as it looked in that period.
For as few Cutlasses that were built for the Navy (307), there were a number of air groups that flew it. Curiously, most had rather colorful designs. The decals for VA-116 came with the kit; I found it hard to replace them with a different groupís markings because of its eye-catching design.
Photos and text © by Carl Jarosz