I have a love for the unusual Naval airplanes – ones without the glitz and glamour of things like the F-14 Tomcat or F-18 Hornet. When Special Hobby graciously gave a kit of the AF-2s Guardian to IPMS/USA for review, I jumped on it (begged for it)
The Af-2S Guardian was the first purpose-built anti-submarine warfare plane for carrier use to enter the US Navy active duty in 1950. There were actually two planes used for this job- one to carry the large (at the time) radar and detecting equipment and a second plane to carry weapons to destroy the sub. This particular kit is the “Sub Killer” and would carry the weapons. The Guardian was the largest single-engine piston-powered carrier aircraft to see service. Around 200 were built.
Let’s look at the kit- Special Hobby is a limited run kit consisting of seven gray and one clear sprue, a single colorized photoetched sheet and lots of resin parts with a nice decal sheet representing two aircraft:
- 152/F BuNo. 129209, NAS Oakland CA 1953
- 9/SI, BuNo. 126809, USS Saipan, 1954
I chose to build the latter. The plastic in the kit is very well made and complete. There is an interior (more about that later) and the resin is primarily for the engine, propellers, and exhausts. The photoetch details the cockpit and seat.
Construction starts with the cockpit where extra detail is added with photoetch seat belts with some additional small resin bits added. Since this is a limited run kit, the motto needs to be measured 5 times, glue in place once. With minimal locating lugs, you need to check everything multiple times. There are also crew stations (two) behind the cockpit and they are minimal- seats and belts only with. With the small windows, it will be hard to see these unless you cut open the aft door. After painting and weathering the cockpit and all the crew stations, I added these to the left fuselage and tacked in place to get a good fit.
Before the fuselage is closed up, you need to assemble the engine and it has 25 resin parts as all the cylinder heads are separate along with the magneto, etc. Assembly is easy but does take time. I glued the engine bulkhead to the left fuselage and let it dry thoroughly while I built the engine. Note that the engine is NOT centered in the cowling and replicates the real thing. Also, you will need to fabricate the pushrods. Don’t forget to paint the interior of the engine well.
Add the rear wheel wells and the interior windows and you can seal the fuselage. Fit is very nice and so is the molding and engraving. Add the bomb/torpedo bay (there is actually no bay unless you scratch build one) and the front of the engine cowling. The horizontal stabs are next and have the two upright fins. Fit is OK but this took a little putty. The wings have full wheel bays. There is a full set of photoetch hinges.
The instructions would have you add the landing gear but it can be added later. It does require some clean up too. The wings are added to the fuselage and lastly, the canopy is fitted and comes in two parts. They fit well. There is no masking set with the kit.
I left off all the antennae, weapons and all things underwing. The plane was painted with Xtracolor Sea Blue and several coats were added. After drying, the decals were added and even with the glossy surface, I fought silvering especially on the big markings. Careful application of setting fluid and paint got them covered.
Time for the fiddly bits- I added the tail antennae and those on top of the fuselage. The landing gear was added along with the spotlight – I elected not to add the big fuel tanks. The last thing was to build, paint and add the prop. I added a light gray wash to make the panel lines stand out and flat-coated the entire kit and removed the masking and added the lights.
This is an excellent kit and as long as you are comfortable with a little photoetch and resin, it is a simple build with a good fit. Highly recommended. Thanks to Special Hobby and IPMS/USA, I now have a Guardian in my collection. Now, about the guppy version…hmmmm.