F9F Cougar - Digital Volume 2
Thank you to Bert Kinzey and Rock Roszak for bringing back a tremendous resource for the modeler, this time in digital format. Thank you to the IPMS Reviewer Corps for allowing me to test out this new and exciting method of researching the F9F Cougar.
This review of an exciting new format of a familiar product will take three parts; 1) content coverage, 2) how effective and useful the digital e-book format is from a modeler’s perspective, and 3) evaluation of a kit using the modeler’s section. I certainly would expect the first question a reader would ask is, "Why do I want an e-book format?" I like reading through traditional books as much as anyone else, with the page-by-page discovery of storyline or new information. I also have tons of books in my library, mostly residing on stoic-looking bookshelves. This new publication format provides many advantages for the modeler, with few disadvantages, as described below.
My initial reaction to the new Detail & Scale format I recently received for this review was even more positive than my reaction to Digital Volume 1 about the F3H Demon. There are many digital versions of print publications available, ranging from simple scanned images of typed pages to true multimedia blends. This second volume in the Digital Detail & Scale series is certainly positioned at the higher end of digital formats. The volume contains 408 digital pages and more than 530 images/photographs, 200 of which are in color. There are abundant modeler’s eye detail shots, of the type and quality for which Detail & Scale is so well known. The book is richly populated with excellent color art renderings of aircraft profiles, unit logos and cockpit details. Five naval aviators share their experiences, covering operational aspects of every version of the Cougar. The quality of the digital publication suggests that the digital delivery concept is the primary design parameter, retaining the cherished look and feel of the original Detail & Scale series and incorporating unparalleled search abilities.
Reading a novel in e-book format, e.g., iBook, Kindle, Nook and so on, is generally a nice experience, with the advantages of portability, downloadable purchases, and reading in low light. In a reference book, these advantages are surpassed by the ability to search, add notes, screen capture photos from the text for annotation, and fingertip rapid access to information on your workbench without compromising space.
Best of all, the stellar quality of the traditional Detail & Scale series is uncompromised in the new Digital Series. The new format builds on the excellence of the traditional format and includes many extra features. I evaluated this copy in the iBook/iPad format, but I would expect the Kindle version to be similar. At about $10.00, you can’t beat the price!
The cover screen features the wonderful, familiar and colorful Detail & Scale practice of showcasing the subject in color. The cover plane is an F9F-8 from VF-121 aboard the Hancock. On page iv of the Front Matter section is an excellent description of how to use the iBook format on an iPad. Also in this section, the revival and rebirth of the Detail & Scale series is chronicled, a storyline modelers seldom hear. A brief introduction describing the research, development and scoping of the book gives the reader a great sense of what it take to produce a top-notch publication. Additional and supplemental reference materials related to this publication are available on the Detail & Scale website listed above.
Chapter 1, Developmental History
The developmental history starts at the end of World War II and continues through the entire deployment life of the F9F Cougar. This chapter contains excellent descriptions and photographs of ancestor aircraft, including the F9F Panther, the FH-1 Phantom, the FJ-1 Fury and others. There is a photo of the XF10F-1 Jaguar, a Grumman “cat” that never reached operational service, except to provide invaluable design experience for the F-14 Tomcat. Comparisons are made to the checkered and parallel development history of the Cougar’s relative, the F3H Demon (see the Review of Volume 1). The reader gets a specific appreciation for the challenges of the post-war naval aviation “jetscape.” A table of designation changes dated September 1962 is included, e.g., F8F-8T went to TF-9J. Nine drawings of the major variants round out the chapter.
Chapter 2, Cougar Variants
This chapter thoroughly describes the Cougar variant histories and details. Several photo galleries are present, with multiple sets of pictures. Detailed specification tables are included. The photo quality is excellent, with the subtle differences in each of the variants pointed out in several annotated photos. There are numerous excellent color diagrams adapted from the flight manuals. These color diagrams are a huge improvement on the original diagrams. The problems and sometimes solutions found in each variant really highlight the difficulties in developing an effective carrier-based jet aircraft. Performance charts and other extras relating to each variant complete a thorough cataloging of the Cougar types.
Chapter 3, Flying the Cougar
Air crew stories always add an important dimension to my kit-building experience. This chapter greatly contributes to that enjoyment with 5 naval aviators providing operational perspectives on flying different Cougar versions. The stories are an enlightening read, filled with a good balance of cynicism, flying adventures, and mission pride. (Perhaps this new Cougar publication will answer a question a chapter contributor raised in one of his “war” stories. Gary Rezeau relates “unplanned air combat maneuvering” with a student on his wing while he was an instructor with VT-24. He describes his Marine first lieutenant student as an excellent pilot in an outstanding exercise. Unfortunately, Gary has misplaced the Marine’s name; he hopes that Marine made flying a career. Maybe some readers will have heard of this Marine and put him in touch with Gary. )
Chapter 4, Cougar Details
This chapter has a large number of excellent photographs, beautiful color drawings and tables. The F9F-8 and particularly the F9F-6 on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola are heavily represented in detail shots throughout 102 pages in this chapter. Numerous other examples of the Cougar are shown in operational settings. The chapter is given over completely to photos and such, with no narrative outside of captions. I found myself wandering through the “halls” of the chapter absorbing much information and ideas about the aircraft and all those subtle details that can really set a model off in accuracy and appearance.
Chapter 5, Cougar Paint Schemes
Four major paint schemes are described, from the common Gloss Sea Blue (FS15042) through the lesser-known drone colors. The introduction gives considerable background information on the variances to the “official” schemes and includes interesting aspects of zinc chromate practice and coloration. A table of FS color names and numbers is a nice reference. Many photos and excellent 3 -view color drawings round out this superb chapter.
Chapter 6, Cougar Squadrons
The chapter table of contents lists 10 subsets of Cougar squadrons contained in 103 pages. This large number of subsets is not surprising. The introduction states that from 1954 for the next few years, the Cougar was the most numerous of any aircraft type in the U. S. Navy. Detail & Scale chose to organize the subsets by function, such as attack, photo recon, training, etc. Each subset has abundant photos, narrative, markings, data tables, and color profiles. I particularly like how color profiles are paired with a photo of the subject plane. Squadron insignia details are shown with many of the color profiles. If you have a tendency toward replicating unusual paint schemes, you will find many options here. The training squadrons are unusual enough, but the Blue Angel birds look quite tantalizing, not to mention the drones and drone controller colors. I can envision a Cougar theme in some contest category!
Chapter 7, Modeler's Section
This section is a hallmark of Detail & Scale, and this volume does not disappoint. How many of you have picked up a Detail & Scale volume and flipped directly to the back to read the modeler’s section? I know I have and continue to do so. All of the current and historical model releases and some aftermarket part and decal sets are incisively evaluated from a modeling perspective, including the test shots for the recently released or imminent Kitty Hawk kits in 1/48 scale. Injection, vacuform and conversion kits are described, even those that are not in production. An assessment of the recently released Kitty Hawk TF-9J (F9F-8T) kit using the Modeler’s Section follows later in this review.
An important note is that Detail & Scale has provided manufacturers with research materials as a long-standing practice. Recent Kitty Hawk kit box art clearly states that Detail & Scale provided research materials. However, kit makers deal with the practicalities of bringing a kit to market and often need to make choices based on accuracy versus production. Detail & Scale commends Kitty Hawk for willingness to consider changes based on Detail & Scale’s research and test shot reviews.
Chapter 8, More from Detail & Scale
As in Digital Volume Series 1, these pages may be characterized as trailers for upcoming digital volumes and promote a valuable resource website hosted by Detail & Scale. Upcoming decal sheet releases from Furball Aero Design are shown. If the F2H Banshee is on your project list, hold on for the next two digital releases, a 2-volume set is on the way! I expect that these upcoming volumes will be just as good a resource as the first two digital ones. Make sure you have a bit of time on your hands when you visit the website; there is just as much research and sightseeing to be done there as anywhere else.
Content Coverage Summary
In terms of content, this is an exceptional publication. In addition to the tremendous wealth of information about the Cougar, the volume is well written with an engaging style. The artwork is spectacular! I found the Cougar volume to be even better than the Demon one.
Digital Format for the Modeler
My review arrived in the form of an emailed purchase code which was then entered into the iTunes Store download area. The volume was ready to read and resident on my iPad in less than 2 minutes.
An excellent guide to iPad operations with this publication starts on p. iv. The Apple iOS signature taps, finger swipes, and finger pinch motions are easy to learn and are much the same as many touch tablet systems. The learning curve is a short bump to become proficient. You will soon learn to move quickly throughout the text.
Once you learn the finger motions, you will discover that the double-tap that pulls down the Table of Contents title bar is very helpful. On the left-hand side of the title bar are icons enabling you to return to the library (quit), find the table of contents (a chapter screen with sections), and find a nice help screen for adding highlights and notes. On the right-hand side of the title bar is a screen brightness icon, but best of all, there is a search icon and a bookmark icon. I found both of these to be very helpful. These features really aren’t conceptually different from marking up a traditional book but have significant advantages.
- Highlighting can be done with different colors, perhaps for different topics of your interest.
- Highlights can be easily changed or removed (ever try to erase those bright yellow stripes?).
- Bookmarks may be added, removed or edited.
Taking screen shots or grabs can be very useful for specific planning. Pressing the sleep/wake button at the same time as the home button will capture the visible screen. This function is great for annotating and planning details. There are many free drawing apps that can import an image and let you enlarge, mark up, or otherwise edit. If you need to put some ideas together for detailing, you can digitally scribble on the photo!
An iPad has a very small footprint so it will take up minimal space on the bench. All of your reference material is in one place, ready to use. Several images of screen operations are included to supplement the many online tutorials that others have posted for iPad operations. If you are an effective multi-tasker, which I am not, I would expect that you could also stream a video or such while you work on your Cougar.
I am overwhelming positive about this publication about the content and format sections. I found the digital component of Detail & Scale Digital Series 2 to be an exceptionally effective and efficient research tool.
But as mentioned in a previous review, a problem I do have is that digital publications force me to abandon an old tradition of having authors and illustrators sign their books!
Using the Modeler's Section on the Kitty Hawk TF-9J
Several months ago when I heard that Detail & Scale was releasing a new publication on the F9F, I did a quick search for Cougar kits in 1/48, my favorite scale. My search resulted in many eBay hits, not all of which were in 1/48 scale. Kitty Hawk has now released the TF-9J variant, the first of 2 new F8F kits. This review section will narrowly focus on the Modeler’s Section as it pertains to this new kit and identifying details to be corrected.
Detail & Scale was able to review test shots of the kit, without instructions, decals, photo-etch and such. Consequently their review is not a complete kit review but rather an excellent assessment of an upcoming kit. I have the complete kit for this section of the review.
I read the Kitty Hawk kit section carefully and came up with the following list. In the accompanying screen shots you will see how I highlighted and found Detail & Scale’s areas of concern on the kit.
Things to think about during planning and construction:
- The holes in the wing bottoms need to be filled if no pylons are used. This will need to be considered depending on which version I choose.
- The joint between the elevator and the horizontal stabilizer needs to be “enhanced.”
- PE is provided with decals for the cockpit; there should not be a need for much extra detailing for the build.
- Since I am building with wings folded, the correct fold angle will need to be set. It appears that the basic parts are OK and that the fold angle can be adjusted by modifying part E10. It may be helpful here to get the angle from a drawing or photo and make a jig to help set the correct angle.
- Extra formation and approach lights are described. I was not able to confirm the location of the light on the sprues, but I expect that they will be more visible on the assembled wing. The fix is not difficult.
- Check the fuel dump drains!
- Mount the upper beacon correctly.
- Only the starboard side has a small scoop below and aft of the rear ejection seat. The left side has an indentation for the scoop. The indentation is not deep and could easily be filled and smoothed.
- Some light sanding may be needed to bring raised nose details into scale.
- Check the pitot probe types and placement.
- Check the decals for VT-10 and find references in this volume
Detail & Scale feels that a very detailed and accurate model can be built from the Kitty Hawk kit. Aftermarket materials will likely not be required.
I can’t see how anyone can justify not having this publication if he has any interest in the Cougar, whether for model building or for historical purposes. I am certain that the same functionality of the iPad exists for the Kindle platform. To my knowledge, this publication is not available in any formats other than the iBook or Kindle versions. The ability to examine the F9F within and beyond the printed page, the abundance of color images, links to external resources, search functions, ability to quickly bookmark, highlight and add notes, combined with the inexpensive cost, make the Detail & Scale Series Digital Volume 2 F9F Cougar an exceptional value. This is a must-have for all who plan to build any version of the Cougar.
Thanks again to the wonderful folks at Detail & Scale! Welcome back, and I’m sure I echo the thoughts of the modeling community in saying I hope to see many more of the Digital Series published. Thank you again to the stalwart Reviewer Corps for your hard work in making these review opportunities happen!