The Grumman F4F-4 “Wildcat” was the standard carrier fighter used by the United States Navy and Marine Corps at the beginning of World War II. It differed from the earlier F4F-3 by the addition of folding wings and extra armament. Although the F4F-4 could not outclimb or outmaneuver its chief antagonist, the Mitsubishi A6M-2 Zero, superior tactics and pilot skill usually tipped the balance in favor of the F4F, and eventually, the F4F was replaced by the superior F6F “Hellcat” and the F4U “Corsair”. The Zero, on the other hand, was only slightly modified during the course of its career, and that, along with the larger number of American fighters produced, helped the U.S. Navy’s efforts to defeat the Japanese. The operational history of the F4F is well known, and any serious modeler should be aware of the basic story, so it will not be repeated here. A later version, produced by General Motors Eastern Division and designated the FM-2, was improved somewhat, and these types continued in service until the end of the war, some surviving long postwar careers as agricultural sprayers and warbirds.
Many years ago, Airfix produced a kit of the FM-2, but this kit was very basic and I recall that the kit required a lot of work to meet acceptable standards. Several other kits have been done of the FM-2, notably the recent Hobby Boss kit, but the best recent F4F-4 kit has to be the Hasegawa issue. Academy’s issue always seemed a bit “tubby” to me, but until the new Airfix issue, the Hasegawa kit was by far the better kit.
This kit is a definite improvement over the Hasegawa kit, in that, basically, it has better panel line detail, and much more detailed landing gear assemblies. It goes together easily with need for little filler, and the wings and tail unit line up perfectly without undue effort. The prop is especially nice, and the interior cockpit detail is well done, with a canopy provided that can be left in the open position so you can see the interior detail inside. Decals are provided for some cockpit details.
The instruction sheets consist of 11 sheets plus a blank at the end. A short historical sketch is followed by basic instructions in a dozen languages. These are followed by 7 pages of assembly drawings and two pages showing the two different aircraft for which decals are provided. These include an F4F-4 with early type stars and tail stripes, flown off the USS Enterprise by VF-6 early in 1942, and a later F4F-4 flown by U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Marian E. Carl, of VMF-223, from Henderson Field, Guadalcanal, later in 1942. Although color information is adequate for the exteriors of these aircraft, very little information is available concerning the interior colors, and this can create some confusion. Also, there is no sprue diagram, and with the complexity of the kit, especially since folding wings and retracted landing gear are provided, this information would have been very useful.
Painting and Finishing
The model can be painted as you go along, and the masks provided as an aftermarket item are very useful for the canopy and wheels. Both models take the same basic paint scheme, and only the decals are different.
Although this kit is a bit more complex than previous issues, it is now probably the best F4F-4 kit on the market today. I would highly recommend it to anyone with even average modeling skills. And the price is very reasonable, so you can build a whole carrier deck full. Enjoy.
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