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1/48 ProModeler  Republic P-47N

Thunderbolt

by Lee Kolosna

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The aircraft

One of the great tragedies of the air war in Europe was the inability of US fighter escorts to stay with the formations of heavy bombers as they fought their way deep into Germany. Luftwaffe fighters would wait until the escorts turned back to England, then attack the bombers, knowing that they were at least safe from the intrusions of P-47s and Spitfires. The fact that jettisonable external fuel tanks were available prior to the beginning of the war makes their late deployment in the Thunderbolt almost criminal. The reasons for this delay are not entirely clear, and when the longer range of the water-cooled engined P-51Bs became apparent, the phase out of the P-47 as a bomber escort was ordered. Republic Aircraft Corporation engineers knew that the days of their premier aircraft were numbered unless the aircraftís range could be greatly increased. Faced with cancellation of the contract with the government, Republic modified a P-47D-27-RE aircraft to become the XP-47N by adding plugs in the wing roots to make room for an additional 200 gallons of fuel. To improve roll rate, the famous elliptical wing pattern of the Thunderbolt was changed by squaring off the tips. The newest Pratt and Whitney C-series R-2800-57 engine from the hot rod P-47M model was retained. The final model of the P-47 turned out to be its finest performer, with a combat radius of over 1200 miles, and a top speed of 467 MPH at 32,000 feet. Like all P-47s, the climb rate was mediocre compared to other fighters in the inventory.

Ironically, the war in Europe ended before the P-47N could be deployed. But the war in the Pacific looked like it would go on for another year or more, and the range of the P-47N made it ideal for operations in that theater. Several squadrons of P-47Ns were operational on the island of Ie Shima, initially escorting B-29s on flights to Japan, but later operating very effectively as fighter bombers. Armed with rockets on the Ė2 and Ė5 versions, the P-47 could deliver a brutal amount of ordnance and still take more punishment than any other Allied aircraft. The end of hostilities coincided with the dawning of the jet age, so piston-powered aircraft were quickly turned over to National Guard units. N models dutifully served these organizations until the mid-1950s.

The Model

Bill Koster, retired from a long career at Monogram and now owner of Koster Aero Enterprises, is the designer for many of the recent ProModeler kits. He was responsible for the excellent Bf 110, SB2C Helldiver, Ta 154 Moskito, F-84G Thunderjet, and others. Unfortunately, it is quite apparent that Bill did not design the P-47N kit, which was left for the B-team. It is immediately evident in some of the unusual choices of engineering, especially the way that the landing struts are molded integrally with the interior wheel well wall. The engraved detail on the fuselage is soft, and the gray plastic has a slightly grainy texture to it. But the outline is very accurate, the clear parts excellent, and common mistakes made by other manufacturers on the N have been correctly rendered, like molding the guns parallel to the ground instead of the following the edge of the leading edge of the wing. The tires are weighted, and the wheels contain the proper number of spokes. The only glaring error on the kit is the raised ledge present on the area where the windscreen is glued. This is just not correct, but very little can be done about it.

Construction

Starting in the cockpit, I saw that the pilotís seat is rather thick and blobby. Because of the long missions envisioned for the N, armrests were provided for the pilotís comfort. (I hope they included a relief tube!) The rest of the cockpit is quite good, although the instrument panel is somewhat undersized. I took the easy way out and used True Detailsí resin replacement kit 48-456. Designed for the Academy kit, it fit the ProModeler kit with little fuss. Thunderbolt cockpits were painted Dull Dark Green, so I painted mine with Polly Scaleís RAAF Foliage Green (FS34092), slightly darkened with black. A wash of burnt umber oil paint mixed with Turpenoid , combined with a light drybrushing of medium gray paint highlighted the details . Scuffing of the paint was replicated by using a silver Berol pencil.

Construction of the wheel wells is unorthodox, but goes together pretty well. What I donít like about the arrangement is that critical alignment of the landing struts is totally out of the hands of the modeler. Fortunately everything lined up fairly well on my kit, but model contest entrants need to pay close attention here. The wheel wells were painted Testorsí Acryl Chromate Yellow, as were the inside of the landing gear doors. I glued the wing together and dealt with a strange seam in the area of the flaps, as the kit designers chose to not extend the bottom wing all the way to the trailing edge. Donít ask me why. I didnít glue the machine guns at this time, preferring to use short pieces of stainless steel tubing during final assembly. Clear pieces are provided for the landing light and the wing tip navigation lights. I put a tiny drop of red (left) and blue (right) paint on the inside of each, then glued them to their respective wing tips. When the glue was dry, I sanded the shape even with the rest of the wing. Polishing with a tri-grit file made for fingernail care returned the clarity of the plastic. Since I originally thought I was going to be doing a Ė5 model of the N (more later), I drilled out the locating holes for the under-wing rocket stubs. I generally donít attach ordnance on my models, so I clipped the stubs off of each rocket and glued them individually to the wing. I was very proud of myself for not losing a single one of the devilishly small pieces. The styrene-eating monster that lives beneath my modeling table will go hungry tonight!

In the engine compartment, I added a ring of telephone wire to represent the wiring harness. The crankcase was painted Neutral Gray, and the engine cylinders were painted with Testorsí Burnt Metal buffing Metalizer. A wash of oily black finished out the assembly. I separated the individual engine cowl flaps by sawing each separation line with a piece of thread. It was tedious, but it makes a much finer line than can be achieved with a razor saw. The fuselage went together with no problems, and all seams were filled with thick CA glue, which is almost mandatory because of the natural metal finish.

Paint and Decals

All P-47Ns were natural aluminum, so the surface needs to be perfectly prepared or else all the sanding marks will stick out like sore thumbs. I sanded the model with 600 grit paper, then moved to my trusty fingernail tri-grit file, making the plastic smoother and smoother. Finally, I used Brasso metal polish to bring a mirror-like shine out to the styrene. Washing the model carefully removed all the traces of sanding dust. I then rescribed lines that had been obliterated in the seam-filling process, and into the paint shop we went.

Since I was doing an aircraft from the 73rd Fighter Group with their wonderful black and yellow striped tails, I first painted the tail surfaces with Polly Scale flat white paint. This gives a good base for the translucent yellow paint, which comes next. After carefully masking off the yellow, I used SNJ Spray Metal for the overall color. I think that out of the bottle, SNJ looks perfect, especially when depicting aircraft such as these P-47s that were subjected to the withering Pacific sun. Using the polishing powder makes models too shiny for the scale, in my opinion. The anti-glare panel was masked off with plain masking tape (another attribute of SNJ) and sprayed with Testors Model Master Enamel Olive Drab. Another tip Iíve picked up when using SNJ: always use enamel paints when spraying over it, rather than acrylics, which have a hard time adhering to the metallic finish.

For decals I used the kitís markings. I hadnít intended to, having a set of decals from AeroMaster all ready to go, but the quality of the kit decals was so good that I decided to use them in their entirety. Itís too bad, though, as Sack Happy, a P-47N-1-RE, didnít have the under-wing rocket attachment points. Oh well! I did use some spare national insignia on the fuselage sides instead of ProModelerís offering, because of their incorrect depiction of the markings on the intercooler doors. You need to use two sets of markings for each side, one for the main cocarde, and one to cut up and cover the two intercooler doors. I hand-painted Future on the yellow areas to prepare for the complex black tail stripes decals, which went on with virtually no problems. I used a lot of Micro Sol solution to insure that they would draw down, which they did. Little areas of yellow that peeked through on the leading edges were touched up with a black Sharpie marker.

Weathering was kept to a minimum. I used a thin wash of dark gray acrylic (donít use enamel thinner on SNJ! Ė you are warned!) paint to highlight the panel lines, and pastels were rubbed in to simulate dirt on the wing root and the oil stains from the exhaust gates. I restored the cross-hatch pattern to the tires that I had destroyed by sanding the seam by rocking an X-Acto knife blade back and forth across the seam. The tires were painted with scale black, then given a thin dusting of light tan to simulate dirt and dust. The wheel wells got a wash of grimy black. I masked the canopy with scotch tape and Parafilm M, first spraying Dull Dark Green, then SNJ. The propeller blades were painted with semi-gloss black, then given a coat of Future in preparation of the decals. The non-metallic areas of the plane received a coat of Polly Scaleís Clear Flat to finalize the painting.

Final Assembly

Machine gun blast tubes were cut from 20 gauge stainless steel tubing (available from Error! Bookmark not defined.) and attached with CA glue. They sure look realistic! The aerial wire was made from "invisible" nylon thread and attached with tiny spots of CA glue in holes drilled in the tail and fuselage. I fashioned brake lines from copper wire, painted them silver, and attached them to the landing struts. The very nice 165 gallon drop tanks were glued on. I used clear jewelerís cement to attach the front windscreen and the bubble canopy. The bubble canopy frame is undersized, so I glued mine to the track behind the pilotís seat only. It kind of floats in free air, unattached to the canopy itself. Itís only noticeable if you look for it. The three formation lights under the port wing were made by placing a small drop of paint of the appropriate color (red, then blue, then amber) in the hole, followed by a tiny drop of five-minute epoxy. I was apprehensive about the three mast antennae, as they have virtually no contact area to apply glue to. I drilled a hole in the central mast and placed a small piece of wire to add to the strength of the joint. The two smaller antennae on opposite sides of the tail fillet went on with tiny spots of CA glue and some amazing luck. This is the most fragile part of the model and will no doubt break many times in the coming years.

Conclusion

Despite not being a perfect kit, the ProModeler P-47N builds up quite nicely. A little attention to some soft detail areas will reward the modeler with an excellent replica of this final version of the most-produced American fighter plane of World War II.

References

  • Warren Bodie: Republicís P-47Thunderbolt: From Seversky to Victory
  • Bert Kinzey: P-47 Thunderbolt in Detail and Scale, Volume 54
  • Lou Drendell: Walk Around P-47 Thunderbolt
  • Jeff Ethell and Warren Bodie: Pacific War Eagles in Color

Lee

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Photos and text © by Lee Kolosna

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