The F9F-2P Photo Panther was developed from the well known F9F-2 Panther. The Panther, which first flew 24 November 1948 was designed as a single engine monoplane jet powered fighter for fleet defense, and as a fast close air support platform for Marines on the ground.
The Photo Panther evolved from the need for aerial reconnaissance during combat operations. The nose guns were removed and the nose cone changed to house 3 aerial recon cameras. Two cameras pointed down, one forward and one aft, and one profile camera was on the port side of the nose. VC-61 was the unit tasked to fly the Photo Panther during the Korean conflict. There were occasions where Photo Panthers were assigned to fighter units on occasion, but pilots were assigned from VC-61 as most pilots did not like the idea of flying without guns.
Trumpeter’s Panther is a gem. Molded in light gray styrene, there is little flash. The nicely recessed rivets and panel lines are sharp and crisp. Construction has you start in the cockpit, naturally. The four part seat is well done, missing only molded on belts. I added masking tape belts for mine. The tub is adequately detailed with crisply raised details. I had a very easy time picking out the switches and knobs. The highlight of the cockpit is the instrument panel. Trumpeter provides photo etched and film instruments that sit neatly into the plastic panel. I simply painted the panel and etched face black and the back of the film off white/green to simulate the photo luminescent needles. It looks great.
I followed the kit instructions largely, but left off the landing gear and weapons until final assembly. The majority of the sprue attachments are a little thick and heavy compared to the part they were holding. I had minor difficulty in removing some smaller pieces without damaging them. I opted to use a saw blade in my dremel tool to cut off the parts and avoid damage. The nose posed a problem. They almost never align correctly if assembled first and then attached to the fuselage. I attached each half to the corresponding fuselage half before gluing the fuselage together. This ensured that the nose would fit and if there was a slight gap after, it would not be an issue. As it turned out, I had a slight gap at the tip of the nose which was easy to fix. The instructions have you add weight to the nose, but they don’t say how much. I dropped in a steel ball and a generous amount of super glue to hold it. It was enough.
The wing roots assembled themselves perfectly. I had to file a slight bit off of the intake ducts, parts A9 and A10 to allow them to sit in the upper wing root properly. I didn’t like the look of the open speed brakes on the Photo Panther, so I closed them by simply cutting off the attachment arm and gluing them over their wells.
I painted my Panther overall dark sea blue using Hannants Xtracolor Acrylics and Model Master non-buffing aluminum. This was the first time I used the Xtracolor paints and I was extremely happy with how they work. The markings in the kit are excellent. You get three marking options, all for VC-61, even though the instructions don’t tell you that. The white is very opaque. In fact no dark blue seems to show through. My sample was in perfect register. They required only Micro-set to help them snuggle into every recess. They were exquisite. I wished Trumpeter had ‘cut’ the lower wings star and bar to allow for the weapons pylons however.
Using Squadrons’ F9F Panther In Action as my reference, I saw that the nose gear spring coil is on the wrong side. There is no easy fix if you’re picky, though an aftermarket part should be appearing soon. The wing tip tanks do look a bit on the small side in thickness, but I didn’t measure them. I left off the purging handles on the tip tanks as they are too clunky looking and the In Action book shows most Panthers with out them anyway. I suspect they were only used during refueling.
The overall fit and look of this kit screams Panther! It looks like a panther. That is most important. I thoroughly enjoyed this kit. I spent very little time on assembly. Most of the assembly time was cleaning up the thick attachment points. One color scheme makes painting go fast also. Everyone should be able to crank out this gem with little trouble.
Drew Hatch has been an avid modeller since he was a teenager. Taking a modeling hiatus while flying in the Canadian Armed Forces, he picked it up again when he met his wife. They’ve been married ten wonderful years. Drew’s interests are naval and Canadian aviation, with an emphasis on the Pacific War. (Along with the slight detour into N. Africa during WWII.)