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DRAW Decal’s S-2 Firebomber decals

Randie Coulter gives us his review of some very interesting decals from DRAW Decal for S-2 fire bombers. If you’ve been on modeling forums, you’ve probably encountered Randie. Though he goes by several forum handles, one thing remains the same- Randie has a passion for fire bombers. But it’s not just a modeling thing- Randie truly has a heart for the brave men and women who fly these essential aircraft, and keeps us updated on the Agape forums to keep them in our prayers.  This is the time of year for fires- you can bet that somewhere, a pilot is attacking one from the air.

And I can guarantee you Randie is praying for them, while he checks his decals and kits to make sure he can build the plane! 🙂

When the Navy began retiring their S-2’s late ’70’s, four aerial fire fighting contractors, Hemet Valley Flying Service, Aero Union, Sis-Q Flying Service and TBM, Inc. were contracted to convert these planes to tankers. In 1973, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) tested an S-2 out of Hemet, CA, Tanker 71. The tank was loaded from the side and a ‘boxy’ looking affair. Tanker 70 was also built this way, also. In 1974, CDF began putting additional S-2’s in service. The tanks were built for CDF by Aero Union of Chico, CA. In 1974 CDF assigned three different color bands, depending on the contractor. Orange – Hemet Valley Flying Service; Green– Sis-Q Flying Service; Blue – Aero Union. TBM, Inc. never flew the S-2.


Over a period of time, this practice was stopped and all were painted with orange bands as the other colors were
hard to see from above by the lead plane and other bombers coming in.

In the ’90’s CDF began painting the S-2’s in the red and white scheme that is still in use today. Greg Drawbaugh, of DRAW Decals has been doing fire bomber decals for a while now and within the last year or so he has released several new sets researched and drawn by Tim Bradley.

Following are the S-2 sets that are available direct from DRAW Decals.

The first set is #72s-S2-1 and is for the Hemet Valley S-2’s. Tankers 70, 72 and 73.

You will note that there are three options to chose from. Tanker 72 is the one of most interest to me. You will note the ‘kill markings’ on the nose. Just a bit of levity to relieve the stress of the day to day boredom. When these planes weren’t flying, the crews still had to be right there with them waiting for the call.

The decals are very well printed and I am looking forward to building the S-2’s that I have in the stash. Although, there are enough tanker and registration numbers on the sheet to build all three listed, there is not enough of the other extras to do them properly. But, this will give you extra numerals for those ‘What If’ projects you might want to do.

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Next we’ll look at set #72s-S2-2, the Sis-Q Flying Service Tracker. Tanker 93.

This sheet is simple but, as with the Hemet Valley sheet, it is very well printed with the cowling stripes in perfect register.

I have an original color chip for this ‘slime green’. I am planning on having it computer matched and a batch mixed for myself and possible sale. The manufacturer of the paint still has a couple of gallons and some quarts left and as it was a special order, they are not going to mix anymore. The paint is a polyurethane paint and I would rather have a lacquer or enamel based paint. The polyurethane would not be a problem, as I contacted Ken Schlotfeldt of Badger Airbrush, and he said as long as the airbrush was thoroughly cleaned after each use there would be no problem.

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Well, now onto the newer scheme. Set #72s-S2-3. At the present time, the private contractors no longer maintain or fly the S-2’s for CDF. California contracts their own pilots during the fire season. While I am not sure that this is the current scheme, as they made some changes to their OV-10’s during the off season, it is the scheme that was used from the ’90’s up to the 2008 season.

This set has tanker and registration numbers for two aircraft. Tankers 77 and 94. With a little masking, one could build both of these planes. Also included on this sheet is the name of the air attack base each of these S-2’s flew from, Hollister and Rohnerville, to be located above the tail number. This is no longer done but, at the time, it was.

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Again, and I am probably sounding like a broken record here, the registration is great. Something I should explain. Some of you reading this may be asking, ‘Where is the registration he keeps referring to?’. I put on my optivisor at the highest magnification and inspected the CDF logos on each sheet. The colors are as close to perfect as one can get, in my opinion. That is where the registration is at.

The S-2 kit that I recommend is the Hasegawa kit. It is, by far, the better of the two 1/72 kits out there. You will have to do some scratch building and be sure and check your references. A very good site to check for reference is If you are wanting to build an S-2 of a different color, I highly recommend DRAW Decals Tracker decals.