Mark Houpt submitted this very thorough review of Kinetic’s Tracker kit. Thanks Mark!
Once again a Chinese company has come to the chalk board and wiped away a kit from the modelers top ten desired list, this time it is Kinetic with the S2F Tracker in 1/48 scale. The first variant out of the gates is the S-2E and S-2G, U.S. Navy variant. Never fear for those that want an early, Canadian or even Turbo Tracker, Raymund Chung has announced on various forums / boards that very shortly Kinetic will also release those variants PLUS the C-1 Trader (and I have heard the E-1B Tracer). If all of that comes to fruition, what a wonderful addition to the modeling options that will be for us.
In World War II the world saw the prolific and successful use of the submarines to attack shipping of all kinds. To track and destroy these stealth sea monsters, armed forces used ships called Destroyers that utilized the Mk.1 eyeball to detect protruding periscopes or attack signatures (torpedo wakes) of the submarines. Eventually, sonar was used to emanate a sound from the Destroyer with the sonar operator listening for an echo and watching scopes for disruptions in the sound waves.
As the Germans became more and more successful with submarine attacks in the North Atlantic, the Allies began deploying long range search aircraft such as the Lancaster and B-24 Liberator bombers and PBY Catalina from shore bases to range out into the Atlantic in search of surfaced submarines. Being able to sneak up on the submarines from the air and at times when ships were not present produced some success that resulted in the deployment of small Escort Carriers with the convoys. These carriers held Avenger and Helldiver torpedo bombers, and like their shore based counterparts they were successful in stemming the tide of submarine loses. Thus was born air based Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) squadrons in the U.S. Navy and beyond.
The first specifically produced ASW aircraft was the Grumman AF-2 Guardian, a single radial engine aircraft with a crew of three and an single internal torpedo bay. In many ways the aircraft was the “Super Avenger” being that it’s features, mission and origin were similar or the same. The Guardian however was limited in that it required two aircraft to complete the mission, one with the detection gear and the other with the weapons. The aircraft was retired in 1955 with the advent of the first ASW aircraft that contained both the detection and attack systems in one airframe. That aircraft was the S2F Tracker.
The S2F (or the STwoF) made its first flight in December 1952 and was quickly accepted into the U.S. Navy service with the first unit becoming operational in February 1954. The S2F was a large aircraft for the carriers at the time with a length just over 43ft and wingspan just over 72ft and standing 17ft 6in from deck to tail tip. It contained a crew of four, a pilot, copilot and two sensor / systems operator. The S2F had a maximum takeoff weight of 26,147 lbs and all of that was powered by two Wright R-1820 growling radial engines. It was designed to fly low and slow with a service ceiling of 22,000ft, a maximum speed of 280 mph and range of 1,350 miles or nine hours of flight. It could carry 4,800 lbs of payload in an internal (left side only) weapons bay or six wing hard points that could carry torpedo’s, bombs, depth charges or naval mines. The aircraft carried no gun. Later variants had a wing mounted searchlight.
The S2F ASW variant was produced in a wide variety of variants and served in fifteen (15) nations and multiple civilian operators. Though retired from U.S. Navy service in 1976, the aircraft still serves in a number of countries including Brazil, Argentina, Taiwan and Uruguay. In addition to the ASW variants, the aircraft was produced as an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) as the E-1B Tracer and a cargo hauler as the C-1 Trader. In civilian markings the aircraft can still be seen in the western U.S. “Fire Bombing” water, retardant and other materials on out of control wildfires. The Stoof lives on!
Kinetic has delivered us the first injection molded 1/48 S2F in any variant. It has been a long wait, but it was worth it. The kit contains eight sprue trees, molded in gray plastic. Decals are for one aircraft and are of high quality. The instructions are in two parts, a front / back four view painting diagram and the overall kit instructions. There are over 180 parts, including many that clearly indicate the future variants that are coming. Parts are included to make the aircraft an S-2G (with the radar on the top of the cockpit), but no markings. The instructions are very clear and at first glance are accurate for producing the S-2E aircraft.
The markings / decals are for an S-2E from VS-37. Interesting there are two minor options provided, one when the aircraft served on the USS Ticonderoga and the other for when the same aircraft was marked for the USS Bennington, though the instructions indicate that the aircraft never served from that carrier. Both are from 1971 and thus the paint scheme is the very attractive gray over white with white flying services. The markings show a little bit of blue stripes on the tail and a yellow tip. This definitely adds a bit to the already attractive color scheme. Included are the white-red-white tips for the propellers The decals are designed by Fightertown Decals and printed by Cartograf and are in full register. They appear to be up to the high quality of both companies. Though the decals are superb, I can’t wait for the aftermarket community to come up with some great alternatives.
The plastic is molded in gray with the exception of one tree in clear (more on that later). All of the panel lines are finely recessed and the kit does not contain the myriad of rivets that have become famous on some kits out of China. The plastic is also of higher quality and does not contain the pits and rough to the touch feel either. The shape appears to be accurate, but I am not a rivet counter so I am sure there is someone that can find something about 1mm out of whack or a bulge a bit too far out or too shallow. The fuselage is produced in two halves with a number of parts that go into these halves. There is an open crew door on the right (starboard) side of the aircraft that is finely molded and detailed (even includes the handle as a separate piece). However, there is no detail for what is just inside this door so it must be closed or the detail scratch built. The one time I have been in an S2F there is really no reason for an open crew door anyway as it would just show some walls and a narrow passage way up and over the weapons bay to the crew area that is forward of the door. The cockpit instrument panel is represented by raised cockpit panel details / instruments, reflective of pictures I have and that are available of the internet. But these details only represent square, flat boxes for dials and there is no detail inside the boxes or on a decal that has become common on kits today. The rest of the detail in the cockpit seems to be missing. There is no sidewall detail and no overhead or between the seats instruments (and on the S2F there are many). The seats are represented decently on the top side but are definitely not representative of the seats in the S-2. The kits seats are blocks of plastic with a cushion and headrest representation and no restraining systems or other detail. The actual aircraft seats are more wireframe or poles that sustain the seat with cushions that include an inward rectangle between the legs and a grouping of restraint systems. Bottom line, the cockpit could contain more detail. The real question though is how much you see through the cockpit windows anyway? I would say at least the seats and instrument panel need to be beefed up.
Also within the fuselage is the radar that cannot be represented extended but there is a special piece that is used as a cover in place of the radome, a sign of more variants to come I am sure. The MAD boom is represented well and can be extended. The tail hook can be represented extended or not and thankfully a tail bumper wheel is represented. The large fuselage vents on either side, mid-section are well represented in both the curvature and the fact they are not blocked off by plastic but instead appropriately hollow. It appears that all appropriate antennae’s are present, including the large underside wire cutter.
You will most certainly need some weight up front on this kit, so make sure you add that before buttoning up the fuselage.
The forward and rear landing gear bays are well represented with wall struts, piping and various items contained within. A bit of weathering will produce a very nice looking representation. For the above average modeler, I am sure this area can be “dirtied” up a bit with some added details.The landing gear themselves are decently detailed and contain multiple parts to build the struts (at least on the rear). The wheels are produced in two halves and the hubs are separate pieces, another sign of different variants to come.
Weapons and Weapons Bay:
As part of the fuselage, there is an option for an open weapons bay and the torpedoes that can be placed within. Probably the most disappointing part of the kit is here in the weapons bay as there is absolutely no detail inside of the bay at all. This screams for aftermarket companies to fill the gap. My build will probably contain a closed bay unless aftermarket gets to it before I get to the kit. Thankfully, and oddly, the inside of the weapons bay doors do contain some details but it is not representative of bay doors I have seen or photographed. The kit also comes with well represented rocket pods for the wings (six), four torpedoes, a good representation of that huge searchlight on the wing and even the over cockpit radar for the S-2G and some later variants. The rear of the engine pylons contain representation of the sonobuoy tubes. To be more realistic it may be best to drill these out and insert some metal tubing or similar material.
The engines and engine pods are represented well and produced by the combining of multiple parts. The actual engines, those growling radials are molded as a one piece onto the engine block, which is kind of disappointing. But when you put the outer cowling on you cannot see anything except the front anyway so this may be represented just fine once the kit is built. The detail is typical of a radial with the casing and various pistons present. A good painting and weathering job will do well here. The propellers are well represented with screws and detail at the hub.
The clear tree contains eight parts. The cockpit area (canopy) is a two piece, half and half affair. I really hate these when they are like that because you end up messing something up with glue. However, this one may be ok because much of it will be fuselage parts (i.e. painted) anyway. We will see and I will defer judgment. The other parts are a one piece for the search light, the two rear crew windows and a couple of navigation lights. All of them are clear and well represented.
The kit cost about $60 including shipping from China. For this kit, not bad. The plastic is probably worth the $45-50 price I paid (in today’s market), especially considering that this has a monopoly on the market right now. The detail is appropriate, not overdone but also not the highest of quality. The decals are nice and I look forward to using them. The wing fold is wonderful and will be well used on these kits since the wings extended are huge. The downside is that there are areas where one could eventually dump some serious time or money in detailing and aftermarket parts. Would I buy another one – you bet! If you are a naval aviation fan, this S-2 Tracker is a must have for your collection.