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Build Report: Minicraft 1/48 XF5F Skyrocket

If you’ve ever thought you wanted to build something a bit different, but didn’t want to resort to the often hit-or-miss quality of short run multimedia kits, I may have something for what ails you- Minicraft’s 1/48 Gruman XF5F Skyrocket.

Grumman had proposed the radical looking little fighter to the US Navy in 1938. It actually performed very well, one test pilot noting that against a Corsair, in a climb to 10,ooo feet,  he “pulled away from the Corsair so fast I thought he was having engine trouble.” However, for various reasons, the Skyrocket did not go in to production.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time building this kit. And let me tell you, this is a great kit!

First, you get plenty of options in the box. There were two variants of the XF5F. One was the “short nosed” version, the other had a longer nose, with larger engine nacelles. For this re-release of their kit, Minicraft has included all the parts for both variants. A nice touch is how they handle the instructions. After the first page, which has common assembly elements between both variants (basically the cockpit), the instructions then have two sections- one for each variants. It makes it much easier than trying to keep track of which option to choose in each step. you simply go to the option you want, and follow the instructions straight through for that variant. Nice touch!

The cockpit is simple but adequate, with some molded-in sidewall detail, IP, stick, rudder pedals, and seat. Because the cockpit is very visible with the canopy open or closed, you might want to add some belts of some type. Eduard does make a photoetch set that upgrades the cockpit considerably, and also includes parts to further detail the engine and gear bay doors. Being averse to photo etch, though, I stuck with OOB.

Assembly is straight forward but a bit unique. The cockpit parts are actually mounted on the upper wing, and then the fuselage is placed over them. Make sure when you glue on the instrument console that you get a good bond for the join, to avoid any hassles later if it came loose.

The instructions show the engine assembly in such a way that it appears you glue the engines to the forward cowling, and then glue that in to the nacelles. Test fitting showed that method did not work, so I simply glued the engines in to the nacelles, and then the cowl ring on to the nacelle. The exhaust ring which goes on to the back of the engine did not fit very well, or at the very least, I could not figure out how it was supposed to fit. Test fitting the engine into the nacelle showed that it would be absolutely almost invisible if used, so I simply left it off.

The undercarriage bays are very plain, so you may want to detail those in some way.  I chose to leave them as they were.

One note about assembling the landing gear. There is a small part that fits between two posts on each nacelle part, and that part in turn fits to the main undercarriage leg. The instructions have you assemble the gear and nacelles at the same time, but I was concerned this would make painting a bit of a pain. I found that if I did not use glue for the small part that spanned the nacelles, but simply let the pins on either end of the parts hold it in place, the part could be rotated “closed” so the gear bays could be masked during painting, and then once it was painted, the rest of the gear parts could be easily inserted in their places, and you simply rotated the small part in to place. I can’t recall the part number, but if you assemble the kit, it should be fairly obvious which part I am talking about.

The nacelles themselves fit pretty well to the wing. All I needed was a bit of Mr. Surfacer applied along the join to blen things in a bit, and close some very small gaps that were at best not much larger than very fine wire. A single application of Mr. Surfacer, with the excess wiped away with alcohol and cotton bud after drying, took care of things.

I used a little filler where the trailing edge of the wing joined the fuselage, but then again, just about any model requires some work in that area. But aside from those minor areas, the fit was excellent all around.

The kit comes with two sets of markings- the yellow wing markings most associated with the “short nosed” Skyrocket, and a tri-color scheme for the long nosed version when the airplane was used for a period of time as a hack at a stateside naval air station, until it crashed sometime in 1944. However, I like to see models as they would have looked in use, so I decided to use my imagination. What if the Navy had decided on the XF5F instead of the F4F Wildcat? it’s not a stretch from there to imagine it ending up in the Fleet Air Arm, so I decided to use a spare set of Seafire markings to give the Skyrocket a British spin on things.

The undersides were painted with Tamiya Sky, and then that was tinted and shaded to break up the flat appearance. The uppers were painted with Italeri acrylics, using Extra Dark Sea Gray and Dark Slate Gray. The camo was done freehand, loosely based on a Seafire scheme. After that paint went down, I added some chipping with a silver pencil, and then sealed things up with a coat of Future. I added the decals…. don’t ask what set because honestly I do not recall… all I do recall is they were Seafire II or III decals. Another coat of Future to seal things up, and then I added a panel line wash with artists oils. On top of this went a fading coat of Tamiya Deck Tan, mottled on to give a random appearance, and then some post-shading with Tamiya Smoke mixed with Tamiya NATO Black. Then some light exhaust staining finished off the painting.

I added in the final bits. The kit comes with a British style pitot tube, so that worked out well. Two “steps” are added to the underside of the fuselage. Small pins on the steps fit in to dimples on the fuselage. I did not think this would make a good attachment, so using a small drill bit, I made a small hole, and made sure that the steps had a firmer join. They’re still fairly easy to break off, but at least the base is in their solidly.

This kit is a great kit to build, and it’s a very unique looking aircraft. While the real marking possibilities are limited, when you open up the “what if” side of things- the possibilities are almost limitless. If you are looking for something different, or just a really enjoyable kit to build, I highly recommend Minicraft’s 1/48 Grumman XF5F Skyrocket!