F9F-2 Panther by Hobby Boss
Kit No. 87248
Decals: Two versions – one U.S. Navy; one Argentine Navy
Comments: Engraved panel lines, detailed cockpit, boxed-in wheel wells; ordnance includes six HVAR rockets, two 500 lb. bombs, six 100 lb. bombs, optional position landing gear, two piece canopy
The Grumman F9F-2 Panther originated from a 1946 U.S. Navy specification for a new turbojet or composite-powered day fighter, able to outperform existing types in service and armed with at least for 20mm cannon. In response, Grumman developed what it called Design 79, submitting a total of four sub-types, Studies A through D, all straight-winged aircraft. The first two were composite types, being both propeller- and turbojet driven, similar to the Ryan Fireball. Study A was powered by a conventional R-2800-E piston engine with a Rolls Royce Derwent IV turbjojet in the tail. Study B was similar, except that it featured a TG-100 turboprop enginge up front. Neither type was seriously considered by Grumman, whose design team assumed they would be obsolete by the time they could enter service, given the rapid development of the turbojet at that time.
Study C was powered by two turbojets, housed in a nacelle in each wing. The planned powerplant was again the Rolls Royce Derwent IV, and this type was similar to the Gloster Meteor in appearance. Grumman favored this design since a twin engine layout offered greater reliability, and there was no question about the Derwent’s availability. Study D was a single engine type, powered by the new Rolls Royce Nene turbojet — Grumman did not put much store in it, since the new powerplant might not be available in time. Upon confirming that the Nene was indeed available, the Navy opted for Study D — and Grumman’s prototype, the XF9F-2 flew for the first time on November 24, 1947. The Navy ordered it into production with minor modifications.
The first production version was dubbed F9F-2 (Grumman’s earlier XF9F-1 design had arisen from an entirely different Navy specification for a nightfighter that was abruptly cancelled — although it called for performance that was remarkably similar to the Douglas F3D Skyknight, the Navy’s first jet-powered nightfighter which would enter service in 1951) and was the first U.S. Navy jet to see combat, with VF-51 on July 3, 1950, while operating off the U.S.S. Valley Forge — just over a week after hostilities began in Korea. Originally the Panther had no wingtip fuel tanks, sometimes called “tip tanks,” but they were soon fitted, adding 120 gallons each to the fuel capacity and improving the jet’s aileron response. The tip tanks were detachable, but could not be jettisoned in flight. Valves at the trailing end of each tank allowed fuel to be vented to lighten the load while in flight, if necessary. Panthers were seldom seen without their tip tanks, and although there were proposals to substitute rockets or ramjets on the wing tips, these never materialized.
It was the British Nene turbojet engine that prompted the Navy to order the Panther into production, but ultimately they were license-built in the U.S. for production Panthers by Pratt & Whitney, who dubbed them J42-P6. The Nene produced 5,000 lbs. thrust dry, and 5,700 lbs. wet, but it had no afterburner. Top speed was 525 mph, and it could reach 10,000 feet in less than 70 seconds, with a range of over 1,100 miles. Panthers also featured leading edge flaps on the wings, at that time a new device that helped lower the landing speed.
Some Panther -2’s were modified for photographic reconnaissance and dubbed “Photo Panthers. Others were fitted with bomb racks on the inboard portion of each wing, a feature often employed in Korea, where the Panther would ultimately drop more ordnance on ground targets than any other Navy aircraft. During its operational life, the Panther made naval aviation history. It was the first Navy jet to shoot down another jet, and comprised over 85 percent of Navy and Marine Corps jet fighters that saw action in Korea, where it was often used as a fighter-bomber flying air support for American and U.N. ground troops. While later versions of the Panther had improved performance and were more capable, it was the F9F-2 that initially made the grade under combat conditions. It was not the stellar air-to-air performer that the North American F-86 Sabre was, but it proved to be the Navy’s workhorse during the Korean War.
Hobby Boss’ F9F-2 Panther is injection molded in grey and consists of 94 parts, including 5 clear parts, three of which (GP3, GP4, and GP5) are unnecessary as they are for the photo reconnaissance version. The kit is crisply detailed with engraved panel lines and passes the eyeball test in terms of the shape of the airframe (not so with Hasegawa’s 1/72 Panther, which has a nose that, to the naked eye, appears to tilt upward a fraction too much).
The cockpit is very nicely done with a detailed bucket-style ejection seat, and exquisite raised detail on the side instrument panels which form part of the cockpit tub. The main instrument panel sports realistically sunken dials, and the “office” is rounded out by a separate control yoke and rudder pedals. The landing gear are detailed and complemented by ribbed internal structure on the main and nose gear wells.
While the dive brakes, which are directly below the cockpit on the plane’s ventral surface, are not separately mounted, they are very well detailed with perforations and speak to the pains taken by the manufacturer to develop a realistic looking mold, which features not only engraved panel lines but flush rivet detail. Gun barrel openings are even molded into recesses in the nose. The jet exhaust pipe is not particularly detailed, and looks like a standard stovepipe. Deep inside, what appears to be a four-bladed turbine can be seen — while this part could be more detailed, I am not familiar enough with the Panther to comment on its accuracy; and given the kit’s many other virtues it does not detract from the overall impression of a fine addition to 1/72 scale Panther offerings.
For ordnance, modelers have the option of displaying the Panther in clean configuration; or with a pair of 500 lb. bombs on inboard hard points, or with 500 lb. bombs and six smaller 100 lb. anti-personnel bombs, three on each wing; or, rockets can be substituted for the 100 lb.bombs. The instructions are clear and well laid out, referencing Gunze Sangyo paint colors. Their painting directions are not always accurate, however, for in one case they indicate the nose wheel well interior should be painted Insignia White, when the Detail and Scale book on the Panther clearly states that all of its wheel well interiors were chromate green.
A very nice updated version of the early Panther. Highly recommended.
F9F Panther in Detail and Scale by Bert Kinzey; Copyright 1983 by Aero Publishers, Inc., Fallbrook, California