Kit No. WP10005
Decals: Three versions – all U.S. Navy
Comments: Engraved panel lines, optional position canopy, highly detailed cockpit, landing gear, and wheel wells
The North American (later North American Rockwell) T-2 Buckeye was the U.S. Navy’s standard jet trainer for nearly 50 years, from 1959 to 2008. In 1956 the U.S. Navy issued a requirement for a new, all-purpose jet trainer capable of handling the entire training syllabus, from basic to intermediate jet training, all the way through to carrier qualification, gunnery, advanced flight training, and fighter tactics. North American’s previous success with the AT-6/SNJ and T-28 trainers gave it an edge in the competition for the new trainer contract; it designed a new airframe, designated the T2J-1, using proven components and equipment from its existing aircraft. The control system was basically the same at that used in the T-28C Trojan, with an added hydraulic boost package, and the wings were derived from North American’s first jet, the FJ-1 Fury.
North American won the initial contract for six aircraft in early 1956, followed by an order for 121 more at the end of that year. A third order for 90 more aircraft was placed in February 1959. The Navy had great confidence in North American (manufacturer of the B-25 Mitchell, P-51 Mustang, SNJ trainer, T-28 trainer, FJ-1 Fury, F-86 Sabre, and F-100 Super Sabre) for the decision was made to skip the prototype stage, and the bulk of the orders putting the new trainer into production came before its first flight on January 31, 1958. Carrier suitability tests were conducted in May 1959, and the first T2J-1 (later redesignated T-2A in September 1962) was delivered to Naval Air Station Pensacola on July 9, 1959.
Initially the T-2 did not have a name, so the Training Command held a contest, and the winning name “Buckeye” was announced on June, 1959 in a nod to state from which the plane originated (North American’s plant was located in Columbus, Ohio) — Ohio being the Buckeye state. The Navy considered the new trainer excellent in all respects but one — it was somewhat underpowered, with a single Westinghouse J34-WE-48 turbojet engine of 3,400 lbs. thrust. The J34 was an aging engine, first designed for the Navy in 1944, and similar to the powerplant of the McDonnell F2H Banshee of the Korean War era.
This obsolete powerplant was the only turbojet engine available in 1956, but by 1960, a new small, lightweight engine arrived in the form of the Pratt & Whitney J60-P-6 of 3,000 lbs. thrust. The Navy opted to double them up and in January 1962 awarded North American the contract to modify two aircraft with the twin engine configuration. The engines were slung side by side; the intakes were redesigned and enlarged; and a 50 gallon fuel tank was installed in the leading edge of each wing. The result increased the Buckeye’s thrust by 70%, and nearly eliminated engine-related training accidents due to the significantly greater reliability of two engines. This aircraft became the T-2B. Compared to its predecessor, the T-2B had an improved service ceiling (up to 42,000 feet), decreased the take off run by 1,805 feet, and increased the range by 165 nautical miles.
The T-2C originated from a 1967 Navy contract to convert the first T-2B to the more cost-effective General Electric J85-GE-4 turbojets. The J85 was more fuel efficient and produced comparable thrust (5,900 lbs.) to the J60. The first T-2C flew on December 10, 1968. Ultimately, 231 T-2C’s were built, and were the most numerous production variant. The T-2D was produced for the Venezuelan Air Force, differing in avionics and the deletion of the carrier equipment. The T-2E was produced for the Greek (Hellenic) Air Force. All versions were capable of carrying a variety of armaments on six underwing hard points, including training bombs, rockets, and a pair of .50 caliber gun pods. The export version produced for Venezuela was employed in the dual strike/trainer role.
The T-2 demonstrated the full extent of its versatility when it was assigned to naval fighter squadrons such as VF-126 at Miramar Naval Air Station in California. The primary mission of VF-126 was adversary training, with a secondary role of instrument training, and a tertiary role of out-of-control or spin training. Increased air combat maneuvering training had begun to result in excessive losses of aircraft to out-of-control flight, so the Navy tasked the Navy Test Pilot School with the development of a specialized training program. This training was added to the VF-126 portfolio in 1978, and the T-2C was brought in to handle it. Despite the fact that trainees were only allowed to perform intentional erect spins with landing gear, flaps, and speed brakes retracted, the T-2 had proven its ability to recover from upright, inverted, and multiple axis spins without damage to the airframe. The VF-126 training program was regarded as the graduate level program for Pacific Fleet pilots.
In November 1981, the U.S. Navy selected the T-45 Goshawk, derived from the British Aerospace Hawk trainer, as the replacement for the North American T-2. After 49 years of service, the T-2 was retired from the Navy’s training squadrons in 2008.
Wolfpack’s T-2C Buckeye is presented on three sprues and is injection molded in grey plastic. It consists of 72 parts, six of which are clear plastic. Looking at the airframe, the wings and fuselage are replete with engraved panel lines and recessed rivet detail, with a minor amount of raised rivet detail on the bottom of the tail — a refreshing departure from the heavy panel lines of the Matchbox kit, which until 2015 was the reigning Buckeye kit in 1/72 scale (the Revell Germany kit being a Matchbox re-box).
A large 8-page instruction booklet, which concludes six color photos of the actual aircraft, along with four-view color profiles of all three versions for which markings are provided, is included. The cockpit features detailed ejection seats, control yokes, and decals for the main and side instrument panels. There are separately mounted wing flaps which can be positioned clean or down, as the modeler desires. The landing gear are highly detailed, with corresponding raised detail in the wheel wells and on the interior of the gear doors. As a bonus the kit can be built with the gear up or down. Likewise the cockpit canopy can be positioned open or closed.
The decals are clear, crisp, fully in register, and presented in realistic color. They are glossy and do not have any more border material around them than is absolutely necessary. They are in short the best looking decals this modeler has ever seen. Markings are provided for an aircraft of VT-9 “Tigers” based at NAS Meridian (Mississippi) in 2004; an aircraft of VT-23 “Professionals” based at NAS Kingsville (Texas) in 1975; or an aircraft of VT-10 “Wildcats” based at Pensacola (Florida) in 1980.
This kit is a quantum leap above the Matchbox kit, and well worth the asking price of about $25.00. Overall, right out of the box the quality appears to match the best that can be produced by competing manufacturers. Many kits are physically well-engineered, but fall down in some area or other (lack of clarity in instructions, poorly researched, minor inaccuracies, poor decals, etc.) but Wolfpack appears to have everything covered. The quality of the decals, for example, is exceptional. If this is a typical example of a Wolfpack kit, other manufacturers should watch out.
- Naval Fighters No. 15: North American Rockwell T-2 Buckeye by Steve Ginter; Copyright 1987
- The Encyclopedia of World Airpower; Edited by Bill Gunston; Crescent Books, New York; Copyright 1980