10 January 2015

XF5F-1 Skyrocket – MPM Model Kit Review

1. Introduction
Aircraft: Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket
Model kit manufacturer / country: MPM / Czech Republic
Scale: 1:72
Catalogue number: 72022
Release time: 1995

Basic information on the XF5F is available in Wikipedia (link) and will not be repeated here. For more detailed information on the aircraft see book [1] listed below in the "Reference Data" section.

The real XF5F-1 underwent one major modification – from the original short nose version to the later long nose version. The short nose version, in turn, has been subject to a number of lesser modifications, in particular:
1) Fuselage-to-wing fillets installed.
2) Rudder hinge lines revised (from straight ones to stepped ones).
3) One long side-mounted exhaust stack per engine replaced with 9 smaller exhaust stacks.
4) Small air intake removed from the engine cowling's lower lip.
5) Landing gear doors configuration changed: 2 doors per nacelle replaced with 3 doors per nacelle.

Although the text in book [1] may give an impression that these modifications have taken place in sequence (i.e., have not been carried out simultaneously), there are so far no historical photographs to prove this. Available photographs either show the short nose XF5F-1 in its initial configuration, or with modifications # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 already in place.

The MPM's kit represents the short nose XF5F-1 in its initial configuration, with the exception of landing gear doors. They are given in their later configuration, i.e. as if modification # 5 has been carried out while all other changes have not. The validity of this is debatable; I would opt for the original landing gear door configuration so as to remain within the bounds of photographic proofs.

2. Kit
2.1. Box
The box is a typical side-opener, compact (26 x 16 x 3.5 cm) and of soft cardboard (therefore, not particularly sturdy). The boxart is lovely.

2.2. Instruction
Instruction is provided on one black & white folded A3 sheet. It explains the building process very well, but information on painting is somewhat sketchy and imprecise.

2.3. Plastic Parts
The kit contains two frames of light grey plastic parts. The quality of molding is acceptable, considering the age of the kit. Surfaces are smooth and panel lines are finely engraved. There is a moderate amount of flash, mostly on smaller parts.

Overall, the accuracy of parts is surprisingly good (again, keeping in mind the age of the kit). There are just two minor issues. First, propellers – especially their hubs – could have been more accurately shaped. Then, landing gear door configuration does not – judging by available historical photographs – correspond the early variant of engine exhaust stacks.

While external airframe detail is quite passable, interior detail is less so. In particular, there is absolutely nothing inside landing gear wells (i.e. inside engine nacelles), R-1820 engines are represented poorly and cockpit detail is very austere.

2.4. Clear Items
The kit contains a vacu-formed canopy which is thin and acceptably clear. There is a slight and easily cured inaccuracy in the shape of its lower aft edge.

2.5. Photoetched Items
A small set of photoetched parts comes with the kit. The quality of etching is good, but the accuracy is less so. The photoetched dashboard detail does not resemble the real one even remotely.

3. Decal
Markings on the actual XF5F-1 are very simple, and so is the kit's decal. But, as it goes with nearly every kit's decal, there are deficiencies:
1) The branch of service letters are too tall on the decal.
2) Representation of figures "1" and "2" in Bureau number is not accurate on the decal.
3) No propeller markings are included (which are very prominent and clearly seen on the actual aircraft).

4. Alternatives & Aftermarket
As of January 2015, there are no other XF5F model kits available in the 1:72 scale, and even the MPM's kit is long out of production. There are no tailor-made aftermarket items for this aircraft, but several aftermarket R-1820 engine sets are available (Vector # 72007; Aires # 7092; QuickBoost # 72059).

5. Conclusion
 - Very good overall accuracy.
 - Acceptable quality of molding, considering the age of the kit.
 - Vacu-formed canopy and photoetched parts included.
 - Some minor accuracy issues - landing gear doors; propellers.
 - Insufficient detail - landing gear wells; engines; cockpit.
 - Minor inaccuracies in decal.

As mentioned above, this is the only XF5F-1 kit available – and I believe it is worth having, as all its deficiencies are relatively minor.

6. Reference Data
[1] Grumman XF5F-1 & XP-50 Skyrocket | Naval Fighters Series # 31 | Ginter Books, 1995
[2] Grumman F7F Tigercat | Famous Airplanes of the World Series # 100 | Bunrin-Do, 1978
[3] Grumman F7F Tigercat | Monografie Lotnicze Series # 1 | AJ-Press, 1991