25 May 2016

U.S. Navy Ground Support Equipment Models

In this short article I am presenting my 1/72 models of several miscellaneous ground support equipment items used by the U.S. Navy. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the Navy's GSE. I only model such items that I need for my present and future dioramas, and only those that I could collect sufficient historical information for.

U.S. Navy Munitions Trailer
This type of trailer is designed to transport munitions to aircraft operating from land bases. It was introduced in the early 1940s (presumably, with the start of the World War II) and remained in service on Naval Air Stations and Marine Corps Air Stations into the 1960s. Various adaptors could be fitted to the trailer frame to stow torpedoes or bombs (see an excellent historical photograph: link). In the later years, some trailers were field-modified to carry missiles and rocket pods (such as this one employed by VF(AW)-3).

I needed the latter variant for my F4D-1 Skyray diorama, and I had to scratch-built it, as none are available as model kits. My model is painted Orange Yellow (FS33538), the standard color of the Navy's ground support equipment of the period, but it should be noted that during the World War II most of such trailers were finished in Ocean Grey (FS36187).

Aircraft Maintenance Crane
During the World War II and the Korean War years the U.S. armed forces, including the USAAC / USAF, the Navy and the Marine Corps, used this type of crane for performing maintenance on their aircraft based in theatre. Having no motors, these cranes were manually operated and employed to handle bulky items such as aircraft engines and propellers. Here is an excellent photograph showing a USMC crane in action in Korea: link.

This entirely photoetched metal model was produced by F4Models (cat. # 7029). The metal frame is very delicate, and assembling it is a rather tricky business. To imitate the crane's rigging I used stretched plastic sprue.

A-3 Aircraft Start Unit
This unit was designed to provide electric power necessary to start early jet engines. It saw service with the U.S. Air Force throughout the 1950s. There is also sufficient photographical evidence (link, link) to know that the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps used this aircraft start unit too, in particular on in-theatre air bases during the Korean War (whether these units were officially acquired by the Navy or simply borrowed by the servicemen in the field is, I think, beside the point).

A resin model of this aircraft start unit is produced by F4Models (cat. # 7028). It is a simple kit with few parts (but it includes parts to build two complete start units). My example is a nearly out-of-the-box build, the only extra is the power cable made of thin copper wire. My model is finished in the prescribed Orange Yellow, but historical photographs show that A-3 start units were also occasionally seen in Olive Drab.

U.S. Navy Air-Transportable Aircraft Start Unit
The purpose of this item of ground support equipment is to provide compressed air for starting aircraft jet engines. Specially designed by Douglas Aircraft Company for the U.S. Navy as an air-transportable unit, it was intended to be carried by fighter or attack aircraft on a standard ordnance pylon thus allowing them to self-deploy. Inside the teardrop-shaped pod was a small gas turbine, and everything needed for operating it – air hose, wheels and a handle to pull it around – was stowed in internal compartments. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s this start unit was frequently seen on Naval Air Stations and Marine Corps Air Stations around such aircraft as the A3D Skywarrior, A4D Skyhawk, F4D Skyray, F3H Demon and F11F Tiger (see a couple of historical photographs: link, link). It remained in active service, albeit in very small numbers, into the 1970s, with the Blue Angels team using such items even in the 1980s until it phased out its Skyhawks (photo).
The standard color for this start unit was Insignia White overall, but available photographic evidence shows that some examples were Orange Yellow, yet others were Sea Blue.

My model is built from the kit produced by F4Models (cat. # 7019). 

U.S. Navy Aircraft Start Unit
The purpose of this item of ground support equipment is to provide compressed air for starting aircraft jet engines. Conceivably, this unit (its designation is not known to me, alas) was designed somewhere around 1960 to be installed on the U.S. Navy's MD-1 flight deck tractor, hence its peculiar shape. When the MD-1 tractors have been retired from active duty around 1965, a considerable number of these start units were, apparently, still fit for service. Therefore they have been installed onto light custom-made trailers and employed on Naval Air Stations and Marine Corps Air Stations as land-based, non self-propelled aircraft start units (see a couple of historical photographs: link, link). Frequently seen around such aircraft as A-3 Skywarrior, A-4 Skyhawk, F-8 Crusader, A-6 Intruder, A-7 Corsair, EA-6 Prowler and F-14 Tomcat, this type of ground support equipment remained in active service until the early 1990s.
Available photographic evidence suggests that all examples were finished in the customary Orange Yellow.

A resin model of this aircraft start unit is produced by F4Models (cat. # 7027). My example is a nearly out-of-the-box build, the only extra is the air hose made of two types of metal wire.

NF-2 Lighting Unit
This is a self-contained trailer unit designed to provide lighting for an aircraft service and maintenance area of an air base. It saw service with all branches of the U.S. military since the 1960s, and some examples could still be in service today. Here is a photographic evidence of an NF-2 lighting unit on an USMC facility: link.

A model of this unit is included in the "U.S. Aerospace Ground Equipment" set (cat. # X72-6) produced by Hasegawa. For a kit released in the mid-1980s it is very good. However, most of the small items are way too thick to look realistically in the scale, and thus I replaced them with scratch-built ones. The two floodlights have received metal foil reflectors and clear plastic lenses. My model is finished in Orange Yellow to represent a U.S. Navy item from the 1970s, but historical photographs show that NF-2 lighting units were also occasionally seen in Olive Drab.

U.S. Navy Nitrogen Servicing Unit
The purpose of this item of support equipment is to fill relevant aircraft systems with nitrogen. This type of nitrogen servicing unit is used by the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps on land bases and on aircraft carrier decks. It first entered service in the mid-1960s (various sub-variants bearing designations NAN-2, -3 and -4), and an updated variant designated as A/M26U-4 is still in use today, its main external difference being the instrument panel. Here are some photographs that show this trailer in use: early variant, late variant.

A model of this interesting item has been recently released by Brengun (cat. # 72004), although Brengun erroneously labels it as "Oxygen cart". It is an excellent kit, accurate and well detailed. Comprising resin parts, photoetched items, film and decal, the kit allows you to build either an early or a late variant of the nitrogen servicing unit. My model is a nearly out-of-the-box build, the only extra being some tubing and valves for the nitrogen tanks. It is finished in Orange Yellow to represent a U.S. Navy item from the 1970s. It should be noted that the late variant of the nitrogen servicing unit, in use since the 2000s, is always painted Insignia White.