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Sword's 1/72 Grumman
F8F-1/-2 Bearcat


By Chris Banyai-Riepl



Grumman had a long line of piston-engined naval fighters, starting with the FF in 1931 and ending with the F8F Bearcat. Designed to replace the F6F Hellcat, the Bearcat went a different route than other fighters of the time. While other planes were becoming heavier, Grumman designed the F8F to be as light as possible. The light weight, coupled with the reliable and powerful R-2800 radial engine resulted in a very hot fighter with outstanding acceleration and climbing ability. Another new feature for a naval fighter was the bubble canopy, providing the pilot with excellent all-around visibility.

The Bearcat entered service in May of 1945 and two squadrons, VP-18 and VP-19, were en route to Japan when the war ended. Bearcats continued to serve with the Navy, filling 24 squadrons throughout its career. The F8F-2 added a more powerful R-2800 engine, resulting in a taller tail, the most visible difference between the F8F-1 and F8F-2. Two foreign countries flew the Bearcat as well, with France receiving a few F8F-1Ds for service in Indochina. Thailand also received some Bearcats, also F8F-1Ds.

The Bearcat's era was limited, though, as the jet engine made its appearance in naval aviation. By 1956 all US Navy Bearcats were taken out of service and either stored or scrapped, having been replaced by another Grumman design, the F9F Panther.

The Kit

For a long time the only 1/72 Bearcat kit out there was the Monogram kit (although there was a Frog kit from way back). The Monogram kit is a very good kit considering its age and builds up nicely, but an up-to-date Bearcat has been long overdue. Sword has stepped into the ring with their kit of the F8F, and after seeing this kit you'll never want to build the Monogram kit again.

The first thing I noticed upon opening the box is the two fuselages. Sword, instead of giving bits and pieces to make the different marks, have made things simple by providing separate fuselages for the -1 and the -2. This makes building either choice very easy. Once you decide on which fuselage to use, construction is pretty straightforward. There is plenty of resin in this kit, and it's nicely cast resin to boot. The cockpit is made up of two pieces, a tub and an instrument panel. There will be some tricky painting in detailing up the one-piece tub/seat/headrest/stick, but with a careful hand it should turn out looking sharp. The engine is also in resin and gives a good representation of the twin-row R-2800 engine. But the best resin part has to be the wheel wells. On the Bearcat the wheel wells are large and very open, and the resin detail fills that completely.

The wing is provided as a one-piece lower part and separate right and left upper halves. To do an F8F-1 you are directed to remove the cannon bulges from the upper wing, a small bit of surgery that shouldn't be too difficult. The rest of the assembly should go quickly, with the stabilizers being single pieces. A drop tank is provided, and for underwing stores there are four resin rockets included. The propeller in my example was bent on the corner due to its being located on the edge of the sprue, but some careful heating will straighten that right out. The canopy is a two-piece injection molded one, and is fairly thin. It's a bit cloudy, but I'm sure a dip in Future will take care of that.

The decals provide a choice of either a USN F8F-1 or an F8F-2, or a French F8F-1D. The decals are printed by MPD and are very thin and in perfect register. There's not much choice in terms of color, as all Bearcats were pretty much glossy sea blue overall. The white decals look opaque but only time will tell as to whether they will show up as white on the dark blue model.


I've waited a long time for a decent Bearcat, and with this Sword release I now have one. This is one kit that you will definitely want to pick up for your Grumman fighter lineage. And if you have a Monogram kit lying around, you can always build the Sword kit up as an F8F-2 and bash the -1 fuselage to the Monogram kit. Don't pass this one up.

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