The Skyknight was designed in 1945 and incorporated Westinghouse products for virtually all the avionics and electrical systems, plus the engines - causing one Douglas employee to joke "Heck! This a Westinghouse airplane built by Douglas!". The Skyknight was always chronically underpowered and the plan was to replace the J34 engines in the F3D-2 with the larger and more powerful Westinghouse J46 in larger engine-pods. Unfortunately the J46 was never developed to an acceptable standard of reliability, so the -2 flew on with up-rated J34s in the redesigned pods.
The Skyknight was modified throughout the 1950s with new avionics allowing it to carry the Sparrow 1 missile, but was viewed by many as obsolete by the end of the decade. That was all to change! Re-christened the F10 in 1962, the Skyknight found a new lease of life, and possible it's greatest role, as an Electronic Warfare aircraft. It was a Skyknight which came back with a perfect set of "fingerprints" for the Russian missile-radar systems in Cuba. With the escalation of fighting in Vietnam, Skyknight squadrons flew some of the highest combat hours of any units and the F-10 served with distinction throughout the '60s and on into the '70s.
The first impression of Czech Model's new 1/48 scale kit is that the box is very heavy for its size. On opening, its easy to see why - this is a surprisingly big kit! The parts breakdown is as follows:
80 x Blue-grey plastic parts
3 x Clear injection-moulded parts
17 x Resin parts
Decals for 3 schemes
As with all Czech Model kits, the Skyknight is produced using short-run technology, so the parts will require a little more by way of clean-up than in kits produced by the "majors". That said, the main parts are very cleanly moulded in quite thick plastic (that accounts for the weight...). The exterior finish is very highly polished and all the panel lines are neatly engraved.
I found a couple of small flow-marks and there is a touch of flash on some of the smaller parts along with some ejector-pin marks to deal with but, generally, it shouldn't take long to clean everything up.
The main undercarriage legs are pretty sturdy - they'll need to be, to carry the weight - and the wheels have some excellent hub-detail. Engine faces are provided front and rear for the separate pods to avoid a see-through look. The fact the engine-pods are separate hints that an F3D-1 could be on the cards...
4 wing pylons are included with separate sway-braces, but just 2 drop tanks are provided as stores and the spare pylons aren't shown in the instructions.
The fuselage halves on the review sample were very slightly bowed, but the tailplane acts as a very handy clamp to pin the tail, so this is no problem. The wings are thin and perfectly straight and the trailing edges are impressively thin. The wings simply butt-join to the fuselage, so a bit of care will be needed to ensure a good fit and correct dihedral. Some modellers may also want to add a spar of some kind to help carry the weight.
Czech Model have included a large bag of True Details resin parts. The standard of these is superb, with the massive cockpit tub showing some great detail on the consoles. The distinctive swivel-chairs are nicely done but, strangely (considering True Details produce after-market accessories with excellent moulded-on harnesses), modellers will have to add straps themselves.
The instrument panel is beautifully detailed. Some cutaway reference drawings show hoods on the radar screens, but remember - the Skyknight had a long service-life, so the instrument layout may well have changed over the years.
The wheel-well inserts have some fine detail, with delicate pipework etc. A quick check shows that plenty of sanding is going to be needed to remove the casting blocks and allow them to fit inside the wings.
Unusually for Czech Models, the kit includes injection-moulded clear parts. The canopy is broken down into 3 pieces to allow the bulged side panels to be moulded. the parts are quite thick, but very clear. They aren't packed separately from the main parts, so there's a danger that they can be scratched in transit.
The assembly diagrams are very clearly drawn in 11 stages and comprehensive colour notes are provided throughout with FS references. The instructions make no mention of nose-weight, but the model certainly feels like a potential tail-sitter, so this is something to watch out for.
Markings are provided for 3 aircraft:
A. F3D-2, VMF(N)-513, Korea, 1952 in overall Flat Black.
B. F3D-2, VF-14, USS Intrepid, 1954 in Gloss Sea Blue.
C. EF-10B, VMCJ-1, Vietnam, 1967 in Light Gull Grey and White.
The decal sheet is colossal and the decals themselves are beautifully thin and printed perfectly in register. The sheet is packed with stencils in both white and black - all legible. The red of the national insignia and codes looks maybe a little dark for FS *1136 but replacements shouldn't hard to find and I wouldn't be surprised if aftermarket sets appear soon to cater for the myriad of schemes which Skyknights carried.
This is a very impressive model. I simply wasn't prepared for the sheer size of the Skyknight - no wonder the original aircraft earned the affectionate nickname Willy The Whale! Like any short-run kit, this won't "build itself", but Czech Model's Skyknight should be suitable for any modeller with a little experience.
The Skyknight is such a long overdue subject that I think Czech Model have been rather clever by spotting the gap in the market. Fans of naval aircraft and early jets are likely to snap this up and it could deservedly prove to be the company's most successful release to date.
Thank you to MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying the review sample.
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