Brewster Buffalo

The F2 Brewster Buffalo is one of the iconic WW2 aircraft. It represents that early part of the war when American forces, caught unprepared for the axis onslaught, soldiered on with the obsolete equipment they had on hand and accomplished their mission despite the superiority of enemy weapons.

Significant numbers of F2s were sold to the British and Dutch in early 1941 for use in the Pacific. When the Japanese advanced on Southeast Asia, they captured a cornucopia of Allied aircraft. At least sixteen British Buffalos were captured undamaged when Singapore fell. A whole squadron of Dutch Buffalos was nabbed intact at Jakarta as well. Some of these were shipped to Japan for evaluation at the Imperial Japanese Army Koku Gijitsu Kenkyujo, or Technical Air Intelligence Center (TAIC) at Tachikawa outside Tokyo. The Tachikawa air base was a major Japanese airplane manufacturing and testing facility. When I saw photos of captured British and Dutch B339s in Japanese livery with the Tachikawa TAIC insignia on their tails I just had to dress a Buffalo kit in these markings.

The Tamiya Brewster Buffalo kit was first released in the early 1970s. It has been re-released several times over the decades but has remained essentially the same. Even as old as it is it can be made up into a fine kit, even out of the box. The fit is excellent as we have all come to expect from Tamiya. The engraved detail is very good even by today’s standards and the dimensions, while not perfect, capture the proper look of the Brewster Buffalo and will satisfy all but die hard Buffalo fanatics. The detail in the cockpit and wheel well is a bit sparse but there are ample aftermarket resin and photo-etch sets on the market to trick out any part of the airplane you could possibly desire.While nice, the kit isn’t without its warts. Chief among its complaints is the canopy... it’s, well, crappy. It doesn’t come with any option to leave it open so if you spend any time and effort on the cockpit you’ll have to buy a vacuform replacement part (Squadron makes them). However, if you don’t like vacuform canopies (like me) all is not lost. The kit comes with two options for the canopy; one for the US F2A with a telescopic gunsight and one for the British used Model 339 with a reflective gunsight. Whichever version you choose to build, you can saw out the canopy hood from the spare set. This is what I did and I while I wasn’t entirely happy with the result it does serve to display any work done on the cockpit. The clear parts are very, very thick. In scale inches the canopy parts are about five inches thick. They can be thinned on the ends to some extent but in the end it’s something you just have to put up with if you decide to go that route. As many times as this kit has been reissued it would sure have been nice if Mr. Tamiya would have invested a little money in tooling an up to date set of clear parts for this kit. I for one would have been happy to pay a little more for a kit with one. The kit went together without any fit issues whatsoever. I spent more time on the photo etch cockpit from Eduard and cutting the clear canopy parts that I did assembling the rest of the kit combined. It’s really that easy. This is a great model for a beginner.

I masked and painted as many of the markings as possible. Painted markings and insignia will almost always look more realistic than decals no matter how much decal solvent you slather on. I’ve found the most effective way to mask is to apply the insignia or marking color and then apply a positive mask. I then paint the model as usual. When the base coat is done I remove the positive mask to reveal the painted marking. Simple markings like the Japanese hinomaru are ridiculously easy to paint and mask. More complicated insignia like US stars or RAF roundels require a little more planning but are still fairly simple to do.

I painted the upper surfaces with Tamiya XF-13 Japanese Army Green and post shaded with heavily thinned XF-60 Dark Yellow. The under surfaces were covered with XF-19 Sky Grey and also post shaded with XF-2 Flat White.The only decal I used was one of my own making. I hand drew the Tachikawa TAIC insignia (a stylized falcon) and scanned it as a JPEG image. I then printed the insignia on Testors White Decal Paper using an everyday inkjet printer.
I gave the kit a wash using black artist oils and white mineral spirits. The aircraft at the Tachikawa facility were not in field service but were put through thier paces during evaluation so I added some judicious chipping and wear using a silver Prismacolor pencil.This was a fun project. The sparseness of the detail gave me a chance to indulge my AMS and go a little wild with aftermarket parts. Even though it was a vintage kit it didn’t give me a lick of frustration fitting the parts together. It’s a real gem and easy to understand why even after all these years it’s still a popular kit with modelers.

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