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1/72 Hasegawa FB-111A

Switchblade

by J.C. Bahr

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For the history of the FB-111A, I'll refer you to the following excellent site:

http://www.fb-111a.net/History.html

And for some interesting and entertaining reading about the Switchblade:

http://www.fb-111a.net/Storybook.html

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This is one of those kits that I never had an inkling to build and never thought I would until I had one of those "wild hair..." kind of days!  I already had four other Hasegawa Vark variants in the cache that I planned to build "someday" and figured anymore would've been overkill... and I never was too fond of the FB with the white undersurfaces of the SIOP scheme... (would've looked better in black like the BUFF!)... but I guess that would've been too much like the other tactical Varks in the inventory and it would be just like SAC to have to be different somehow.  Anyhow, one day I was going through the decal stash and got to looking at the Superscale Vark sheets I had hoarded away long ago and noticed that a couple of my sheets included markings for a SIOP FB and the later 'Dark-Vark' FB's.  Hmmm... they ARE different and one doesn't see FB's built very often (unless they're as Aussie G's, but no offense though)... I do have the rest of that bottle of SAC Bomber Green paint that I used on my Ryan's Raiders EF-105F and it would be a shame to waste the rest of it... hmmm... what else wears that color of paint?... (gears are a tickin)... where to get an FB?... hmmm, E-bay seems a little overpriced... and my LHS does have a Hasegawa F-111E kit that has been sitting forlornly overlooked on the shelves for many years (and a lot cheaper than E-bay)... I wonder how tough it would be to convert to an FB?  Geez I'm a glutton for punishment sometimes!

 

Actually, it wasn't really that tough.  All of the Hasegawa kits already include the round window for the astro-tracker on top of the nose, I just had to use some flat sheet styrene cut to the right shape, drilled a hole in it, back-plated the hole and sunk it all into the top of the nose a bit... faired in on the sides with some filler and had the astro-tracker hump completed.  For the longer extended wings, I had an old AMT F-111F laying around that wasn't going to get built, so I hacked the wing-tips off of it and glued them onto the ends of the Hasegawa wings.  This took a little bit of grinding down with my Dremel to get the proper thickness as the AMT wings were much thicker at the tips than the original Hasegawa ones.  I raided my Hasegawa F-111C as a pattern to get the dimensions correct and get all the proper panel lines rescribed in this area so that it looked like it came out of the box that way.  The boat-tail between the after-burners was an interesting prospect, but not too terribly tough.  I spent a lot of time pouring over on-line photographs and pics in my references, figuring out how I was going to trim the bottom rear portion of the boat-tail to angle it up and rebuild the fuel dump pipe and this took several different sized sections of Evergreen styrene rod and tubing to get the shapes all correct and filled/sanded with cyano... but the finished product came out pretty good and I think I got it close enough to the original piece that Hasegawa included with their true FB kits.  The wing pylons are the regular Vark pylons that come in the kit, but they've had their forward tips lengthened with sheet styrene.  The instrument decals and HUD options in the F-111E allowed for the FB cockpit to be done out of the box, so that was no issue.  The only other FB exterior specific difference to the E-model were the wheel hubs, but I could not find any proof that Hasegawa provided different wheels in their FB kit, so I used the stock wheels as there's not that much difference between the FB and the rest of the Vark line as far as their wheel hubs go.

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I decided to do the wings fully swept and this took a little bit of surgery, but thankfully Hasegawa provides guides inside the fuselage pieces to show where to trim for this option.  It wasn't the greatest fit, so careful filling and sanding was required to seal this area up tightly.  Getting the slats and flaps closed up on the wings was another adventure too, but it's doable.

Considering the lengths to which Hasegawa went to detail this kit, I'm surprised that they did not include decals on their decal sheet to replicate the RAM panels inside the intakes.  I drew these out in Corel and printed them with my lazer printer.  They're not perfect by any means, but look a lot better than plain white intakes.

I decided to paint it in the earlier SIOP scheme as it was more colorful than the later Dark Vark scheme of the 1980's.  The Dark Vark scheme was appealing since I don't believe I've ever seen a Vark model done in this scheme, but it's fairly monotone and I'm already planning to do my Aussie C-model in the all-over gray scheme and my EF-Raven in another all-over gray scheme... so another nearly monotone scheme just wasn't working for me amongst my Vark collection... SIOP it would be!

The Superscale decals for "Lucky Strike" were not complete as they did not include the blue stripe for the top of the vertical stab and the # 244 on the nose-gear doors.  The stripe was painted on clear decal film using Tamiya Blue and then trimmed out with an Xacto and applied.  The # 244 was done with my lazer printer.

In service, one of the standard armament options for the FB was tanks on the outer swivel pylons and AGM-69 SRAM's on the inner swivel pylons (and whatever was in the bomb-bay).  I initially had some reservations about whether I could do this load-out with the wings swept, but then I ran across a photo of an FB in this configuration in flight that proved that it could be done.  Makes for a tight fit of the SRAM's up against the fuselage sides though.  Special thanks to Mike Winn for some SRAM's out of his Testors B-2 kit, much appreciated Mike!

And there it is... a kit build totally motivated by a decal sheet, a bottle of paint and an overwhelming urge to modify a kit to a different variant, just because!  Now what else wears SAC Bomber Tan?......

Oh, and I haven't seen this discussed on any other on-line Hasegawa Vark builds, but I've found an error with Hasegawa's instructions to be aware of.  They show attaching the landing light (part Q6) to the forward strut (part A14)... but it should really be attached to the peg that sticks out of the side of part A6.

I'd like to close this article out by saying that the mission for which the FB was designed/tasked, was an intriguing, awe-inspiring and awesome endeavor... but thank God it was never asked to complete that mission and now they reside in museums as relics to the Cold War!

J.C.

  

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Photos and text by J.C. Bahr

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