Recognizing in 1936
that the day of the biplane flying off carrier decks was ending, the US Navy
sent a proposal to manufacturers specifying a monoplane configuration, wing
flaps, arrester gear, retractable landing flaps and an enclosed cockpit.
Brewster’s design, the F2A,
featured all-metal construction except for fabric control surfaces, a Wright
Cyclone piston engine (allowing the plane to exceed 300 mph), four fixed machine
guns and attachments for two 100 pound bombs. In June 1939 the first of 54 F2A-1
production planes was delivered, the first nine sent to equip VF-3 aboard USS
By late 1940 the Navy was
receiving the F2A-2,
an improved version with a more powerful engine, better propeller and built-in
flotation gear. Unfortunately the plane was overweight and unstable, especially
compared to the Japanese Zero, and would soon be replaced by the Grumman
Wildcat. But not before a disastrous mauling in the hands of the USMC at the
Battle of Midway, where land-based F2A-3 Buffalos, although relatively
successful against the initial wave of Japanese dive- and level-bombers, were
all but massacred at the hands of their A6M Zero escorts.
About 200 land-based
versions were bought by the British, who called it the Brewster Buffalo;
they were sent to the Far East in an attempt to free up Spitfires and Hurricanes
in Europe. Used in the defense of Burma and Singapore, the Buffalo was
overmatched by the Japanese and eventually withdrawn from service. In fact, the
only successful combat enjoyed in the Far East was the 100 Buffaloes of the
Netherlands East Indies Army fitted with a larger (1,200 hp) Wright engine. Only
by maintaining a high altitude and diving suddenly out of the sun were the Dutch
able to defeat the Zero in Java and Malaya.
A significant user
of the Buffalo was the Finnish Air Force. Though unloved by the British,
Australians, Americans, Belgians and Kiwis, 44 Buffaloes were flown by the
Finnish LLv24 Squadron, and the aircraft was beloved and found to be very
effective in the hands of its Finnish pilots. No fewer than 12 pilots became
aces in Buffaloes, and the aircraft is remembered fondly by many.
images below to see larger images
The Brewster Buffalo was one of Tamiya's first forays into
1/48 scale, first appearing in the 1970s. The initial offering included parts
and decals for a USN F2A-2 as well as the export B-339s of the RAF (actually,
the decals were for a RAAF machine) as well as a Dutch aircraft. This version
went OOP for quite a while and Tamiya released a pure USN F2A-2 kit (# 61031) in
the early 1990s, omitting the parts for the export versions while prices for the
original release went through the roof , leaving modelers who wished to build
export versions with paying collectors prices or getting aftermarket parts and
decals to convert the (then) current kit into a B-339. Then last year, Tamiya
announced they were re-releasing the kit with the parts for the B-339. Lots of
excitement among my Singaporean modeler friends followed, and the kits were
snapped up at our favourite local shop when the kit finally showed up late last
Opening the box, one is greeted by 2 sprues of parts,
moulded in Tamiya's traditional dark grey. 2 other sprues contained the upper
and lower wings, along with one clear sprue which included 2 different canopies,
the telescopic or reflector gunsights. The parts were flash-free which was good
for a kit this age, while the panel lines were a mix of raised and engraved.
Examination of the kit revealed a pair of nasty ejection pin marks on the
cockpit rear bulkhead, and 2 small sink marks on the cockpit rear decking to
take care of. 2 pilots were included, a sitting USN one and a standing
Commonwealth pilot in tropical gear. Parts were also included for the tailwheels
for both carrier- and land-based versions, as well as different
propeller/spinner combinations and antenna configurations for the different
Decals were printed by Cartograf, and were thin and in
register in my example. They had included the white underlays for the 488 Sqn
Green Dragon and the Dutch unit insignia. A nice touch from Tamiya was that they
had included a set of masks for the canopy and the bottom window which would
save the modeler a lot of time in cutting out their own masks. Markings included
- 488 Sqn RNZAF based at Kallang, Singapore, Dec 1941 with a
flamboyant green dragon nose noseart.
- 67 Sqn RAF based at Mingaladoon, Burma, 1941.
- 2-VLG-V Dutch East Indies AF based in Java, Dutch East
Indies in early 1942 (this aircraft was also based at Kallang in Dec 1941- Jan
1942) with the Javanese Rhinoceros insignia of 2 VLG-V on the nose.
- VS-201 US Navy, USS Long Island (AVG-1), 1941
PS. I have already built this kit, and here are some notes for
- Fit is not very good compared with older releases of this kit
(mold shrinkage?). One side of the fuselage wouldn't align with the other. This
resulted in steps on the fuselage joint and the cockpit rear decking which
- The masks are great! Although not precut, a sharp hobby knife
would take care of that. And it REALLY saves time during canopy masking.
- Some inaccuracies of the decals, namely the 488 Sqn Green
Dragon appears only on the left side, and not both sides as shown.