1/48 Brewster Buffalo "Pacific Theater" model kit

Product # 61094

Product Article by Mike Yeo




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 Saratoga.

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 Used in the defense of Burma and Singapore, the Buffalo was overmatched by the Japanese and eventually withdrawn from service.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.

Click on 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 year.

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 versions.

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 were for

- 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 modelers:

- 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 required putty

- 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.


Photos and text © by Mike Yeo