Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |

Scratch built 1/32 scale
Grumman XF5F-1

by Frank Mitchell

Grumman XF5F-1


 HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron 





I suspect that many modelers would list this airplane among their favorites, if not for its unique configuration, then for its attachment to the comic book capers of the Blackhawks, a fictional group of pilots who had great adventures while doing Good Works.

The aircraft began as a proposal from Grumman to the Navy, which issued a contract for the one-and-only prototype in June, 1938. The aircraft, designated as the XF5F-1, had a span of 42 feet and was powered by two contra-rotating 1,200 horse power Wright Cyclones.

Like most prototypes, the aircraft went through a variety of modifications to address the difficulties that appeared. For example, the Skyrocket was overweight, showed some structural weakness in the landing gear, and suffered from engine overheating (interestingly, the left engine always ran hotter than the right). These and other problems eventually led to the addition of an extended forward fuselage, extended fuselage nacelles, spinners, and other alterations. The Navy test pilots loved the torque-free engines and praised the prototype’s general flying qualities, but did complain about a lack of visibility in some conditions.


The Skyrocket was certainly not the failure that many people thought, and maybe still think, it was. In 1941 it took part in a fly-off against the Spitfire, Hurricane, P-40, P-39, Airabonita (navalized P-39), XF4U Corsair, F4F Wildcat, and F2A Buffalo. The analysis of all the data definitely favored the F5F, with the Spitfire coming in a distant second. The officer commanding the trials noted that the XF5F simply pulled away from the Corsair on a climb to 10,000 feet. However, given the world situation at the time and other problems including more difficult construction and the need to acquire more parts for the twin-engined configuration, the Navy settled on the Wildcat for its fighter production.

The XF5F-1 had a long life of over 5 years during which it was used to gather data for what would become the F7F Tigercat. In addition, it led to the construction of the XP-50, a version planned for the USAAF which, after being destroyed in a crash early in its career, was not further developed.

It was adopted by the fictional Blackhawks in 1941 and remained a part of the story until 1949. The artist of the strip, Charles Cuidera, changed the configuration as time wore on to include in-line engines and a single vertical tail.

The Model

I had long thought about doing a Skyrocket. After all, it was a prototype and was a bit weird in appearance, both alluring to me.

Besides, it looks cool.

Therefore, after about 40 years of thinking about it, I decided to take a shot.

I had gathered a lot of information over the years on the airplane, but pretty much all of it recently appeared in the Ginter book on the Skyrocket. One problem was that none of the several sets of plans I had (including a set of original Cleveland model plans) were without some problems, so I ended up using a combination of several of them plus a few additions based on just looking long and hard at every picture I could find (a strategy I strongly recommend).



Construction, Painting and Markings


The techniques used in the model were essentially the same that I use for all my models and which you are probably sick of hearing about, so I will just hit the high spots, and let the photos tell the story.


Basic construction was balsa molds vacuum-formed using .030 styrene. The wood was left inside for strength and to make the attachment of wings, tail, nacelles, etc., much easier. Landing gear was made from brass and aluminum tubing, and the engines were a set of Vector Cyclones. The props came from some long-forgotten model that ended up in the scrap box. The wheels, along with some photo-etch and a number of other small pieces, came from a friend’s derelict Revell Wildcat. The canopy was formed from clear vinyl over a carved balsa mold covered with two coats of 30-minte epoxy that was sanded and polished.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


The model represents the aircraft in its second configuration, which involved cleaned-up cowlings, modified prop “spinners”, wing fillets, and modified landing gear doors.


Although it took great restraint to not apply Blackhawk markings, the paint finally used was Gunze, covered with Future. After Yellow Wings stars were applied, the wing was again coated with Floquil Flat Finish (it was just too shiny).

Still one of my all-time favorite aircraft.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2007 by Frank Mitchell
Page Created 23 May, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

Back to HyperScale Main Page