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Northrop F-89H Scorpion

by "Bondo" Phil Brandt


F-89H Scorpion

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Bondo's 1966 navigator class at Mather AFB, CA had among its fledgling Magellans two Iowa Air Guard troops--one of 'em, Don Armington, eventually rose to head the Iowa Air Guard--who were going back to Des Moines to fly (until 1969!) in the back seat of one of the oldest aircraft in the USAF inventory, the Northrop F-89J Scorpion. When we laughingly taunted them about their antique flying machines, they'd come back with the comment that it was "the world's most stable weapons platform" Having long ago stood on those gigantic wings at the Florence, SC Air Museum, I guess so!

The F-89H, last new-build version of what was one of the earliest USAF all-weather interceptors, featured huge wingtip pods that each contained three AIM-4 Falcon missiles, twenty-one folded-fin, unguided rockets and fuel! Begun in 1957, the H's Regular Air Force operational life was to be a short one, and H models were heading for Air Guard service as early as 1958, having been supplanted by the J-model and the new F-102. The 75th FIS in Presque Isle, Maine, one of the last active duty units to fly the type, soldiered on with the H until mid-1959. The black-and-white checker-boarded wingtip pods of the 75th are perhaps the most distinctive of all Scorpion units.



The Model


I've always had a soft spot in my modeling heart for the efforts of perhaps America's best known Homeboy model producers, Revell and Monogram. For at least twenty-five years, they set molding and complexity standards for kits of USAF subjects, and even in today's "Golden Age of Modeling" many of their subjects are still unopposed in the marketplace. The F-89D/J is one that has stood the test of time, albeit with fine, raised panels.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment to the 1991 kit is Black Box's release of an excellent resin interior upgrade set.

I always liked the visual complexity of the Falcon-equipped H models and started the scratchbuilding conversion from the Revell kit years ago, well before Fox Three in Fort Worth produced their resin H conversion set.


The entire airframe was sanded down with 400 grit and rescribed; a short sentence to describe a much more drawn out procedure! Then, you'll need serious balancing weight in the nose.




I had already finished painting the stock Revell tub and seats when the BB interior set was released, but since BB had taken pains to accurize all aspects of the cockpit, especially the incorrect Revell portrayal of the left side of the rear crew position, I started over, keeping only the Revell rear instrument panel/radar scope which, although representing the D, was very close to that of the H.

Weapons Pods

The H pods are somewhat longer than the D and have a different nose contour. I formed the revised nosecones from some scrap external tank noses and added A&B epoxy putty. Lengthening plugs were cut from another F-89 kit. Door openings were cut out and flooring added to each of three compartments per pod. Compartment doors were scratchbuilt, with added door interior detail.



Note that the small, forward doors fold inward; the larger aft ones open outward. My many references (Aerofax, D&S, Squadron) show very few, if any, details concerning the compartment interiors and the Falcon launchers, so I 'cannonballed' Monogram F-106 launchers and AIM-4s. The pods were relocated slightly forward on the wings due to the lengthening plugs.





Natural Metal Finish

After many iterations of Blue Acryl, Mr. Surfacer, wetsanding (stepping up gradually from 400 to 8000 grit) and gray lacquer auto primer, Bondo's old standby, Alclad II, did the NMF honors. Dural Aluminum, Dark Aluminum, Magnesium, Jet Exhaust and a coupla customized shades gave a desired, 'busy' airframe surface, whereas just one shade over all that wing area might have appeared boring.

Next, the future Insignia Red areas were masked (luv that Tamiya yellow tape!) and first shot with flat white undercoat to brighten the many red coats that followed. At this point Bondo really 'stepped on it' because at every interface of red and NMF was a slightly visible, hairline white layer...and although others didn't think it was a big deal, the builder did! Sooo, it was remask time, keeping the tape just a micron out from the existing white and red layers. One more thin red coat covered the hairline white layer, and Bondo started smiling again.


The weapon pods shared the same white undercoat as the airframe, and the black and white checkers were created with good ol' Tamiya tape and the Iwata. Note that by 1958 the H models of the 75th FIS had given up the flashy overall pod/tail checker scheme of their D models (as seen in the nice Revell 1/72 Scorpion kit) and had settled for a more maintainable, checkered "slash" along the pod sides.

After masking and airbrushing the canopy frame, a U-shaped canopy-mounted antenna was created from decal paper and sealed with a dip in Future. The windscreen needed some fairly precise puttying to blend with the fuselage base.

Rather than the initial orange-colored missiles, I invoked artistic license and elected to do the AIM-4s in the later, red-and-white scheme as carried by Deuces and Sixes. The red-and-white is much busier, especially with proper decals (markings copied from pix in D&S Deuce book), and the scheme coordinates nicely with the overall Scorpion colors nicely.

So sue me!



By 1958 the vertical fin was by then overall red, minus the black and white checks, with a circular squadron logo in black and white. The squadron logo was digitally copied from the Squadron In Action book color centerfold, enlarged and jetprinted on decal paper. Some black touchup paint was applied to the areas surrounding the shark.


The shark's mouth on the bottom of the forward fuselage is from an old aftermarket decal set (Repli-Scale SP002), and the stylized eyes (seen in an Aerofax pic of a 75th H bird) were improvised from decal paper. The actual shark's mouth on the H is slightly different from the decal (meant for the 75th D) but at this point Bondo was tired and chose to invoke the "Close Enough for Government Work" rule. At least it was from the same squadron!





A long term (five years on and off) project, to be sure, but Bondo never tires of the colorful USAF jets that filled the skies in the Fifties and Sixties.



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Phil Brandt
Page Created 12 March, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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