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A Hypothetical Gunfighter in 1/48
McDonnell F3H-G Spectre

by Tory Mucaro


McDonnell F3H-G Spectre


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In September of 1952, the US Navy issued a Request For Proposals for a new carrier based day fighter to all the major aircraft producers. Of those designs submitted, the most viable were the Grumman XF11F-2, the Vought XF8U-1, the North American ďSuper FuryĒ and the McDonnell F3H-G. Of these, the Navy selected the XF8U-1 and the F3H-G to proceed to the design mock-up phase.

In May of 1953, the Navy selected the F3H-G as the winner of the competition and the prototype first took to the air in February of 1955. Powered by two Wright J-65 engines and armed with four 20 mm cannons, the F3H-G was destined to become the Navyís last gunfighter.



Performance figures exceeded the Navyís requirements with a top speed of mach 1.5 at 30,000 feet and mach 1.2 at sea level. It had a rate of climb of 28,000 feet per minute and a landing speed of only 100 knots. Dubbed the Spectre in keeping with McDonnellís tradition of naming their aircraft after supernatural beings, F3H-Gs entered squadron service in December 1956 with VF-84, which was later deployed aboard the USS Forestall in July of 1957.


The Model


Okay, so thatís not how it really happened, but it makes for some interesting conjecture.

The F3H-G did exist as an actual aircraft proposal however, and went as far as a full size wood mock-up. But the XF8U-1 eventually won out over it and went on to become the Navyís last gunfighter. As for the F3H-G proposal, it directly led to the design of the XF4H-1, which went on to become an aviation legend, the F4 Phantom II.

So why not build a model of what the F3H-G might have looked like had it gone into production, I thought. After all, it is a significant part of the development of the F-4 Phantom. And more importantly, my model club had decided to do a Phantom group build, so in a way it would qualify. And I hadnít done a major conversion since the last model I finished, so I was due!


I decided to start with the Aurora Phantom kit, as it is probably the closest thing in 1/48 scale to the XF4H. And besides, what else could you do with an Aurora Phantom, honestly? I found a line profile as well as a couple of photos of the F3H-G mock-up in the Squadron book on the F3H Demon and based my model on that. Some of the major changes that need to be made:

  1. The fuselage needed to be extended behind the wing, and shortened ahead of the wing.

  2. The intakes needed to smaller.

  3. The cockpit needed to be converted to a single seat layout and the canopy needed to be shortened.

  4. 20mm canon openings needed to be added to the forward fuselage.

  5. The vertical stabilizer needed to be completely scratch built, as it was just too different to modify the kit part.

  6. The horizontal stabilizers needed to be re-shaped and mounted flat, without the anhedral typical of F-4s.

  7. Wing tip dihedral needed to be eliminated.

As I was working towards a deadline for the group build, I decided to dispense with a cockpit interior and black out the canopy. I also decided to build the model in flight so as to avoid having to deal with landing gear (and besides, it looks better that way, as do most aircraft models!). The photo of the model taken prior to paint shows to good effect most of the modifications.



Painting and Markings


The model was finished with Krylon (yes, thatís right, Krylon) flat white for the undersides, Model Master Gull Gray for the uppers. The natural metal surfaces are Model Master Jet Exhaust, Krylon (there it is again!) Bright Silver, and Tamiya Gun Metal. The Canopy is finished in Odds N Ends brand Gloss Black. The nose and anti glare panel are Krylon (what does this guy have stock in that company?) Ultra Flat Black. The silver leading edges were done with a Tamiya Silver paint marker, a very easy way to do this I might add. The model was then coated with Testors Gloss Coat in preparation of the decals.


The markings were generously supplied by my good friend Pat Hawkey, who incidentally seems to just love to contribute to my off-balance modeling adventures.

The early VF-84 markings were chosen as it seemed likely that this aircraft, had it actually existed, might have worn them. They are a combination of Microscale and Aeromaster sheets.

After the decals were applied, the model was given a final coat of Polly Scale Flat. The radome was then shined up a little with a coat of Future. The weathering was done with various shades of gray colored pencils and Floquil Grimy Black airbrushed. It should be noted that no pre- or post-shading of any kind were applied.

The display stand is Philippine mahogany with clear acrylic rods heated and bent over a form for uniformity.





So thatís it. And now that I went through all this trouble of scratch building one of these, itís just a matter of time before one of the major kit companies issues an injection-molded kit.

Yeah, right!



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2005 by Tory Mucaro
Page Created 17 February, 2005
Last Updated 17 February, 2005

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