1:72 Lockheed F2V-2P «Shooting Star»; aircraft “PP 15 (BuNo 121782)” of the U.S. Navy Composite Squadron Sixty-One (VC-61; «Eyes of the Fleet»); on board of U.S.S. Boxer (CV-21), Task Force 77; Yellow Sea, mid 1951 (Whif/Modified Airfix kit)

+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!

Some background:
The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). Designed and built by Lockheed in 1943 and delivered just 143 days from the start of the design process, production models were flying, and two pre-production models did see very limited service in Italy just before the end of World War II.

Designed with straight wings, America’s first successful turbojet-powered combat aircraft, it helped usher in the "jet age" in the USAF. The US Navy was also keen to enter the jet age, so several P-80A Shooting Stars were transferred beginning 29 June 1945, retaining their P-80 designations. At Naval Air Station Patuxent River, one Navy P-80 was modified with required add-ons, such as an arrester hook, and loaded aboard the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt at Norfolk, Virginia, on 31 October 1946.
The following day the aircraft made four deck-run takeoffs and two catapult launches, with five arrested landings, flown by Marine Major Marion Carl. A second series of trials was held on 11 November. The tests were passably successful, but the P/F-80A C was not a very suitable carrier aircraft. Even with the arresting hook and the bridle attachment points it still lacked a lot desired for carrier operations: No wing fold (greatly hampering parking on the deck and below in the hangar deck, and elevator handling), not protected against the salt water environment, not optimized for low speed handling around the carrier, and perhaps most troublesome it did not have a structure robust enough for sustained carrier operations.

In parallel, the U.S. Navy had already begun procuring its own jet aircraft, but the slow pace of delivery was causing retention problems among pilots, particularly those of the Marines who were still flying Vought F4U Corsairs. To increase land-based jet-transition training in the late 1940s, 50 F-80Cs were transferred to the U.S. Navy from the U.S. Air Force in 1949 as jet trainers. Designated TO-1 by the Navy (changed to TV-1 in 1950), 25 were based at Naval Air Station North Island, California, with VF-52, and 16 assigned to the Marine Corps, equipping VMF-311 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. These aircraft were eventually sent to reserve units. The success of these aircraft led to the procurement by the Navy of 698 T-33 Shooting Stars (as the TO-2/TV-2) to provide a two-seat aircraft for the training role.

Concerning the single-seat fighter, the US Navy was by late 1948 impressed (or desperate) enough to order a navalized version of the F-80C, with an uprated J-33-A-35 engine, an ejection seat and fitted with 260 US gal (220 imp gal; 980 l) tiptanks. This became the F2V, which addressed many of the early carrier trial shortcomings. For instance, the wings were modified with folding hinges at about half the wings’ span, and tanks in the outer wing panels were deleted. This structural weakness precluded the carriage of the F-80C’s large tip tanks, though, so that smaller, integral tip tanks were added to the wing tips. Internal structure and landing gear were reinforced, externally recognizable through a slightly higher stance of the aircraft on the ground. An arrester hook was added under the rear fuselage as well as catapult launch cable hooks under the air intakes. For better low-speed handling the flaps could be lowered more strongly than on the F-80, and slats were added to the outer wing panels. In order to provide the pilot with a better field of view esp. during carrier landings, a bigger and taller teardrop canopy was fitted, with a raised position for the pilot. The armaments consisted of six 0.5" machine guns with 300 RPG, plus underwing hardpoints fo up to eight inch HVARs or two 1.000 lb bombs, similar to the USAF’s F-80C.

In 1951, immediately after the first F2V-1s had been delivered and sent to Korea, a second order for an upgraded variant was placed. Basically, the F2V-2 did not differ much from its predecessor, it was just outfitted with a slightly uprated J33-A-35A engine and the internal armament was changed to four 20mm Colt Mk. 12 cannon with 100 RPG in the nose. 32 F2V-2s were ordered, plus 12 additional F2V-2Ps, an unarmed photo reconnaissance version which had a similar camera nose as the RF-80. The standard equipment included a K-17 camera with a 6" lens and two split vertical K-22 cameras with 24" lenses. While the F2V-2P did not carry any offensive capability anymore, the underwing hardpoints were retained for photo flash cartridge dischargers, allowing a limited night photography capability.

USAF F-80Cs as well as USN F2Vs saw active combat service in the Korean War and were among the first aircraft to be involved in jet-versus-jet combat. They flew both air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties, claiming several aerial victories against North Korean Yak-9s and Il-10s. But despite initial claims of success, the speed of the straight-wing F-80s was inferior to the 668 mph (1.075 km/h) MiGs, and the heavier F2V fared even worse. A further problem of the F2Vs was their poor resistance against sea water-related aircraft wear. Even though Lockheed had tried to save the airframe and the internal systems from higher humidity and salt exposure, corrosion and electrical defects plagued the aircraft during its whole career, which was relatively short. The fighters were soon replaced by the more capable Grumman F9F Panther, and type that had been from the start been designed as a naval aircraft and was built by a company with more experience in this field of work.

When sufficient Sabres were in operation to counter the MiG-15s, the Shooting Stars flew exclusively ground-attack and photo reconnaissance missions. For the latter task, 20 surplus F2V-1s were modified in field workshops to F2V-1Ps. These were basically of the same technical standard as the F2V-2P, but retained the weaker engine. In fact, by the end of hostilities, the only Shooting Stars in USAF and USN service still flying in Korea were photo-reconnaissance variants. After the Korean War, the F2V fighters were quickly phased out, just the photo reconnaissance versions were still flying in reserve units, but were also soon replaced by Grumman Panthers and Douglas Banshee recce variants. By 1958, all F2Vs were already retired.

Lockheed’s experience with the F2V was not futile, though. The USN’s persisting need for a carrier-compatible trainer led to a further, more advanced design development of the P-80/T-33 family, which came into being with the Lockheed designation L-245 and USN designation T2V. Lockheed’s demonstrator L-245 first flew on 16 December 1953 and production deliveries to the US Navy began in 1956.
Compared to the T-33/TV-2/F2V, the T2V was almost totally re-engineered and fully optimized for carrier landings and at-sea operations. This included a redesigned tail, naval standard avionics, a further strengthened undercarriage (with catapult fittings) and lower fuselage (with a retractable arrester hook), power-operated leading-edge flaps (to increase lift at low speeds) to allow carrier launches and recoveries, and an elevated rear (instructor’s) seat for improved instructor vision, among other changes. The T2V eventually had a much higher ability to withstand sea water-related aircraft wear from higher humidity and salt exposure.

General characteristics:
Crew: 1
Length: 34 ft 5 in (10.49 m)
Wingspan: 40 ft 9 1/2 in (12,45 m) incl. tip tanks
Height: 11 ft 3 in (3.43 m)
Wing area: 234.8 sq ft (21.81 m²)
Aspect ratio: 6.37
Airfoil: NACA 65-213
Empty weight: 9,273 lb (4,210 kg)
Gross weight: 14,392 lb (6,534 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 17,280 lb (7,846 kg)
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0134
Frontal area: 32 sq ft (3.0 m²)

Powerplant:
1× Allison J33-A-35A centrifugal compressor turbojet with 4,900 lbf (22 kN) dry thrust
and 6,100 lbf (27.2 kN) with water injection’Allison J33-A-24/24A turbojet,

Performance:
Maximum speed: 590 mph (950 km/h, 513 kn) at sea level
Maximum speed: Mach 0.75
Cruise speed: 439 mph (707 km/h, 381 kn)
Range: 825 mi (1,328 km, 717 nmi)
Ferry range: 1,380 mi (2,220 km, 1,200 nmi)
Service ceiling: 46,800 ft (14,300 m)
Rate of climb: 6,870 ft/min (34.9 m/s)
Time to altitude: 20,000 ft (6,100 m) in 5 minutes 30 seconds
Lift-to-drag: 17.7
Wing loading: 51.3 lb/sq ft (250 kg/m²
Thrust/weight: 0.364
0.435 with water injection.

Armament:
No cannons installed
Underwing hardpoints for up to 2× 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs, but typically left empty or outfitted with photo flash
cartridge dispensers for night photography

The kit and its assembly:
This build is another submission the "In the Navy" group build at whatifmodellers. in early 2020, and it was a spontaneous decision, following the discussions under a "F-80 in USN service" thread elsewhere in the forum (.whatifmodellers./index.php?topic=33956.0).

I remembered that I had an Airfic F-80C in the stash, and the idea was born to build a kind of a missing link between the USN’s purely land-based TO/TV-1 and the later, dedicated T2V-1 carrier-capable trainer.
I wanted the modified Shooting Star to stay close to the land-based original, but with some upgrades. These included foldable wings (hinted at with profiles on the upper wings surfaces, hiding the respective joints), a raised cockpit in the form of a new/bigger canopy (from a Hasegawa F9F Panther, with an added dorsal fairing) and a modified landing gear. For the latter, the main gear was taken over, but I raised the main legs by maybe 2mm — not much, but I wanted a rather stalky, Skyhawk-esque look that conveys the upgraded landing gear. For the same reason I replaced the front leg with a leftover donor piece from a Matchbox A-4M — it has a different construction and is also longer, so that the F2V now had a nose-up stance for a better angle of attack when launching from a carrier. I contemplated and actually tried a fin fillet, but found after hardware trials that this, together with the more bulbous canopy, totally ruined the F-80’s elegant lines, so it went off again.

An extra of this conversion is the camera nose, taken from the Heller T-33/RT-33 kit, a straightforward mod because the same nose was also mounted onto the RF-80C photo recce variant of the Shooting Star. However, once again the challenges of body transplants on model kits should not be underestimated. While, in theory, the RT-33 nose should have been easy to graft onto the F-80 body, it was not. While the dorsal area would fit quite well, the lower shapes, esp. in front of the air intakes, differ considerably between the models. I assume that the Airfix F-80C is slightly too narrow/sleek at its front end. Integrating the different nose necessitated some serious PSR, and while the parts do not match as good as one might have suspected, the outcome looks fine and I am happy that I now have "something different", not just a standard fighter.

I also wanted to add wing tip tanks, but neither the early underwing tanks that come with the Airfix kit, nor the large tanks from the T-33 — I found them both to be too big for a carrier-borne aircraft. Finding suitable donor parts was not easy, though; initially I dug out a pair of leftover tip tanks from a Matchbox T-2 Buckeye. which are pretty slender, but they eventually looked too modern and streamlined for an aircraft from the early Fifties. I tried some further mods but eventually rejected them. The final choice became a pair of underwing drop tanks from a Hobby Boss MiG-15 that lost their fins.

Painting and markings:
Once more, a conservative approach. While the real TO/TV-1s of the US Navy retained their bare metal finish with black markings, I gave the T2V a classic all-blue livery, because I thought that it would suit the elegant lines of the F-80 well.

The F2V was painted overall in FS 35042 (from Modelmaster), later treated with a black ink wash and some post-shading. The interior surfaces of cockpit, air brakes and landing gear wells were painted with an individually mixed zinc chromate green, consisting of Humbrol 80 and 159 in a roughly 1:1 ratio. The silver wing leading edges were created with decal material, a more convenient solution than trying to mask and paint them. The landing gear struts and wheel discs were painted in aluminium (Humbrol 56).

Decals and markings were puzzled together. The "Stars and Bars" come from an Artmodel F8F Bearcat, as well as the "Navy" tag on the fuselage. The VC 61 markings come from a Hobby Boss F9F Panther, and I added some F-80/T-33-specific markings from various aftermarket sheets. The red highlights on nose and fin were done with paint (Revell 330), framed by thin white decal strips. The ranging radar was framed with similar material, just in silver.

Even though I considered opening the camera windows in the nose and glazing them, I left them closed, since a lot of lead had to be hidden inside for a proper stance. Instead, the windows were simply filled with black, clear paint, for a glossy finish. The rest of the aircraft was sealed with a mix of matt and semi-gloss Italeri acrylic varnish, which turned out duller than hoped for — but I left it that way.

A relatively simple project — or so I thought! The rhinoplasty was more complicated than expected, the wing tip tanks became a trial-and error odyssey and the different landing gear and the canopy were also not without trouble. The resulting fictional aircraft is very subtle, though — even more so through the standard USN livery, which suits the Shooting Star VERY well and might onlookers mislead to see a Fifties Banshee or a Panther. The F2V just blends right between these types.

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