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North American T-2E Buckeye ’40 years 363 SQN’

363 Training Squadron, 120 Training Wing, Hellenic Air Force, Kalamata Greece, 2021

T

he T-2 Buckeye is a jet trainer, built by North American Aviation, designed to replace the Lockheed T2V SeaStar (the naval variant of our familiar T-33) for the US Navy. About 600 units entered service beginning in 1959. The T-2 was a highly successful training aircraft. It remained in service witht the US Navy until 2004, when it was replaced by the McDonnell Douglas T-45 Goshawk.

In addition to the USA, two more countries, Venezuela and Greece have chosen the T-2 Buckeye for training their own pilots. In 1976 Greece began taking delivery of 40 T-2E Buckeye aircraft, a version based on the T-2C with differences in the avionics and the addition of underwing weapon mounting points. They continued using them for the next 47 years, until the end of 2023, at Kalamata Air Base, in the 362nd and 363rd Air Training Squadrons. Since 2024, their role was taken over by the new Leonardo M-346 Master.

The model

In 2009, TwoBobs Aviation Graphics commissioned Special Hobby to design and produce a 1/48 model of the T-2C. It was a small production (“short run”) kit with good detail but a high degree of building difficulty. The windshield and canopy were in Vacuum-formed form, while the cockpit was in a combination of plastic, resin and metal Photo-Etch parts.

Later, Special Hobby released two more versions under their own brand with vesions of US Navy, Venezuelan and Greek aircraft, on 2011 and 2012 respectively.

The model we are building here is the next, version updated in 2023 with the a new clear parts sprue frame, containing new, ejection molded windshield and canopy and new anniversary markings: one for a 1976 US Navy aircraft and one for a 2021 Greek T- 2E with markings for the 40th anniversary of the 363rd Air Training Squadron.

The kit costs around 45 euros. It should be noted that Special Hobby also now sells separately, for 5 euros, the new transparent parts frame, for those who have the older kit and want to replace the Vacuum-formed pieces. It is worth noting that you need to be extra cautious when handling the transparent parts. The plastic is very brittle and I ended up cracking BOTH the windshield and the canopy and had to buy extras.

Inside the hard cardboard box we find:

  • 5 plastic frames with parts in hard gray plastic.
  • 2 transparent plastic frames.
  • 1 metal frame with photo-etched parts.
  • 39 parts in resin.
  • 2 decal sheets with marking and labels.
  • 1 color 12-page instruction manual.

It is worth paying attention to the fact that the parts are not numbered on the sprue frames. The part numbers are only mentioned in page 2 of the instructions, which should be constantly referred to during construction.

The part detail is good, with fine engraved lines. The cockpit and seats are cast in resin with satisfactory engraved detail. The instrument panels and the hood handles are given in colour metal photo-etched pieces.

During assembly you need to be careful since there are a lot of large ejector pins present on all the big parts (fuselage, wings, control surfaces). None will be visible after the build is finished, however they all need to be cleaned up because they prevent proper contact between the parts.

Speaking of contact, care is needed since there are no locator pins at the joints of the pieces. Also the sprue gates (the contact points of the parts to the sprue frames) are large and care is needed when cutting them.

The decals included in the kit are printed by Special Hobby using the same method that Eduard has been using for the last few years. This means that after applying them to the model, optionally, we can carefully remove the carrier film so that they can look as if they were painted-on.

Finally, it should be noted that according to the instructions, in the Greek aircraft the elevators on the tail must be painted in camouflage colours. This is incorrect, as on this particular aircraft the entire tail section is painted black.

Building the kit

The construction started, as usually, from the cockpit. Its floor and vertical walls are made of plastic, while the rest of the pieces (side consoles, pedals, control sticks, seats, gunsights, etc.) are made of resin.

The resin parts were cut from their molding bases, with a fine saw, rinced with water to avoid dust that is hazardous to health. Next, the side consoles and pedals were assembled. All parts were primed with GSI Mr. Surfacer 1500 – Black and then painted with GSI Mr. Hobby Dark Gull Gray Fs36231 (H317).

The side consoles and instrument panel covers were painted with Tamiya NATO Black (XF-69). The switches were highlighted in white using the dry brush method.

After everything was thoroughly dry, the cockpit was coated with Tamiya Panel Liner – Black to highlight the details and give it a more “used” look. Finally, the main, Photo-Etched, instrument panels were added.

The ejection seats were painted using GSI Mr. Hobby – Dark Gull Gray FS36231 (H317) and Tamiya – Olive Drab (XF-62). The ejection handles were painted in yellow/black stripes. After adding a couple of decals, the seats were set aside to be installed at the end of the kit construction.

The engine intakes and exhausts were next in order. The compressor and turbine blades were painted with AK Xtreme Metal – Dark Aluminum (AK480) and their details were highlighted with Tamiya Panel Liner – Black. In any case they will barely be visible in the end. The Engine intakes consist of 2 parts each. Once glued, they were dipped into GSI Mr. Surfacer 1500 – White to cover the joints.

The exhausts were also in 2 parts each. However they were misshaped and the part joins looked ugly. Since these were essentially 2 plain cylinders, it was easier to replace them entirely. I used my 3D printer to make 2 cylinders of the right length and diameter. Then I painted them with AK Xtreme Metal – Pale Burnt Metal (AK485) and went over them with Tamiya Panel Liner – Black for a more “smoky” look.

Before the fuselage was closed, I glued the cockpit to one half and added the intakes and exports. Then I had to add weight to the nose so the model would stand properly on its 3 wheels. The instructions ask for 10 grams of weight but just to be sure, I added 12 grams using small led fishing weights that I attached inside the nose with CA glue. Using the same glue – VMS FLEXY 5K CA BLACK THIN (VMS.CM11). I then joined the 2 parts of the fuselage. I preferred the CA glue it over the classic modeling glue because it also acted as a putty at the joints. With a little sanding after it dried, the joints were gone.

Moving on to the wings, before the 2 parts (top and bottom) are joined, the 2-part landing gear bay needs to be assembled. I deviated slightly from the instructions here. According to them, the base of the landing gear leg needs to be trimmed slightly in order to fit in the bay. Instead, I chose to drill 2 holes in the sides of the bay and insert the gear leg there. This way the join is much more stable.

Then it was time to join the wings to the fuselage. The wings have 2 tabs which, however, needed to be thinned with my scalpel because their dimensions did not allow them to fit into the corresponding holes in the fuselage. Even so, the wing-fuselage joint required a considerable amount of putty.

Finally, the ailerons and the flaps were installed. The first ones were put into a neutral position while the second ones into a lowered one. Then it was time for the tail control surfaces. The rudders also had to be sanded to fit into place. I preferred to put them in a neutral position to assist in the correct later application of the anniversary decals. The elevators were moved to a slightly lowered position. Here too, putty was needed at the fuselage join.

The next step was adding the engine intakes. The fit was bad and a lot of putty and sanding was necessary.

Next came the landing light, just in front of the nose landing gear. Special Hobby supplies a round clear plastic part for the light and a metal PE part for the rim. However, the hole that the clear part has to fit into is too small! I enlarged it as much as I could with the biggest drill I had but that wasn’t enough. I took an alternate route: I fixed the metal Photo-etch rim over the hole and then created the clear lens using a drop of Humbrol ClearFix.

The last part to be added before painting the model was the windshield. I used the Special Hobby masks to cover the transparent sections and then glued it in place. That is when I saw for myself what I had already read on the net about this part: it has a “step” in the front, near the join with the fuselage that does not exist in the real aircraft. I carefully sanded the “step” as much as possible without affecting the transparent parts using 240 and 400 grit sanding sticks. Before I did that, I protected the transparent sections using 2-3 extra layers of masking tape. The result is not perfect but at least the shape is not as wrong as before.

The cockpit opening was covered with masking tape and BlueTak and the model was almost ready for painting. The last remaining task was to rescribe the panel lines that were erased after sanding the joints.

Painting the kit

Initially, the windshield was masked, and the frame was painted with Tamiya NATO Black (XF69). The canopy frame was also painted with the same colour, after it was first masked (inside-out) with the Special Hobby masks. The leftover black paint in the airbrush was used to apply a thing layer of paint over the joins. This revealed some flaws in a few places (fuselage spine, engine intakes, wing-fuselage junction).

These were fixed and the model was ready for the first coat: sprayed all over with GSI Mr. Surfacer 1500 – White. The same colour was applied to the legs of the landing gear and its doors, the wheels and the arrestor hook.

Then, some pre-shading was done, using Mr. Paint Black (MRP-005). The same colour was used for on the nose, the tail, the engine intakes, lip, the walkway marking on the root of the wings and the external fuel tanks. All these were masked off to be protected from the next steps.

Then the underside of the fuselage and wings were painted with Mr.Paint SEA Camo Light Gray FS36622 (MRP-104). The same colour was painted on the exterior of the landing gear doors and the inner sections at the top of the Flaps that are visible when they are fully extended.

The whole underside of the model was then masked off and then the upper part of the aircraft was painted in the South-East Asia colours scheme. My initial thought was to use BlueTack for the masking but then I thought I’d try something else: I photocopied the painting instructions page, enlarging them to 1/48 scale. I then used the photocopy to make masks, using yellow masking tape (Tamiya 40mm).

The first colout to be sprayed was Mr.Paint SEA Camo Brown FS30219 (MRP-103), without masking, just roughly following the kit instructions.

The brown surfaces were masked off and the pre-shading with Mr.Paint Black (MRP-005) was repeated on the leftover areas. Next, I sprayed the next colour, Mr.Paint SEA Camo Green FS34102 (MRP-102), again roughly following the instructions.

The process (masking, pre-shading, painting) was then repeated with Mr.Paint SEA Camo Dark Green FS34079 (MRP-101).

After the masks were removed, the necessary minor corrections were made by free-hand spraying the edges using the 3 colours (brown and 2 green) of the SEA scheme.

Following that, using 4 main colours, mixed with a small amount of Mr.Paint White (MRP-004), various panels were highlighted.

After I was satisfied with the result, the landing gear legs were added, but without their doors. Next, the landing gear (legs and doors) were spray-painted white using Mr.Paint White (MRP-004), after re-masking the lower part of the aircraft around them. The oleo struts on the legs were painted using a Molotow Liquid Chrome 0.1mm fine marker.

The arrestor hook was masked off and the stripes were painted using Mr. Paint Black (MRP-005). The wheels were painted with GSI Mr. Hobby- Tire Black (H77). The main wheel rims were painted white, using MR.PAINT – White (MRP-004). On the contrary, the front wheel rim was painted red using MR.PAINT – SIGNAL RED BS537 (MRP-184) as I had seen pictures of this particular aircraft online with a red wheel. The hook and the wheels were also set aside to be fitted at the end.

Decals and weathering

After everything was left for a day do dry, it was time for a gloss coat, before the decals. VMS Varnish HD GLOSS (AX15G) was used for this purpose.

A couple of days later, the decals were applied. Application was very easy, assisted by the classic pair of Microscale’s MicroSet and MicroSol. While I was applying the decals I noticed that their protective film looked thick and wide. Normally I would try to trim it around the edges of the decals but in this specific case I did not bother because the film can be removed after the decal application.

As mentioned at the beginning, the decals are manufactured similarly as the latest Eduard decals: the carrier film can be removed after the decals have been applied to the model. This eliminates silvering and helps to give them a “painted-on” feel. I have tried this before, with excellent results on the Eduard decals that I used for my last F-4B Phantom build.

For this build, I followed the same method. After I let the decals dry for 2 whole days, I used a pointy tweezer to VERY CAREFULLY peel off the carrier. Once again, the trick worked and I did not have to worry about the decals’ appearance.

The decals were sealed with a coat of VMS Varnish HD MATT (AX15M) before the weathering process. This mainly consisted of an application of a clay wash. Once again I used Flory models Wash – Grime (FMW008). I applied it all over the model – except the anniversary decoration on the tail – and let it dry for 30 minutes. Then I used (a lot of) moist cotton swaps and paper towels to remove most of it. The wash helped to highlight the panel lines. Furthermore, as it was applied over a matt finish, wiping it did not remove it completely but left a slight patina adding to the well-used look of the plane.

Final touches

Finally, it was time to add the final details: the wheels and the landing gear doors, arrestor hook, antennas and lights and the canopy. By the way, the rod of the canopy opening mechanism provided by the kit is a bit too short, resulting in a half-opened canopy. I kept its base but replaced the rod with a lengthier piece of plastic rod.

Impressions and last thoughts

This was not a trouble-free kit to build. It required “special” attention at several steps. However, it is a unique subject and I think that in the end it was worth the effort.


The finished model


Products Used

KitBoxScaleCode
Special Hobby T-2 Buckeye ‘Anniversary Markings’1/48SH48231
Special Hobby T-2 Buckeye Injected Clear Parts1/48SH48231-9
Special Mask T-2 Buckeye Inside/Outside Mask1/48M48018