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Forgotten War Mustang - F-51D in Korea

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I've always been fascinated by the Korean War.  It was a bloody conflict that in many ways was a precursor to Vietnam, with the majority of the folks in the US (unless they had a father, husband or son serving) paying little attention to it.  This was in stark contrast to WW2 where the entire nation was involved and engaged in the war effort.   Another interesting thing was that the equipment used was mix of cutting edge technology and WW2 leftovers.   


Specifically regarding WW2 leftovers, we have the F-51D Mustang.  5 years before, the Mustang was the F-22 Raptor of WW2.   Arguably the best fighter of that war (especially when you factor it's amazing range into the equation), in Korea this thoroughbred was simply an expendable bomb truck.  Many aircraft lost their puttied wings, which provided a few extra MPH due to laminar flow, many others lost even more performance when the USAF opted to lock it's tailwheel in the down position to reduce maintenance issues from mud and ice building up in the tail gear bay.    In the end, performance no longer mattered and these once cutting-edge aircraft were simply fed into the operational squadrons, used until lost or scrapped and then replaced by others. 


The aircraft were no longer waxed and polished for maximum performance, instead, they were left outdoors in truly horrible weather conditions and apparently, little effort being made to clean them.  Part of this was probably due to the tempo of missions.  Instead of flying long range escort missions maybe once per week as they did in WW2, weather permitting, these Mustangs often flew 3-4 times per day.    This tempo also took it's toll, Mustangs (and their pilots) were lost at a horrific rate.  Many have argued that the Mustang had no place in this conflict as a close air support aircraft, due to it's light construction and especially it's liquid cooled engine.  The underside of the Mustang was a maze of coolant piping and a single rifle round in this area would result in the Mustang being lost as it's critical engine coolant rapidly leaked out.    The P-47 would have been a much better fit but in the cold logic of warfare, it was determined that there were more Mustangs available, so these aircraft were pulled from state-side ANG units and sent to war again.  That being said, these aircraft and their pilots performed heroically under extremely challenging conditions. 


The F-51 was basically just a re-designated P-51 with a few changes.   There are some threads in the General Discussion Forum that go into much greater detail but a few things differentiated these aircraft from their WW2 counterparts -   All F-51D's had mounting points for 6 x 5" HVAR rockets.   Many (possibly all) had the battery relocated from behind the pilot to the engine compartment and in these cases, a cooling air scoops as added to the side of the fuselage.   Many (but certainly not all) had "cuff-less" propeller blades.  Many (but certainly not all) had additional radios and IFF gear mounted behind the pilot, on top of the fuselage fuel tank.  Many (but not all) had the putty removed from their wings during rebuilding at USAF maintenance depots prior to being sent overseas. Lastly some also had cooling louvers retrofitted on the fuselage sides, behind the wing root.     I think those changes pretty much cover it.  I'll provide more details and some illustrations once I get into the build. 


Moving onto the model, at this stage I think I'll be replicating Little Beast II, a hard-serving F-51D assigned to the 12th Fighter Bomber Squadron in mid-1952.  Not 100% sure on this, got plenty of time to figure this out.  Here she is taxing out for yet another combat mission.  She's armed with a standard load of 2 500 lb bombs and 6 HVARS (the other standard loadout consisted of two napalm tanks and 6 HVARs) and appears to have her tailwheel locked down.



For this kit, I'll be using the Tamiya Pacific Version P-51D kit, along with AIMS Korean War Mustang decals (sadly, I believe these are the only decals of Korean War markings out there, another indication that Korea is still the "forgotten war") and a bunch of Barracuda resin upgrades.  I'll provide details on all the AM bits later. 


My biggest concern is going to be the NMF finish on these aircraft.   I've always struggled with this and in the case of these Korean War birds, it's going to be compounded by trying to replicate the extreme weathering they were subjected to.  Here is a great example:




Note the high degree of filth and also note how dull and weathered the metal finish is.  Looks more like dull, grimy grey instead of the shiny, immaculate finish seen on most WW2 Mustangs.  The pic above also does a nice job of showing those cooling louvers retrofitted behind the wing root and the additional radio gear behind the pilots seat.   If anyone has tips for replicating this type of finish, please let me know!!


Anyway, that's pretty much it for now.   One last note - this is going to be a looong build.   I'm inherently lazy and my modeling time is always limited.  I'll post updates when I can.  


Thanks for looking!


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Here are all the bits I'll be using.   




The Pacific version of the Tamiya kit has a few extra bits that will come in handy for this kit. In looking inside the box, as with the F4U-1D I just completed, I'm in awe of the quality of this kit.  The surface detail is truly amazing, the instructions are first rate and quite honestly, you could build a truly wonderful Mustang right out of the box.   If anyone has yet to build one of Tamiya's recent 32nd scale aircraft, you really have to treat yourself.  You won't regret it.  


All that being said, I decided to splurge on this project.   I added the following resin from BarracudaCast:


P-51D Cockpit Upgrade - this smallish set includes a superdetailed K-14 gunsight, control stick, throttle quadrant, battery (getting tossed since on the F-51D, the battery was moved from behind the pilot to inside the engine compartment), radio (I need to verify the type, hopefully it will be the same one used on "my" Mustang) and a few other small bits.  


P-51 Mustang Diamond Tread Tires - a very cheap upgrade.  Fantastic quality and much better than the vinyl ones used in the kit.  


P-51 Instrument Panel - a nice mix of PE, resin, and instrument decals.  Each instrument bezel is a separate PE piece.  Gonna have hours of fun here!  I'm not entirely convinced this set offers a marked improvement over the kit parts.   I'll study them closely before making a final decision on using it.  


P-51D Mustang Cockpit Sidewalls - just what the label says.   Looks to be a nice improvement over the kit parts and they include a late style radio controller which looks to be a nice fit for the one "my" F-51D would have had.


For decals, I've got the aforementioned AIMS F-51 Korean War Mustang set.   I'm not completely thrilled with this set.  For one, they neglected to provide the spinner polka-dots for the  RF-51D option, so the modeler is left with the very fiddly task of punching out decals or masking and painting a dozen or so dots on the curved surface of the spinner.  They also only provide the teeth for the sharkmouths of two other subjects.   The red mouth itself has to be masked and painted.  Someone less of a PITA but not what I would have expected.   Oh well, given it's the only set of large scale F-51D decals being offered, beggars can't be choosers. 


Lastly, I've got the Barracuda P-51 cockpit decal set.   Approx 50 tiny decals that accurately represent every warning label and placard used on the real thing.   I used these on "My Nel III", my F4U-1D Corsair project and I have to say - they make a huge difference.    I really wish Barracuda would offer these for other models.  Once you see how a cockpit looks with these installed, you don't want to go back to a sterile, unmarked cockpit again.  Those decals went on surprisingly easy, they are highly recommended. 



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Here is my tentative radio set up for my Mustang.  It's got the late WW2 fit of the old SCR-522 radio and the IFF unit, with the addition of a BC-453 receiver which I think was used for navigational purposes.  Although the picture posted of Little Beast doesn't show the BC-453, according to what I read, there was a pretty aggressive program to update Mustangs, so I think there was a good chance this might have been added at some point during the war.  It'd be nice if someone offered a resin update kit for late Mustangs that included this rig but instead I'll have to scratch build the radio and it's mount.  I think it's do-able but if for some reason I tank it, I'll just go back to the original configuration. 


I'll try to keep you posted! 


FSX P-51D/F-51D BC-453-B, SCR-522, and SCR-695 Radio Installation (Post-WWII)


BTW, the picture above came from a very interesting Flikr site.  This guy has a wide range of illustrations showing all the arcane differences found in D-model Mustang cockpits.  Didn't know there were so many variations.  Worth checking out for those interested in the subject.   https://www.flickr.com/photos/34363610@N08/with/30496690655/

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Before I show you the pictures of my limited progress,  - allow me to rant about Mustang cockpits.  Unlike the F4U-1D Corsair I just built, D-model Mustang's had huge number of cockpit variations.  Often Mustangs on the production line next to each other had different cockpit radio fits.  All depends on what NAA had available that minute. 


To complicate things further,  Korean War Mustangs had a wide range of cockpit and radio upgrades.  Some were stock WW2, some had a mix of WW2 and newer components and some had all the WW2 radios / IFF gear replaced with newer items.   To make things more confusing, radios were upgraded in the field.   I'm aiming for a middle ground, with a newer radio but everything else WW2 vintage.   As a point of comparison - below is a WW2 P-51D-5 Mustang cockpit.  It's got the basic radio controls, plus it has the AN/APS-13 tail warning radar added (the control panel is directly under the canopy crank and the silver alarm bell is seen low on the sidewall, beneath the pilot's O2 hose).  This radar was a pretty interesting (and very sophisticated at the time) bit of kit.  Unfortunately it had a high number of false alarms and many WW2 pilots simply turned it off to eliminate the distractions. 


FSX Warbirdsim P-51K-5-NT Cockpit


 Here is the general cockpit layout I'm shooting for, I'm going to make a couple of small changes but this is pretty close.  Only exception is that my pit will be overall black.

FSX Warbirdsim Post-WWII P-51D/F-51D Cockpit With BC-453-B Receiver



This has the tail warning radar removed (as did nearly all Korean War Mustangs), including the alarm bell.  The control panel is still in place but most of the switches and controls have been replaced with a blank sheet metal plate.  The newer radio control / IFF panel is mounted directly in front of the pilot's oxygen hose.   It also has a navigational radio control head mounted under the now unused tail warning radar control panel.   In some WW2 versions, this controller was either deleted entirely or was mounted on the cockpit floor, directly under the pilot's right leg.  


For those interested in such a mundane subject, this guy's Flikr page is a great resource on Mustang cockpits.



Lastly, with regard to general appearance, here is what I'm striving for:




This is an original F-51D cockpit (This Mustang is on display at the USAF Museum, externally it is fully restored to represent a WW2 P-51D but they left the cockpit untouched).  How many shades of black can you count?  I also like the bits of green still showing on the stick / sidewalls and the original green seat.  Note also the extremely worn floorboards.  Most of the black non-slip coating is worn away, leaving nothing but bare, unfinished wood.  


So that's it for Mustang Cockpits 101.   Building update to follow.

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Awesome background discussion and reference pictures 11Bee!  I just finished up my Eduard P-51 cockpit and so I am feeling very tuned in to what you are about to do.  I also used the Barracudacals stencils and loved them.  I will be watching your build with interest! 



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Hahahaha. Using the DCS Mustang for reference shots. Nice touch.


I too love the F-51 in Korea. Interesting adaption late in life. 

Still have wanted to WHIF a F-47N in Korea markings, but only a dream. 

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Thanks guys!  As far as DCS, I'm amazed at the fidelity of those cockpits and exterior details.    Especially those cockpit shots.   Haven't found a better source that documents all the changes that occurred thoughout the D-model's production run.


Anywhoo...  I'm using the Barracuda resin cockpit upgrades.  Their resin is first class and the price is right!  First off are the cockpit sidewalls.   As noted, I used a few of the Tamiya parts to replicate the cockpit configuration of my subject.   None of the smaller bits are glued on yet, need to get through the painting and weathering stages so I don't end up breaking anything off.  Got some ejector pin marks and a glue smudge but none of that will be visible once the cockpit is completed.  




Got a lot of small parts that need to be added to the port side.



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Anyway, I've done a bit of painting.  As noted - I'm trying to get my cockpit somewhere close to the F-51D example I posted above.   I started by painting everything interior green (the original NAA base color).  After it set up for a day, I used the hairspray method, followed by a custom coat of MM Interior black with a splash of flat white.  I've got a long ways to go but here is my starting point for the cockpit:



Note that the circular punch mark towards the rear of the cockpit won't be visible when the model is fully assembled. 



A couple of areas above are scuffed by the "hairspray" process.  Not to worry, they will be addressed as I move forward with the painting / weathering.  I plan on highlighting some of these components with darker black shades, per the original pictures above. 


Cockpit floorboards.  Again, very much a WIP.  The sharp contrast between bare wood and the rubberized non-stick paint that NAA used will be toned down once I start final painting.  



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Got a bit more done with the cockpit.   Started to paint some of the finer details on the sidewalls, added some paint scratches with a silver artist's pencil.  Got a few more small bits to add, then we shoot the sidewalls with Tamiya X-22 and start adding all those Barracuda decals.  Once I get those on and add the remaining parts and some additional wires, I think it will look sufficiently busy.  After that, shoot it with some dullcoate, add some pastels and we'll be good to go (hopefully). 



On the floorboard assembly, I continued with the painting and put down some pastels for a first coating of grime.  Much more work to be done here. 



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Shot the interior sidewalls with a coat of Tamiya X-22 gloss (this stuff is great, I'll never bother with Future again) and started applying the cockpit decals.   For those who might be intimidated by a hundred or so microscopic decals like these, don't be!   All I use is a set of locking needle-nose tweezers (critical for this type of work) and microset / sol.    The decals go on great, even over the lumps and bumps present in the cockpit.  To be honest, after using these decals on my "Dark Blue Killer" F4U-1D and now the Mustang, I will be hard-pressed to go back to another kit that Barracuda doesn't offer these decals for.   The really add that much to making a realistic looking cockpit.   Far as I know, the only other kits they currently offer cockpit decals for are the Spitfire and Mosquito, so I guess my next build will be one of those.


Anyway, here are a few shots of my current progress.  They definitely help break up the monoton-ish black.  I think things will be looking even better once I add the last plastic bits, dullcoate the assembly and then do my final weathering.   We'll see.....









Added most of the decals to the port sidewall, also added the pilot's O2 hose and emergency canopy jettison handle to the starboard side.   They add a bit of color to break up the overall black.   Next up will be the dullcoat and final weathering.   Still have some small parts to add to the sidewalls but I'm holding off until the cockpit is complete.   Much too easy to break them off during the final assembly.






Keep in mind, these pics tend to highlight some small imperfections.    Once the cockpit is sealed up, things are going to be ok (at least that is what I tell myself)!

Edited by 11bee
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2 hours ago, Falconxlvi said:

Nice!  You’re working fast!

Lol.  I wish.  I started this build over on LSP a month ago and then decided to repost over here.  I’m one of the slowest builders on the planet.   I’ll have the additional posts up here on ARC tonight and then I’ll be all caught up.   

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A bit more progress to share..  I opted for the Barracuda resin seat with cast-on seat-belts.  Nothing that wrong with the kit parts except that the Tamiya PE harness is extremely thick.  I typically prefer resin seats with the harness cast in place.   I think the belts look more flexible and natural vrs PE which always seems to be a bit stiff looking. 


The Barracuda resin one is exquisitely detailed and Barracuda thoughtfully provides decals to replicate the "US Army Air Force" stencil on the seatback cushion (may actually be a survival pack, I'm not sure).  As an example of their attention to detail, they also give you a "US Army Air Corps" decal as well, in case you are modeling an earlier vintage Mustang.  They also provide the stitching for seatbelts.  All this for around $10.  You really can't go wrong with any of Barracuda's stuff. 


Although in concept the seat should be black since the rest of the cockpit was repainted this color, going with my reference pics above, they show an interior green seat.  No idea if the seat wasn't painted during the refurb process or at some point in that F-51's career the original was damaged and replaced with a WW2 vintage seat.  Either way, I want to add a bit of color to my cockpit.  The seat was painted Interior Green, the cushion a mix of testors gloss yellow with a bit of brown added.  The leather headrest was Testor's Chocolate Brown, with a dry brushing of progressively lighter tan colors to replicate a decade's worth of wear and tear. 


I then mounted the seat assembly to the cockpit floor.  To this part, I added Barracuda fuel gauges (cockpit space was at a premium in the Mustang, so NAA simply installed the gauges in cutouts in the floor boards.   I then gave these decals a dollop of Tamiya gloss to replicate their glass covers.  I also added tiny placards for the hot air control knobs that are inboard of these fuel gauges.   After this, I continued weathering.   Unlike most aircraft these F-51D's were filthy.   Lots of dirt and mud on those Korean airfields and some of it would end up getting tracked into the cockpit by the hardworking pilots and maintenance techs.  Weathering is still a work in progress.   


Anyway, enough text, here are a few pics. 









In looking at these pics, I think I'll hit the seat back with a black-ish wash to accentuate some of the wrinkles in the cushion.  Keep in mind as well, the entire seat assembly will also get dull-coated, so don't worry about the shiny cushion or harness.   Thanks for looking!

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So I finally had a few minutes of down time...    First off, I added a few more bits to the cockpit sidewalls and then shot everything with dullcoate.   All in all, I'm pretty happy with the way things look.  Last steps will be to do some weathering, via dry brushing and pastels to further tone things down (especially some of those placards) and then add the final small bits like throttle handle and a few fragile levers.   After that, I'll call these parts done.


I think I'll also add a black wash to the tan signal flare holder.  



"50 shades of black"



Next - I also dull-coated the seat.   Still going to add some more dark-ish wash to the seat cushion.





Finally, the instrument panel.   I originally planned on using the Barracuda IP.   It's a mix of resin and PE.   After a great deal of thought, I passed on using pretty much all of it.  Although the PE avoids the "tunnel effect" of the Tamiya IP (using the kit parts as instructed results in the instrument decals being set extremely deep into the panel face), I wasn't happy with look of the Barracuda PE.   They provide each instrument bezel as a separate PE part and once assembled, it just looked rough.   


As I compromise, I decided to modify the Tamiya IP.   The kit part requires that you glue a clear plastic piece to the back of the plastic IP.  To the back of the clear part, you add a decal with the instrument faces.  The end result is that the instrument dials are set very far back.  What I did was to glue the Barracuda printed instrument faces directly to the back of the Tamiya instrument panel.  I'll then sandwich it with the modified clear backing part. 


This serves three purposes.  First off , the dial faces now are nowhere near as deep.  Secondly, by using the Barracuda dials, they are much more detailed than the crude Tamiya decal.  Lastly, the Barracuda dials are just black print on clear film.   You need to paint behind them to add color to the dials and numerals.   This is a good thing.  The Tamiya decals (and pretty much every other aftermarket product like Eduard, etc) are white on a black base. Only problem is that pretty much all US instruments used dials and numerals coated in a yellowish-green phosphorescent paint.  Refer to the picture of an original F-51 cockpit posted in the beginning of this log.   I mixed up some yellow, green and white to replicate this.  I then shot the panel with a gloss black with a few drops of white added and added the necessary Barracuda decals.   Can't say enough about these, they really rock!  After that,  I dullcoated the panel and lightly dry-brushed with a medium grey.   I then picked out some of the switches in various colors.  Finally, I attached the instrument film with some Future so it wouldn't obscure the dial faces.


Sorry for the long-winded description, I hope some of you find it helpful.    Here's the semi-complete IP.   I still need to add the last few dials, some switches and figure out if I'm going to use more Future for each of the IP faces, or just leave them as is.    Note that a few of the markings got skewed when I applied them over raised switches.   Not much you can do about it but once the whole cockpit is assembled, they shouldn't be that noticeable.  


Thanks for looking, Happy Friday guys!

Edited by 11bee
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Question for all the master modelers.   Any thoughts on how to weather decals.  Specifically see below:




The "USAF" marking and the aircraft number are both heavily worn & scratched.    I think I can replicate some of the scratches using a silver artist's pencil but I'm curious what your thoughts are on how to replicate the fading and peeling.    One of my pet peeves is looking at pictures of exquisitely weathered models with immaculate decals all over them.   


BTW, this is another great reference showing how nasty looking these hardworking birds got over there.  

Edited by 11bee
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Hey 11bee,


By no means am I a master modeler, but I have an idea about replicating the wear on the markings. What about painting them on and sanding through to the paint underneath? The USAF should be easy enough to mask. If you protect the NMF with a clear coat then spray on the markings with super thin passes, you might be able to use fine sandpaper or steel wool and rub off some of the covering paint. Sort of like I did with the prop blades of my Corsair and the rotors on my Cobra.






Just a thought. 




Edited by oortiz10
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3 hours ago, oortiz10 said:

Hey 11bee,


...What about painting them on and sanding through to the paint underneath?...



That was going to be my suggestion.  Getting those stencils should be easy enough.

Edited by Slartibartfast
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More work done on the sidewalls.   First off, I added the throttle handle from the Barracuda set.  The throttle handle provided range information to the K-14 gunsight, via it's twist-able handgrip.   As a side note - The F-51D used the K-14 "Acemaker" gyro gunsight.  Introduced at the end of WW2, it was a pretty slick device.   It automatically computed the lead required for challenging off-angle deflection shots.  All the pilot had to do was to use a the roller grip on the throttle to reduce or enlarge the circular reticule on the gunsight to just fit the wingspan of the enemy aircraft.   The gunsight would then automatically compute the required lead and then the pilot just had to keep the reticule centered over the bad guy and pull the trigger. No more having to guesstimate how much lead to pull.  Not too shabby consider this was in the pre-computer days!   For those interested, here's a flight sim video that shows the K-14 in action.



Anyway, getting back to the model, Barracuda provides a very nice K-14 throttle grip which I added to the sidewall quadrant.   Last bits to add to the throttle will be the cables that connect it to the K-14 sight and some linkages. 


Anyway, back to the sidewall weathering.  Using a well sharpend silver artists pencil (another new item I just started to use, it's great for replicating fine scratches),  I added some scrapes and scratches to the sidewalls.  Also scratched up some of the placards, as shown in the original pics (thanks for the tip USMCHerc!).   


Next step was to hit the sidewalls with tan pastels to replicate the Korean dust that got into every part of the cockpit.   The pastels do a good job of toning down the last of the shiny placards and cockpit fittings. 





Pretty much done with these bits.   Next step is to finish the IP and then start working on the stuff behind the pilot's seat. 


Thanks for looking! 

Edited by 11bee
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Thanks Brett.  You can't go wrong with those decals.  Even a klutz like me can install them!  Just takes some time but it's well worth it.  


On to the the IP.   I'm really happy with the way the instruments came out.  Much better than if I followed the Tamiya instructions.  I added the last of the film dials, modified the kit clear plastic part and glued it in place to secure everything.   Then I added the prominent red fuel tank selector switch at the bottom of the panel (this was a Barracuda part), picked out some more switches and knobs in various colors and pretty much have called the IP complete.   I then moved onto the rudder pedals.   The kit parts are ok but Barracuda provides amazing PE bits that you burnish in place over the Tamiya rudder pedals.   They faithfully replicate the NAA logo that was present on each of the pedals on the real thing.  No idea how Barracuda can do PE this detailed!


I did the IG/hairspray/black thing and then drybrushed with some silver, added pastel for the dust effect and think this bit is now done!   Sorry for the horrible pictures but it looks pretty good in real life, trust me!






In looking at the pics, I think I need to hit the IP with some brown pastel to tone down the placards at the base of the panel.  They just look clean for the rest of the cockpit.   I'll add it to the list....

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