Friday, January 12, 2018

USAF F-4's and Their Perplexing Lack of Sidewinders...

Several days ago, I took to the Facebook page to post about United States Air Force F-4 Phantoms in South East Asia. Within the post, if you haven't read it yet, I pointed out that over the years I have seen many a USAF Phantom model built representing an F-4 that saw service during the Vietnam War. Further, those models tend to show the aircraft loaded with bombs and AIM-9 Sidewinders on the inboard pylons. Though this seems like an innocuous observation, I also pointed out that I have never seen photographic evidence to suggest the United States Air Force ever loaded their Phantoms with AIM-9's and bombs on the same pylon.

Box art depicting what so many modelers build. Note the AIM-9's above a TER full of Mk82 500 lb bombs.
Generally, my modeling mantra is "never say never" as there is usually at least one image a person can dredge up from the bowels of the internet to prove their case. In this instance, however, I have run into a brick wall. If you scroll through the responses on my Facebook page, you will read a number of former maintainers and operators who say with much certainty that their Phantoms were, indeed, loaded with Sidewinders and bombs. Given so many responses, I returned to the internet and applied the strongest Google-fu techniques I learned from a Shaolin Monk in Central China...and still came up empty.
Now, far be it from me to deny or argue with the accounts of service members who were actually there but still, something does not seem to add up. At this point, I feel like I have seen just about every photo of an F-4 that flew during the Vietnam War era and while I did not find exactly what I was looking for, I found some interesting images and some thoughts to go with them.

Can the comments be wrong?

I hesitate to say that that many guys are incorrect, regardless of whether or not their memories are from events that took place over fifty years ago. As a service member myself, and one who manages a combat-history related blog, I rely heavily upon the knowledge of my fellow brothers who have experienced what I have not. 
Several weeks ago, I posted an image of a TA-4J loaded with Rockeyes and AIM-9's. One reader commented that I was incorrect, that the aircraft was an F model, not a J seeing as how it had five weapons stations. So again, I turned to the knowledge of the group and the response was that it was, in fact, a J model TA-4 and that the TA-4J's out of VC-10 did operate with such loads. With that account in mind, it would be hypocritical of me to have believed the collective for one instance, but disregard it in this case.
So what is the deal? If so many guys say their Phantoms were loaded in such a way, where are the pictures?

Maybe they misunderstood?

Perhaps I did not phrase the question appropriately. Many of the responses simply referenced Sidewinders and bombs being used together but made no mention of them being on the same pylon. Of note is this picture I found during my hunt.

In this photo you can see the F-4 has a pair of AIM-9B's on the right wing's pylon and an ECM pod below them. On the left wing, you can make out a Triple Ejector Rack with at least one M117 750 pound bomb attached but there are no AIM-9's or even launchers on that pylon.
So, in this case perhaps my question was misunderstood. As you can see, yes, USAF F-4's did integrate Sidewinders and bombs during operations over Vietnam. But these are not on the same pylon. 
To make matters more interesting, I even found photos of USAF Phantoms with bombs loaded on pylons and empty LAU's mounted above them.

Is it even possible?

Of course it is, integrating bombs and Sidewinders was a configuration the Navy and Marines used quite often in SEA. Images of which are easy to find...

We know that the USAF, early on, used the Navy style pylon and TER adapter making this configuration possible for their Phantoms as well. Never the less, I have yet to see it.

M117 bombs on Navy style pylon, TER and adapter but no launchers.

Napalm on Navy style pylon, sans launchers.

AIM-9's on Navy style pylon, but no bombs...

The best I have...

Out of all the searching, the best I could come up with are several photos of USAF F-4 loaded with bombs and carrying AIM-4's on pylons rather than AIM-9's.

So we know in the very least that it was acceptable, at some point, to operate Falcon missiles on the same pylon as air to ground ordnance during the Vietnam War.

So is this a conflict of USAF vs USN doctrine?

It could be. There appears to be no logical reason based on equipment or photographs to suggest there is any difference between what Air Force Phantoms and their Navy counterparts were capable of. Perhaps this boils down to technical regulations or service-based preference.  
Both the Navy and the Air Force extensively test weapons and specific configurations on their aircraft before they are ever fielded in combat. Programs like Seek Eagle ensure the safe carriage and employment of ordnance used by USAF aircraft. There is a possibility that during testing, personnel discovered scenarios where operating AIM-9's on a pylon loaded with bombs did not meet the tolerances enforced by the Air Force. Of course, I don't know, this is merely conjecture.
However, while writing this post I discovered evidence supporting this suggestion. 

From The Aviation Forum comes this quote from user Transall:
 ...there may have been a different SOP in the USAF compared to the USN. A look in Don Logan's book about the 388th TFW in 1972, reveals that if the TER's were on the underwing pylons there were no Sidewwinders or their launch rails.


I do not own Don Logan's book though I suspect I will be hunting in down in the not too distant future. Though I cannot verify the veracity of the statement, it does explain the issue that I have come up against here. The fact that it plays into direct conflict with the claims made on my Facebook page means that more research is going to have to be done on my part before I can say anything with certainty. Perhaps a photo of such a configuration simply does not exist but I would not count on that being the case. The Vietnam War was well documented and if such a load were quite common, as it was in the Navy, the probability of an image coming to the light proving its existence is great...I just haven't found it.

If you have anything to add to this quest, I implore you to do so. Start a discussion in the comments section below and let's all figure this thing out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Where Have I Improved?

It's always around about this time that the model-verse is chock full of posts celebrating the end of the year and all of the plastic and resin and photo-etch and blood, sweat, tears and dollars we've assembled to replicate a little airplane or tank or God knows what.

We look back on the year and reminisce on the kits we've added to our dusty display shelves. Well, I should say, not me. At least not this year. No, this year the Republicans in Washington accomplished more than I have but I think I show more promise. Though I have nothing to show for what little work I was able to put in during the last 365 days I have certainly gotten better in some aspects.


Between a deployment to the Republic of Korea, a change in work schedule and just juggling life as a husband and father, time was hard to come by in 2017. Previously, if I was pressed for time it would have effected my modeling negatively. I would have scrounged all the available minutes I had and try to finish as much as possible in those moments. Of course, this meant that quantity would go up but quality would suffer as I rushed through builds just so I could stock my shelves, get to the end of the year and say, look at what I've done!

That doesn't fly with me any more. I have changed my attitude to modeling. I think the catalyst for change has been my focus more so on the Facebook page and this blog rather than the need to put plastic together. It has given me the ability to remain in the hobby without having to do any modeling, or at least, model at my own pace. Now when I am able to return to the workbench, I use the minutes wisely, seeing each step and technique all the way through.

And that has led to even more improvement...


There was a time when the thought of having to take a sanding stick to a canopy was terrifying. Not this year. With the added patience I was able to sit down and truly focus on properly removing a canopy seam. A year ago, I might have had the mind to either leave the seam or I would have completely butchered the canopy as I sped through the process.

On the left is the 1/32 Academy F-16 canopy that I carefully sanded and polished. It is not perfect but you can see how it compares to the extra canopy included in the kit at right. The seam runs right down the middle.

Sanding Seams

Of course, if you can handle a canopy seam, you should be able to handle any gap or seam on your model. Fixing gaps and seams was an area I always struggled with both in technique and in motivation. I'd get to a point where I would say good enough and move on. These days I have taken on the issue by exploring new fillers and the best way to use them. Right now, I particularly like the "sprue goo" I have created by dissolving extra sprue bits in plastic cement.


This was always an issue. I do not have a dedicated work space and don't have the room for any kind of photo studio as some of you are lucky enough to have. I also do not use a DSLR camera but rather utilize my phone. This year, however, I purchased a small collapsible light box and it has improved my photography greatly.

The photo on the top was taken about two years ago versus the one taken this year with the new set up on the bottom. Again, my techniques could still use even more improvement but it's much better than it was, that is for sure.

Though many modelers might find the lack of production disappointing, I am walking away from 2017 full of motivation and optimism. If not for the slow year I had, I would be stuck in the same rut of routine and self-sabotage, finishing kits just to finish them. This past year gave me time to think about what kind of modeler I want to be and 2018 is wide open for me to capitalize. 

This has been posted in response to January's Sprue Cutter's Union topic. To see what other modelers are saying about this topic, follow the links below:

Would you like to join the Sprue Cutters Union? It is simple. All you need is a passion for scale modeling and an outlet on social media to talk about it. Click here for more information about joining the SCU and this month's topic. I look forward to calling you a party member!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sprue Cutters Union 2018: Where Have You Improved?

It's back!

Consider this the third triumphant return of the once vaunted blog carousel known across the modeling universe as the Sprue Cutters Union. While you may be skeptical about its potential after being gone for so long, history has shown that threequels can be successful. Just look at Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Rises, or Michael Jordan. I assure you that the SCU will rise to its former glory and if you're new here I promise you will not be disappointed.

What is the Sprue Cutters Union?

Simply put, it is a way for a community of bloggers to generate traffic both for their own website and to their internet counterparts. Once a month, at least, scale modelers across the world write about a shared topic that I generate here and we promote each other's responses in order to introduce new readership to our blogs and pages. 

How does it work?

At the beginning of each month, I will announce a topic here on The Combat Workshop. Any scale modeler who operates a social media account, be it a blog, Facebook page, group, YouTube channel, etc, may feel free to respond to the topic via their preferred outlet. The writer must be sure to respond to the topic by the end of the month. Once the article has been published, the writer must post a comment on the topic page for that month which includes a link to the article on their site.

If a response comes via a Facebook page, the writer should be sure to include the hashtag #SprueCuttersUnion and I recommend tagging The Combat Workshop in it as well. This way I do not miss anything. Hopefully.

As the responses come in, I will share them via The Combat Workshop Facebook page and then at the end of the month all contributions will be gathered into a final post and published here.

Are there rules?

Not really. However, the purpose of this is to a) discuss a common topic that we are all interested in, and b) drive traffic to our respective sites. So how do we do that? Each participating blog should include links to their fellow bloggers' responses who have contributed to the topic for that month. While this is not a rule, it is highly encouraged. The modeling community thrives on participation so the more we share each other's content, the better.

Why are we doing this again?

I've run a blog for five years now and believe me, generating good content can be difficult at times, especially for those who aren't blessed at writing. This is a great way to foster new ideas and promote discussion about various topics in the modeling community.
Even if you're the next Shakespeare, it doesn't mean any one is reading your material. Contributing to the community will ensure that your work will gain new exposure outside of the readership you have already developed. Traffic to your site may increase as more links back to your blog are created.

No matter what your motives, its another creative outlet for you as a modeler to participate in. Most modelers that I've encountered are outspoken about the hobby so the SCU is the perfect venue to pull up your soap box and spout your plastic espoused values across the interwebs.

Join the Party!

We don't have cookies or a cool pin for your lapel. I can only promise fun and good writing. There is no fee, all you need is an online presence. You should follow this blog or the Facebook page to ensure you do not miss the monthly topic or the contributions of your fellow modelers. Here is a list of sites who have already taken the pledge of loyalty to the Sprue Cutters Union.

The Topic!

Now that that bit of administration is out of the way, let's get down to business. I realize we are at the end of the month and Christmas is upon us so we are pressed for time. No worries. This topic will be the first of 2018 and will not be due until the end of January.


Remember, there is no write or wrong...answer the topic in the best manner you see fit. Be sure to leave a link to your response in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from all of you again!