Brewster B-239

Model review

Unfortunately there is not a good model in the market today of the Finnish Brewster F2-A1 ( Model 239 ) in 1/48 scale. The old Tamiya's kit depicts the F2-A2 being the only injection moulded kit in this scale. If you are going to make a model of a Finnish Brewster out of this kit you are going to take a huge challenge. I confess that I considered for a long time if I should start the whole project at all, because I thought the modifications were too difficult for me. But I wanted a Finnish Brewster B-239 model in my collection and the only way to get it was start building. Once I abandoned the whole project for a while when I was totally bored, but a bit by bit it finally completed. I tell only the main corrections and modifications that I made to the original Tamiyas kit, it would be a too long story to tell all the things. As a reference I used an article by Pertti Paasi in Pienoismalli-magazine in number 1/93 and Pentti Manninen's scale drawings in the same magazine. I didn't follow P Paasi's instructions scrupulously, in some cases I did things differently or didn't make any changes at all, because the impression to the overall look of the model would have been small.

The most important corrections which based on the scale drawings are the following. The fuselage has to be lengthen 5 mm, the addition comes to the nose section of the plane. The rear fuselage have to raise up 1 mm and lengthen 1,5 mm just at the last part of the canopy. The nose part of the model is too narrow, and you have to add 0,7 mm to both sides of the nose, height of the nose part is correct. You have to correct also the hinge line of the rudder little upright. The wings of the kit are quite good compared to the drawings, the wing profile is just little thin. Wing root is 1,5 mm and tip of the wing is 1 mm too thin. The shape of the wing tip is also wrong, top surface of the wing should be flat when under side bends toward it. Elevetors are too broad and thick. Wheel wells are too deep.

The width of the cowling is correct, but the upper and the lower surfaces are too oblique. The air intake of the oil cooler is a little too high and it has to bring down, so that it is possible to make the engine cooling air intake round at the bottom. The blisters of the fuselage machine guns have to be replaced too. Engine is quite good, I just added air deflectors which were made of paper between the cylinders. Exhausts are located in wrong places and they are wrong type, so they also have to be replaced. The diameter of the propeller is too big and the propeller blades are too wide for Brewster B-239. Spinner is also too big. Tailwheel have to be changed for the bigger one and the tail clevis have to change to covered one, a part which I took from Remi's vacuformed kit.

Because the fuselage was lengthened the original canopy was left too short. I used the Squadron's windscreen and the sliding middle part and the Remi's rear part instead of the original canopy. In the fuselage there wasn't a partition wall behind the pilots seat and it has to remove from the model also. I also added some ribs to the cockpit made of streched sprue and made a new seat which replaced the original one which was too small. Finnish Brewsters had the pilots armour which needs to be added to the model too. I used the original gauge face plate which I improved little. The interior of the front fuselage which can be seen from the wheel openings is missing. I added an oil tank, an engine rack and landing gears hydraulic cylinders in my model.

It's easy to guess that all surface details needs to be rescribed, both the fuselage and the wings. All the 44 ribs for the wings and rudders were made of stretched sprue and glued with cement. When the glue was dry I sanded them. The hand covers are made of paper. I zoomed the scale drawings to right scale and cut them one by one. Then I glued them to their right places with ca glue. After that I sanded down the hand covers so that only a thin glue layer was left over. It took from me some days and nights to get all of the 40 hand covers completed. I used Dymo tape as a ruler when I engraved the panel lines. There are two different thickness of the tape, the other is for electronic tape printer and the other for manual printer. It depends on the object which tape to use. As a carving tool I used a round pointed pen type carving stick. Its quite easy to get sharp panel lines by draging carefully the "pen" 5 - 10 times along the edge of the Dymo tape. After removing the tape the panel line has to be sanded with n:o 600 - 1000 sandpaper and at the end the panel line has to be cleaned with the point of the pen. The best thing with the Dymo tape is that it can be cutted to the right shape according to the plannings before it is fastened to the model.

When the surface detailing was ready I sprayed a base coat of Revell's matt white to the model. This makes visible all shortcomings of the surfaces and the detailing. After finishing the surfaces I repainted the model with matt white. Then I sprayed a pre-shading with matt black to all the panel lines. Next came the East-Front markings, yellow is XtraColor's X213. The Finnish air force Light Grey is X137 (Light Gull Grey) with a little white added. The FiAF Olive Green is mixed with Xtracolor's X155 by adding X209, Revell's middle brown and a little orange. The shade is a little more brown than the XtraColor's own FAF Olive Green, which is in my opinion, too bright green. The tone is almost exactly the same than the one I mixed at the end of the sixties, the recipe was based on the Ilmailu-magazine's modelling column, when I was building my first Revell's 1/72 Brewster which also can be seen in my modeling pages. In fact there was not exact definition to the color. The orange in the spinner is Humbrol 69 added with a little H19 and white, so I got the color that matched for the decals orange color. I took the FiAF swasticas (diameter 15 mm) from the Galdecal's sheet n:o 72-004 and the other markings came from the InScale 72's Brewster sheet.

Despite of quite difficult modifications and some small shortcomings of my Brewster model I am quite happy of the results. For a Finnish modeler and an aviation historian enthusiast the Brewster is MUST ! You can't pass by it.


History

The US Navy asked offers in 1935 of a new fighter which could replace the old Grumman F3F biplanes. Both the Brewster and the Grumman made a contract in November 1935 for designing the new plane. The Seversky Aircraft Corp. offered also the modified P-35 in 1937, it was already chosen by the US Air Force, but the Navy was not interested in it. In July 1936 the prototype XF2A-1 was ordered from Brewster, the first flew was 2.12.1937. The flying characteristics were excellent althought the performance didn't reach the demand. The plane was sent to the NACA's big wind tunnel for testing. Many changes were made after testing and the performance increased considerably, for examble top speed in 5000 meters rised to 490 km/h.

Evaluation with the Grumman XF4F-1 begun in June 1938 in Anacostia and ended when the Brewster was selected. Brewster got an order of 54 planes in June 1938. The serial production planes had the 940 hp R-1820-34 engine and one 0.50" mg in the fuselage and an opportunity for two 0.50" mg in the wings. The first production plane rolled out in the summer of 1939. By the mid December in 1939 the Navy had received 11 F2A-1 planes of which nine had gone to VF-3 squadron to the USS Saratoga. They were the first monoplane fighters in operational service in the US Navy. The rest production planes didn't went to Saratoga, they were sold to Finland.

The original prototype got the stronger 1200 hp R-1820-40 engine and also other modifications were made, eg. the nose was shortened to maintain the center of gravity in right place. The prototype which was marked as XF2A-2 had also better performance than it's predecessor, speed increased 20 mph although the empty weight also increased 191 kg. The US Navy ordered 43 of the new F2A-2 planes to replace the planes which went to Finland, the rest of the F2A-1 planes were also modified to the new standard.

The US Navy got more aircraft carriers when the war expanded, also the need of carrier based fighters rapidly increased. The last 108 Brewster F2A-3 model fighters were ordered in January 1941. This version had longer nose, more armour and increased ammunition capacity. Due to this it's empty weight was already 463 kg more than that of the F2A-1. Climb rate and agility decreased considerably. Top speed decreased 20 mph. According to one pilot F2A-2 was better than F4F Wildcat, but F2A-3 was incompetent.

The Brewster factory couldn't produce as much planes as was ordered and there were also many suspicions of malpractice. The company fell to the hands of the US authority in spring of 1942 due to poor management and because the deliveries were continuously late. Brewsters old rival F4F Wildcat took it's place on carriers, Grumman had improved it since 1938. Wildcat became the main fighter type on carriers and in all it was produced over 2000 planes.

Brewsters didn't achieve a single kill in the US Navy carrier service and they were transfered to the US Marine service on the Pasific islands. The first and the last significant operation of the American Brewsters was the Battle of Midway in which 21 F2A-3's took part. The Japanise shot down 13 planes in 4.6.1942, though they also lost many planes shot down. The defeat was mainly due to the superior Zero and the poor training of the young Brewster pilots, also the tactical situation was bad in all. Brewster was moved to training use after the Battle of Midway.

England received F2A-2 (B-339E) planes for the squadrons in the Far-East, the plane was named as Buffalo by the British. Step by step the planes were destroyed in the battles and the few which survived were sent to Australia.

The Dutch East-Indian air force got B-339C and B-339D planes on Java, were they had little success, win to loss ratio was 2:1 for Brewsters. When the Japanise took over the area rest of the planes were sent to Australia.

When the Soviet Union attacked in Finland in November 1939, 44 Brewster F2A-1 planes were bought to the Finnish air force from the USA as "outdated war equipment", because of the US law that didn't allow to sell modern war equipment to foreign countries. The Brewsters came too late to take part in the Winter war, but during the Contunation war they proved to be exellent fighters. At the beginning of the Contunation war LeLv 24 was equipped with Brewsters. It was the most succesfull fighter squadron in the Finnish air force achieving 460 kills with Brewsters. In May 1944 the planes were transferred to LeLv 26 which achieved 17 kills with then outdated Brewster fighters. During the War in Lapland HLeLv 26 shot down two Ju 87 which were the last confirmed kills of the type in the Finnish air force. The last flight of the type in Finland was in September of 1948.

The BW-364 " Orange 4 " was the mount of the most famous Finnish fighter pilot, lentomestari Eino Ilmari "Illu" Juutilainen in 3/LeLv 24 from the June of 1941 to the February of 1943. The model depicts the plane in November 1942 in Suulajarvi in Karelian Isthmus. Ltm. Juutilainen shot down 28 enemy planes in BW-364 and by the end of the war he had 94 1/6 kills. Lentomestari Eino Ilmari Juutilainen got twice the highest tribute in Finland, the Mannerheim Cross, only one pilot beside him got this achievement, named kapteeni Hans Henrik "Hasse" Wind. Juutilainen's achievement is unusual in the whole world, because he is the only ace in the world who didn't have any aerial combat hits in his plane. He never jumbed out of his plane. Only once he made a forced landing when enemy flak hit his Me 109 G, also then he managed to land to friendly territory and to an own airstrip. The BW-364 had totally 36 kills.

Technical Data of Brewster B-239

Engine 1000 hp Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engine
Dimensions span 10,67 m; lenght 8,05 m; wing area 19,40 m2
Weights empty 2020 kg; max. take off 2415 kg
Performance max. speed 480 km/h at 4750 m (F2A-1)
Armament 4 x 12,7 mm mg
Production 509 (all versions)

Sources
Pienoismalli magazine 1/93; Lentäjän näkökulma II, Jukka Raunio; Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 1, Kalevi Keskinen

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