In the years prior to WWII, the US military had some very colorful aircraft that helped christen the era “The Golden Age”. These brightly colored aircraft were undoubtedly a carryover from the WWI where aircraft were often painted in bright schemes that reflected the pilots own tastes. This was also a transitional period that saw military aircraft evolve from bi-planes to monoplanes. Between the wars, both the US Army Air Force and the US Navy were painting the upper surface of the upper wing with a highly visible orange-yellow that was used for search and rescue in the event that the aircraft was forced down. The US Navy carried this even further and painted their aircrafts’ tail surfaces in different colors that indicated the carrier group it was assigned to. Navy aircraft also had the engine cowling painted different colors that indicated the section within the squadron. The top wing had a chevron the color of the section and the section leader’s aircraft had a belly band also the color of the section. All this made for some very colorful aircraft that have become the favorite subject for a lot of modelers.
The Curtiss BF2C-1 was an advancement of the earlier F11C-2 Goshawk developed for the Navy in 1932, and was equipped with manually-operated retractable landing gear that retracted into a deepened fuselage. It was powered by an R-1820-80 Cyclone rated at 700hp. The BF2C-1 was armed with two 30 cal. Browning machine guns and had provision for one 500 lb. bomb or up to four 110 lb. bombs. The Goshawk’s primary role was as a dive bomber and had a secondary role as a fighter. The US Navy ordered 27 Goshawks and they were assigned to VB-5B on the USS Ranger (CV-4). One serious problem with the Goshawk emerged between the Cyclone engine and the metal framed wings. At cruising speed, the Cyclone engine set up a sympathetic vibration with the metal wing structure which resulted in violent shaking of the aircraft. This problem was never resolved and the Goshawk was withdrawn from service after a few months. Ironically, the export version of the Goshawk, which had the older wood framed wings, never had the flutter problem and served for many years in foreign air forces.
Between 1935 and 1936, the Navy issued directives that assigned tail colors that permitted the identification of squadrons within a carrier group. The allocated colors were: USS Saratoga (White), USS Lexington (Yellow), USS Ranger (Green), USS Langely (Red), USS Enterprise (Blue), USS Yorktown (Black). A typical Navy squadron consisted of 18 aircraft in 6 sections of 3 aircraft, with each section having its own color. Section one was Insignia Red, Section two was White, Section Three was True Blue, Section four was Black, Section five was Willow Green and section six was Lemon Yellow. In all sections, the wing chevron, which was used as an aid in formation flying, was the same color as the section. The engine cowling was also painted in the section color. The section leader’s aircraft had the entire cowling painted. The number two aircraft in the section had the upper half painted and the number three aircraft had the lower half painted. Only the section leader’s aircraft had a fuselage band painted in the section color.
Yellow-Wings Decals has released a new decal sheet (32-008) for the Hasegawa 1/32nd scale Curtiss BF2C-1 “Goshawk”. The sheet provides markings for two VB-5B aircraft as stationed on the USS Ranger in 1935. The decal set is packaged in a clear zip-lock bag and includes a black & white three-view drawing for each of the aircraft depicted. There is a nice instruction sheet with a chart of suggested model paints for use in finishing your model. There are three sheets of decals in the set. The largest has all the markings for both aircraft, including the wing chevrons, national insignia, and fuselage side codes. Sheet 32-008A has the aircraft number that is placed behind the wing chevron and 32-008B has smaller service identification (U.S. Navy) codes that are meant to replace the much larger codes on the main sheet. Also included are the squadron badges, which depict Bellerophon riding on the back of Pegasus with a bomb in his right hand and holding a shield in his left. Note that the color of the shield matches the aircraft section color. Yellow-Wings provides a squadron badge for both aircraft in the appropriate color. Also included are the red, yellow, blue propeller tip stripes typical for navy aircraft of the time. There are no stencil markings on the sheet but that shouldn’t be an issue.
The decals are custom printed for Yellow-Wings by Microscale and are crystal clear with minimal carrier film. The colors are rich and vibrant and the sheet is printed in perfect registration. One very nice feature is the thin black stripes that border the wing chevron and the fuselage band, a detail missed by the model manufacturer, Hasegawa. The sheet is comprehensive and includes enough decals to do finish both aircraft. One small error I noticed was the three-view for the third aircraft in section one (5-B-3) shows the award letter “C” below the cockpit opening. This is an efficiency award given for excellence in communication during squadron competitions. However, the color side-view on the package cover does not depict this award. VB-5B did not carry this award letter on its aircraft and the drawing is in error, probably a carryover from the earlier F11C-2 decal sheet.
Yellow-Wings Decals should be commended for their release of the markings for Golden Era aircraft. As stated on their web site, it is their goal to “replicate the colorful markings of these aircraft”. They use historic records, military archives, and published references to bring us the most accurate and authentic markings possible. Please visit the Yellow-Wings website; they have decal sheets available for U.S.N., U.S.M.C. and U.S.A.A.C. aircraft in all the popular scales. They even have suggestions for aftermarket sets to update several of the ancient Golden Era aircraft kits that have been out for eons. Yellow-Wings decals are highly recommended and can be used by all modelers. Many thanks to Wayne Tevlin and Yellow-Wings Decals for the review sample. And thanks to IPMS for allowing me to review this fine set.