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Paper models, photos and musings of a Paper Kosmonaut

17 December 2017

Early Warning is a dish best served Dutch: the Fokker F-270 Skyguard

Yes, I am doing something in plastic. For a change. And also to realise that paper modeling is 100 times cheaper than this stuff. However, it is fun and I really like what I am making.

This is my desk now:


...and this is what I had in mind before I started.



The story of the build is below.



Back-story
In the late 1960s, the Republic of the Netherlands (Loooooong story. I have to get that story online one of these days.. In short: the Dutchies are a republic after WW2) wanted to increase and drastically modernise their ways of controlling their skies, coast lines and territorial waters.
Not just for keeping the country safe but also to relay necessary information to other planes and ships and for better coastal cooperation with the neighbouring countries. Therefor, in 1970 a single secondhand E-1 Tracer was bought from the US Navy to try out the system. Besides being a little aged, the Tracer also was by far not roomy enough for all the needs of the Dutch air forces (Navy included). So in early 1971 aircraft manufacturer Fokker was asked to come up with a plan for an airborne early warning system which also could perform other tasks like coastal patrols, sub hunting and even some meteorological tasks, if necessary.

In 1972 Fokker presented an unusual plan for a prototype. Somewhere underneath all the changes, there was an F-27 Friendship hiding. But the appearane was something radically different. The fuselage in front of the wings was lengthened about three meters. This same length was taken off from the fuselage section behind the wings, so it kind of looked like the wings were placed further back. The tail end of the fuselage was tilting more upward, like cargo planes.
All of this, the longer forward fuselage and the shortened rear, was done to compensate for the weight of a very unusual tail section. The horizontal tail was transformed into a twin tail. The middle vertical tail was completely new in design. It looked like it was placed on the plane backwards. It was unusually large and on top it had a rotating radar dish, about 8,5 meters in diameter.
Inside the plane, the electronics would be state of the art. Dutch company Hollandse Signaal, a daughter of the Philips electronics corporation, was designing new equipment that fit all the needs of the military. Through a rear entrance in the tail, instrument racks could easily be removed and replaced with other equipment.

Although the people involved already knew about the appearance of the plane, the Dutch press was highly surprised. In 1974, when they saw it for real the first time, some even said it couldn’t possibly fly.  But it taxied to the runway and the new, powerful engines effortlessly made the plane take off.  Besides, the big dish had a lift factor that more or less cancelled out its own weight after takeoff, so it practically wasn’t there in flight. Impressed by the performance, the military ordered Fokker to proceed and placed an order of four machines for the Dutch air defences.

Noted, the US. was in the final stages of development of their E-3 Sentry, based on the old Boeing 707. But since this still was awaiting results and would be considerably larger in size and price, the Dutch military was very keen on buying these smaller, yet hypermodern AWACS of Fokker. Also, the Dutch government saw a lot of export potential in this aircraft. Fokker spent the next year building and testing the planes. It was approached as a completely new airframe, because of the radically different structure. However, most of the flight characteristics of the trustworthy F-27 still were there and the test trials were completed much quicker than expected.

Since the F-270 Skyguard, as the plan was christened for abroad, was a lot cheaper than an average E-3 Sentry, and could offer significantly more room for equipment than the E-2 Hawkeye, the plane created a market for itself and got a lot of attention at the airshow of Le Bourget in 1975, where the Dutch air force demonstrated the second prototype of the F-270. It still had the agility of the regular F-27 and flew a couple of demos that deeply impressed the military brass that was there. Fokker got its order book filled quite well.

In the early autumn of 1977 the first batch of 3 planes, all sporting the same dark grey-blue livery, was delivered to the Dutch Navy and Air Force. Y-0001 and Y-0002, managed by the naval forces, were stationed at Den Helder and Valkenburg, the two naval airbases along the coast and Y-4709 was flying from Volkel AFB.


Now the build.
The model

Ever since I saw a photo of the magnificent looking An-71 Madcap, I had a weakness for this weird configuration of Dish-On-Tail AWACS. 

Antonov An-71 Madcap - Photo: Wikimedia - by Artem Batuzak
For this model I used an old 1/94 Revell Fokker F-27 kit I bought for just €1,50 in the thrift shop. It’s an. It already was partially assembled but I could take some parts apart again because the glue used was of the brittle yellowing kind.


For its age, a nice detailed model. No interior, sunken panel lines and moving ailerons, elevators and tail.

The hull already has been marked for saw positions.

The 1/94 re-scaled tail section from the An-71 paper model designed by Kancho Iliyev.
This is the first plastic model I cut and sawed into pieces. I was very curious on how I’d manage. For the tail section I used the tail of a paper model Madcap by Kancho Iliyev as a template.

The plane’s scale is the silliest thing. It was mandated by the box. It had to fit in this standard box. So why not 1/94? I have a big box of leftover parts of other kits and I rummaged through to find suitable bits and pieces to add to the plane. Some pods and protruding sensor bulges for making the fuselage look busier.


What. Am. i Doing.

Old brittle glue

It looks good so far.
With the fuselage temporarily closed with sticky tape, I started hacking away. This was the first time I did a thing like this and I was quite anxious to just mess it all up here.Using a little saw, this eventually was not as hard as I thought. Some sanding and readjusting later and the plane was in three pieces. Nose section, wing section and tail section. The wing section was further cut back to almost the rear ends of the wing root. Then it was sanded so that the tail part would end up pointing slightly upward and the top line over the plane would appear almost straight.
 


This is a part to address later on with a LOT of putty.

Using old Milliput for filling the windows, A good idea but it wasn't working because the putty didn't set.

The wings were modernised with an early type of winglet. I don’t really know whether it would have made any difference in real life but I thought it would look good. I knew Fokker was experimenting with winglets in the late 70s so I thought let’s just go for it. The winglets originally were the stabilos of an 1/72 Bell X-1.
I initially was hoping to find some modern 1/96 Hercules-y propellers online to make a modernised, upgraded version, but of course 1/96 already is a deviant scale size, let alone 1/94. So no success in that and I left it like it was.

The propellers got a new axle to make the rotation smoother. The nacelles were given a long plastic shaft.



Elbow grease
The tail end and the wing section went together and of course needed a lot of putty-sandpaper-putty-sandpaper work to become smooth and seamless. The transition from wing to hull was extra tricky because of the short distance and slight change in curvature in the hull. I then made a new scratch-built extension to go between the front end and the wing section. Two bulkheads, small strips of plastic placed as staves of a barrel glued around the two. Then a layer of thin plastic sheet over the top to make the hull smooth again. It sure needed a lot of sanding, puttying and sanding after I glued it to the wing section. Lots of hours later it finally started to look like I wanted.
The cabin section was filled with white Milliput. Very old putty. Ancient, I might say. It was close to unusable. I put it in my microwave on defrost for a few seconds to make it kneadable again. (sparks!) But in the end it wouldn’t harden any more. Oh well. It didn’t matter anyway, I used it to put extra weight in the nose section (by adding a large nut I had laying around) and to seal it all off.

A redesigned paper tail, based on Kancho's tail. The front end was my own design and took some trial and error to get right. In the taik stands a brass tube to receive the dish later on.

The tail in plastic. I added panel lines and took lots of care in bending the plastic to prevend creases.




Look! I made a helicopter! (-:
Now then, the tail. I hacked off the unnecessary bits and pieces. I placed a brass rod at the location I wanted the rotating axle to be. Secured it into place with thin plastic.
I took the Antonov tail, which I printed out on regular paper. After a quick fit, I redrew the outlines to fit the base of the tail section better. After a couple of fits, I had the desired shape and cut it out of plastic. I had some of the original 1/96 Revell Saturn V skins still in my spares box (I used stiffer and unprinted plastic for the Saturn) and this was flexible enough, it seemed. I also carved some panel lines in the tail to make it look more interesting.

Fitting, readjusting, fitting, tinker tinker, and then I glued it to the tail section. The fit was almost perfect. The transition to the fuselage in front of the tail took some trial and error in paper before I cut the definitive shape out and glued it to the rest. Then of course, again, primer, putty, sanding to get rid of the seam between the tail and the fuselage. In the end I solved this by glueing a thin strip alongside the tail’s bottom. it looked cool enough so I left it there as is.
 

A test fit. Looking good.

The cabin part was carefully lined out and glued to the rest of the fuselage. Again the tiresome sanding process began. I lost the windows in the process, they were damaged by the sanding. I’ll try to replace them with krystal klear windows later.

 

Cabin section added.

Thin strip along the tail's root.

Putty to sand down. Takes a lot of time.

And then there was the quest for a dish. I tried to make it by using the tested paper model method of flat cone-shaped rings but it was a real pain in the butt to get it right. Then after some rummaging I found the plastic screen of an old wind-up alarm clock I already had disassembled for the sprockets. The glass was lens-shaped an had the perfect diameter. Yay! I used a more thorough type of glue to stick it to the plastic base circle and with a couple of thin strips of Evergreen styrene around the outside and some sanding it started to look the part.
It now is too dark for photos but tomorrow I will try to get more pictures of the dish.

This is it for now. Hope you like it.
--PK
 


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