Forgotten Fifties Fighters
Aerfer Ariete – Nord Griffon II – North American YF-93A
The 1950s was an exciting time to be involved in aviation. Rapid advances in aerodynamic knowledge, new materials and new and powerful motors opened the door to new and sensational innovations. The force of the Cold War also drove governments to support many new ideas that research and development made possible so it was a period when the skies were filled with new and wonderful aircraft. Some were successful and some were not. Even some of the successes were reduced to footnotes in history because of changes in politics or military doctrine, or because the technology was evolving so rapidly they were left behind. Let’s look at three of them.
Aerfer Ariete in 1/72 by Dujin
The Italian company Aerfer (Costruzioni Aeronautiche e Ferroviarie – Aeronautical and Railway Constructions) was established in 1955. From the early 1950s it made a series of experimental aircraft culminating in the Aerfer Sagittario 2 which was the first Italian aircraft to break the sound barrier. This aircraft was developed into the Ariete in an attempt to bring it up to a standard where it could be mass-produced as a viable combat aircraft. It had two jet engines, one for continuous flight and a second one to enhance its combat performance. Two were built, the first one made its first flight in March 1958 but it failed to live up to expectation so the second one was never completed and the project was abandoned.
I made this model using the Dujin kit which dates from about 2000. I find most Dujin kits relatively easy to make (for short run resin kits) but this one was a real monster and getting anything worthwhile out of it was a serious struggle. So even if copies were available I wouldn’t recommend this kit to any but the most hardened and desperate modeller. (I say ‘desperate’ because the Ariete is a gorgeous little aircraft that anyone who loves good looking aircraft would be desperate to have in their collection.) Instead, have a look for the Sen Model kit that was published in 2014. The in-box review in Internet Modeler says this is an excellent rendition and would recommend it as a good introduction to resin modelling. Looking at the photos of the kit parts I don’t doubt it.
Nord 1500 Griffon II in 1/72 by Founderie Miniature
This aircraft was an attempt to develop two new aviation technologies, the delta wing and the ramjet engine, into a high speed, high altitude interceptor capable of protecting France from attacking Soviet bombers. Although ramjets were capable of generating great thrust they could not be ignited until there was sufficient force of air entering them so the Griffon was also fitted with a turbojet engine to get it up to that speed. Two Griffons were made, the first one without the ramjet. The second one, fitted with both engines, made its maiden flight in January 1957 and it set a new record for the 100km closed-circuit course of 1,643km/h (1,021mph) in 1959. However the Dassualt Mirage was selected for production instead and the Griffon II is now on display at the French Air and Space Museum at Le Bourget.
I made this model from the Founderie Miniature kit which is your only real option, unless you are masochist enough to hunt down and make a challenging Merlin Models kit. I had one once and sold it on to a sucker buyer at a swap and sell. (I know, there should be a law against doing things like that!) There are a couple of in-box reviews of this kit which treat it more kindly than I would have after making it, but that’s the trouble with in-box reviews. The review in Modeling Madness is comprehensive about some of the kit’s weaknesses and concludes ‘Recommended only for experienced modelers’. Even then, you’d have to be desperate (see above) to want to make this model because, as they say, ‘life is too short for crappy kits’.
North American YF-93A in 1/72 by Anigrand
After the American experience of bombing German targets during World War II, and the success of escort fighters like P-47s and P51s in helping to protect them, the US Air Force issued a requirement for a ‘Penetration Fighter’ to help protect America’s new generation of jet powered bombers. In response to this requirement North American developed a long range version of its F-86 Sabre which was originally designated the F-86C. This aircraft had double the range of a standard F-86 but the additional fuel capacity necessitated stronger undercarriage, larger wings and a more powerful engine so the aircraft was redesignated as the F-93. An initial order was placed for over 100 aircraft but when it emerged that the new Boeing B-47 would be so fast that it didn’t need escort fighters the order was cancelled and only two YF-93s were manufactured. They flew as test aircraft for a while but were eventually declared surplus and scrapped.
I made this model using the Anigrand kit. Scalemates tells us that there have been a couple of vacform kits of this aircraft but they are probably unobtainable by now. Anyhow, of the three models mentioned this time, this was by far the easiest and most enjoyable kit to build. Anigrand are not renowned for their subtle and refined mouldings or their high level of detailing but, in 1/72, their kits are always good, solid and reliable replicas of the aircraft they represent. If you only want to make Tamiya quality kits you will be disappointed by this one, but if you want to make models that tell interesting stories about the evolution of aviation Anigrand has many great and interesting offerings. Scott Van Aken’s review in Modeling Madness says more or less the same thing and concludes that this would be a good kit to learn about making resin kits with and adds that: ‘these prototypes are just plain cool to have on the shelf!’