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Grumman AF-2S Guardian, Special Hobby 1/48
US Naval Reserves, NAS Oakland 1953

The Original:

The unseparable pair.

Conceived in 1944 as a replacement for the TBF Avenger Grumman's new two seat XTB3F torpedo bomber with mixed propulsion (Pratt&Whitney R-2800-34W radial in front, Westinghouse J-30-WE-20 jet engine in the rear)  offered a speed advantage of 100 knots and a considerably higher weapons load, but difficulties with the jet engine and its air intake led to a protracted development. On Jan. 29th 1947, the war was over by now,  the BuAer of the US Navy having discarded the category TB meanwhile,  Grumman was offered a new contract for an aircraft fitting into the new category "Attack". Both parties agreed that  the mission search and destroy hostile U-boats could not be fulfilled efficiently by a single aircraft.

Deleting the jet engine offered ample space for equipment and associated crew.  One version of the new AF-2 would be the search aircraft (AP-20 radar and associated electronics, no weapons), the other one carrying one torpedo in the internal weapons bay as well as water bombs and rockets under the wings, but also  with auxiliary electronics for fine tuning the course (and a periscope behind the weapons bay). In June 1950 evaluation units received the new AF-2W search/warning (1 pilot, 1 ECM, 2 alternate radar operators) and AF-2S strike (1 pilot, 1 ECM, 1 radar operator/bombardier) aircraft. In September 1950 regular US Navy squadrons began to utilize their new mounts. Quite astonishing embarked on five escort carriers of the Commencement Bay class (CVE-103 ff.). With a wing span of 60 feet the Guardian (common name for both types) was the largest carrier capable aircraft on the smallest carrier. With an associated accident rate. 1952 demothballed fleet carriers (USS Leyte and others) took over the hunt of Russian submarines.  In 1955 the Guardians were replaced by Grumman A2F Trackers, the remaining aircraft soldiering on in the Naval Reserves  until 1957. Afterwards two aircraft were used by the Californian Aero Union as fire bombers (the sole surviving Guardian in the Pensacola museum is one of them).

For a day or night mission one might assume the Guardian pair (same name for both aircraft) to cruise at altitude to cover a vast portion of the search sector. But, in contrary, the actual height was no more than 1000 to 1500 feet, for a periscope or snorkel presented a rather small radar reflecting surface.  After having got a vector to the target from the AF-2W "Hunter",  the pilot of the "Killer"  AF-2S would descent to 700 - 500 feet and follow the given course while his crew mates in the rear would scan their APS-31 radar and ECM equipment (ie. an APA-70 bearing indicator) for any change in relative motion. At a distance of 1.5 to 2 miles the bombardier would switch on the searchlight on the port wing. This was interconnected to a periscope behind the bomb bay. This in turn was connected to the bombsight. As the bombardier tracked the target, azimuth bearing information was transmitted to the pilot's Direction Indicator. When the "Killer" (in crew parlance called "Scrapper") reached the release point the bombardier released the four wing mounted depth charges at preselected intervals (or a torpedo); rockets if mounted were fired by the pilot.

How many Russian subs were actually detected in the vicinity of Korea and other locations all over the world is open to question, but actual destruction would have raised a diplomatic storm.



Though Special Hobby offers its two Guardian versions in different boxes, both contain the same parts, kits differing only in the decals. So in case of the -2S version everything said about good -2W points (many) and not so good ones (a few) goes for the -2S too.  Aside from pure assembly I made:

As the side consoles show small holes instead of actuating knobs the question was how to make it more realistic. Whereas in the -2W model I tried to make panels with knobs I was lazy in the -2S model. According to the painting in the construction leaflet which shows gray panels (nobody knows what the real thing looked like after the first prototypes) I simply used thin black paint to highlight all those depressions. Well, it may be wrong, but from the usual viewing position of a visitor it doesn't look bad. Otherwise the cockpit is the usual black most Guardians had.

The PE seat straps got loose ends for tightening. They don't run over the seat back als shown by Special Hobby but over a horizontal bar behind and slightly above the seat (kit part slightly modified).

In my opinion the kit seats are padded too well. In the original this was a sheet metal bucket with only one cushion for the seat or back  (depending on the parachute worn). In the photo at left it is missing (only straps showing) because the pilot and seat assembly was glued in after painting.

Throttle (missing in the kit) and other levers formed from thinned sprue.

The rockets (not used) would benefit from thinned fins.

Otherwise the following was done:

The pilot figurine is handmade, the mechanic from Hecker&Goros, modified to another position.

To get six spoked wheels instead of the eight spoked wheels S.H. offers one hasn't to wait for resin parts or cannibalize a P-47 kit (as somebody suggested, forgetting that carrier based aircraft don't have treaded tires). Correction is easily made:

At first the wheel hub is bored/sanded out. Then a disc of slightly larger diameter is cut out from thin plastic (strength not important) and 60° angles marked on. Strips in diameter of the spokes are glued on (length in photo only for clarity) and after the glue has dried the disc is fixed on a drill (hole to be covered later) and rounded to a diameter that fits exactly into the wheel hole. This rounds the square ends of the spokes too. Fit disc in and let dry. For the rounded small disc in the middle I found ends of the sprue tree having the required diameter; flattened and slightly rounded they did the job.



Guardians wore standard US Navy paint "Glossy Sea Blue" (FS 15042) all over including the u/c and -wells. Cockpit black. In the rear fuselage aircraft of the Naval Reserves carried a band in "International Orange" (FS 12197).

These colors can be obtained in model shops so there should be no problem if you can live with the fact that original colors are right for 1:1 models in bright sunlight. Actually models are much smaller and seldom shown in bright sunshine. In my case I usually mix Revell 54 Midnight Blue and 7 Black and add a tiny bit of green (in actual paint mix 5%) until I get the right shade. Fuselage band Revell 12 Yellow and 34 Red. Other colors also a mix.

Contrary to S.H. and acording to photos of the real aircraft no white u/c legs.

No "ageing" as there is no photo showing it. US Naval aircraft were maintained well especially in respect to corrosion prevention. Also no exhaust stains as the markedly protuding exhaust pipes had outward facing openings.



Decals are the weak point of this otherwise well made kit.

  • Red bar in national insignia too narrow. It should be 1/3 height of the white bar. Correction simply by applying a red strip from a rest decal in same color.
  • For carrier based version: Aircraft number adjacent to squadron letters should be 2/3 in height of the letters.
  • "NAVY" too large.
  • Handpainted (irregular) number 152 much too large. Right edge of the "1" should be at the end of the cowl ring, right edge of the "2" ends at front of the exhaust cover plate. I made a new number according to a photo of the real plane (width 1,65 cm) printed it on neutral white decal paper, and cut the individual numbers out.

The white bar on the wing visible in the construction leaflet is a mistake.


Display:  As I didn't want to make folded wings again (though not too difficult, see AF-2W "Hunter" version) the second model shows a land based one.  For making a Guardian of VS-24 based on USS Saipan (second set of kit markings) folded wings are needed. ssee  AF-2W.


Summary: Aside from a few "glitches" (hardly a kit is 100% perfect) I enjoyed this kit and making this model. The kit decals are disappointing.  With an enlarged bomb bay added this kit would be fine for a fire bomber model (natural metal, orange fuselage band, large number on the vertical tail).