Modelling-ABC by Wilfried Eck

A b C D E F G H I/J K L M N O P q R S T u V W X/Y Z





VA, VF etc.




VA, VF etc:

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US Navy terminology for flying units. "V" stands for heavier than air, "Z" for lighter than air is currently not in use. The following letter idicates the mission. With a then following number a squadron is identified.  Marine Corps units have an inset "M", so "VMA-214" identifies Marine attack squadron 2-14. When changing to fighters  the designation would be altered to "VMF-214" and so on. Combinations are also possible,  a Marine F/A-18 squadron for example serving as VMFA-115.

This brings us to the colours and markings of individual aircraft, at least until introduction of "low visibility" grays. Each mission type (fighter, bomber etc.) was not only assigned a distict marking colour, but also a range of numbers to identify a certain airplane. The above example of a F3H Demon carries the number (in Navy parlance "modex") 104. A number in the 100-range identifies the first (senior) fighter squadron with the appropriate colour "insigina red", in this case the 4th aircraft within this squadron. Such knowledge can be helpful when only a black and white photo is available. If for instance only the modex 305 is visible the markings have to be light blue. This system was fairly constant, only the higher numbers (600 and above) undergoing some change in colour when missions were obsolete (VAH for instance) and numbers assigned otherwise. But usually such squadrons deploy/ed only detachments.

By March 5th 1982 (low-viz afterwards, the modex remaining the same):

modex (Nr.) *
Insigina Red
Orange Yellow
Light Blue
International Orange
Light Green
Airborne Early Warning
Insignia Blue
Electronic Countermeasures
Dark Green

* The modex was assigned by seniority. The CAG ("commander air group", CO of all embarked squadrons on board an aircraft carrier) carrying "x00" (the first numeral depending on the kind of mission), squadron commander "x01", executive officer "x02" and so on to the youngest Lieutenant junior grade. - But be warned! This doesn't mean the assigned aircraft is flown by this pilot as his personal mount. In the US Navy the plane belongs to the "plane captain" (1. mechanic) who just loans it to the pilot assigned for this mission. Furthermore there usually are more pilots than aircraft and usually due to operational requirements and availability aircraft are assigned new each mission, so it's not unusual to see for instance the CAG fly number fourteen and a certain Lt.jg manning number 1. The same goes for "monikers", names or nicknames painted below the cockpit. Though the CAG may have been allocated "Flycatcher" in his younger days (the name sticking for the rest of his service time) and this moniker being painted on the canopy frame of number 100, he seldom has a chance to fly "his" F-14. -- In WW II official regulations did not allow visible personal inscriptions, and according to Ensign Bush (later 1. president namend Bush) never did his "Tare 2" carry anything like Bush or Barbara, though "The Minsi" and others seen in publicity photos seem to contradict such a statement. These were rare exeptions, not the rule. And likewise seldom was there a personal aircraft ("kill markings" often being applied for publicity purpose only).

Other squadron designators (mostly land based):

VP Patrol
VR Transport
VU Utility
VT Training
VX Development

Out of use:

VAH Attack Heavy
VC Composite Sqn.
VMCJ Marine Composite Sqn.


VB Bomber
VF Fighter
VBF Fighter Bomber
VO Observation
VS Scouting
VT Torpedo

These lists show the most common unit designations. There being some more land based ones, "FAGU" ("Fleet Air Gunnery Unit" ) for example, but this would mean carrying things too far.

Useful links:


Alternative to injection formed kits. More explanatory: Vacuum formed. When buying such a kit you get one or more  flat plates  with protuding half reliefs. In modern kits you also get some useful parts for the landing gear, cockpit tub and so on, usually in white metal and clear PVC.  But the main problem remains: The needed parts have to be cut out very carefully to get the right shape.

In principle there are two ways: A vertical cut or a horizontal one. In the last mentioned way you save time because the unwanted material of the ground plate is already removed, but care must be taken to make the cut as near to the ground plate as possible. The knive therefore should be held absolutely horizontal.  Otherwise you remove material that is needed for the correct outline. The vertical cut ensures a correct width, but as the material of the ground plate is still there this has to be removed by sanding. It's wise therefore to leave one or two millimeters around, if this rim disappears in the sanding process the final shape is just right. To speed up sanding and prevent dust on your carpet the sandpaper should be wet.

Fixing the required sheet of sandpaper with tape is a good idea.

To glue fuselage halves together narrow strips of styrene (the material the kit is made of) applied to the insides of one half and protuding about one half are helpful. As the wings usually have to be butt-joined a previously inset spar in the fuselage is very useful. Watch the trailing edges! Due to the moulding process usually they are too thick and rounded. To get a more wedge shaped form the upper surfaces have to be sanded too (in the last stage naturally with very fine grade).  Don't be afraid to remove depressions indicating aileron/rudder hinges or else. Usually they are too coarse and need refinement anyway. Same goes for panel lines. Fill them with putty, wait one or two days and sand smooth. A model without these trenches looks more realistic. Just if you like to, panel lines can be engraved carefully afterwards with a needle of pointed scalpel (use the blunt side).

Do not cut out the canopy hood exactly to shape. You'll need some material to fix it on/in the fuselage. I found it practical to scribe the outline of the windshield part into the fuselage. This narrow groove is filled with "plasic paste" (plastic filaments dissolved with liquid glue). The cockpit part accepts tongues in appropriate width and lenght (glued to the sidewalls with white glue); if the clear part extends past the cockpit it again rests in a precut groove. "Plastic paste" sticks to both surfaces very well, but it needs time to harden and shrinks a little bit. So some putty is needed afterwards. Naturally the later visible part of the canopy has been covered with tape at first to ensure it remains clear.

A common nuisance - not only of vacus - is the bad habit of raised canopy frames. Admittedly it shows where to paint, but in reality canopy frames neither are rounded nor do they  protude so much. Such exaggerations seriously distract from a convincing appearance of the model. As correction is impossible, simply make a new one (see page C). It's easier than most people think, and be assured you won't need a block of wood.

On homemade canopies canopy frames are reproduced with thin strips of suitably coloured decals.

In summary: It needs skill and brains, but as vacus deal with types the big manufacturers have neclected, there is no alternative if a certain type is wanted in model form. And somehow it's more fun than just assembling preformed parts.