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:



More explanatory: Vacuum formed plastic parts for model building.  Once upon a time (yes, long, long ago) the only alternative for getting a model  when there wasn't a conventional kit.  And there were a lot of items not available in kit form. Highly interesting ones and barely known types too.

You got one or more  flat plates  with protuding half reliefs. Usually in white polystyrene. In more modern kits you also got some useful parts for the landing gear, cockpit tub and so on, usually in white metal and clear PVC.  But the main problem remained: The needed parts had  to be cut out very carefully to get the right shape. Is to say: If one made a vertical cut the excess plastic at the bottom had to be sanded off (where to stop?);  the other way was to cut horizontally, but this had to be done very carefully, not below and not above plate level.

To get a firm fuselage joint narrow strips it was advisable to glue narrow strips of plastic inside the fuselage contour. Wings were a problem as by way of forming and to show where to cut the trailing edges were slightly rounded.  To get sharp ones one had to sand these curveatures flat and thereby inevitably loosing a little bit in planform.

Air intakes of jet aircraft were flat. When opening these sections there was nothing inside, so the modeller had to make intake trunks. Cockpits and wheel wells needed some homemade detailing too. In summary: You were quite busy for some time!

Well, this was the time when there were real modellers, not just airbrush artists.