Lone Star Models 1/72 Q-2A Firebee



I wanted to build the USAF version of the first-generation Firebee. Series production USAF Q-2As all had Continental J69 engines, series production Navy KDA-1s & KDA-4s all had Fairchild J44 engines. These two versions have very different nacelles and inlets. Two resin models exist: the Lone Star Models representing the USAF version, and the Belcher Bits representing the Navy version. I bought both to see which kit offered the best possibilities, and started work on the Lone Star Models kit.



Lone Star Models kit contents

The Lone Star Models kit (LSM0322) of the Air Force Q-2A consists of the following parts:

  • a single piece fuselage with vertical tail. This part had bad mold misalignment on the top side, resulting in a step between the left and right sides. The vertical tail was badly warped on one of my two kits

  • the wings feature strong camber, whereas the real wings had a symmetrical profile

  • three identical tail surfaces, that are too long for the horizontal tails

  • a white metal pylon

The masters and resin casting are quite rough. No instructions, drawings or decals are included. Unfortunately I do not remember what I paid for the kit.



Belcher Bits kit contents



The Belcher Bits kit (BL6) contains two Navy KDA Firebees and each model consists of the following parts:

  • single piece fuselage without vertical tail. This part had considerable mold misalignment on the top side, resulting in a step between the left and right sides

  • an air intake bullet

  • a set of wings of correct span and symmetrical wing section

  • two horizontal tail surfaces of correct short span

  • a vertical tail surface

  • wing endplates for the horizontal tail planes that appear to be of correct shape

  • a pylon and a piece of rod for the pylon

The masters and resin casting are of good quality. Included are a single page of instructions with some drawings. Decals are included in another set. I paid C$11.99 in 2008, the set is now listed as C$29.99, for a set of two. Belcher Bits owner Mike Belcher said the old price was probably a mistake.



Fuselage shape analysis

Both the Belcher and LSM fuselage shapes looked very suspect to me. I scanned both, and overlaid them with a drawing that I hope is accurate. First the Belcher fuselage. Note that the Belcher model represents the Navy KDA version, which had a *slightly* larger nacelle compared to the Air Force Q-2A. If my information is correct, the KDA nacelle was 5 inches deeper, 1.8 mm in 1/72 scale. But the Belcher model is 4.5 mm deeper, which is very substantial in this scale, some 30%. The rear fuselage also looks slightly oversize.
First thing I noticed on the LSM model is the ridiculous position of the vertical tail - it's so far back that's it on the parachute cone that is ejected during the recovery phase. The rear part of the nacelle is very oversized and too long. The tubular exhaust is completely fictitious, but I can see where it comes from. Some photos suggest an exhaust tube extending from the nacelle, but this is an optical illusion.

To my surprise, this model appeared to be the least bad choice for modification.


Construction

Unfortunately, I did not take photos of the modification process, so most modifications and scars are now hidden by gray paint. In the middle is the model under reconstruction, with the Belcher (top) and LSM (bottom) fuselage for comparison.

Modifications included cutting off the inlet and gluing it back one millimeter lower, building up the nose with Milliput, cutting off the strange exhaust, removing another section of the exhaust area, and straightening the tail by partially cutting it from below and then shimming with slightly oversize card.

I'm still studying the exact shape of the fuselage behind the exhaust. This area is shown in *very* few photos, but is essential for the fuselage shape.
Biggest shape problem is the exhaust area, with (probably) a concave area in the rear fuselage. I simply don't have the information to know what to do there, so I experimented a bit there, with a concave area in the rear fuselage. The fuselage width is fine at 10.0 mm, 9.9 mm according to Ryan drawings.
The air inlet was created with a 4 mm drill (guesstimated) and refined with by sanding. I still have to compare it to a few suitable photos to judge the diameter.
The wings of the LSM kit are not very good, with a lot of camber and incorrect span and chord. After some research it turned out that the BQM-34A wings from the Italeri DC-130 kit could be modified easily. They required removal one millimeter from the leading edge, and cutting away the root up to the chordwise panel line. I left a little extra for mounting them in a slot in the fuselage. The aileron still needs to be moved. Later it turned out that I had recreated the shape of the Belcher wings. I will probably use them instead of making more modified Italeri wings.

Some math to support the Italeri wing modification. The Q-2A wing was modified for the BQM-34 with a leading edge extension that had considerable camber, and even a kink in the lower contour. The wing chord of the Q-2A was 29 inches, that of the BQM-34A 33.40 inches, so the leading edge extension was 4.4 inches. Perpendicular to the 45-degree swept leading edge this makes 3.1 inches. That translates to 1.1 mm in 1/72 scale.
Attaching four swept flying surfaces to a fuselage is not easy! I learned to like a simple plastic card jig to align wing and tail surfaces. A factory or air force station drawing serves as the starting point. I quickly noted that it doesn't scale properly, and therefore I drew the theoretical shape over it (in red). A print of the drawing will be glued to plastic card, that will have a cutout for the fuselage, and will get stops for the flying surfaces.


Construction stopped

The construction of this model was stopped in 2020, when PlusModel came out with a 1/72 KDA-1 Firebee model, that offered a much better basis for a conversion to a Q-2A Firebee. I also learned a lot more about the Q-2A shape in the mean time, so a fresh start was nice.



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