Know-It-All, Part I: My BEST GUESS
Posted by Matty on March 15, 2011, 10:10:33, in reply to "Modeler's question: FORRESTAL AIR GROUPS"
Message modified by board administrator June 13, 2012, 19:09:17
--Originally Posted 10/7/07-- |
Arjun wrote to me about my answer above, saying:
"Thanks for posting up my query and your very informative reply on the message board. It never ceases to amaze me how many different people might know /have an answer to a problem. Just goes to show that a single person cannot possib(ly) know it all…"
Well, you're quite welcome Arjun! And, while I'm certainly not someone who knows everything, I do play one on-line. Observe:
Again, your question interests me very much, so I researched NavSource - their Forrestal page - just as recommended:
Click on Image to EnlargeIn these pics Forrestal has just commissioned, in September, 1955. Flight deck markings common to both pics include the three landing stripes - the center one much thicker than the outside ones - as well as solid, block-style flight deck numbers, fore and aft. These and subsequent pics indicate the apparent features along the catapult tracks and arrester wires are not deliberate markings, but just different deck finish/textures.
Now I also have to tell you about another source which I consulted - the "holy grail" of USN carrier air groups, IMHO - which I somehow forgot to mention earlier: the "Go Navy" website. There you can find links to every USN carrier ever built - I'll cut right to the chase with this one directly to their USS Forrestal page. Note they tell you almost everything you really need to know to identify the a/c: dates and places deployed, aircraft types, air group names and modex numbers.
And GoNavy says that Forrestal, on her shakedown cruise (1/24 - 3/31, 1956; to the South Atlantic) carried:
- F2H-3 (all-weather) Banshees ("Big Banjos");
- FJ-3 Furies;
- F7U-3M Cutlasses;
- AD-6 (bubble-canopy) Skyraiders;
- AJ-2 Savages;
- F2H-2P (photo-recconaissance) Banshees;
- AD-5N ("long-canopy" all-weather) Skyraiders;
- AD-5W ("long-canopy" airborne early warning) Skyraiders; and
- HUP-2 Retriever choppers.
And here are a couple telling pics from that cruise:
Click on Image to EnlargeThe one at left confirms Forrestal retained the landing stripes initially painted on for commissioning, and both pics reveal additional, finer markings forward: a dotted centerline and angled taxi lines; one pointing to each forward catapult, out from the centerline.
In the left pic a Retriever is forward, with Big Banjos taxiing to the cats behind. Further aft, more Banshees are parked beside the island and, across from them, 5 Furies on the portside deck edge. All the way aft, to port appear to be a couple Savages (w/o wing tanks) and, across from them, Skyraiders of some type(s). In the right pic, of course the Furies are obvious, and the dark fighter is a Banshee. Note all these are in the GoNavy list above, and many also depicted in your Airfix kit; requiring just a few more to represent every a/c type in this, initial Forrestal air complement.
Which brings us to the following, shameless plug for Matt Stein Models :
Click on Image to EnlargeThe above "long-canopy"-type Skyraiders - the AD-5N and especially the AD-5W, with belly radome, shown at left - are rather different from the "bubble canopy"-type AD-6s of your Airfix kit. Matty's Models offers both types, as well as an AJ-2 Savage, shown at right. All are in 1/550 scale - fine for either 1/600 or 1/500 builds.
That leaves only the Banshees and Cutlasses - both of which can be scavenged from old Revell Saratoga/Forrestal kits - and Matt Stein Models also plans to produce (vastly better) versions of these in the future, too.
Note the F3H Demons and A3D Skywarriors of your Airfix kit were not yet deployed on Forrestal; GoNavy lists them as first appearing - both together - on her third cruise; 1/15-7/22, 1957, to the Mediterranean.
However NavSource offers some apparent major contradictions in the following:
Click on Image to EnlargeThe left picture of a Demon being launched from Forrestal was dated before April of 1956 - that's even before the end of Forrestal's shakedown! Likewise, the pic of the F8U Crusader (talk about "sexy"!) at right is dated May, 1956 - over two years before GoNavy says the F8 deployed aboard; 9/2/58. The answer is apparently that brand-new prototypes were making their first appearances - singly - in flight trials on Forrestal long before being shipped in any quantities. Note that neither picture shows any additional Demons or Crusaders aboard.
But don't forget the deck markings: note at left the launch officer standing on a triangle-w/line-through-it, just a hair starboard of the centerline. It remains detectable (just barely) in the following pics from the third cruise:
Click on Image to EnlargeDeck markings visible in these pics include all the familiar ones above, as well as a long, very thin line running from the landing area, starboard side, up to the port catapult. Plus, the rare color pic at right reveals the center landing stripe was actually composed of alternating yellow-and-white dashes. The outboard stripes are too thin - these pics too small - to tell if they were likewise dashed, but in any case they clearly contained at least some yellow - and of course the flight deck numbers were yellow.
This cruise and the next one - Forrestal's fourth cruise; 8/16 through 10/21, 1957 (to the North Atlantic) - were the window in time when Forrestal deployed all the types of aircraft in your Airfix kit. Here is a gorgeous pic of that fourth cruise:
Click on Image to EnlargeNote 3 Big Banjos forward; a rare glimpse of their wings unfolded.
For Forrestal's third and fourth cruises combined, the total aircraft list (per GoNavy) is:
- AD-5N (through third cruise only)
- AD-5Q (beginning fourth cruise only)
Note the initially embarked Cutlasses had been replaced by F9F Cougars (also available from Revell Midway- and Essex-class kits). Meanwhile, the AD-5Q probably resembled closely if not identically its predecessor, the AD-5N.
Based on all the above, I would guess sight-unseen that your Airfix flight deck decals (if they're any good at all) must surely depict these markings. If not, then they should; in order to match the aircraft provided. So we've established what the appropriate flight deck markings actually were.
Now to your question of whether they changed before Forrestal got her first F4 Phantom-IIs and A4 Skyhawks, which GoNavy says she did - along with her first F8 Crusaders - beginning with her next cruise; her fifth. Unfortunately Navsource has no pics of her flight deck from this cruise, but only from during (or just before) her sixth cruise: 1/28-8/31, 1960 (to the Med):
Click on Image to EnlargeThe indication is not good; note the central landing stripe has gone to a bona-fide dashed line, and the block flight deck numbers are gone, replaced by more muted "hollow outline"-style numbers. So Arjun, if your "sexy" Phantoms and Skyhawks coexisted with the above, early flight deck markings, it could only have been during Forrestal's fifth cruise: 9/2/58 through 3/12/59.
For further clues I'd recommend Forrestal's DANFS History - or veterans' websites, etc.- but time (and space) won't permit me to do that here. Personally, I would give the builder artistic license to put Phantoms and Skyhawks on the earlier flight deck markings - even if not strictly accurate.
I did find some additional tidbits of interest (which also won't fit here). So look for a second post, in which I'll take up the issue of Vigilantes on Forrestal and maybe another idea or two…