Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson

F9F-8P – VFP61


The F9F-8 was the main production version of the swept-wing Cougar, and it was produced in several variants, including the F9F-8B fighter bomber, the F9F-8T trainer and the F9F-8P photo-recon aircraft.

There had been a recon version of the earlier F9F-5 Panther; the PR module on the F9F-5P was the same size and shape as on the standard fighter, and the windows were quite small. The F9F-8P, however, had a much bigger PR module that had six optically flat windows, two on each side of the nose and two on the flat soffit of the module. The sideways-looking windows were very large, and the shape of the flat panels that enclosed the windows inevitably led to big discontinuities in the normally well streamlined appearance of the fuselage.

The Initial Image

Kitty Hawk has produced a 1:48 kit that includes a PR module, and this photograph shows models of both the standard fighter and the PR version. At a generous 1200x800 pixels, it has a lot of fine detail, though definition falls off towards the tail of the model. I have a number of photos of this build, and all have the same gloomy appearance, but hitting the “auto contrast” in Photoshop solves that.

The starboard wing of the model is missing a foot or two, but that is easily sorted; a bigger problem is the reconstruction of the very large hinged panel that gives access to the camera bay, and the portion of the fuselage that is obscured aft of the panel.

Treatment of the Image

I spent a long time on the reinstatement of the obscured area caused by that pesky hatch. I finally got the geometry more or less correct, and adequate detail put into the closed version of the hatch. I needed to get the shading in that area so that the complicated skin curvatures are plausibly suggested.

Because of the softness of the rear areas, I needed to sharpen a lot of detail on the fin and rear half of the fuselage.

Many modellers have praised Kitty Hawk's kit, and it does seem to be quite lavishly supported, including beautiful colour profiles. There are a few errors though. My references say that all F9F-8P's were built with splitters ahead of the intakes to limit the ingestion of turbulent boundary layer air into the compressor. I added that detail. Also, I re-shaped the wing fences so that they hug the profile of the outer wing leading edge more closely, as is clear from many photographs.


This Cougar may not be as pretty as its VF61 companion, but it's an impressive machine all the same.