The Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star was the United
States Air Force’s first combat-capable jet fighter, scoring the world’s
first jet-against-jet aerial victory at the beginning of the Korean War.
A product of Kelly Johnson’s fertile design team (in what would later
become the Lockheed Skunk Works), the F-80 spawned a long lineage with
the T-33 advanced trainer and the F-94 Starfighter all-weather
The team designed an aircraft around the plans for
a license-built version of one of the new British turbojet engines, the
Halford H.1B Goblin. A contract was issued in June 1943 for the
creation, within 180 days, of a new fighter. Despite delays in the
delivery of a working version of the Goblin engine, the XP-80 prototype
flew for the first time in January 1944. A bigger and more powerful
engine, the General Electric J33 – an improvement in the design of the
Whittle centrifugal flow turbojet – was installed in the next development
aircraft, the XP-80A. As ever with emerging technology, engine failures
were quite common and several famous test and fighter pilots were killed
in the testing of the F-80, including Milo Burcham and top American World
War II ace Richard Bong.
Two YP-80As were shipped to England in December
1944 for testing. Two more were shipped to the Mediterranean and actually
flew a few missions before the end of the war in May, although they did
not encounter any enemy aircraft. Thirty P-80As were shipped to the
Philippines to participate in the planned invasion of the home islands of
Japan, but they too did not see any combat because of the end of the war.
The F-80C was the most numerous variant of the
series, with even more powerful and reliable versions of the J33 engine.
When the Korean War broke out in June 1950, F-80s were called to duty and
operated from bases in Japan. The jets had a bit of trouble with the
piston-engined Russian fighters, who could easily turn and evade the
Shooting Stars. But a rude awakening came on November 1,1950 when the
MiG 15 appeared on the scene. The world’s first jet-to-jet aerial
victory was scored by an F-80 on November 7 against one of the new MiGs.
It was soon apparent though that the MiG was superior to F-80 is just
about every way, being nearly 100 MPH faster and with a better ability to
maneuver. The F-86 Sabre quickly took over as the primary air
superiority aircraft, relegating the F-80 to the ground support and
reconnaissance role. Over one out of every three Shooting Stars were
lost while conducting these dangerous missions. As newer F-84
Thunderjets came on line to replace the F-80, surviving aircraft were
relegated to the National Guard, where they served into the late 1950s
before being permanently retired.
Released in 1977 by Monogram, this relatively simple kit
includes a number of interior details. The fuselage is engineered to
split into two, exposing the rear portion of the J33 jet engine, with a
stand provided to hold the back half of the fuselage. The port gun bay
hatch can be positioned open to expose simplistic detail of the six .50
caliber machine guns. The speed brakes can be posed open. The flaps are
separate pieces as well, although detail is provided only on the opposite
side of the flaps themselves and not in the top of the wings or the
exposed areas of the fuselage. The kit is molded in silver styrene with
fairly prominent raised panel lines. Three different sets of wingtip
fuel tanks are included, and two 500-pound bombs can be mounted on pylons
underneath the wings. Detail in the cockpit is merely adequate. Black
Box makes a resin replacement set, although the cockpit is such a snug
affair that most of the detail will be nearly impossible to see when the
model is assembled.
The clear pieces are nicely transparent, if a little
thick. The modeler will need to attach the bubble canopy to a frame.
Decals are typical for Monogram for the time period: poorly printed,
super glossy, and impossibly thick. There are a few Super Scale F-80
sheets available in the secondary market and the modeler is advised to
find a sheet if building this kit.
Those readers with good memories will recall a Modeler’s
Musings column in 2002 where I cried about failing miserably to build
one of these F-80 kits. Just about everything that could go wrong did.
My airbrush broke in the middle of the project, so I had to use a backup
single-action airbrush and ended up applying the SnJ Spray Metal paint
too thickly. While polishing the windscreen, I accidentally snapped it
in two. I tried to make a new one with Thermaform, which resulted in a
misshapen blob that barely resembled a windscreen. Trying to attach it
to the newly painted model, I got glue on the thick layer of SnJ and
messed that up. I tried to sand out the blemish and repaint, but the
repaired sections looked awful and I ended up just stripping all the
paint off the model to start over again. The Polly Scale Easy Lift-off I
used to do this attacked all the joints and the model fell apart. I
glued everything back together again, redid all the seams, and primed the
model for Alclad II lacquer, which I wanted to try for the first time.
The Alclad went on beautifully over the Krylon sandable primer I used,
showing every single imperfection in the primer coat. I realized that I
hadn’t sanded and polished the primer as well as I should have. At that
point, I gave up and threw the model in the trash can. It wasn't a
vicious departure (I don't hurl things in anger very often), but more of
a dejected resignation. The kit defeated me and I had lost the will to
But stubborn I am. Over the next two years I searched for
another kit, and finally got one in a trade for a Monogram AT-6. The
timing was right for me to start working on it right away, and this time
I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
The first thing I did was glue the gun panel on
the port side shut and filled the trenches on the starboard side of the
nose. I cut off the pitot tube and put it in a safe place to be cleaned
up and returned to its position later in the assembly
cockpit was painted overall Interior Green with flat black instrument
panel and consoles. I used a True Details resin injection seat instead
of the kit seat because of the better representation of seat belts. As
stated above, it is very hard to see much of anything in the cockpit when
the model is built, so I didn’t spend a huge amount of time detailing
it. A wash in the recesses and a drybrush of the instruments was good
enough. The gunsight is really crude, so I cut it off the coaming,
reshaped it to a more accurate representation, and added a clear piece of
acetate for the glass. I glued several fishing sinkers inside the nose
to insure the model would sit on its landing gear properly. I added the
cockpit tub and nose wheel well to one fuselage side and glued the
forward fuselage quarters together. The resultant seams were pretty
significant, especially along the spine of the aircraft.
I’m not a fan of peek-a-boo elements in my models,
so that meant that the exposed engine would have to go. I glued the
engine to the forward fuselage assembly, painted the tailpipe with
Metalizer Burnt Metal, and glued the back half of the fuselage over the
engine exhaust. The fit between the forward and rear fuselage pieces is
less than ideal, so lots of filling was necessary there. My buddy Stan
Pearce noticed that the fuselage has a definite banana curve to it when
viewed from above. I’m not sure how that occurred, as none of the parts
exhibited any visible warping, but sure enough it is there, implying that
one fuselage quarter is slightly longer than the other. Oh well.
The wings were next. Most photographs of F-80s at
rest show the flaps closed but the speed brakes were often open. Closed
flaps eliminate the problem of the lack of detail in the flap wells but
introduce one of its own: there is a wide gap between the flap and the
bottom of the fuselage. I grafted on thin slivers of sheet styrene to
the fuselage to fill the space and sanded them flush. The flaps were
glued to the wings and the entire assembly glued to the fuselage. What
did I see? You guessed it: more large seams to fill in the wing root and
belly areas. This model is definitely a putty queen. I was careful to
set the dihedral correctly before fixing it permanently with CA glue.
The horizontal stabilizers actually fit pretty well, a change from all
the other pieces in the kit that didn't.
The bubble canopy was glued to its frame and the
resulting seam was filled with CA glue and sanded smooth. I also faired
the windscreen into the fuselage and both transparencies were polished
back to clarity with a tri-grit file and Novus plastic polish #2. I was
relieved that I had passed the part of the project that caused me so much
trouble previously. I rescribed the panel lines that had been
obliterated by the seam-filling process, polished the styrene to a
mirror-like shine in preparation for the natural metal finish, and washed
the model with warm water and dish-washing liquid to remove all the
sanding dust and fingerprints before heading out to the paint shop.
The model was primed with Floquil Old Silver. I
studied many photographs of F-80s and did not see a huge amount of
variation between alternating panels, so I limited my counter-shading to
Alclad colors (Duraluminum and White Aluminum) very close in tone to the
Old Silver base. I chose to do an aircraft from the famous 334th Fighter
Squadron, 4thFighter Group, as seen in a picture in the Squadron P-80
Shooting Star In Action book. This aircraft had a semi-gloss black
nose, black and red tip tanks, an Olive Drab anti-glare panel, and a red
stripe on the tail. I masked all the accent colors and sprayed them
using Polly Scale and Testor Acryl paints.
Decals represented somewhat of a challenge, as no
aftermarket items are available for this particular aircraft. I made the
buzz number and serial number with a computer using USAF Amarillo font
and printed it on clear decal paper with my laser printer. The US
national insignia came from an AeroMaster sheet. The stencils, wing
walk, and turbine warning stripe came from an old Micro Scale F-80 sheet
I got from Squadron on close-out special a couple of years ago. The
famous fighting cock of the 334th FS was fashioned from the Tamiya kit
markings for the Don Gentile P-51B “Shangra-La”. I cut the rooster from
the kit sheet and positioned it on top of a disk I fashioned from a sheet
of solid yellow decal stock. It doesn't exactly match the rendition of
the squadron symbol of the F-80 in the photograph, but looks close enough
to fool most people.
I sealed the decals with a few very light coats of
Future. I've been around the block with what to use to seal a natural
metal finish aircraft, and Future seems to work the best for me. Sealing
is necessary because the stencils and other markings with clear carrier
backgrounds have an inherent shininess that is apparent when you view the
model from different angles. The Future works to blend them all
The landing gear wheels and speed brake wells, painted
Interior Green, received a wash made from Burnt Umber oil paint and
Turpenoid to dirty them up. Attaching the undercarriage was uneventful
until I tried to put on the nose gear doors. Talk about an exercise in
frustration! A person will need four hands to get those suckers glued
onto the model right. I finally glued the two doors together to the
retraction strut that spans between them, then carefully placed the
subassembly together onto the model and tried to get them all lined up as
best I could. It’s much sloppier than I would have preferred.
I drilled out the front of the gun barrels and glued them
into their slots on the nose. The pitot tube was glued on. How long it
will last there in its precarious position is anyone’s guess. The
wingtip tanks took a bit of fiddling to get properly aligned as the
attachment point allows for some play. The final task was to attach the
canopy bubble, which I bedded on the top of the fuselage spine with a
tiny blob of Blu-Tak. With that last step, I was thrilled to be done and
have the curse of the Monogram F-80 lifted from my shoulders!
I love the classic Monogram kits, and have built most of
them during my modeling career. I sadly have to say that the F-80 kit is
the most disappointing one of this long and proud line that I've built.
The fit is poor, the interior detail is sub-par compared to other
Monogram kits of the same vintage, and the panel lines are heavy-handed.
With no small amount of effort it still builds up into an accurate
rendition of a very important aircraft. I believe that this subject
would make an excellent project for a new-tool design. An enterprising
manufacturer could get a lot of variations on the molds for the F-80,
including the T-33 series and even the early F-94 fighters. Modelers
would find lots of colorful markings from many different countries to
apply to these kits. Hey Classic Airframes, Accurate Miniatures -- any
of you guys listening out there? The modeling world could use a new
Thanks to Stan Pearce, Steve “Snake” Mesner, and Tom Curda
for their assistance on this project.
Davis, Larry: P-80 Shooting Star in Action
Menard, David W.: USAF Plus Fifteen