Sweden's First Aerial Tanker
Lockheed Hercules 842 in 1/200th Scale
I have already modelled an entire series of Swedish Air Force aircraft, most single-engine fighters but also trainers and twin-engine bombers. I must admit I have focused on numbers rather than quality, but all of them are built to 1/72 scale and make for a nice theme display in a hobby shop in central Stockholm. Because the space was limited, I concentrated on smaller aircraft rather than big transports such as Hercules.
Lockheed Hercules, designated Tp 84 in Sweden, is the largest aircraft that Swedish Air Force ever operated (the second in this ranking being a single Avro Lancaster used after WWII as a jet engine test bed). As I came across a Hasegawa 1/200 kit of C-130 Spectre (Hercules gunship) I thought it would be nice to convert it to a Swedish Tp 84 and place it together with the other models. The size of a 1/200 scale Hercules is rather convenient even if the Spectre looks a little different than an ordinary Hercules but more on that later!
Despite its diminutive scale, the Hasegawa kit is really good-looking, with nice engraved panel lines and fine detail. Despite the amount of parts the model is quite simple. There are lots of small parts but most of them are used for the Spectre and not the standard Hercules so I began the work by sorting out the parts I didn’t need.
Next thing to do was building the left side fuselage. The Spectre is armed with two M61 20 mm Vulcan guns, one Bofors 40 mm L60 gun and one 105 mm M102 howitzer and a lot of electronics. All of this is located in the left side of the fuselage and I had to carve a lot of details away and fill some open hatches backdate it to a standard Hercules. I also had to reposition all the small windows on the left side of the fuselage; they should be a mirror image of the right side.
The most difficult part was to make the wheel well bulge shorter. At the front end I had to cut the length with almost one centimeter while the rear end was just reshaped. As I was forced to cut through the plastic I had to reinforce the inside of the fuselage with something. I opted to fill it with gap-filling superglue, applied in portions and hardened with accelerator. I like to use superglue as filler because it is easy to sand to correct shape and easy to polish to a smooth surface but you need to work fast before it turns hard and brittle. In other words, don’t wait until the day after application.
Any minor gaps and visible joint lines on the rest of the model were filled with Tamiya Putty. The fit was good so most of the putty went in to the hatches for the guns that I mentioned earlier.
Hercules 842 showing its camouflage scheme of two greys.
Building the model
The interior is basic consisting of a floor, two seats, a bulkhead and a lot of lead! This aircraft is a tail-sitter so you will have to add quite a lot of weight to make it stand right on all its wheels. The cockpit is small and even though there are a lot of windows you won’t see much of neither the interior nor the lead weight as everything is painted in dark colours.
One spot that needed a little attention was the joint between the engine nacelles and the wing. It was not a bad fit, just a little tricky to reach the seam with the file. The wing-to-fuselage joint was good but I still used a little putty here. This is a true shoulder winged aircraft and to make sure the wing looked like a single piece, I made multiple checks and corrections to ensure that the surface was smooth and even, .
The stabilizer was also a good fit, as were the landing gear and its doors. I think I misplaced the cockpit window, which was moulded as one-piece insert in the forward fuselage. On the left side I had to file the clear part down a little and on the right side I had to add some putty.
Finally I glued the many antennae in place. I used reference photos to see how they looked and where they were located. This Hercules carries some kind of antenna arrangement on the upper fuselage, directly behind the wing, that is quite characteristic. It consists of a horizontal antenna bar supported by three rods. There is one on the left and one on the right side of the centerline of the fuselage but they are not symmetrically placed around the centerline.
The fun part!
Painting is fun - not less so in the case of modern grey schemes! I have chosen the second aircraft delivered to Sweden (call sign 842), currently being converted to the first ever aerial tanker in the Swedish Air Force. Until recently, there was no operational requirement for such aircraft. However, the modified JAS 39C/D Gripen is the first aircraft equipped with an aerial refuelling system in the Swedish Air Force, so the Hercules as been modified to train JAS 39C/D pilots in aerial refuelling.
I used Tamiya acrylics thinned with Ajax window cleaner to paint this model. Judging from the available photos, without doing any severe research my choice fell on XF20 Medium Grey. I thought this was a tad too dark but it made the aircraft look more substantial - real Hercules is indeed massive but a 1/200 scale Hercules needs a little help. The same colour was used on on both upper and lower surfaces, except for the walkways on top of the wing and fuselage, which were painted in a darker shade of grey, XF24 Dark Grey. Before I painted the aircraft I had masked the cockpit windows with Bare Metal Foil and I can tell small windows are not very fun to mask.
The Stupid Part
For some reason I didn’t give this model a clear cote of Johnson Klear /Future before I applied the decals, instead I polished the surface with a wet cloth. I am sure this would have worked fine if it had been for two things 1. The surface was very flat (or rather too flat, the paint had partly dried on its way to the surface of the model) 2. I let the paint dry for about two weeks so it was too hard to polish it.
The Good Part
As no decals were available for a Swedish Tp 84 in 1/200 scale, a friend of mine made a set for me with his ALPS printer. The real markings are dark grey but for two reasons I wanted them black: it is hard to print them in grey and in this small scale and my choice of a little too dark grey colour on the aircraft black was just right. It must have been a modeller who made the markings for the real Tp 84 as the numbers and the text on the aircraft is in Times New Roman, this made things a lot easier.
The decals were easy to apply but silvered although I used both Super Set and Super Sol. I can think of two reasons for the silvering: the surface was still too flat, even though I polished it, and maybe the liquid decal film I brushed on the decals before use was applied in too thick a layer. If I had used Future/Johnson I am sure there would have been no silvering. Finally I gave the model a flat coat using Future/Johnson mixed with a little Tamiya XF21 Flat Base.
The Air Force´s choice of Times New Roman for the numbers and the text "Swedish Air Force", probably the most widespread text font on this planet, made decal manufacture a breeze! Thanks to Björn Bäcklund for ALPS-printing the decals!
And the refueling pods!
Well a refueling aircraft needs refueling pods and as there are no refueling pods available in 1/200 scale I had to build them myself. I got pictures and scale plans from a colleague of mine so I grabbed a plastic rod and sanded it to shape. It is a standard USAF pod with a modified rear end. For the pylons I used plastic card. I had to make two pieces of each, as there is one refueling pod under each outer wing (outboard of the outer engines). The extra fuel tank for the refueling system is placed in the cargo hold. I measured the location of the pods and after painting them the same color as the rest of the aircraft I glued them in place.
The first aerial tanker in Swedish service, complete with refuelling pods!
Voila! A Swedish Tp 84 in tanker configuration, and that before the Swedish Air Force actually have one!
Now I am just looking for a small model of the JAS 39 in close to 1/200 scale to hook up behind my Tp 84 tanker!