1/48 F6F-5N Hellcat Nightfighter

This build is the 1/48 Eduard F6F-5N Hellcat Nightfighter. This is Eduard’s “Weekend Edition” so it comes with some resin detail accessories like radar pod, gun barrels, exhaust pipes, and under wing antenna. I will also be adding Eduard’s photo etch cockpit detail set. I will be using the decals for VF(N)-90 that was aboard the USS Enterprise in 1945. This scheme is one of the scheme’s that comes in the kit. It will also be mounted on a Eureka XXL resin base that looks like the Enterprise flight deck.

While this sounds like one of my typical builds, I’ve decided to change it up. This aircraft will be built utilizing 6 LED’s and some fiber optic lines to illuminate it. This will be my first time illuminating a 1/48 scale aircraft. The build flow will be slightly different since placement and routing of the lighting needs to be arranged. The area’s I will be illuminating are the recognition lights on the bottom of the fuselage, The wing edge landing light, the wing tip lights, the rear formation light, the two formation lights on the dorsal behind the cockpit, and finally the instrument panel. The instrument panel will be back-lit with red lights just like the real panel. This was done so the pilot could maintain his night vision.

There will be 6 LED’s. One Pico size LED will be mounted in the wing for the landing light. There will be 3 Pico LED’s to backlight the dash. Then there will be two 3mm LED’s, one white and one green. The white one will illuminate the rear formation light and the three recognition lights on the bottom. To make the three different colors of the recognition lights I will paint the clear lens the correct color using Tamiya clear paints. The green LED will provide light to the two dorsal formation lights and the one wingtip light. The red wingtip light will be sourced from one of the red LED’s used to backlight the instrument panel. I will be using a battery for power. I just have not figured out where to place the battery (batteries). The LED’s require 9 to 12 volts so there are many options. If I use a standard 9V battery it will keep the model illuminated for about 12-14 hours.  If I use an A23 12V battery it is physically smaller and will keep it illuminated for about 4-5 hours. Once I get to setting up the base, I will tackle the power supply.

So let’s begin. For the record I will be using 0.5mm fiber optic lines.  I started with the recognition lights. I taped the fuselage together and drilled the bottom of the holes in the base of where the clear lenses sit using a 0.5mm drill bit on a pin vise. I then took a 1mm sheet of styrene and made a small plate and drilled the holes in the correct locations. This was done to add support to the fiber optic lines once they are mounted.  Each 6” fiber optic line was trimmed flush to the surface of the fuselage plastic then it was glued in place using acrylic gel medium to secure the line in place. (HINT: do NOT use CA glues. These will make the fiber optic lines very brittle and they will crack easily.) Once cured I then painted the end of the fiber optic with the Tamiya clear paint and also painted the back side of the clear lens the same color. I took some more sheet styrene and made a 0.5” square box. This will serve as the “light box” for the fiber optic lines. I drilled a 3.0mm hole on one end and four 0.5mm holes on the opposite side. I left the inside white and painted the outside flat black.  This was able to fit inside the fuselage behind the cockpit wall. Using the acrylic gel I glued the 3mm white LED in and then installed the three optic lines and glued them in place with the acrylic gel. The fuselage was then taped together and using the 0.5mm drill, I drilled the tail formation light. Opening up the fuselage there was now a channel where the fiber optic could sit. This was glued in place with the acrylic gel and routed to the fourth hole in the light box. After the gel cured the light box was then painted with a second coat of flat black. (HINT: when using LED’s always paint the inside of the model as well as any holders for LED’s with dark color paint to prevent any unwanted light. Flat black paint is your best friend). All the fiber optic lines were then taped down and I added spots of acrylic gel to secure the lines against the model.

Next was running the fiber optic lines in the wings for the wing tip lights. Again these were taped together and drilled into the wing to make a channel for the lines. For the port wing, as luck would have it, the landing light hole was near perfect size for the Pico LED. Some minor sanding to make it smooth then the LED was glued in place with acrylic gel. The optic lines and fine wires of the LED were then routed around the area where they would not interfere with the landing gear bays. They were taped down, glued with acrylic gel then painted the areas with flat black paint. The fiber optic lines were made 12”long because they would need to be cut to size once I am ready to assemble the fuselage. I drilled a hole on the fuselage so the optic line and LED wiring can access the fuselage. I will also need to run the power lines thru the wings. The plan is to run the power lines up the landing gear and use the wire to represent the hydraulic lines of the landing gear.

Next up I will be working on the instrument panel and assembling the cockpit.

This update covers the instrument panel.  The photo etch set gives you a clear film with the black part of the gauges printed on it as well as the photo etch panel. I took the kit panel and drilled out all the gauges then sanded the panel to half its thickness.  Due to the shape of the panel I decided to make three separate “light boxes”.  Each light box will have its own Pico size red LED. Using some sheet styrene I made the light boxes .5” deep. The back wall has the LED attached with acrylic gel. I then painted the back of the film with two coats of flat white. I glued the film to the panel then the photo etch on top of the film for each of the sections. The outside was then panted with two coats of flat black.  The instrument panel was attached to the cockpit tub and the wires were routed forward and then under the cockpit tub. The effect was exactly how I hoped it would come out.

Next I will be running the power wires up the landing gear than putting the fuselage together.

More progress on the Hellcat Nightfighter. I built up the main landing gear and ran a wire on each one to simulate the wiring for the landing gear. I drilled a hole in the hub and the bottom of the tire. The wire was strapped to the strut with some photo etch bands and routed into the hub, thru the tire, and out the bottom. This is done so I can rum the wire thru the base to the power source.  The landing gear was attached to the wing and the wire was routed to the fuselage. I have to attach the wings to the fuselage halves before closing up the fuselage due to the wiring and fiber optics used in the wings.

The wires were routed, tied together, soldered and sleeved. The optic lines for the wings were routed and glued in place using the acrylic gel. I taped the fuselage together and did a light check before I glued the fuselage shut. With all lighting working the fuselage was glued together. The engine was assembled, detailed with photo etch wiring, and detail painted. I installed the resin radar pod but it was not a perfect fit so I had to fill the gaps with some putty. With the engine mounted, horizontal stabilizers, rudder, and engine cowl assembled it was ready for painting. I used some Micro Mask liquid masking to cover all the lighting lenses. Next up will be painting and decals then I can start painting and weathering the flight deck base.

I am heading down the final stretch on the lighted Hellcat Nightfighter.  So this week I added the drop take and added the straps with some spare photo etch parts. The aircraft was then base coated with Vallejo dark sea blue. I then installed the exhaust pipes and started on the decals. I was about halfway done with the decals when a fellow modeler informed me that the kit decals are slightly larger than what they should be. I had already installed the “21” on the side of the fuselage but did not do the tail. I then looked at the tail decal and “slightly larger” is being nice. The tail decal covers the entire tail and hangs off the back. I scanned in the tail decals and resized them to match the tail. I made my own decals for the tail and it looks way better. I finished the decals and then weathered the exhaust stains then finally top coated it.

While it was drying I started on the base. The frame was white so I sprayed it hull gray. The flight deck insert was then sprayed with deck tan and then deck blue. I then painted on the dashed lines in light gray. The deck was scraped lightly with some 600 grit sand paper to give it the weathered painted wood look. The tie down strips and the arresting cable tracks were painted dark metallic gray. The arresting cables were painted gunmetal, installed, and the entire surface was weathered with black, gray, and dark brown.  This was then sealed with a thin coat of matte top coat. Stay tuned as next I will be detailing the canopy and some other minor details then mounting to the base and making the name plate which will also house the battery.

The F6F-5N Nightfigher is now finished. I had a brass nameplate made and used it as the front of the battery box. The box was built out of sheet styrene. The end caps just press in for battery access. The end cap on the right side is just temporary. I will be adding a switch to turn the lights off and on. The switch is on order and then once it arrives, I can design the end cap and I will 3-D print it for a better fit and to make the power switch not so noticeable. Overall this is a very nice kit with the exception of the decals. Even though I had to build it in a different order than the instructions due to the lighting, everything fit well.

The final pictures have different stages. The first ones are without the nameplate and light off. Then lights on with the battery sitting outside camera frame. Then the final photos are with everything on. The last photo was a Photoshop with a “sunset at sea” background. Thanks for following along and hope this encourages some of you to add lighting to your builds.

5 thoughts on “1/48 F6F-5N Hellcat Nightfighter

  1. anthony dagostino June 25, 2020 — 1:14 am

    Very cool!

  2. My wife was impressed. This says a lot!

  3. Pierre Lagacé July 2, 2020 — 12:43 pm

    Is the base homemade?

    1. No it is made by a company called Eureka XXL.

  4. Hello! This is a fantastic example of “Modeling Art!”

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