1/48 Scale Northrop F-15A Water Bomber/Fire Tanker from the Great Wall Hobbies P-61 Black Widow

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By Steven Krick


This build represents the Northrop F-15A Water Bomber, serial number N9768Z.  This aircraft was built originally as serial number 45-59300, which was the first production F-15A Reporter.  59300 was the only F-15A to survive into the mid 1960’s.  It was used for NACA/NASA tests until 1955, when it was sold and registered as XB-FUJ in Mexico.  In Mexico a ‘Droop Snoot’ was installed in the nose section for photo mapping.

It returned to the United States registered as N5093V with a yellow tail scheme.  In 1964 Aero Enterprises installed a 1600 gallon fire retardant tank and operated the aircraft as a fire tanker during the 1964/65 fire seasons.

Cal Nat Airways then acquired the aircraft in 1966 and modified it to a single seater while painting it in the ‘International Orange’ color scheme during the 1966/67 fire season.


F-15 Fire Bomber circa 1965 (courtesy of Bill Larkins) 

In 1968 the aircraft was sold to TBM, Inc and was lost on September 6, 1968.

As a result of the aircraft’s interesting history, there are very many unique and dramatic paint schemes for this bird.  One scheme has International Red on the tail

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Revell/Monogram 1/48 P-61C Black Widow From Operation Thunderstorm

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by Steven Krick

Operation Thunderstorm

In 1945 the US Congress gave $250,000 to the US Weather Bureau to study violent weather, particularly thunderstorms.  In Phase I, the main base for this study was Pinecastle Field, Florida.  It took three months to get the microwave towers and all the test equipment in place. The first flights were made over Orlando by nine specially rigged P-61C aircraft fitted with weather instrumentation and recording devices.  As soon as a storm was detected, the aircraft were dispatched at 5,000 foot intervals up to 25,000 feet.

Phase II of the Operation was conducted at Clinton County Army Air Field in Ohio.  The equipment reached this field in February of 1947.  On this occasion, there were 13 P-61Cs, plus four variants sent by Northrop including two production F-15A’s, the XF-15, and the XF-15A.  Quite a line-up!  Also included was a P-61B sent to TWA for weather testing.  All aircraft got plenty of flight hours and took numerous lightning strikes and hail hits; many of them had Plexiglas nose damage. 

The Operation was suspended in late 1947, with the University of Chicago responsible for assimilating all the data and information.  These results contributed greatly to the knowledge of extreme weather flying and civil aviation safety.



P-61C Decal Search

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