Academy B-17F: Mediterranean Ferret
I am always looking for planes to build that are a little out of the ordinary. I came across an article in Aviation Historian about B-17Fs that were used in the Mediterranean as ferrets. A ferret is an aircraft that is designed to detect, analyze, and sometimes jam enemy radio and radar stations.
The British were probably the first to explore using ferrets to counter German radar, but the Americans soon saw the possibilities and began to develop their own ferret program. The first American ferret mission was a B-24D used against the Japanese at Kiska Island in March, 1943. In April, 1943, the 16th Reconnaissance Squadron was established at Foch Field, Tunisia, with 4 war-weary B-17Fs. These planes were filled with detection equipment, including an APA-24 radar in a dome that replaced the belly turret. The bomb bay was filled with additional equipment, as well as the radio operator's compartment which was filled with equipment and additional operators.
The 16th Squadron flew missions to evaluate enemy radars in Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Italy, and southern France. Missions were flown solo at low altitude, usually at night. Several planes were lost without a trace. When the ferret mission moved to the Pacific in 1944, these B-17s were so battered that they were simply abandoned in place. In the Pacific, the ferret mission was performed using B-24s, and then later, by B-29s. The important part of this story is the fact that at least two of the 16th's B-17s were camouflaged using black stripes. I was able to find two grainy photos of the plane I wanted to build, one after it was painted but prior to addition of ferret equipment, and another as it was getting ready for a mission. These were enough to move this build forward.
I used the Academy/Minicraft B-17F as the basis for this build.
I added a resin interior, along with additional scratchbuilt equipment to fill-in missing interior items, as well as adding the ferret equipment. This work was largely wasted as most of the interior can't be seen once you build the fuselage.
I replaced the belly turret with a radome taken from a Revell B-17G. The ferret antennas on top of the plane were scratchbuilt using pieces of round plastic strip. I painted the plane using AK Real Colors and Tamiya Paints. It was weathered using artist oil colors. I pieced together the required markings and tail number using Kits-World Decals. One thing I should mention is that this model has excessive dihedral if you build it according to the instructions. (Ask me how I know.) I didn't realize there was a problem until I had already glued everything together. I checked a couple of online reviews which both confirmed the dihedral problem. The good news is that the issue isn't too obvious unless you look at the model directly from the front.
Thanks for stopping by. If you want more info on ferrets or the build, please go to work-in-progress article in the Bomber Group. Cheers.