1:72 Saab J 19D; ‘Groen Erik’ of the Flygflottilj 8 (F 8) 4th Division, Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force); Barkarby (Stockholm region), 1947 (Whif/Hobby Boss kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The origins of the Saab 19 date back before the onset of WWII. At that time, the Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) was equipped with largely obsolete Gloster Gladiator (J 8) biplane fighters. To augment this, Sweden ordered 120 Seversky P-35 (J 9) and 144 P-66 Vanguard (J 10) aircraft from the United States.
However, on 18 June 1940, United States declared an embargo against exporting weapons to any nation other than Great Britain. As the result, the Flygvapnet suddenly faced a shortage of modern fighters.
Just in time, Saab had presented to the Ministry on Sep 4th 1939 a fighter that had been meant to replace the obsolete Gloster Gladiators. The aircraft carried the internal development code ‘L-12’ and had been designed in collaboration with US engineers in Sweden, who were to aid with license production of Northrop 8-A 1s and NA-16-4 Ms.
The L-12 looked very much like the contemporary, Japanese Mitsubishi A6M “Zero” (which had been seriously considered by the Flygvapnet, but import or license production turned out to be impractical). The aircraft was a very modern all-metal construction with fabric covered control surfaces. The L-12 was to be powered by a 1.065 hp Bristol Taurus and maximum speed was calculated to be 605 km/h. Its relatively heavy armament consisted of four wing-mounted 13.2mm guns and two synchronized 8 mm MGs on top of the engine, firing through the propeller arc.
The design was quickly approved and the new aircraft was to be introduced to the Flygvapnet as the ‘J 19A’. Production aircraft would be outfitted with a more powerful Bristol Taurus II, giving 1.400 hp with 100-octane fuel and pushing the top speed to 630 km/h. But the war’s outbreak spoiled these plans literally over night: the L-12 had to be stopped, as the intended engine and any import or license production option vanished. This was a severe problem, since production of the first airframes had already started at Trollhättan, in the same underground factory where the B 3 bomber (license-built Ju-86K of German origin with radial engines) was built. About 30 pre-production airframes were finished or under construction, but lacked an appropriate engine!
With only half of a promising aircraft at hand and the dire need for fighters, the Swedish government decided to outfit these initial aircraft with non-license-built Wright R-2600-6 Twin Cyclone radial engines with an output of 1.600 hp (1.194 kW). The fuselage-mounted machine guns were deleted, due to the lack of internal space and in order to save weight, and the modified machines were designated J 19B. This was only a stop-gap solution, though. P&W Twin Wasp engines had also been considered as a potential power plant (resulting in the J 19C), but the US didn't want to sell any engines at that time to Sweden and this variant never materialized.
An initial batch of 24 J 19B aircraft was eventually completed and delivered to F3 at Lidköping in late 1940, while airframe construction was kept up at small pace, but only seven more J 19Bs were completed with R-2600 engines. Uncompleted airframes were left in stock for spares, and further production was halted in mid 1941, since the engine question could not be solved sufficiently.
The J 19B proved to be a controversial aircraft, not only because of its dubious engine. While it was basically a fast and agile aircraft, the heavy R-2600 engine was rather cumbersome and not suited for a fighter. Handling in the air as well as on the ground was demanding, due to the concentration of weight at the aircraft’s front – several J 19Bs tipped over while landing. As a consequence, the J 19B simply could not live up to its potential and was no real match for modern and more agile fighters like the Bf 109 or the Spitfire – but the Swedish equipment shortages kept the machines in service throughout WWII, even though primarily in a ground attack role and fulfilling other secondary line duties.
Towards the end of WWII, the J 19’s intended role was eventually filled by the indigenous FFVS J 22 fighter – ironically, it was outfitted with a license-built P&W Twin Wasp. By that time, about forty J 19 airframes were more or less complete, just lacking a proper engine. Mounting the now available Twin Wasp to these had seriously been considered, but the aircraft’s performance would not suffice anymore. Consequently, a thorough modification program for the J 19 was started in late 1944, leading to the post-WWII J 19D.
The J 19D was another stopgap program, though, and the economical attempt to bring the fighter’s performance on par with contemporary fighters like the American P-47 or the P-51; both of these types had been tested and considered for procurement, and the P-51 was eventually ordered in early 1945 from US surplus stock as the J 26, even though deliveries were postponed until 1946. The J 19D was to bridge the time until the J 26 was fully introduced, and would later serve in the attack role.
Since the J 19 airframe could not take a large and powerful radial engine like the R-2800, Saab made a radical move and decided to integrate an inline engine – despite the need for some fundamental changes to the airframe. The choice fell on the Packard V-1650, the same engine that also powered the J 26 fighters, so that procurement, maintenance and logistics could be streamlined.
Integration of the very different engine necessitated a complete re-design of the engine attachment architecture, a new, streamlined cowling and the addition of a relatively large radiator bath under the fuselage. A new four blade propeller was introduced and enlarged, all-metal stabilizers were integrated, too, in order to compensate the changed aerodynamics induced by the new radiator arrangement (which made the aircraft pitch down in level flight). A new bubble canopy with minimal framing was introduced, too, offering a much better all-round field of view for the pilot.
Even though the inline engine had a lower nominal output than the J 19B’s heavy R-2600, performance of the J 19D improved appreciably and it became, thanks to improved aerodynamics, a better overall weight distribution, more agile – finally living up to its original design plans, even though its performance was still not outstanding.
Armament was upgraded, too: the inner pair of wing-mounted 13.2mm machine guns was replaced by 20mm Bofors cannons (license-built Hispano-Suiza HS.404), considerably improving weapon range and firepower. Under the outer wings, hardpoints could take a pair of 250 kg bombs, 300 l drop tanks or up to eight 50 kg bombs and/or unguided missiles.
After WWII, the J 19B survivors were kept in service and soldiered on until 1948, when all remaining aircraft were scrapped. Wright was also paid the overdue license fees for the originally unlicensed engines. The J 19D served together with the J 22 and J 26 fighters until 1950, when all of these piston engine fighters were gradually replaced by de Havilland Vampires (J 28) and the indigenous J 29 Tunnan, which rapidly brought the Swedish Air Force into the jet age. The last four J 19Ds, used as liaison aircraft at F 8 at Barkarby, were retired in 1954.
Saab J 19A General characteristics
Length: 9.68 m (31 ft 8 1/2 in)
Wingspan: 12.0 m (39 ft 4 in)
Height: 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in)
Wing area: 22.44 m² (241.5 ft²)
Empty weight: 1,630 kg (3,590 lb)
Loaded weight: 2,390 kg (5,264 lb)
Aspect ratio: 6.4
1× Packard V-1650-7 liquid-cooled V-12, with a 2 stage intercooled supercharger,
rated at 1,490 hp (1,111 kW) at 3,000 rpm
Maximum speed: 640 km/h (397 mph) at 4.550 m (14.930 ft)
Cruise speed: 380 km/h (236 mph)
Landing speed: 140 km/h (90 mph)
Range: 1.500 km (930 mi; 810 nmi)
Service ceiling: 11.800 m (38.650 ft)
Rate of climb: 15.9 m/s (3,125 ft/min)
2× 20 mm Bofors (Hispano-Suiza HS.404) cannons with 120 RPG
2× 13.2 mm (0.53 in) M/39A (Browning M2) machine guns with 500 RPG
Underwing hardpoints for an ordnance of 500 kg (1.100 lb), including a pair of 300 l drop tanks,
two 250 kg (550 lb) bombs, eight 50 kg (110 lb) bombs or eight unguided missiles.
The kit and its assembly
This is actually the second J 19 I have converted from a Hobby Boss A6M – and this build addresses two questions that probably nobody ever asked:
● What would a Mitsubishi Zero with an inline engine look like?
● Could the fictional Swedish aircraft have survived WWII, and in which form?
The Saab J 19 never saw the hardware stage, but it was a real life project that was eventually killed through the outbreak of WWII and the lack of engines mentioned in the background above. Anyway, it was/is called the “Swedish Zero” because it resembled the Japanese fighter VERY much – wing shape, fuselage, tail section, even the cockpit glazing!
This build/conversion was very similar to my first one, which ended up as a J 19B with an R-2600 engine from a Matchbox B-25 Mitchell bomber. However, due to the later time frame and different donor parts at hand things took a different route – this time, the key idea was the modernization/update of a rather outdated airframe, and the old J 19B model was the benchmark.
Again, much of the literally massive(!) Hobby Boss Zero was taken OOB, but changes this time included:
● The nose/cowling from a Matchbox P-51D
● A modified ventral radiator bath from a HUMA Me 309
● New horizontal stabilizers from a Griffon Spitfire
● A new propeller (Pavla resin parts for a post WWII P-51D/K with uncuffed blades)
● OOB main landing gear was inverted, so that the wheel discs face inwards
● New main wheels from an AZ Models Spitfire, IIRC
● New retractable tail wheel, from a Bf 109 G; the arrestor hook opening was closed
● A vacu canopy for a late mark Hawker Typhoon, plus some interior details behind the seat
In order to adapt the Mustang’s nose to the slender and circular A6M fuselage, a wedge plug was inserted between the fuselage halves from the Matchbox kit and a styrene tube added inside as a propeller mount. The latter, a resin piece, received a long metal axis and can spin freely.
For the new bubble canopy the cockpit opening and the basic interior was retained, but the dorsal section around the cockpit re-sculpted with putty. Took some time, but worked well and everything blends surprisingly well into each other – even though the aircraft, with its new engine, somehow reminds me of a Hawker Hurricane now? From certain angles the whole thing also has a P-39 touch? Weird!
Painting and markings
Again the dire question: how to paint this one? Once more I did not want to use a typical olive green/light blue Swedish livery, even though it would have been the most plausible option. I eventually settled for a pure natural metal finish, inspired by the post-WWII J 26/Mustangs in Swedish service, which furthermore carried only minimal tactical markings: roundels in six positions, the Flygflottilj number on the fuselage and a colored letter code on the tail, plus a spinner in the same color. Very simple and plain, but with more and more Swedish whiffs piling up, I am looking for as much camouflage/livery diversity as possible, and an NMF machine was still missing. :D
All interior surfaces were painted in RLM 02, and for the NMF I used my personal “recipe” with a basis of Revell 99 (Aluminum, acrylics) plus a black ink wash, followed by panel post-shading with Humbrol “Polished Aluminum” Metallizer (27002), rubbing/polishing with a soft cotton cloth and finally and a light rubbing treatment with grinded graphite for weathering effects and a worn, metallic shine of the surfaces.
Around the exhaust stubs, slightly darker panels were painted with Revell Acyrlics 91 (Iron) and ModelMaster Magnesium Metallizer. A black anti glare panel was added in front of the cockpit (P-51 style). The green propeller boss was painted with a mix of Humbrol 3 and 131 – emulating the color of the green code letter on the fin as good as possible.
The decals were puzzled together; the bright roundels belong to a Swedish Fiat CR.42, from a Sky Models sheet. The “8” on the fuselage comes from an early WWII Swedish Gloster Gladiator code (SBS Models), while the green “E” is an RAF code letter from a Heller Supermarine Spitfire Mk. XVI – actually a total print color disaster, since this deep green is supposed to be Sky!? For better contrast on the Aluminum the letter was placed on a white background, created from single decal strips (generic material from TL Modellbau).
After some soot stains around the exhaust stubs and the fuselage flanks with more graphite, as well as around the gun muzzles, the kit was sealed with a 4:1 mix of gloss and matt acrylic varnish, only the anti glare panel and the propeller blades became 100% matt. Some more matt varnish was also dabbed over the soot stains.
So, another J 19, and the “Zero with an inline engine” looks pretty strange – not as streamlined as other late WWII designs like the P-51 or Griffon-powered Spitfires, yet with a modern touch. The NMF livery looks a bit boring, but the unusual green code (used by liason J 26s from F 8 and some rare 4th or 5th divisions) is a nice contrast to the bright and large Swedish roundels, underlining the pretty elegant lines of the converted Zero!