1:72 Fiat G.91R/2; '14-03' of Escuadron 143, Ala de Caza 14; Spanish Air Force (SPAF/Ejército del Aire); Los Llanos/Albacete, 1975 (Whif/Airfix kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
In December 1953, NATO Supreme Command issued specifications for a new light tactical support aircraft. European manufacturers were invited to submit their designs for this requested Light Weight Strike Fighter role. The G.91 was one contender and designed to this specification by the Italian engineer Giuseppe Gabrielli, hence the "G" designation.
The competition was intended to produce an aircraft that was light, small, expendable, equipped with basic weapons and avionics and capable of operating with minimal ground support. These specifications were developed for two reasons: the first was the nuclear threat to large air bases, many cheaper aircraft could be better dispersed, and the other was to counter the trend towards larger and more expensive aircraft.
The technical requirements were:
• 1,100 m (3,610 ft) takeoff distance over a 15 m (49 ft) obstacle
• Capability to operate from grass strips and roads
• Maximum speed of Mach 0.95
• Range of 280 km (170 mi) with 10 minutes over the target
• Armoured protection for the pilot and the fuel tanks
• 4 × 12.7 mm (.5 in) or 2 × 20 mm or 30 mm guns
• A maximum of 2,200 kg (4,850 lb) empty weight and 4,700 kg (10,360 lb) max. weight
The challenge of providing an engine that matched the requirements of lightness and power, reliability and ease of maintenance was solved by using the Bristol Siddeley Orpheus turbojet.
Project selections took 18 months to complete and the final selection of the three remaining competing designs was planned for late 1957. In September 1957, at the Centre d'Essais en Vol at Brétigny-sur-Orge, in France, the three rival aircraft types met for evaluation trials. During the trials the Italian aircraft performed impressively and, in January 1958, the Fiat G.91 was officially declared the winner.
Following a meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in April 1958 it was agreed that the G.91 would be the first NATO lightweight strike fighter. A production meeting was planned for May 1958 to discuss the production of the aircraft with financial support from the United States, the Americans would provide some of the finance for the French, German and Italian aircraft and pay for the Turkish aircraft. Other NATO states were supposed to buy the G.91, too., and the defence ministers reached agreement to order 50 aircraft for each country.
Given the large economic and commercial interests at stake, there was a certain amount of controversy surrounding this decision. After the loss of the G.91 prototype, the French government preferred to pursue development of the locally-designed Étendard. The British government similarly ignored the competition to concentrate on Hawker Hunter production for the same role.
The Italian government ordered the G.91 for the Italian Air Force before the results of the competition were known. An initial pre-production batch of machines would later go on to serve for many years with the Italian aerobatic team, the Frecce Tricolori as the G.91 PAN.
The G.91 was also considered by Austria, Norway, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, and even the United States Army, which briefly evaluated the type as a possible Forward Air Control aircraft before relinquishing all fixed-wing aircraft operations to the Air Force.
Spain bought the intended 50 aircraft (42 single seaters called G.91R/2, outfitting two fighter bomber squadrons, plus 8 trainers with tandem seats, comparable with the Italian G.91T/1 trainers), which were produced in Italy from early 1961 onwards and became operational with the Ejército del Aire in late 1962, replacing the F-86 and HA-220 Super Saetas in the ground attack/CAS role.
The G.91R/2 was a hybrid between the simple Italian G.91R/1 and the later, more sophisticated G.91R/4 for Greece and Turkey. It used the R/1's airframe with the modified nose housing three cameras, but already had four underwing hardpoints, structural reinforcements and improved avionics, including a Doppler radar and a revised instrumentation that was also introduced with the Italian R/1A.
The G.91 in Spanish service was already phased out from the mid 70ies onwards and completely retired in 1986, being replaced by F-5 and Mirage F.1.
Length: 10.3 m (33 ft 9 in)
Wingspan: 8.56 m (28 ft 1 in)
Height: 4.0 m (13 ft 1 in)
Wing area: 16.4 m² (177 ft²)
Empty weight: 3,100 kg (6,830 lb)
Loaded weight: 5,440 kg (11,990 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb)
1× Bristol Siddeley Orpheus 803 turbojet, 22.2 kN (5,000 lbf)
Maximum speed: 1,075 km/h (580 kn, 668 mph)
Range: 1,150 km (621 nmi, 715 mi)
Service ceiling: 13,100 m (43,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 30 m/s (6,000 ft/min)
Wing loading: 331 kg/m² (67.8 lb/ft²)
4× 12.7 mm (0.50 in) M2 Browning machine guns,
4× under-wing pylon stations holding up to 680 kg/1.500 lb of payload
The kit and its assembly:
Second entry for the "1 Week group Build" at whatifmodelers.com, since my first model was finished in just three days... This one struck me recently when I browsed through the F-5 book of the "Planes and Pilots" series, and came across the Spanish machines. What if Spain had bought the G.91...?
The resulting aircraft would surely have looked pretty in the three-tone "Small Asia" paint scheme, so the idea landed on the list and now entered the hardware stage.
...not until I got hands on a G.91 kit. Not easy, at least if you do not want to sink a fortune. I was lucky to find a pair of Airfix G.91s - from Japanese production, the boxes are dated 1981! And the kit is accordingly rather basic, especially anything concerning the interior is primitive, the wheels are a joke and the ordnance better ignored.
However, the fuselage lines are not bad, and since I had some leftover sprues from the more modern Revell G.91 in store I decided to pimp the Airfix kit with some donation parts and build an Ejércite del Aire whif.
It's not a true kitbashing, but a lot of Revell parts went into the vintage Airfix kit:
• The cockpit tub (which includes an upper wall for the air intake) was implanted
• The ejection seat and the dashboard, too
• An improvised jet nozzle was added - the Airfix kit just offers a bare hole(!)
• From the landing gear only the main struts were taken
• Even the landing gear covers were taken from the Revell kit
• The outer pylons are donations, too, while the inner ones were modified
• Ordnance is new, too, all from the spares box
The kit needed some putty work, but fit was surprisingly good.
Painting and markings:
Well, Spain is the theme and so I gave this Gina a "typical" livery, borrowed from export F-5s (e .g. for Spain, Iran, Jordania), the “Small Asia” paint scheme.
As basic colors I used Humbrol 74 (Linen), 29 (RAF Dark Earth) and 116 (FS34079), with pale grey undersides in Humbrol 129 (FS36440). The landing gear, its wells and the air intake were painted in Aluminum (Modelmaster), while the cockpit was kept in Dark Sea Grey (Humbrol 164) with a light blue dashboard - confirmed by real life pics.
As per usual the kit received a light black ink wash, light panel shading (also adding to a sun-bleached look) and some dry painting with light grey. No OOB decal was and could be used - 35 years took their toll!
Anyway, the decals come primarily from a Heller Mirage III, as well as some additional stencils e .g. from a BAC Lightning (Xtradecal sheet) and many red stripes or the camera ports, which were cut from TL Modellbau decal stripes.
Soot/exhaust stains were created with grinded graphite and around the nozzle and the gun ports. Finally, everything was sealed under a coat of matt acrylic varnish.
This Hispanic Gina is not a great piece of work, but the paint scheme changes IMHO the total look of the small aircraft, very different from what you usually see? And it's a second proud addition to whatifmodelers.com's "1 Week Group Build", created in the leftover five day timeframe after the first whif kit.
And does anybody doubt that Spain flew the G.91...?