1:72 Fiat G.91N; RNoAF, 333 squadron, Ørland air base, 1988 (Whif/Italeri 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 Fiat G.91 was an Italian jet fighter aircraft, the winner of the NATO competition in 1953 as standard equipment for Allied air forces. European manufacturers were invited to submit their designs for this requested Light Weight Strike Fighter (LWSF) role. The G.91 was 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 streets
• 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.
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 type was also considered by Austria, Norway, Switzerland, and even the United States Army, which briefly evaluated the type as a possible Forward Air Control (FAC) aircraft before relinquishing all fixed-wing aircraft operations to the USAF.
The G.91 entered operational service with the Italian Air Force in 1961, with West Germany's Luftwaffe in 1962, and later with the Portuguese Air Force (German surplus machines). The first G.91s entered service with the Royal Norwegian Air Force in August 1967. The original R/5 variant for Norway with increased range had been cancelled, but the RNoAF took over fourty-two G.91 R/4 aircraft from a cancelled Greek/Turkish order. These planes were originally armed with four 12.7 mm (0.5 in) Colt-Browning machine guns and powered by the Rolls-Royce Orpheus turbojet engine. Their main role was close air support, tactical sea combat and reconnaissance. One special Norwegian feature was the retrofitted brake parachute housing under the base of the fin.
In 1980, the Norwegian planes saw a major overhaul (MLU), combined with an update concerning both performance and attack capability. The Orpheus was replaced by a single Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk. 106 turbofan (developed for the SEPECAT Jaguar), which offered not only slightly better dry thrust than the former engine but also a better fuel consumption and an afterburner for enhanced rate of climb and acceleration. As a side effect. top speed was slightly improved, as well as range and the weapon load. A similar step was taken with the G.91 Y in Italy, where the original Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engine was replaced with two General Electric afterburner J85 units - only that this "Yankee" was literally a new aircraft.
In order to achieve true all-weather capability, esp. against targets at sea, the G.91N, how the planes were called now, were fitted with a Thomson-CSF Agave radar in a new nose section, reminiscent of the F-86D/K "Sabre Dog" interceptor. The original cameras in the nose were deleted, an external camera pod was developed for reconnaissance duties.
The planes’ strike potential was also heavily augmented by the integration of the Norwegian AGM-119 "Penguin" short-to-medium range (up to 50km) naval guided missile. The AGM-119 was developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace (KDA) and was the first AShM of the western world with a passive IR seeker instead of the commonly used active radar technology. Propelled by a solid rocket engine and flying at low altitude and high subsonmic speed, it performs random weaving maneuvres at target approach and hits the target close to the waterline, its 120 kg warhead detonates inside the target ship by using a delay fuze. Additionally, the original four 0.5” machine guns were replaced by a pair of DEFA 552 30 mm cannons with 125 RPG, and AIM-9 Sidewinder could be carried for self-defense.
In this new guise, the Norwegian "Ginos", as they were called by their crews, soldiered on until 1991, when they were retired and replaced by the much more capable and versatile F-16.
All in all, the G.91 remained in production for 19 years, the last planes retired in Italy in 1995. 756 aircraft were completed, including the prototypes and pre-production models. The assembly lines were finally closed in 1977. The Fiat G.91 enjoyed a long service life that extended over 35 years.
Length: 10.5 m (34 ft 5 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: 3,300 kg (6,830 lb)
Loaded weight: 5,640 kg (11,990 lb)
Max. take-off weight: 5,700 kg (12,100 lb)
Maximum speed: 1,125 km/h (608 kn, 700 mph) at optimum height
Range: 1,700 km (920 nmi, 1.060 mi)
Service ceiling: 13,100 m (43,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 85 m/s (16.725 ft/min)
Wing loading: 331 kg/m² (67.8 lb/ft²)
Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca Adour Mk 106 turbofan with 6,000 lb (27.0 KN) dry / 8,430 lb (37.5 KN) with reheat
2× 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 552 30 mm cannon with 125 rounds per gun
4× under-wing pylon stations holding up to maximum of 1,814 kg/4,000 lb of payload, including 2x AGM-119 Penguin missiles, Matra rocket pods (each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets or 18× Hispano SURA R80 80 mm rockets. AIM-9 Sidewinder can be carried for self defense, as well as a wide variety of air-to-ground ordnance including unguided iron bombs, gun pods in addition to auxiliary drop tanks for extended range.
The kit and its assembly
This model came to be after finding a discussion at whatifmodelers.com, where the (tragic) fate of the Fiat G.91 was discussed. This light NATO attack fighter would have entered the air forces of virtually all European countries, but it became victim of politics and just ended up in Italy, Germany and (in late days) Portugal. Anyway, an inspiring thought is what would have been possible, e .g. in countries like Spain, Greece or Norway?
The basis is a G.91 P.A.N. from the Frecce Tricolori 50th anniversary kit, made by Italeri. It is, in fact, the Revell kit, nicely detailed and only with few trouble zones (e .g. the fuselage halves needed putty to fit, as well as the panels with the alternative guns). The kit was mostly built right out of the box. Only changes are the new radar nose - the front part of a P-61 drop tank - some antennae on the fin which sports a radar warning system. Additionally, a new and longer jet exhaust nozzle was fitted, simulating the new afterburner engine.
Landing flaps were partly opened from neutral position, the air brakes under the belly fixed into an open position (the latter is a standard kit feature, though). Further mods include a brake parachute container under the tail fin and the armament: The DEFA guns come as alternative side panels with the kit, and the guns themselves were simulated with steel tubes (syringes). The Penguin missiles as well as the ALQ-131 ECM pod come from Hasegawa weapon sets. The fourth free weapon station was filled with a Bofors BOZ-107 chaff/flare dispenser, lent from a Tornado.
The true whif comes with livery and markings, and IMHO the more subtle the look, the more convincing the result. Hence I chose a very simple livery for my G.91N: an overall finish in FS36270 (US Medium Grey, Humbrol 126), the same as RNoAF F-16 aircraft. Only contrast marks are the black nose, the colourful roundels and some red warning markings all over the plane.
The national markings come from an aftermarket sheet from TL Decals. Stencilling is taken from an old Matchbox G.91Y and the scrap box. Numbers etc. were improvised, too, based on pictures from other Norwegian planes (airliners.net is a great source for reference here).
I did some light washing with black ink to emphasize panel lines and engravings, and also did some weathering with dry-brushed lighter shades of grey (mainly Humbrol 140, very subtle), giving the uniform grey a faded/bleached look on the upper sides and leading edges. Finally, the kit received a coat of matte varnish (Dupli Color Acryllic, form the rattle can), the radome was painted with Humbrol's semi-matte varnish.
The result: a simple but effective whif, which also shows what could have become of the original G.91 design over time and technical development, if it had not become victim to political decisions and national vanities.