Douglas TBD Devastator port view

Douglas TBD-1 Devastator, VT-3, USS Saratoga

By Oleksandr Prykhodko, Ukraine
GWH, 1/48

Oleksandr's Facebook

TBD-1 Devastator: A Prewar Marvel of the US Navy Aviation

Hello, fellow enthusiasts and colleagues. Today, I'm excited to share my work on the Douglas TBD-1 Devastator, showcasing its vibrant prewar US Navy aviation colors. This model comes from the Chinese manufacturer, Great Wall Hobby, which decided to expand its interest in the early USN aviation.

About the Prototype

The Douglas TBD Devastator, an American torpedo bomber, was a cutting-edge addition to the United States Navy in its time. Ordered in 1934, it first took to the skies in 1935 and was officially introduced into service in 1937. At its inception, it represented the pinnacle of naval aviation technology, setting a standard not just for the US Navy but arguably for naval forces worldwide. However, the rapid advancement in aircraft technology soon rendered the TBD obsolete by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

Douglas TBD-1 Devastator BuNo. 0284
Historic photo of TBD Devastator BuNo. 0284 "3-T-14" from torpedo squadron 3 USS Saratoga CV-3. Later served in VT-5. Eventually assigned to VT-8, where she was in the hangar of Hornet CV-8 during the Doolittle Raid. Starred in the John Ford movie "Torpedo Squadron 8." Shot down at Midway, crew John Porter Gray and Max Calkins were killed.

Despite its early successes, notably at the Battle of Coral Sea, the Devastator's performance during the Battle of Midway was disastrously poor. Out of 41 Devastators, none managed to score a torpedo hit, and only six returned to their carriers. The aircraft's lack of speed and maneuverability made it an easy target for the faster and more agile Mitsubishi Zero fighters. This devastating loss underscored the Devastator's obsolescence, leading to its withdrawal from frontline service soon after, replaced by the Grumman TBF Avenger.

The Model

The TBD-1 Devastator model by Great Wall Hobby, released in the second decade of the 2000s, is typical of Chinese manufacturers, featuring photo-etched parts and white metal components for the wing folding mechanism—a pleasant bonus.

Douglas TBD-1 Devastator G.W.H. 4809
Although the boxart features a mid-war airplane over Wake Island, the kit also includes a pre-war variant, serving on the USS Saratoga, which I actually chose to build.

Building the Model

Initially, I planned a straightforward build without significant modifications. However, I ended up adding ignition wires to the engine, as the photo-etch provided looked unrealistic due to technological constraints. Additionally, I enhanced the wings and tail with navigation lights, added a landing light at the wing root, and wired the pilot's cockpit (which, unfortunately, isn't visible in the finished model). Some minor tweaks were also made.

I encountered no significant issues during the build, except with the pilot's canopy. The manufacturer offers options for both a fully closed and an open canopy; the latter posed a challenge as the parts did not fit well together, leading me to leave only the pilot's section open. The vinyl masks included for the glazing were thick and did not conform well to the curved surfaces, proving to be unsuitable.

Painting the Model

The model was primed with Mr. Surfacer 1200, not only for paint adherence but also because metallic paint, known for its finicky nature, was used to highlight imperfections, scratches, and uneven surfaces. I chose the colorful prewar scheme, starting with the lighter elements.

The TBD Devastator model in primer
A coat of primer was applied to the model not only to make the paint hold better, but also to reveal all the flaws before metallic painting.

The tail and stabilizer were painted white, adhering to the 1930s US Navy aircraft markings that indicated an assignment to the USS Saratoga CV-3. The bright yellow wings, characteristic of American naval aircraft of the era, were challenging due to yellow paint's inherently poor coverage.

Painting the wings in yellow on the TBD Devastator model
Painting the wings of the TBD in yellow. The tail is painted white, which was the marking of all aircraft serving on CV-3 USS Saratoga in the 1930s.

Lacking the original American color in the Arcus range, I opted for the British equivalent, RAF Yellow. I made a mistake in applying the yellow, as it should have extended further down the wing surfaces with a clear boundary.

This was my first experience with metallic paint. After meticulously masking the yellow wings and white tail, I applied a glossy black base to give the aluminum parts a realistic visual depth. The Arcus metallics, with their fine pigment dispersion, made the model look genuinely metallic rather than painted.

Gloss black coat on the TBD model before painting Aluminum
A layer of gloss black paint applied to the model before aluminum finishing. To avoid the appearance of aluminum glitter when airbrushed, the yellow wings and white tail were carefully masked.
Gloss back finish on the TBD under surfaces before painting Aluminum
The lower surfaces of the model have also been painted in gloss black. This is needed to add depth when painting with metallics.

Following the initial paint layers, I proceeded with the green wing and cowling markings mean that aircraft belonged to the 5th section. Like with the yellow color, the original paint was not available at the time of building, prompting me to opt for a later color designated for cockpit painting, ANA 611 Interior Green. (Editor's note: At the time of publication, the Arcus range has introduced a color closer to the original, ANA 503 Light Green.)

A coat of aluminum paint on the TBD model
Aluminum paint applied, masks removed, the model build is almost complete.
TBD in aluminum finish, rear view
A rear view of the painted model. Note the old glass paint bottle. Arcus used this kind of bottles for paint 10 years ago, in 2013-2014.
Aluminum under surfaces of TBD-1
The largest part of the aircraft painted in aluminum is the lower surfaces. Note the finish, it has an even sheen, with no visible glitter, as real aluminum should have.

Decals and Finishing Touches

After painting, decals were applied, followed by a glossy varnish. Panel lines and weathering were achieved with oil paints. Concerned that white spirit might damage the underlying paint, I applied the oil paint directly, rubbing it into panel lines.

The masks were then removed, the sliding canopy section placed, and the antenna wire strung. Overall, I'm pleased with the outcome and hope you find it equally appealing.

Thanks for reading!

(Edited and Translated by Mykhailo Orlov)

TBD model front view
Front view of the Douglas TBD, this is probably the view seen by Japanese sailors during US Navy aircraft torpedo attacks.
Front view of the TBD model from the port side
Front-to-right view of the TBD Devastator. The multi-colored design of the propeller blades is clearly visible, as was common for U.S. aviation in the pre-war years.
TBD model the top-front view from starboard side
Front-left view of the TBD Devastator respectively. Note the VT-3 emblem, a red dragon riding a falling bomb.
front-bottom view of model TBD
Front view, bomb armament is clearly visible. Compared to the SBD Dauntless carrier dive bomber, the Douglas TBD Devastator was a rather large aircraft.
bomb armament of TBD Devastator
Bottom view. A pair of 500 lb bombs used for horizontal bombing is clearly visible.
port side view of the completed TBD model
View from the port side. When looking at the wing markings, the corrugated wing trim is clearly visible - one of the Devastator's distinctive features.
TBD model port side, view from above
Another view from the port side of the TBD, slightly different angle. Green stripes on the wing and cowl are clearly visible indicating that the aircraft belonged to the 5th section.
Model of TBD rear view
Rear view from the starboard side. Like the green elements, the white tail was also an ID element. It indicated that the aircraft belonged to CV-3 USS Saratoga.
Model of TBD aircraft rear view from the port side
Rear view from the port side respectively. The aircraft's identification number was also applied to the upper surface of the wings.
Model airplane TBD rear-view-overhead view from starboard side
US carrier aircraft of the 1930s had bright and spectacular paint schemes: yellow wings, color-coded aircraft carrier and unit affiliation elements, huge natioanl isnignia on the wings, and btight fuselage in shiny metallic finish.
Model of the TBD aircraft top view from starboard side
Starboard side view. You can clearly see the flaps, which I opted to have released on the model.
TBD aircraft model top-front view from starboard side
Front view of the starboard wing. The TBD had a Pitot tube of rather complicated design in the left wing console.
TBD aircraft model front view from starboard side
Despite being a bomber, Douglas TBD had a telescopic fighter sight and a forward-firing 0.30 Browning machine gun.
TBD aircraft model the starboard side view
Also starboard side, top view. The cockpit canopy is clearly visible. It had a telescopic design, with one part retracting inside the other.
TBD model cockpit details
A close-up view of the cockpit. It is possible to see pretty extensive detailing of the kit.
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