Jim Anderson has very kindly shared these images of his 1/72 Hasegawa Nakajima A6M2-N Rufe juxtaposed with his Antares Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk from 1995 in the same scale. The Seahawk was not a floatplane fighter as such, despite armament of two wing-mounted .5 machine guns, but a multi-role floatplane used for scouting, plotting naval gunfire, anti-submarine warfare and air sea rescue work. It was a larger aircraft than online images of models suggest and as these comparison images with Rufe reveal.
Unusually and unlike previous USN scout floatplanes it was a sprightly single seater with provision to carry a rescued person in the rear fuselage and also the options of carrying an external radar pod or a 500lb bomb or rescue pod under each wing. In addition the main float originally had two internal bomb bays for bombs, depth charges or additional fuel tankage. Curtiss built the Seahawks with a fixed undercarriage and they were then flown to Naval Air Stations for the fitting of the Edo floats. 556 SC-1s were manufactured and from October 1944 22 saw wartime service on seven ships, mainly battle cruisers and battleships. They continued in operation post-war until 1949 but the last catapult launch from a ship, the USS Missouri, was in February 1948.
The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) concept of a float-equipped fighter to support operations in the absence of carriers or airfields originated in 1940 in the planning for the expected offensive across the islands of the East Indies and South-West Pacific area (SWPA). The Kawanishi N1K Kyofu (Strong Wind) was the outcome of the intended design but delays in that project required an interim solution and it was decided that the A6M2 would be modified to fulfill the urgently needed role. The requirement specification for conversion as the Mk.1 Fighter Seaplane was given to Nakajima who were preparing to commence A6M2 production. Between December 1941 and July 1943 Nakajima produced a total of 254 A6M2-N floatplane fighters which were deployed predominantly in the East Indies, SWPA and Aleutians islands campaigns.
In terms of performance comparisons (always fraught with danger!) Seahawk maximum speed is reported as 210 knots at sea level (approx. 242 mph) compared to 235 knots (approx. 270 mph) for Rufe at 5,000 ft. Seahawk rate of climb 2,500 fpm compared to 2,440 fpm for Rufe. And operating range 645 miles for Seahawk and 1,107 miles for Rufe.
The Antares kit was reissued by Smer from 2006. Jim found that the original Antares kit was decent except for a horribly thick canopy which he had to take a grinder bit to "and sand, sand, sand away on"! The Smer canopy although still rather thick seems to be an improvement in terms of clarity. Jim gave his Seahawk some personal nose art and a 'kill' flag as a neat touch, although there is no apparent evidence of a Seahawk claiming an air-to-air victory.
With special thanks to Jim for sharing these pictures of a dogfight double that never was (?) and highlighting one of the lesser known floatplanes of the Pacific War.
Image credits:- All © 2019 Jim Anderson