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1:72 Saab J 19B; aircraft ‘31’ of the Flygflottilj 3 (F 3) 3rd Division, Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force); Lidköping, early 1941 (Whif/Hobby Boss kit conversion)

1:72 Saab J 19B; aircraft ‘31’ of the Flygflottilj 3 (F 3) 3rd Division, Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force); Lidköping, early 1941 (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!

Some background:
The Swedish Air Force was created on July 1, 1926 when the aircraft units of the Army and Navy were merged. Because of the escalating international tension during the 1930s the Air Force was reorganized and expanded from four to seven squadrons. When World War II broke out in 1939 further expansion was initiated and this substantial expansion was not finished until the end of the war.
Although Sweden never entered the war, a large air force was considered necessary to ward off the threat of invasion and to resist pressure through military threats from the great powers. By 1945 the Swedish Air Force had over 800 combat-ready aircraft, including 15 fighter divisions.

At the onset of World War II, 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. Several other foreign alternatives were considered: the Finnish VL Myrsky and Soviet Polikarpov I-16 were unsatisfactory, and while the Mitsubishi A6M Zero was available, delivery from Japan was impractical. The only way out appeared to be a modern, indigenous fighter aircraft.

The origins of the Saab 19 date back before the onset of WWII. Just in time for the American embargo, Saab 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”. 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 completely 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 little 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 could be 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 today 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 highly modified post-WWII J 19D with a liquid-cooled Packard engine.

No J 19 ever fired in anger during WWII or was involved in battle, since Sweden remained neutral and stayed out of any conflict with its neighbors at war. Another major problem for the Swedish Air Force during World War II was simply the lack of fuel: Sweden was surrounded by countries at war and could not rely on imported oil. Instead, domestic oil shales were heated to produce the needed petrol, which was rather allocated to the interceptor units, though.

After WWII, the remaining dozen J 19Bs were kept in service and soldiered on until 1948, when all remaining aircraft were scrapped. Additionally, Wright was also paid the overdue license fees for the originally unlicensed engines. The late-war J 19D served on for some time, though, together with the J 26 fighters, until 1950, when both were replaced by de Havilland Vampires and the Swedish Air Force underwent a rapid modernization into the jet age.

Saab J 19B General characteristics
Crew: One
Length: 9.06 m (29 ft 9 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: 1,680 kg (3,704 lb)
Loaded weight: 2,410 kg (5,313 lb)
Aspect ratio: 6.4

Powerplant:
1× Wright R-2600-6 Twin Cyclone radial engine, rated at 1.600 hp (1.194 kW)

Performance
Maximum speed: 590 km/h (366 mph) at 4.550 m (14.930 ft)
Cruise speed: 340 km/h (210 mph)
Landing speed: 140 km/h (90 mph)
Range: 1.337 km (830 mi; 721 nmi)
Service ceiling: 10.000 m (33.000 ft)
Rate of climb: 15.7 m/s (3,100 ft/min)

Armament:
4× 13.2 mm (0.53 in) M/39A (Browning M2) machine guns with 500 RPG in the outer wings
Underwing hardpoints for a total of 500 kg (1.100 lb)

The kit and its assembly
The Saab J 19 never saw the hardware stage, but it was a real life project that was actually killed through the outbreak of WWII and the lack of engines. Anyway, it was/is called the “Swedish Zero” because it resembled the Japanese fighter VERY much – wing shape, fuselage, even the cockpit glazing! Since I had an unused Hobby Boss Zero (a late style) in store, I decided to build a personal J 19 whif, just in case it would have entered service…

Much of the Zero was taken OOB – Hobby Boss kits are of simple construction, but they have thick/massive material which makes conversions rather difficult, so I changed anything that was easy to handle. This includes:
● A completely new R-2600 engine, from a Matchbox B-25 Mitchell bomber
● completely new horizontal stabilizers from a Matchbox Brewster Buffalo
● A completely new propeller with spinner
● Main landing gear was inverted, so that the wheel discs face inwards
● Wheels from a Brewster Buffalo
● completely new retractable tail wheel, from a P-51 Mustang
● A Matchbox pilot was added to the cockpit, as well as some details

Painting and markings
I did not want to use a typical olive green/light blue Swedish livery on this one, even though it would have been the most suitable option. Furthermore, I would not fall for the popular splinter scheme (Viggen style), which would by far not have been appropriate for the intended early WWII era. What to do…?

I did some legwork and found the Swedish B 3 bombers (Ju 86K), which were actually produced in Trollhättan under license in the late 30ies These wore various camouflage schemes, including German RLM colors, even the pre-WWII Luftwaffe splinter scheme in RLM 61, 62, 63 and 65. That made me curious, since I expected the colors to have a sharp contrast and make the Swedish and squadron markings stand out – but I did not go for the splinter look, I rather based my livery on a late B 3 scheme.

Painting was done with free hand and brushes, using style Master enamels from the Authentic range, namely 2075 Dunkelbraun, 2076 Grün, 2077 Hellgrau and 2078 Hellblau as basic tones. These semi-gloss enamels are – in contrast to the other WWII RLM tones from the brand – easy to use and create a very fine finish.

Some weathering was done through dry-painting with lighter shades on the panels and leading edges, and a thin black ink wash was applied in order to emphasize the fine recessed panel lines of the Hobby Boss kit. Later some smoke and soot stains were added with dry-brushed matt black.

Only a few decals were applied: the Swedish roundels come from a TL Modellbau aftermarket sheet, the code numbers on nose and tail from a Swedish Fiat CR.42 Falco. The yellow color on the propeller boss was generally associated with a 3rd squadron, and the ‘3’ on the fuselage was lent from an Airfix Saab Draken. Plain and simple.

In the end, a simple whif, and it still looks a lot like a Zero – but so did the J 19! I am not truly happy with the RLM tone cammo, it almost looks like a winter scheme? But after taking pics with a forest background, both scheme and colors seem very appropriate for that environment, blending shapes. And it looks far more interesting than a pure olive green aircraft, doesn’t it?

As a side note: if you ever consider building a Star Trek Klingon ‘Bird of Prey’, consider RLM 62 as you basic color of choice!

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