The F-51D Mustang in Korea

In World War II the North American P-51 Mustang distinguished  itself with its superb fighting power and air superiority over the skies of Europe and later the Pacific. The P-51D being the most famous mark which is loved by veterans and aircraft enthusiasts the world over.

After WWII came the conflict in Korea and the Jet age was upon us. Russian Mig’s and US Sabre’s faced each other for the first time and air combat was evolving. In the mist of the bleak and bloody winters that followed, the old WWII war horse answered the call to duty and the United States Air Force sent the F-51D Mustang into battle. Not many people these-days write about the Mustang’s last tour of duty in Korea and few model builders pick up a Korean War Mustang to build.

When you see pictures of the F-51D from the Korean conflict, the first thing one notices is that they have a dull, weathered patina to the airframe. This is because the USAF had the Mustangs overhauled and repainted. The cockpit interiors were repainted in black and the exterior was painted in matte silver/aluminium. The Mustang units also began to add elaborate squadron markings to their ponies which made for some fantastic looking schemes.

Its those schemes and their subsequent heavy weathered appearance that piqued my interest in the later F-51D’s and many years ago when I was but a beginner in the hobby I went out and bought Tamiya’s F-51D in 1/48 scale. I enjoyed building the kit and at the time I patted myself on the back for a job well done when I finished the project. I look back now at the web forum where pictures of that build still exist and I cringe! But my lingering memory of that build was that it was fun to do. After a year of large commission builds, I wanted a small, quick fun build to play with for a little light relief. 

Tamiya’s 1/48 F-51D came to the rescue when it landed on my bench and I charged into the build with great gusto and fresh idea’s……

The Kit:

Revisiting Tamiya’s F-51D was I have to say, a great joy. These well engineered, thoughtfully designed kits really make me smile. Easy to build, great details, no major issues. I could have chosen to build this one straight from the box, but……..That’s not me! So what did I do? I added a resin pilot figure from PJ Productions and I added the extra radio equipment behind the cockpit.

Whilst studying photo’s of the Korean War Mustangs, I saw a great shot of a F-51D sat on the airfield in the middle of winter and it struck me what a great theme that might be to display my model. So I also picked up a USAAF airman in winter dress to set the scene for this build.

Here are the completed resin figures, I had to chop the pilots feet off in order to get him to fit inside the cockpit!

Construction of the kit was simplicity itself! I began with the cockpit remembering that the F-51’s interiors were painted in black and I used my usual painting and weathering techniques to add some realism to the Mustang’s cockpit.

Here I have installed the pilot figure and I have added a seat harness and the additional radio equipment as carried by the upgraded F-51D:

“Revisiting Tamiya’s F-51D was I have to say, a great joy. These well engineered, thoughtfully designed kits really make me smile.”

Darren McGuinness

Once the fuselage was buttoned up it really was a simple case of adding the wings and tailplanes, after that its just the landing gear to assemble and paint. One detail that kit manufacturer’s and modellers sometimes miss is that many panel lines on the Mustang’s wings were filled in to increase aerodynamic flow over the wings, so only the gun panels should be visible on the upper wings. This was easily done by running some sprue glue over the unwanted panel lines and sanding them smooth.

The model was now ready for the paint shop and I sprayed it with a Gloss Black acrylic paint to serve as an undercoat for AK’s Xtreme Metal Polished Aluminium. I have to say, I was not happy with how the AK metal paint turned out at all. It does not dry easily and cannot survive making tape either! To say I was disappointed was an under statement!

Never the less, I continued on and I managed to salvage the model by sanding off any imperfections and re-spaying the AK paint. Once having cured for several days, I protected the paint with a heavy coat of Tamiya gloss clear acrylics.

Next it was decals time! I was instantly drawn to the markings on the kits box art so that is what I chose and all the decals went down without any problems. I changed things up a little with the airacrew though, instead of painting it yellow I went with bare metal. I think this gives the shark mouthed Mustang a much better look!

For weathering, I again consulted my reference pictures from the period and sure enough, these old war horses were pretty beat up! Here you can see what I mean….

My weathering began with a dark brown enamel wash around all the panel lines and decals and I then added more effects with Tamiya Weathering master powers. They are a great tool for adding dirt and exhaust effects.

I also wanted to recreate the yellow napalm bombs hat were often used so I used up the external drop tanks and painted them in yellow with several weathering effects to get the look I wanted…..

Here is how the model looked once I had finished the paint and weathering process. Everything was sealed in with a very flat acrylic clear coat.


And here is the finished vinette with winter display base and a ground crew figure to add some interest and a sense of scale. I used AK Snow terrain for the snow effect and I have to say it worked very well!


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I hope you have enjoyed this look at my revisit to a long admired kit and an often forgotten subject. I enjoyed this immensely and of course I hope it can be seen a respectful tribute to all who answered the call of duty during the Korean War.

Thanks for visiting! Take care and I hope I see you again soon.

Happy Modelling!


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