E-8 Build – Body work

U.S. Air Force photograph of an E-8C Joint STARSAs a first project we are creating an E-8 JSTARS plane in 3mm (1:600).  The E-8 is a modern AWACS plane that’s currently used by the US military.  There aren’t any miniatures of the E-8 available at the moment so we will have to get a little creative.  Fortunately the E-8 is based on the Boeing 707 airframe with only minimal external modifications (I’m sure they did a couple of things to the interior).

Pan American 707 1:600 scale by SchabakBecause the 707 is such a common commercial airliner there are plenty of models of it available. Fortunately Schabak manufactures, and have for quite some time, a number of die-cast 1:600 models of the 707. These models come pre-painted in a variety of commercial airline liveries and there seems to be a community of collectors devoted to them. Now collectible usually means expensive, but not all the liveries are equally popular and seeing as we will be removing the paint from the model we aren’t picky. A little web searching found me a Pan American liveried one for under $15 AUD delivered to my door.

The paint is pretty easy to remove with acetone (nail polish remover). On this model even the metal finished parts have a clear coat on them so it’s important to be thorough here. Once all the paint is off we can see it’s a nice smooth little piece of metal with only minimal mould lines. One thing we do have to do though is clean up the underside. We want to remove the wheels and there is also some raised text on the belly. There is also a little hole that we will fill with green stuff a bit later.

Stripped 707 Stripped 707 - underside view

A little bit of time with a small hacksaw and metal files gets rid of this material (see the pictures below). I also removed the mould lines from the side and just generally cleaned up the edges and roughened things up so the primer will stick. Once we’re done the underside will look a little bit like this:

cleaned cleaned-belly

Now that the 707 airframe is ready we can move on to what separate the E-8 from the 707. If you look carefully at the picture at the top you will notice a protrusion on the underside of the plane that starts just behind where the front wheel would pop out and ends just under where the wings start. This protrusion is the radar equipment and is absent from our 707 model. We will need to scratch build this part, I did mine out of some strip styrene, but you can use whatever you have to hand. Start with a block that is 20.5mm x 1.5mm x 2 mm. The 1.5mm edge will be against the bottom edge of the plane and we will be removing some material to create the necessary profile. The following diagram gives you the measurements and the general shape you need to carve.


As you can see it’s not a complex shape. I cut two triangles from the block: a 1x1mm triangle from the front edge and a 3x2mm triangle from the rear edge. I then rounded everything and filed to match the above shape. The next pictures show the front edge and then the entire finished piece.

Radar potrusion - front edge Radar protrusion - complete

It’s now simply a matter of using some glue to attach the piece we just made to the bottom of the 707. The diagram shows how far to set this back and it’s lined up with the middle of the fuselage. After it was glued some greenstuff was used to fill the small crack and also the hole in the bottom we left earlier. Lastly a 3mm hole was drilled and a magnet glued into the hole for the flight stand that will hold the plane.

Radar protrusion - attached E-8 underside - complete

E-8 body work completed

So that is the body work completed. In the next post we will add paint and maybe decals (depends on their arrival).

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