We all know the latter won't happen, and Airfix made a huge error in producing the latest RN destroyer when another kit was available already.
Not True. Airfix released their Type 45 Destroyer in 2012, whilst the 'other' brand released theirs in late 2013. For my money I'd take the Airfix kit any day over the 'other' for a variety of reasons, not the least being accuracy.
Now, as much as I love my 1/350 ships, and would love to see more from Airfix in this scale, we all need to be realistic and acknowledge the following: Hornby need to recover from some difficult times; Ship models are incredibly complex and consume large amounts of research and design work, not just larger tooling; and lastly the 'other' brands have a vast amount of experience in producing WW1 and WW2 ships from all navies with more coming onto the market each year. I see for example HMS Lord Nelson and Agamemnon have just been released hot on the heels of the Ark Royal, with many cruisers in development-who'd have thought that a few years ago?
So, my point is this: Airfix (IMHO) need to be incredibly savvy when it comes to ship kits.
Yes, there are no ships in the range ATM, but, that does not mean previous kits cannot be re-issued in the future. After all every manufacturer 'rests' their product line to allow sales to catch up with production. So, it is entirely feasible to see re-issues of the Type 45 and Illustrious class in the future. And it is entirely feasible to issue additional parts to model the other vessels in the Illustrious class.
As for 'older ships', in order to be market savvy the wise thing for Airfix to do (again IMHO) would be to avoid that market segment altogether and focus on the modern Royal Navy!
A 1/350 QE/POW kit could be run for as long as as the ships are in service (50years)! Airfix are in a unique position to get access to the ship along with the brand criteria to go with it! Yes, my cabinet is stuffed with ships (1/350) already, but I'd be up for another, even the size of the QE/POW!
To bolster that, re-issue the type 45, while also working on the Type 26 and 31 and get the jump on other manufacturers. In the longer term work on issuing the Illustrious as other vessells in the class and at other points in their careers.
Once the 1/350 sales of QE/POW are establised, release a 1/700 version for all those with limited space/funds!
The modern Royal Navy is a market segment Airfix could fill out nicely without major competition from established players, and with the high profile of QE/POW there's a heck of a lot of free publicity opportunities coming up too!
I wrote much the same about Airfix developing a modern RN range on this and another thread a few days ago, probably could have saved myself the typing. I really don't keep that much track on when kits were released so you're probably right about the Type 45 from Airfix and Trumpeter. All I know is, like the Zvezda and Trumpeter kits of the Dreadnought, they appeared about the same time.
The main issue with having the limited range Airfix sold in 1/350 is that people get a feel for the manufacturers they like best. The recent USS New York is a great example. The Revell/MRCkit is a better fit than the rival Bronco kit. If you buy the latter you wouldn't be predisposed to spend a small fortune on another kit by Bronco.
However, if you like the detail, the parts fit well and the model is fairly accurate you'll look for another kit by the same manufacturer. With Trumpeter you can go from one kit to another and another all in the same scale on similar subjects. Even if you liked building the Illustrious and Type 45 by Airfix, (I built two) that's all you can get, unless you are desperate to make half a dozen Type 45s.
The only way to sell kits and keep people buying that range is to issue kits and keep bringing out new ones. This has happened with the 1/72 and 1/48 range, I think if Airfix had built on the two kits with a few more they'd all be better sellers because that's how it works.
As for 1/600, I wouldn't write that off if, again, there were a consistent series of kits priduced. Again to cite Trumpeter, they produced a 1/550 Kiev and it's quite a nice kit. But I agree, to be commercially as successful as possible Airfix need to work in 1/350 and 1/700. Plus, they need to make models that can be issued as more than one ship, such as a HMS Bulwark that can also be built as HMS Albion. The lack of the ability to do this with the 1/350 Illustious, (which should have been designed to add parts to build Ark Royal and Invincible) was a missed opportunity.
Oh, and finnly, I like both the Airix and Trumpeter Type 45s, but Airfix wins out by not having photo etch parts, (which can put off more novice builders) and being able to be built as all the ships in the class with all their weapons fits.