Brand new Defiant, upscaling and an update on the Shackleton

Brand new Defiant, upscaling and an update on the Shackleton

Welcome to Airfix Workbench. Firstly, thank you to all our readers who were kind enough to post comments regarding their support for this new feature – your feedback is of real interest to us and the messages of support are gratefully received. Keep the comments coming on the Workbench Forum.

In our first blog, we had the exclusive announcement of the new Royal Aircraft Factory BE2c and Fokker Eindecker toolings in 1/72nd scale, which have been very well received and are fantastic additions to our catalogue. We're excited to say that both of these models are now available to pre-order.

So in edition two, how are we going to follow that? Quite simply, with more of the same - we have another exclusive new tooling announcement for you, as well as an update on an existing project which is already causing quite a stir within the modelling community.



New Airfix model announcement in 1/48th scale - Boulton Paul Defiant A05128

With quite a number of impressive new tooling announcements already in the modeller domain, we can exclusively reveal another new model, which is perfectly timed to coincide with the current 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain commemorations. As a companion announcement to the recently released Spitfire and Hurricane models in 1/48th scale, we can exclusively reveal that Airfix will be adding the Boulton Paul Defiant (A05128) to this impressive range. For many enthusiasts, the Defiant was the most interesting aircraft to take part in the Battle of Britain, but whatever your opinion, you cannot argue with the fact that it has to be one of the most distinctive aircraft of WWII. There is something quite enigmatic about the turret fighter, which whilst it enjoyed some early success, was to eventually prove unsuitable for day fighter operations, particularly if not covered by fighter protection of it’s own. From an interest perspective this does not seem to matter much as the Defiant, which resembles a Hurricane with a powered turret, is so unusual and now such a rare aeroplane that it enjoys a special place with both aviation enthusiasts and the modeller.

Airfix announced their brand new 1/72nd scale Defiant some months ago now, with the starter kit edition already available in model shops around the country and other kits available in the very near future. You might also think that adding a 1/48th scale Defiant to the range would just be as simple as ‘up-scaling’ the smaller model, using clever digital technology – this could not be further from the truth, but there will be more on this later.



The original Airfix Defiant model in 1/72nd scale

Although Airfix did have an example of the Boulton Paul Defiant in their classic 1/72nd scale range, this model was very much in need of update and the current design team were determined to make the most accurate kit possible. The research process would be important in this project, particularly as there is only one actual Defiant in the UK, with a further composite example on display. With the help of Boulton Paul historian Les Whitehouse, the design team had access to extremely rare archive information and photographic references for the Defiant, which proved to be absolutely invaluable in the completion of this essential work. This information was particularly useful when verifying cockpit, undercarriage and undercarriage bay details, as well as many other aspects of the project.




In addition to this invaluable information, the team were fortunate in having the opportunity to visit the Medway Aircraft Preservation Society in 2012, whilst they were in the process of restoring the Defiant, which is now on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon. This was a real coup for the Airfix team and afforded them a unique opportunity to inspect a genuine Defiant, with its wings and service panels removed. Invaluable data and measurement details were obtained, before the aircraft was returned to the Battle of Britain Hall at Hendon.



 The restored Defiant at the RAF Museum Hendon


Interestingly, this shows how organised the Airfix design team have to be, as the Defiant model was not on the production schedule at the time of this visit, but the opportunity to inspect a dismantled Defiant was simply too valuable to pass up. When work began on the Defiant project, this information certainly made a significant contribution in the production of this impressive new kit.



 3D CAD screenshot of the new 1/48th scale Boulton Paul Defiant


Once work on the new model began in earnest, all this technical data had to be incorporated in to a series of highly advanced computer programmes, with the ultimate aim of creating a 3D CAD surface model at the desired scale, from which individual parts can then be designed. This is a painstaking process and can take the design team many weeks to complete.



ImageF Computer rendered 3D images of the new 1/48th scale Defiant 


In the previous edition of Workbench we covered the lengthy process that has to be completed when a new model tooling is being produced, and with this in mind we are not going to cover exactly the same ground with this latest blog. What we are going to look at however is the interesting subject of how we scale a model tooling.



Scaling up or scaling down a model tooling

You might think that increasing or decreasing the scale of an existing model tooling was quite a simple process. Perhaps there is a clever computer programme that will ‘scale up’ a 1/72nd scale model at the click of a button, making the job of the design team so much easier – if only this were the case! Unfortunately, that would create a multitude of problems and result in a clumsy looking, under-detailed model that really would not be suitable.




Taking the new 1/48th scale Defiant kit as an example, the designers had an excellent 1/72nd scale model file to begin with, but could only use this as a ‘base model’ for the up-scaled project. This ‘base model’ only contains the basic shape of the aircraft and placement of the key details of the aircraft in question, including the turret, pilot’s seat and the undercarriage. From this information, every single part of the new kit has to be re-made for the larger scale model – everything from the fuselage, to the Browning machine guns!

By re-making every part of the model, the design team ensure that the new kit is as detailed and as accurate as possible for the scale in which it is being produced. The cockpit area of a 1/72nd scale model would look far too simplistic if it was just up scaled to a 1/48th scale design.




When working at 1/72nd scale, the minimum wall thickness achievable during the manufacturing process can mean that some compromises have to be made on certain areas of the model. This is particularly problematic on areas such as the trailing edge of the wing, but as this minimum achievable wall thickness stays the same, regardless of scale, there is much less compromise needed when working in larger scales.

In a similar manner, scaling down a project is nowhere near as simple a process as you might think. Scaling down a base model will lead to problems in reverse of the ones that we have already discussed. As the base model will have been designed to a specific scale, with wall thicknesses and radiuses made to the minimum possible values, this will clearly not translate when trying to reduce the files. Any attempt to reduce these could result in parts of the model collapsing, as radiuses just become too small and the software really struggles to recognise them. In order to avoid this, extensive alterations need to be made to the base model before any scaling exercise can take place. As with the previous case, every part of the kit will need to be re-made, as each scale will have very specific requirements before it can proceed to tooling. As an example, if the wing of a 1/48th scale kit were simply scaled down to 1/72nd scale, the part would become so thin that it would not mould properly!



The 1/48th scale Defiant requires significantly more cockpit detail


When the design team are working on any new model tooling, they have to be careful in producing a base model which is flexible enough to cope with being scaled. Whilst this certainly takes a little more consideration when the work is first being completed, it will certainly save time in the future should the model be produced in a different scale. In summary, when scaling a model file for tooling purposes:

  • The basic shape of the model can be scaled, but not each individual part
  • The model wall thicknesses are produced appropriately for the scale of model
  • Model detail is designed specifically to suit the scale

When considering the scaling up or down of an existing model tooling, there are some specific pitfalls that have to be negotiated, but it would be true to say that the project would take less time than if the design was being started from scratch. However, these time savings are made around the fact that product research has already been completed and not on the main model design work.




News of the new 1/48th scale Airfix Boulton Paul Defiant will be of great interest to many modellers and hopefully the images above illustrate just how impressive this new model will be. Sitting perfectly with the new 1/48th scale Spitfire Mk.I, Hurricane Mk.I and 1/48th scale Ground Crew Set, the Defiant will definitely be on the wants list of many and may even tempt some lapsed modellers back into the hobby.

The kit will include decal options to finish the model as one of two Defiant day fighters:

1) Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I
L7026 PS-V, P/O PL Kenner and P/O CE Johnson, RAF No.264 Squadron, Kirton-in-Lindsey, August 1940  Battle of Britain

2) Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I
L1572 KO-I, RAF No.2 Squadron, Hatfield, South Yorkshire, September 1940  Army co-operation trials

This fantastic new model is due to be released in February 2016 and is available to pre-order now.



Update – The 1/72nd scale Avro Shackleton



Without doubt, one of the most eagerly anticipated models of the year is the new Airfix 1/72nd scale Avro Shackleton MR2 kit. The Airfix events team has just spent the weekend at the Royal International Air Tattoo, where we had the assembled final test shots of the new Shackleton on display in our marquee. From the many conversations we had over the four days of the show, it is clear that a great many of you are very much looking forward to its arrival, which seems certain to be a winter project for many! The model is due to be released this coming December, but by way of a welcome project update, we can now show you the decal layout guides for the two finish options available with the new kit.




The first option is for an Avro Shackleton MR.2, coded WR963, which was flying in the colours of RAF No. 224 Squadron. Operating from RAF North Front, on Gibraltar, in September 1957, these have to be considered as classic Shackleton colours, even though many of you will probably only remember seeing this magnificent aircraft in the dark sea grey colours of the 8 Squadron AEW.2’s.



The second option is for a machine coded WR966, in the colours of RAF No.205 Squadron. This Shackleton operated out of Tengah Air Base, Singapore, in January 1972 - it was decorated by the crew for the return trip from Tengah to the UK, as it was the final machine from the squadron to make the trip, hence the graffiti.



That’s it for the second edition of Airfix Workbench. In response to a number of reader requests, our next blog will be feature information on the new sculpted pilot figures, amongst other modelling delights. Until then, we hope you have enjoyed this latest edition of Workbench.

Well that's it for this time. We'd love to know what you think of the new release featured, or why not suggest what you'd like to see in future editions of Workbench? There's now a dedicated Workbench thread on the Airfix Forum, or drop us a line on Facebook or Twitter using #airfixworkbench.

Until next time, thanks for reading and happy modelling!

The Airfix Workbench Team


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