Airfix New Tooling Announcement for Scale Modelworld 2018
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. As reported in our previous blog, we have strayed from our usual Friday lunchtime publication slot for one very specific reason - to coincide with the start of this year’s Scale Modelworld Show and the most important weekend in the British modelling calendar. A large Airfix team will by now be greeting the first of many visitors to our stand, looking forward to catching up with old friends and hopefully making some new ones along the way. We will be operating our ever-popular make and paint area once again and our display stand will be festooned with the latest Airfix information, prototype sample models and built samples of several yet to be released kits. Of greatest significance, this blog will be going live at 11am on Saturday 10th November, at the same time as the Airfix team will be making an important announcement and one we know you will all be interested to hear about – the launch of a new model tooling. Clearly a time of great excitement for everyone here at Airfix, as well as the wider modelling community, we certainly did not want our loyal Workbench readers to miss out, so for those of you who are unable to make the show in person, we are pleased to bring you all the details in this special Telford new tooling announcement edition of Workbench.
‘One hell of a new tooling announcement’
Can you tell the subject of our latest New Tooling announcement from this computer rendered 3D image?
We know that there is nothing Workbench readers like to hear about more than the announcement of a new model tooling to join the ever growing kit range from Airfix, as over the years, blogs which have included this information have usually been our most popular editions. Always a time of great excitement, we know that every reader will have their own particular favourite subjects they would like to see immortalised in plastic kit form and as every new tooling announcement will delight some, others may be slightly disappointed. Unfortunately, this is the nature of the modelling beast, but as our researchers, designers and engineers have been working on our new projects for many months before we are in a position to make a new tooling announcement public, we certainly hope that this latest model will be of interest to a great many people.
We know that you will all be screaming at your computer screens ‘Just tell us what the new model is’ round about now and that you will all know that we are just playing for time, but please indulge us just a little while longer, so we can give you a few clues as to the identity of the new model. Aviation subject matter has long been a favourite amongst the world’s modellers and we are please to confirm that the new model is indeed an aeroplane, but are we talking Great War, Second World War or something more contemporary? Are we looking at a jet powered aircraft, a bomber or a fighter, or perhaps even a rotary powered machine? Importantly as far as the modeller is concerned, in what scale is it going to be produced?
OK, it’s time we had a few slightly more direct clues. The aircraft in question proved to be one of the finest fighting aeroplanes of the Second World War and made its first flight on 26th June 1942. Despite its success, it would only have a three year production run and was only produced in two major variants. It was powered by one of the great aero engines of WWII and over 12,000 examples were produced. Your final two clues are that it proved to be the king of the Pacific air war and scored more combat victories than any other Allied naval aircraft. We are proud to announce that our 2019 new tooling announcement for Scale Modelworld 2018 is the Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat. As for the scale, an aircraft of this historical importance would look great in any scale, particularly when produced using the very latest design and production techniques and incorporating impressive levels of detail, however, there is no disputing that a slightly larger scale is more effective at portraying the size and majesty of these magnificent machines. Our regularly expanding 1/48th scale kit range is now a firm favourite with modellers and the Hellcat would look great next to one of our recent Mustang or Sea Fury releases, but for maximum impact in the modelling world you have to go BIGGER and our new Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat (A19004) will be produced in our largest 1/24th scale – a big announcement for the largest model show in the world.
Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat in 1/24th scale
We are proud to present this latest addition to the ever growing Airfix tooling bank and the latest 1/24th large scale model
The Airfix design team have been working on this project for some time now and visitors to our stand at the Scale Modelworld show will be able to see several partially built examples of this magnificent new model from components produced by early test shots from the Hellcat tooling - we are even hoping that a fully built and decorated sample will also be available. Workbench will be bringing you a full review of the Hellcat unveiling and additional details from the development of this exciting model (including the scanning of a real Hellcat) in the next edition of our blog, but for this special Telford Scale Modelworld edition, please enjoy this exclusive selection of images from the new 1/24th scale F6F-5 Hellcat project. We will also take a look at why the Grumman Hellcat proved to be such an important aircraft during the Second World War and therefore a perfect subject aircraft for our latest 1/24th scale tooling project.
Having watched Europe and the Far East descend in to bloody conflict for over two year period, America was dragged into the Second World War following the devastating Japanese naval strike at Pearl Harbor. Hoping to destroy as many of the US aircraft carrier fleet as possible during the raid, the fact that these vessels were at sea and therefore avoided attack would prove critical in the battles to come, even though America was ill-prepared for war at this time. Still in the process of updating her armed forces, the best fighter available to the US Navy was the diminutive barrel-like Grumman F4F Wildcat, a development of earlier biplane designs and only the second monoplane fighter to serve on board US carriers. The Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation had a reputation for building robust and reliable aeroplanes, qualities which were absolutely essential for the operation of aircraft at sea. Although the Grumman F4F Wildcat is often portrayed as a disappointing fighter which was simply the only aircraft available to the US Navy when they were thrust into the Second World War, it was as tough as they come and a reliable combat aircraft. When combined with the excellent training of US pilots and tactics developed to best suit the performance of their fighter, the Wildcat gave a good account of itself in both Europe and the Pacific and was respected by their Japanese opponents. When pitted against the excellent Mitsubishi Zero, the Wildcat was at a definite disadvantage, however, US Navy pilots quickly learned not to tangle with the Japanese fighter on their terms. Grumman’s diminutive Wildcat held the line in the Pacific until a more capable fighter could be introduced.
This first selection of 1/24th scale Hellcat images show computer generated 3D renders of the new model and some of the detail levels we can all look forward to
Providing a different view of the detail incorporated into this new model, this is a colour 3D render of the Hellcat engine
It is a common misconception that the Grumman F6F Hellcat was quickly developed to combat the threat posed by the Mitsubishi Zero in the Pacific Theatre, however it was actually in the advanced stages of development even as the Wildcat was battling for control of the Pacific skies. Grumman had started development work on a new and improved high performance naval fighter long before the infamous attack at Pearl Harbor, continuing with their design philosophy and building on the many impressive qualities of the Wildcat. Where their new fighter proved to be most successful was in its use of the very best existing technologies, not waiting to incorporate innovations which would delay its introduction, but to use what they had available now and combine this with world leading mass production quality control. They were also quick to listen to serving navy pilots to see what they wanted from the new aircraft, who were unequivocal in their requirements – speed and firepower.
Maintaining their impressive criteria for naval aircraft design, what the Grumman engineers produced was an aircraft which was ideally suited to the rigors of combat from the decks of aircraft carriers and operations over large expanses of ocean. Extremely tough and reassuringly reliable, the F6F Hellcat was powered by the mighty Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp, a new and beautifully engineered powerplant which gave the aircraft an impressive top speed of around 400mph. With better range, speed and armament than its predecessor, the Hellcat would prove to be a nightmare for Japanese pilots in the Pacific, especially if they made the fatal error of mistaking it for the Wildcat they had been used to fighting previously. The new aircraft was also much more than just a bigger version of the Wildcat, even though its similar profile may lead many to think that was the case. This was actually a completely redesigned aircraft in every respect, from its massive new engine to the rugged, wide-track undercarriage which made deck handling much more assured than with its predecessor – significantly, the Hellcat was 60% heavier than the Wildcat. This was a real beast of a fighter.
A further selection of computer generated 3D rendered F6F-5 Hellcat images
Another colour 3D render image, this time detailing the cockpit area of the Hellcat
The first time US Navy Hellcats engaged in combat with the Mitsubishi Zero was at Wake Island in October 1943 and even though the new fighter was coming up against experienced opponents, the Japanese fighters quickly began to fall to the guns of the Hellcat. Although the Zero was still a competent adversary and could easily turn the tables on an overzealous navy pilot in a tight, turning dogfight, the Hellcat possessed a withering rate of fire and when used against the lightly armoured Japanese aircraft, they began to exact a terrible revenge for the unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor. Adopting fast, rapier like slash and run attacks, some of Japan’s most proficient fighter pilots began to fall to the guns of the new American fighter, meaning that as the Hellcat became more established, its pilots were usually coming up against less experienced adversaries and therefore claiming even more victories.
Despite its combat introduction taking place relatively late in the war, the Hellcat would prove to be the ‘mount of aces’ and unquestionably ruled the skies above the Pacific Ocean from late 1943 onwards. Posting some quite astonishing combat statistics, it has been reported that almost 75% of all aerial victories claimed by US Navy pilots were attributed to the Grumman Hellcat, which earned an impressive combat kill ratio of 19 to 1 in the Pacific Theatre. Although combat claims can be notoriously difficult to corroborate, this meant that on average, nineteen enemy aircraft were destroyed for the loss on a single Hellcat, a statistic which could not be matched by any other naval combat aircraft in WWII. Perhaps most significantly, the Hellcat made ‘Aces’ of no fewer than 305 US airmen, as it helped the Allies clear the skies of enemy aircraft in the Pacific and speed them towards ultimate victory.
This next selection of images shows assembled sections of the first test kit components from the new Hellcat tooling, which allow the design team to assess every aspect of the model
The unequalled combat record of the Grumman Hellcat is made all the more impressive by the fact that its introduction came relatively late in the war and it would only see operational combat for less than two years. Once it arrived on US carriers, it stood testament to the design philosophy of the Grumman engineers, by posting excellent serviceability figures and from the pilot’s perspective, proved to be reassuringly resilient. It was not just a superb fighting aeroplane, it was one which would bring its pilot back home after he had claimed his latest air combat victory. Produced in just two major variants (F6F-3 and F6F-5), the Hellcat proved to be the right aeroplane at the right time and quickly established itself as the ruler of the skies in the Pacific Theatre. As well as serving with the US Navy during WWII, the Grumman Hellcat was also flown in combat by the US Marine Corps and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy.
Although an extremely handsome aeroplane, the Grumman F6F Hellcat was also a devastatingly effective fighting machine and one which became the mount of many famous US Navy ‘ace’ pilots during WWII. Incorporating exceptional levels of detail and a host of build options for the modeller to consider, this new 1/24th scale kit will bring the incredible wartime achievements of this magnificent aircraft to a new audience and allow us all an appreciation of how this beautifully manufactured fighter proved decisive in turning the Pacific air war in favour of the Allies. A thoroughbred fighting aeroplane and US Navy ‘ace maker’.
A final selection of images showing test model builds at various stages and the detail levels we can all expect to be incorporated
We very much look forward to bringing you regular updates from this exciting project in future editions of Workbench, as we chart the progress of a new kit which must be considered one of the most significant in the history of Airfix. Right now, we have a Scale Modelworld show to work, as well as a rare Hellcat prototype to protect. We hope you have enjoyed this coordinated New Tooling announcement, bringing you all the details as they were unveiled on the Airfix stand at Telford. We will have much more to come in forthcoming editions of Workbench.
STOP PRESS - Late Addition
Just as we were putting the finishing touches to this Hellcat announcing edition of Workbench, our magnificent company photographer David sent us an additional selection of images. These feature a built sample model which had just been delivered to Head Office and will now be a star attraction on the Airfix stand at Telford – David whisked it away for a few minutes to grab a few quick pictures and we thought you might like to see the 1/24th scale F6F-5 Hellcat in all its built glory.
That’s all we have for you this time, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with more Airfix delights for your enjoyment. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition of the blog, or ways in which we could enhance your enjoyment of Workbench, please do not hesitate in contacting us. We can be reached via our usual e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or by contributing to our Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.
As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.
The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 23rd November, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for continuing to support our Airfix blog.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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