Amphibious workhorse of the Fleet
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. As we fast approach the final weeks of the 2018 Airshow season and this RAF Centenary year, many modellers will have already started planning their Autumn/Winter build schedules. As we can now also just about start looking forward to this year’s IPMS Scale ModelWorld show, we definitely have at least two modelling reasons why the slow onset of longer nights is not something we should be allowing ourselves to get too depressed about. Checking in with one or two modelling society’s social media sites recently, it seems as if the pressure is already building to have projects finished in time for Telford, with the theme of ‘the RAF at 100’ surely destined to be well represented at this year’s show – the entire Airfix team is very much looking forward to seeing what you have all got planned for Scale ModelWorld 2018 and looking at your always inspiring displays.
For this eightieth edition of Workbench, we will be bringing you a welcome update from our 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter new tooling project, along with updates, scheme details and exclusive box artwork reveals from two other kit releases. In subsequent editions, we have plenty of updates and exclusives to bring you before we can start to tease you with our own exciting plans for Scale Modelworld 2018 – we can definitely promise you some exciting feature packed editions ahead.
Yellow nosed Devils
The captivating box artwork accompanying the release of the latest 1/72nd scale Bf 109E shows ‘Yellow 13’ in combat with a pair of RAF No.501 Squadron Hurricanes
We begin this latest Airfix review by looking at a recently released new kit which is undoubtedly destined to be one of the most popular models in the current range and presents a 1/72nd scale example of one of the world’s most famous combat aircraft. The Messerschmitt Bf 109E ‘Emil’ was the main variant of this superb fighter which equipped the Luftwaffe during operations in Western Europe and throughout the Battle of Britain, earning a fearsome reputation for ruthless effectiveness in Germany’s search for superiority of the skies. Small and extremely agile, the Bf 109 was surprisingly heavily armed for such a diminutive aircraft and with its short, squared off wings, proved to be the ideal dogfighter and more than a match for most fighters in service at the start of WWII. Unfortunately, aircraft design is always something of a trade-off and no aircraft could ever be described as perfect. In the case of the Messerschmitt, this was definitely its long, narrow undercarriage, which made ground handling and especially take off and landing extremely hazardous. It has been claimed that at least 10% of all Bf 109 losses were attributed to take off and landing accidents, including around 1500 incidents between 1939 and 1941. This proved to be such a significant problem that even relatively experienced pilots could suffer the odd landing mishap, especially when returning from exhausting combat with the Royal Air Force and perhaps if landing at an unfamiliar airfield. Although measures were taken to minimise the number of accidents suffered by Bf 109 pilots throughout the war, this issue would always be regarded as something of an Achilles Heel of the design, even though the Messerschmitt would enjoy an enviable combat reputation.
Once in the air, the Bf 109 was a fighting thoroughbred and with many of its pilots gaining combat experience in Spain, Poland and France, prior to embarking on operations across the English Channel, they were confident that they would make short work of the Royal Air Force, in prelude to a seaborne invasion of Britain. Unfortunately for them, this time they would be at a serious tactical disadvantage, with low fuel reserves meaning any combat over Britain would have to be brief, or they risked ditching in the English Channel and an end to their war. Also, they would be up against a well organised, well equipped air force, fighting over their home airfields and defending their homeland – for the first time, they would definitely not be having everything their own way. Compared with the two main British fighters, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was favourably matched, being better than both in some areas, whilst inferior in others. Both sides quickly learned to utilise the strengths of their respective fighters and avoid playing into the hands of the enemy, ensuring that the outcome of this aerial struggle would be very much in the balance for several weeks during the summer of 1940. The swarms of Messerschmitts heading across the channel each day to take on the RAF ensured this fearsome fighter would leave a lasting impression on both British pilots and the general public, as it came to represent the perilous position the country found itself in at that time and the might of the enemy they faced. This fascination with the Luftwaffe’s main WWII fighter aircraft endures to this day, ensuring that the Bf 109 is always a popular subject with modellers who simply can’t resist adding another Messerschmitt to their collection.
A01008A Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘Yellow 13’, Oberleutnant Anton Schön, 9./Jagdgeschwader 54, Holland, January 1940.
Full scheme details for Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 ‘Yellow 13’ of 9./JG54
From the modellers perspective, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Messerschmitt Bf 109 E operations between September 1939 and the summer of 1941 was the myriad of different camouflage scheme interpretations which were carried by these classic fighters. The German nation is renowned for its organisational skills and their air force was not an exception. The colours applied to Luftwaffe aircraft were clearly defined by the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrt Ministerium – or RLM), who removed any possibility of ambiguity by issuing clear guidelines on colour shades. These guidelines were issued to paint manufacturers, aircraft manufacturers, repair facilities and even to front line units, leaving no doubt as to what was required in the presentation of German aircraft. It is therefore rather surprising to learn that whilst using the colours laid down by the RLM, front line fighter units were allowed to ‘experiment’ with the application of these colours, which led to some fascinating operational variations. During the melee of a dogfight, the recognition of both friend and foe alike must take place in the blink of an eye and can often be the difference on whether you survive the engagement or not. Similarly, the ability to more effectively camouflage your aircraft to gain even the slightest split second advantage in combat would have been vital and was undoubtedly the reason why these variations were allowed to take place. Although this would clearly have been the ‘official’ explanation of these non-conformities, the Luftwaffe had enjoyed spectacular successes during the early months of WWII and their pilots were supremely confident – some of these bespoke camouflage representations must also have been down to individual pilots wishing to stand out from the Luftwaffe crowd and ensure any combat victories they earned were correctly attributed to them and their growing reputation.
This Bf 109E flown by Olt. Anton Schön is a good example of one of the fascinating scheme variations carried by Messerschmitt fighters on the Western front. Although adopting the standard basic colour scheme prescribed by the RLM, Schön has instructed his ground crew to reduce the visibility of the light blue fuselage sides of his aircraft by spraying randomly applied dark grey streaks over the lighter colour. This unusual looking aircraft certainly appears to be less visible from the sides following this field applied paint modification, however this is somewhat negated by the bright yellow identification markings and large yellow ‘13’ also carried on both sides of the fighter. It does make for a fascinating modelling subject nonetheless.
This magnificent new Messerschmitt is already available at good model stores everywhere
The Luftwaffe fighter unit Jagdgeschwader 54 took part in the invasion of Poland, initially required to protect strike aircraft bombing airfields and other strategic targets, but later released to conduct aggressive fighter sweeps and to ensure German air superiority. In the months following this operation and the attacks on France and the Low Countries, the unit was withdrawn back to Germany, where it flew defensive patrols over its western border. Again fully involved in the strike west during the spring of 1940, the unit moved to bases in Holland and then to the French coast, as the Luftwaffe prepared for the Battle of Britain. Anton Schön had endured something of an eventful introduction to operational flying, having suffered injury on two separate occasions, including one resulting from a mid-air collision. Proving to be a gifted fighter pilot, Schön was one of the first Luftwaffe pilots to be awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class, as his victories and combat experience increased. The savage fighting of the Battle of Britain would eventually claim the life of this 20 year old airman, following combat with RAF fighters over the Kent coast on 27th September 1940 – it is reported that whilst attempting to make a forced landing in his crippled fighter, the pilot hit a fence and landed heavily in a field at Boughton, near Faversham. There are a number of famous pictures of the crashed aircraft on the web, which clearly show the distinctive markings applied to ‘Yellow 13’.
This most attractive new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Bf 109 kit (A01008A) is available now in all good model stores and on the Airfix website.
Tough as old boots
Our latest exclusive box artwork reveal shows Supermarine Walrus Mk.I K5780 being catapulted from HMS Cumberland for an evening patrol
It is no wonder that the subject of aviation during the Second World War continues to fascinate so many people, particularly as it encompasses such wide aircraft diversity which includes types as different as Britain’s Fairey Swordfish and the Boeing B-29 Superfortress of the USAAF. That diversity could not be illustrated more clearly than when considering two different aircraft types from the same British manufacturer, both famous in their own right and both proving to be incredibly successful in the roles for which they were intended. The Supermarine Spitfire would be described by most people as the world’s most famous fighter aircraft, combining stunning good looks with exceptional manoeuvrability and devastating firepower - entering service in 1938, it came from the same source as a rather ungainly looking biplane amphibian which entered service just three years earlier and is regarded with nothing like the same affection, despite the fact that it proved to be just as effective a design. The Supermarine Walrus was developed from a long line of successful seaplane and amphibious aircraft designs and despite its ungainly appearance, was able to operate in conditions which most other aircraft would simply be incapable of doing. As the nature of war evolved, the all conquering Battleships of previous conflicts were now vulnerable to attack from both enemy ships and aircraft, which could make short work of these leviathans of the ocean if they were caught unawares. This vulnerability meant that beyond visual range reconnaissance capability was vital if these naval assets were to operate effectively. These massive vessels, which possessed huge destructive power and were crewed by hundreds of men relied on a handful of men and their catapult launched Walrus amphibians to be their ‘eyes in the sky’, checking for signs of enemy activity and supplying real-time range finding support for her ships gunners in the event of naval engagement.
Just as much at home on the water as in the air, the Supermarine Walrus proved to be an extremely rugged and adaptable aircraft
Although the appearance of the Walrus may have been that of a delicate and almost obsolete biplane, the aircraft was actually an extremely rugged performer, capable of absorbing significant punishment in the execution of this demanding role. Often required to be catapult launched from its home Battleship or Cruiser, this complicated procedure would require the use of specially designed equipment and a large number of men trained in this complex process. Attaching the walrus to its catapult cradle and preparing for launch, the pilot would be instructed to run his engines up to take-off power, which would result in the tail and horizontal stabilisers vibrating in alarming fashion, before the ship was turned into wind in the seconds prior to lunch. Once in position, the Walrus was hurled into the air under great force, using an explosive charge to provide enough power for the catapult and it would embark on its latest sortie, surveying the immediate area for potential danger and engaging in wider ranging patrols, all aimed at protecting its parent ship. Following the completion of its latest patrol, getting the Walrus back aboard the ship was an equally complex procedure and once again called on the strength of the aircraft’s design. With the pilot having to land relatively close to its home vessel, usually in the open ocean and often in rather choppy waters, the crew would have to attempt to catch a winch from the ship and attach it to cables anchored to the top wing, before Walrus and crew were hauled back aboard the ship. Once this was successfully completed, the aircraft would need to be placed back on its manoeuvring bogie, checked and prepared for its next flight and safely stowed in the cramped confines of its deck hangar, all clearly highlighting the rugged effectiveness of this unusual looking aircraft.
The release of the new 1/48th scale Supermarine Walrus tooling from Airfix certainly brought a new appreciation of this relatively unloved aircraft from the same stable as the Spitfire and builds into what has to be described as one of the most interesting models in any collection of scale aircraft. With our exclusive reveal of the box artwork which will accompany the second release from this tooling, we are very much on track for the scheduled August release of this new model, which includes three scheme options which are dramatically different from those included with the initial release. The scheme details which relate to the fantastic artwork featured above are:
Supermarine Walrus Mk.I K5780/WM, No.715 Flight, HMS Cumberland, 1937.
The scheme options included with the second Walrus release are very different from those included with the sell out first release
Trading their Hawker Osprey III float planes for the more capable Supermarine Walrus, No.715 flight was a catapult unit of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force, with a responsibility to supply aircraft to the County Class heavy cruisers, Cornwall, Cumberland and Suffolk. This particular Walrus was built at the famous Supermarine factory at Woolston, Southampton, before being transported to Eastleigh aerodrome to undertake its first test flight. This Mk.I carried the hull codes ‘Black WM’ and was one of three aircraft assigned to HMS Cumberland in the years prior to the start of WWII and is wearing the striking all-over aluminium dope and natural metal finish associated with this period. The aircraft would provide the heavy cruiser with spotter and reconnaissance support, whilst also possessing the ability to perform air-sea rescue and light attack duties.
Launching from the ship’s single catapult, Cumberland had the capacity to take up to three Walrus aircraft, which would all be required to operate in some of the most demanding conditions imaginable for an aeroplane. The decal option includes the distinctive walkway markings on the leading edge of the top and bottom wings, which were essential when the crew were engaged in securing the aircraft for winching back aboard HMS Cumberland. The ship saw service in South Atlantic, Far East and South African waters, before going on to serve with distinction protecting Arctic convoys, as part of the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Home Fleet.
We will certainly be hoping to engage in a little Airfix ‘Walrus spotting’ at Telford over the weekend of 10th/11th November, seeing what you have all made of this fascinating new modelling subject.
Post war jet perfection
As well as being one of the most attractive jets to see Royal Air Force service, the Hawker Hunter F.6 was also an extremely capable interceptor fighter
There are some aircraft for which the use of the old adage ‘If it looks right, it is right’ seems to be more appropriate than others and that is most certainly the case when describing the Hawker Hunter. As a development of the earlier Hawker Sea Hawk, the Hunter was the first Hawker designed jet to enter service with the Royal Air Force and proved to be a significant improvement over the first generation jet aircraft which were developed during the latter stages of the second World War. A sleek and relatively simple looking design, the Hunter was a fast, manoeuvrable and reliable interceptor, which proved not only to be a significant increase in capability for the Royal Air Force, but also an important export success, seeing service with at least nineteen overseas air arms. Astonishingly, even though the first Hunters entered service with the RAF as far back as the summer of 1954, a small number of aircraft are still regularly involved in providing support for current British military operations, acting as high speed radar targets and threat simulation aircraft.
The Hawker Hunter is undoubtedly one of the most aesthetically appealing jet aircraft ever to take to the skies and the announcement of our intention to release a newly tooled example of the Hunter F.6 in 1/48th scale at the beginning of the year was an ideal way to start 2018. Obviously a proud moment for the Airfix team, it seems as if we have hit something of a modelling ‘sweet spot’ with this new tooling, as it has attracted unprecedented levels of interest since this first announcement and is clearly one model that many of our readers are looking forward to building later in the year. We are pleased to be in a position to bring you an update from this highly anticipated project and confirm the three scheme options which will be included with the first release from this new Hunter tooling. The eagle eyed amongst you will spot that this is perhaps a little more interesting than usual, as it includes information which differs from the details supplied at the time of the original launch announcement. Although rare, this is not altogether unheard of and is the result of new product announcements and copy deadline requirements for the annual Airfix catalogue. In some cases, the development team can come across certain issues with the originally intended scheme options which necessitate a change, or simply find a scheme which they feel would be more appealing to modellers. Let’s take a closer look at the three scheme options which will accompany this first 1/48th scale Hunter F.6 release:
Hawker Hunter F.6 XE597/A, No.63 Squadron Royal Air Force, Waterbeach, England, September 1958 – (Commander’s aircraft specially marked for the 1958 Battle of Britain display).
The main scheme option included with this first release marks a particularly striking aircraft which was specially decorated for the 1958 Battle of Britain commemorations
Arguably, the definitive version of the Hunter proved to be the F.6 Fighter variant which incorporated a number of significant improvements over earlier Hunters and highlighted the adaptability of the basic Hawker design. The constant desire for greater speed and fuel efficiency resulted in Rolls-Royce developing the Avon 203, almost a complete re-design of the earlier engine and yielded an additional 33 percent greater thrust for the Hunter pilot to access. The F.6 also incorporated an improved fuel management system and tank layout, as well as introducing the distinctive outer-wing leading edge extension, which gave the wing a saw-tooth appearance and was developed to improve the aircraft’s high speed stability. The Hunter F.6 was a thoroughbred fighting aeroplane in every respect, with the design changes only serving to enhance its growing reputation and certainly not detracting from its aesthetic appeal – this was a particularly beautiful looking aeroplane.
Hawker Hunter XE597 was constructed as an F.6 fighter at Hawker’s Kingston-upon-Thames factory in 1956 and taken on strength with the Royal Air Force on 31st August the same year. It joined RAF No.63 Squadron at Waterbeach on 7th November 1956, where it was coded ‘A’ and later becoming the commanders aircraft. In preparation for the 18th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and the Squadron’s annual Airshow commitments, it was specially presented with a striking black and yellow checked tail, which must have looked rather spectacular on this already handsome aeroplane. XE597 was photographed wearing this scheme at a number of events during 1958, although it is not known how long it retained the scheme following the end of that Airshow season. On 6th May 1959, XE597 returned to Hawker Siddeley for conversion to FGA.9 and a new career in the close air support role.
Hawker Hunter XE597 would go on to enjoy almost 30 years in Royal Air Force service, operating in the colours of Nos. 66, 63 and 56 Squadrons as an F.6 and Nos. 208, 54 and 1 Squadrons following conversion to FGA.9. It would end its service career with No.229 Operational Conversion Unit at Chivenor and finally the Hunter Tactical Weapons Unit at Brawdy. Following the end of its flying days, it would spend time as RAF Bentley Priory’s gate guardian and finally an instructional airframe, before being scrapped, with just the nose section surviving. This has now been beautifully restored and can be seen displaying at Airshows and cockpit meets up and down the country to this day, helping to bring the many virtues of the Hawker Hunter to a new generation of admirers.
Hawker Hunter F.6 XF509/73, No.4 Flying Training School, Royal Air Force Valley, Anglesey, Wales, September, 1968.
This particular aircraft has special significance in the history of Airfix and served for a period as the striking ‘factory guardian’ outside the old Airfix/Humbrol factory in Hull
Many Hunter F.6 fighter aircraft would go on to enjoy a successful career in a flight training role, with a significant number of aircraft assigned to No.4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley, on Anglesey. The Hunters shared the airfield with the Folland Gnats which performed a similar role, however the Hunters operated as a separate unit from facilities on the opposite side of the airfield to the Gnats. Despite the Gnat being the main RAF training aircraft of the day, many felt that the Hunter was eminently more suited to performing this task for a number of reasons, not least of which was the diminutive nature of the Gnat having an impact on the stature of students able to fit into its small cockpit. Officially, the Hunters were to be used for the training of the many overseas students which passed through RAF Valley, however RAF student pilots who were too tall to squeeze themselves into the cockpit of the Gnat also found the Hunter much more accommodating to their requirements. Indeed, many pilots would actively try to ‘engineer’ their acceptance on a Hunter course, which became a highly prized commodity within the Royal Air Force. The scheme option detailed above is interesting as it shows a 4 FTS Hunter in the colours it wore during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with its standard camouflage and ‘white ball 73’ identification number. By 1973, the aircraft had been repainted into the famous high visibility red, white and grey training scheme adopted by the RAF.
As was the case with many Hawker Hunter airframes, XF509 would go on to have a long and varied flying career. Joining the Royal Air Force in 1957 with No.54 Squadron, it went on the serve with the Air Fighting Development Squadron and the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Bedford, as well as spending time as a chase aircraft with BAC at Filton. It finally arrived at RAF Valley and No.4 FTS to begin a significant period in a flight training role, before ending its RAF service as a gate guardian at RAF Chivenor. The closure of RAF Chivenor saw a rather unusual new assignment for XF509 and one which could not be more poignant in the context of this scheme review. It was purchased by the owners of Airfix/Humbrol and moved to their factory site in Hull, where it was erected in a similar manner to its former Chivenor role. Difficulties experienced by Airfix at that time and the eventual closure of the Hull site saw the Hunter falling into disrepair and suffering at the hands of local vandals, an extremely sad sight for anyone who had seen the aircraft resplendent in its former glory. Thankfully, the aircraft was later rescued and transported to Fort Paull Museum, where it is now in much better condition and preserved as an interesting piece of local aviation and industrial history for the Humberside area. It would be fantastic to think that some intrepid modellers might create a diorama of the old Airfix factory gate guardian using this new Hunter kit – we will certainly feature it in a future edition of Workbench if anyone did.
Hawker Hunter F.6 N-209, No.324 Squadron, Royal Netherlands Air Force, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 1964.
The Hawker Hunter was a spectacular export success for Britain and wore the colours of at least nineteen overseas air arms
The Hunter went on to enjoy a long and successful career with the Royal Air Force, only replaced in the role of interceptor by the spectacular English Electric Lightning, but also going on to fulfil several other roles for which this fantastic aeroplane was well suited. It also proved to be a spectacular export success for the British aviation industry, with no fewer than nineteen overseas air forces using the type and manufacturing licences granted to both Belgium and Holland. Indeed, some Hunters would go on to fly in the colours of several air arms, with a small number then going on to civilian operators following the end of their military careers. The Dutch established a significant joint production licence arrangement with Belgium to build 96 Hunter F.4s and 93 F.6s for the Koninklijke Luchtmacht and 112 F.4s and 144 F.6s for the Belgian Air Force -Fokker built all of the Dutch Hunters, as well as some of the Belgian machines. Both Holland and Belgium were to receive a complete example of a British built Hunter F.4 to serve as a manufacturing pattern for this significant project.
The Dutch operated the Hunter F.6 and some two seat training variants until 1968, when the British jet was replaced by the American Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, many of which were also licence built by Fokkers. Large numbers of the former Dutch Air Force Hunters were sold back to Hawker Siddeley for refurbishment and future re-sale, serving to ensure the continued export success of the Hunter and its effective use by the air forces of many nations – this handsome aeroplane would go on to wear the markings of nineteen international air forces.
Hawker Hunter F.6 c/c 8811 (production number M-211) was built under licence by Fokker-Aviolanda and registered with the Luchtvaartuigregister on 2nd January 1958 as aircraft No.48. It was assigned to No.324 fighter Squadron, initially as 3P-P and spent time with the unit based at both Leeuwarden and Soesterberg air bases. Initially, Dutch Hunters had their squadron codes applied to the nose of the aircraft, with individual serial numbers displayed on the tail, just below the fin flash. In 1960, this system was changed in favour of the distinctive ‘N’ serial number displayed prominently on the nose of each aircraft. When the Dutch decided to replace their Hunters with the Lockheed F-104 Starfighters, these well maintained machines proved to be something of an aviation cash-cow for Hawker Siddeley, who bought back large numbers of aircraft at reasonable prices, before selling them on to new owners for a handsome profit. This particular F.6 was sold back to Hawker Siddeley on 2nd July 1965 and converted to F. Mk. 56A standard for the Indian Air Force. Carrying the serial A-493, it was delivered to its new owners at the end of June 1967.
As one of the most successful jet aircraft ever produced by the British aviation industry, the Hawker Hunter must also qualify as one of the best looking aircraft to represent the Royal Air Force during the 100 years of its existence, with the strength of its basic design underlined by the fact that Hunters are still working on military contracts to this day. Having also served with many overseas air arms, the modeller will have no shortage of attractive schemes from which to select when building their example of this beautifully produced new 1/48th scale model representation from Airfix, the release of which will surely stimulate renewed interest in this beautiful aeroplane. Hawker Hunter F.6 A09185 is currently scheduled for a November release and we look forward to bringing you further updates from this exciting project as we approach this date.
That’s it for this whopping 3rd Anniversary edition of Workbench, 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.
One final look at the box presentation of the impending Supermarine Walrus Mk.I ‘Silver Wings’ release A09187
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 31st August, 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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