An Airborne Warrior at Sea

An Airborne Warrior at Sea


Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and our regular look behind the scenes at the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. Our latest update will feature a modified tooling announcement in the 1/48th scale range which is already looking like being amongst the most popular releases of the year and we take a look at an extremely colourful aircraft with an interesting history which takes its place in our small starter sets range. We also have a couple of reader supplied build reviews for your delectation, including a stunning WWII Nightfighter model that will have us all rushing for the black paint. With box artwork reveals and the stories behind new kit decal options, we hope that there will be something for everyone in the latest edition of Workbench.

A Battle that must be won

Although many people would probably describe the Battle of Britain as the UK’s finest hour in the air, another battle raged throughout WWII which required brave pilots to fly from what were at first hastily prepared and relatively unsuitable ships, on operations above the incredibly hostile environment of the Atlantic Ocean. In many ways this battle was even more savage than the one fought by the Few during the summer of 1940, and carrying the very survival of the British nation in their hands there could be no thought of failure. At a time when Britain desperately needed a fighter to go to war at sea, it called upon a proven warhorse and unsung hero of the Battle of Britain – the Hawker Hurricane.

As British shipping losses in the Atlantic began to mount, it became clear that the Royal Navy needed a fast, capable monoplane fighter that could be operated effectively at sea. During the early months of WWII, the British fighter of the moment was the Supermarine Spitfire, but all production was destined for the RAF who were frantically replacing the losses suffered during the Battle of Britain. Whilst the Navy lobbied for Spitfires, they were to be disappointed – none could be spared. They would have to make do with a number of surplus and combat weary Hawker Hurricanes, but whilst the Admiralty were not particularly happy with the situation, the Hurricane proved to be the ideal aircraft for this difficult task. With no suitable, or available aircraft carriers currently in service, these early convoy protectors would need to be launched into the air using rocket powered catapults from specially modified merchant ships, for what was effectively a single-use mission for the aircraft and an extremely dangerous one for the brave pilot.


A ‘Hooked’ Hurricane


The beautiful box artwork that will accompany the release of A05134 Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB


Whilst the early catapult-launched Hurricane fighters allowed the vulnerable merchant convoys to better protect themselves against Luftwaffe maritime patrols and U-boat attacks, a dedicated carrier-based fighter would also be needed and would be developed along-side the ‘Hurricats’. The additional weight associated with a folding wing version of the Hurricane was discounted at a relatively early stage of development, but the navalised version of the fighter would have some distinct differences from the land based variant and the catapult fighters. Carrying the Royal Navy classification Sea Hurricane IB, the most significant modification was the inclusion of catapult spools and an A-frame arrestor hook to allow effective operation from British aircraft carriers. Some airframe strengthening was also required to allow the aircraft to better survive the rigors of carrier deck operation and a retaining spring was utilised on the arrestor hook, both to absorb some of the deceleration forces and to prevent the hook from bouncing up and damaging the fuselage of the fighter. A green light would illuminate in the cockpit when the arrestor hook was deployed and a deck landing could be attempted.

The Sea Hurricane IB was powered by an uprated variant of the Rolls Royce Merlin III engine, which drove a De Havilland propeller (slightly lighter than a Rotol unit) and spinner and helped to offset a shift in the aircraft's centre of gravity, as a result of the specific navalised equipment fit. The inability to fold its wings would have consequences regarding the stowage of these aircraft at sea, as few British carriers could store Sea Hurricanes below deck, with the majority of aircraft simply lashed to the deck, or even pushed precariously over the open sea, with the tail wheel supported on an outrigger strut. Despite these harsh operating conditions, the Sea Hurricane proved to be a robust and reliable naval fighter, with its large wing area and forgiving handling qualities making it particularly suitable for operation from the rolling deck of an aircraft carrier at sea. Crucially, when Britain needed it most, the Hurricane was ready for action and served at sea with distinction until more capable British and American naval fighters became available. Always in the shadow of the thoroughbred Spitfire, the Hurricane was in many ways the more important aircraft in this fighting double act.

The launch of the new 2017 Airfix range saw the announcement of several new models in the ever-popular 1/48th scale range, including a superb new Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB (A05134), which includes parts and decals to allow modellers to build this important and extremely attractive version of Britain’s first monoplane fighter to exceed 300mph in level flight. We are pleased to bring you these computer rendered 3D images from the project which give some idea of what this beautiful new model will look like.


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With a rare example of the Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB flying regularly at Airshows in the UK, this is certain to be a popular addition to the 1/48th scale range and marks the fully navalised version of this famous Hawker fighter and one of the most attractive aircraft to operate from Britain’s aircraft carriers during WWII. The kit will be supplied with the following decal options:

Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB AF955/7-E, Aircraft flown by Lieutenant Richard John (Dickie) Cork (DSO & DSC), No.880 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Indomitable, ‘Operation Ironclad’, Diego Suarez, Madagascar, May 1942.



Profile artwork featuring ‘Dickie’ Cork’s successful strafing Sea Hurricane Mk.IB



Full scheme artwork for Sea Hurricane AF955


‘Operation Ironclad’ was a British campaign to take control of the East African island of Madagascar, which was occupied by Vichy French forces. The British military were worried that the island may be an intended base for Japanese naval forces attempting to become more active in the region and were determined to prevent this. Initial operations centred around the capture of the northern port of Diego Suarez and supported by air units from HMS Illustrious and Indomitable, the attack began on 5th May 1942 with an early morning raid against the town’s nearby Vichy airfield. Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB AF955 from No.880 NAS on board HMS Indomitable was one of eight Fleet Air Arm fighters to attack the airfield, with Lieutenant ‘Dickie’ Cork claiming three Morane-Saulnier MS.406 fighters and four Potez 630 bombers destroyed during a series of devastating strafing runs. The following day, he would use this aircraft to shoot-up a gun battery to the south of the airfield, as British forces successfully landed on the Island and began to push south.

Richard John Cork was to become one of the most celebrated British naval aviators of the Second World War and an ace flying the Hawker Sea Hurricane. As one of the Fleet Air Arm Pilots to fight during the Battle of Britain, Cork transferred to No.242 Squadron, where he flew as wingman to Douglas Bader. On his return to the Royal Navy, he became the only FAA pilot to shoot down five enemy aircraft in one day and was the leading naval ace whilst flying the Hawker Hurricane. His final victory tally was nine aircraft destroyed, two shared, one probable, four damaged and seven destroyed on the ground, claims which saw him ranked as fifth on the table of Royal Navy aces of WWII.

Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB, P2731/S7F, No.804 Naval Air Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, HMS Eagle, 1941.



Profile artwork featuring the second Sea Hurricane option supplied with A05134



Full scheme artwork for Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB P2731


The Hawker Sea Hurricane would see service in the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian and Mediterranean Oceans and prove to be a significant deterrent to long-ranging Luftwaffe maritime patrol aircraft and a valuable fighter asset in the war at sea. Wearing the standard Fleet Air Arm camouflage scheme illustrated above, these aircraft would work in conjunction with Fairey Fulmars to protect the vessels of the fleet and the more vulnerable Swordfish and Albacore strike aircraft deployed against enemy shipping.

HMS Eagle was lost to German U-boat attack on 11th August 1942, whilst involved in operations to re-supply the Island of Malta with new fighters to replace the ageing Gladiators and early Hurricanes struggling to stem the ever-increasing Axis air attacks. She was hit by four torpedoes and sank in less than ten minutes, taking her compliment of Sea Hurricanes with her.

Hawker Sea Hurricanes began to be withdrawn from front line units from the spring of 1943, as more effective folding wing naval fighters became available in greater numbers. As was the case with the Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain, their naval counterparts fought an often unheralded, yet crucial role in the air war at sea and yet again proved the effectiveness of this most famous fighter.

This new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Hurricane Mk.IB kit is currently scheduled for a summer 2017 release, but please continue to check the Airfix website for the latest information.



Life before the Red Arrows


This handsome Jet Provost wears the distinctive colours of the Red Pelicans Aerobatic Display Team


Although the Airfix range of small starter sets is described as being ideal for the beginner, these delightful models really do have to be considered as much more than that. Supplied complete with glue, acrylic paints and a paint brush, these models are indeed the perfect way for first time modellers to try their hand at the hobby, but they can also be perfect for people returning to the hobby after a break and indeed for the committed, regular modeller looking for a great kit which comes with some extras that will always come in handy. The current range includes a beautiful new kit which has just been released and marks a particularly handsome aircraft that thrilled Airshow crowds in the days before the world famous Red Arrows. As the RAF moved to an all jet flight training programme in the early 1960s, they could not have imagined that the Jet Provost aircraft they were using would provide training support for the next thirty years.

The close side-by-side arrangement of the Jet Provost cockpit must have been both a blessing and a curse for the RAF student pilot but would certainly have highlighted any mistakes they made. For the capable, instinctive student, it would have allowed them to closely observe the skills of his flying instructor and emulate these in developing his own flying style. For the less confident, or struggling student, the cockpit of his Jet Provost must have been an intimidating environment.

The Hunting Percival/BAC Jet Provost went on to provide over thirty years of faithful service to Royal Air Force training units and over 500 aircraft were eventually constructed for the RAF alone. It is highly likely that almost every RAF pilot to serve between 1960 and 1988 would have time in his log book on the JP and in many cases, would have received his basic training on the aircraft. Without doubt, the Jet Provost deserves to be considered as one of the most significant jet aircraft to ever serve in the Royal Air Force and was a resounding success for the British aviation industry.

(A55116) Hunting Percival Jet Provost T.Mk.4, XN468, Red Pelicans display team, Central Flying School, Royal Air Force Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, England 1966.



Profile artwork showing one of the Red Pelican Jet Provosts


Full scheme artwork for Small Starter Set A55116


At a time when many RAF stations operated their own aerobatic display teams, the ‘Red Pelicans’ of the Central Flying School were amongst the most distinctive, often flying in the same display programme as the Red Arrows. Formed at RAF Kemble in 1962, the team originally made use of four standard Jet Provost T.Mk.4 aircraft which were equipped with white smoke generators for display purposes. The following year the team was expanded to six aircraft, which were all given a smart new bright red paint scheme and performed many display routines at shows in the UK and on the Continent.

In 1964, the Red Pelicans became the official aerobatic display team of the Royal Air Force, replacing the English Electric Lightnings of the ‘Firebirds’ which could no longer be spared for Airshow duties. In the same year at a spectacular SBAC Farnborough Airshow, the six Jet Provosts of the Red Pelicans flew in formation with the 5 Folland Gnats of the new 4FTS ‘Yellowjacks’, which must have been a memorable sight for anyone lucky enough to witness it.

This striking small starter set is available online now or from your local Airfix stockist.



RAF Jet Provost next for Dave Haddican


Box artwork that adorns the 1/72nd scale Jet Provost T.3/3A A02103


The previous two editions of Workbench have included build reviews supplied by reader and reinvigorated modeller Dave Haddican, who won our competition for tickets to the 2016 Farnborough Airshow, but was unable to attend after suffering a severe injury in the days leading up to the show. Forced to spend some time recuperating, Dave returned to his love of modelling and kindly sent us a detailed review of his RAF Tucano build which was of great interest to readers and illustrated his undoubted modelling skills. Flushed with his success, Dave moved on to another classic Royal Air Force training aircraft and again sent us details of the project, including his opinion of the kit itself – as it is quite detailed, we will split the review over the next few blogs and begin with the story behind the build and construction preparations.

You can view and download the instructions for the Hunting Percival Jet Provost T.3/T.3a 1:72 below.




Airfix 1:72 Hunting Percival Jet Provost T.3/3A A02103 Kit Build/Review

‘I reacquainted myself with the hobby during the middle of 2016 as a sort of therapy following a serious sporting injury. Since then (and I can hear my wife agreeing already), there’s been no stopping me. My first kit build was an Airfix 1:72 Tucano and I’ve been planning to add to my fledgling training fleet ever since. Therefore, the release of the long awaited new tool 1:72 scale Hunting Percival Jet Provost T.3/3A in the summer of 2016 was simply too tempting.



Kit inspection - familiarisation and a quick clean is always a good place to start


I did the usual internet searches looking for the kit online and within a couple of days the postman rattled on the door. I immediately dived into the cardboard packaging to uncover the now familiar top opening red box from Airfix. Upon inspection, there were three grey sprues and a single clear sprue retaining the 45 parts. I must admit, the quality of this new mould is excellent, with the soft grey plastic proving very forgiving when removing parts from the sprues. Furthermore, the detail included in the basic kit is very good, with crisp panel lines and clear riveting. I know some have complained about the depth of the panel lines on a few of the new moulds however I think they produce a realistic looking kit in the end, noting that straight out of the box they haven’t had primer or paint applied to them.

Alongside the plastic was an 8-page instruction booklet with 22 construction steps and two full colour painting and marking guides. The colour guides certainly are useful compared to the various shades and patterns of grey that some manufacturers still provide with their painting guides. Finally, the kit includes a small but busy decal sheet enabling the model to be built into a 2 Flying Training Squadron (FTS) Grey/Dayglo orange aircraft from Royal Air Force (RAF) Gaydon in 1967 or a 1 FTS Red/White/Grey aircraft from RAF Linton-On-Ouse circa 1984.




Having studied the instructions and painting guide it was readily apparent that the 2 FTS version would not require a mammoth masking job in order to complete the kit in this unusual (and to me little seen before) livery, as the Dayglo orange stripes were provided as decals. I was tempted for a moment to go for this option however instead I decided to build the Red/White/Grey livery that adorned the training aircraft of the RAF during the 80’s and 90’s (and my Airfix Tucano). In addition, the Red/White/Grey Jet Provost was the first ever aircraft I trained on at No: 1 School of Technical Training, RAF Cosford back in the 90’s (albeit this was a T.5 variant). Hence, the decision was fairly straight forward in the end.

The kit is a skill level 1 kit and therefore suitable for all modellers aged 8+ and added another Flying Hour token to my growing collection. I really must join the Airfix Club and cash in some of these tokens soon. The built dimensions are listed as Length: 137mm and Width: 156mm making this a small kit requiring little shelf space. A consideration that I am now having to make more and more with my purchases.

On to the build:

Preparation. I think this is just an OCD that I have as a few modellers I know get excellent results without really doing any sort of surface preparation to their kits, however I find that a quick wash of all the parts in warm soapy water just frees any grease marks from them. I dunked the sprues into the bowl and then left them overnight to dry on a few sheets of kitchen towel.



Cockpit assembly and ejection seat work


Steps 1 & 2. As with almost all model aircraft kits, the first stage of construction is the cockpit. The parts are well moulded with crisp console detail and some good basic rudder pedals. The cockpit tub was fully assembled and then sprayed with a couple of thin coats of Satin Black (Humbrol 85). As the cockpit was likely to be pretty visible through the large Perspex canopy of the Jet Provost I spent a little time dry brushing the raised detail with Silver (Humbrol 11) to give it a slightly worn look. In reality, after a few weeks of aircrew and engineers clambering in/out of the cockpit they can look fairly worn out and tired quickly.

Steps 3 thru 5. Whilst the basic cockpit tub was drying, construction moved to the two Martin Baker Mk.4 Ejection Seats. The basic kit seats are perfectly acceptable representations in this scale, and are made up of four parts each: two sides, the main seat cushion (or pilots if used) and a head rest. The moulded ejection handles that form part of the head rest are quite thick and therefore I decided to remove these and replace them with scratch built items formed from thin pieces of copper wire. The wire was wrapped around a small needle in order to get the required profile before being trimmed and glued into place. Similar ejection handles were also made for between the pilot’s legs.



Well painted canopy framing can make all the difference to your finished model


The seats were then painted as per the guide in the instructions, the only difference being that the ejection seat handles were painted yellow and black, the Personal Survival Pack box that usually forms the base of the ejection seat was painted yellow (Humbrol 24) and the lower harness straps blue as per some reference photographs that I had found of the aircraft in service. I decided to omit the pilots from the build, primarily in order to keep as much detail as possible visible in the cockpit but also because the figures supplied with the kit in my opinion were not the greatest. They appeared to have a lot of flash that required removal and weren’t quite as crisp as the remainder of the kit’.


Thanks to Dave Haddican for his words and pictures. We will bring you the next instalment of the review in two week’s time.



Nocturnal Defiance


This stunning box artwork has inspired many modellers to build the Defiant


We end this latest blog with a look at some model build images recently uploaded to the Customer Images section of the Airfix website, which featured the stunning Boulton Paul Defiant Mk.I kit in 1/48th scale. With the magnificent box artwork to inspire modellers of all abilities, the Defiant has proved to be an incredibly popular kit since its launch in 2016 and brought a new appreciation for this much-maligned turret fighter. Although A05128 includes decal options to complete one of two Defiant day fighter schemes of the Battle of Britain era, Martin Wainwright was looking for something a little different from his Defiant build. Having seen a couple of impressive day fighter builds on various modelling forums, including the famous L7009 ‘Cock o’ the North’, Martin wanted to go in a different direction and produce a nightfighter version of the Defiant, marking the important contribution made by Defiant crews in the night defence of the UK. Significantly for this project, Martin was determined to produce a model that looked as if it had been used on operations and did not appear as if it had just emerged from the paint shop – his description was used, but looked after.

The selection of pictures below illustrate just how successful Martin was in achieving his aim. He has managed to produce a stunning model that is not only a fine representation of the Defiant, but also represents an aircraft that appears to have just returned from its latest night sortie, with exhaust staining, worn panelling and bare metal areas showing through the expertly applied black scheme. Martin described how he found it particularly challenging to replicate the desired black finish on the aircraft, but we think you will agree that he certainly managed it – this is a stunning example of a Defiant nightfighter. In the next edition of Workbench, we will include more details on how Martin achieved the impressive finish on his model and delve a little deeper inside his inspiration of the project – for now though, please enjoy these magnificent pictures, supplied courtesy of Martin Wainwright.


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A selection of pictures showing Martin’s impressive Boulton Paul Defiant nightfighter build




Canberra Competition Winners



In the previous edition of Workbench we included a competition in support of our IPMS (UK) Canberra SIG feature, with two impressive 1/48th scale English Electric Canberra B.2/B.20 kits up for grabs. To be in with a chance of winning, all you had to do was head for the Airfix competitions page and answer the following question: In which year did the English Electric Canberra prototype aircraft make its maiden flight? The answer was B – 1949 and we are pleased to announce that the two lucky winners of the kits are:

Susan Cranfield

Bruce Robb

Congratulations to you both - your models will be winging their way to you in the next few days. Thank you to everyone who took the time to enter and please keep an eye out for more competitions in future editions throughout the year.


That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, which we sincerely hope included something of interest to you.  We are always interested to hear what our readers have to say and to receive any pictures or features you feel may be of interest to fellow modellers in a future edition of our blog.  There are several ways in which you can contact us, including our dedicated e-mail address and of course the 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 with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts.

Finally, the Airfix website is the destination to find out all the very latest model release information, with our New Arrivals and Coming Soon sections all accessed by clicking the Shop button at the top of the webpage. As work on the website is a constant process, a quick search through all the Airfix web pages will usually reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections, so this is always a rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

We look forward to bringing you our next Airfix update on 31st March.

The Airfix Workbench Team


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