Beaufort test frames and a scale Flying Legend
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
As it‘s Workbench week again, that must mean we have another selection of exclusive images, project updates and 2020 range details straight from the desks of the Airfix development team for you. In this latest edition, we begin with the latest exclusive update from the new 1/72nd scale Bristol Beaufort Mk.I tooling and mark the continuing advancement of this popular addition to the range by revealing images of the first component test frames from the tooling blocks, as well as including exclusive pictures of the first test build by the kits designer.
As we continue our review of the kits included in the new 2020 range, we place the spotlight on the latest 1/72nd scale Curtiss P-40B Warhawk announcement and describe how the aircraft which wore the scheme options included with the kit avoided destruction during the Pearl Harbor raid and would go on to thrill Airshow crowds at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. We end by asking the question, ‘Dare you venture into Panther country?’
We have much modelling discussion to get through, so let’s dive straight in.
First look at Beaufort ‘test frames’
Since it was first announced at the beginning of the year, the new 1/72nd scale Bristol Beaufort Mk.I tooling has been receiving plenty of attention from Workbench readers and the wider modelling community. An aircraft which is perhaps not quite as well known as other WWII types, our decision to produce this new kit has resulted in many people brushing up on their Beaufort research and looking a little deeper into the service history of this distinctive aeroplane. An aircraft which started development as an intended evolution of the company’s successful Blenheim design, the Beaufort would turn out to be a very different looking aircraft and one which had the distinction of being the only monoplane produced for the Royal Air Force which was designed from the outset as a torpedo bomber and reconnaissance platform.
Although not enjoying the same popular recognition as either the earlier Blenheim or later Beaufighter, the Beaufort was a rugged and highly effective aircraft, one which was required to perform a particularly demanding role and one which would make a significant contribution to the Allied war effort during WWII. It also happens to be one of the more interesting aviation types of the Second World War and one we are looking forward to welcoming into the Airfix range later in the year.
As our new Beaufort has created so much interest since its announcement at the beginning of January, we are delighted to already be in a position to bring Workbench readers a major update from the project and a selection of exclusive images which are being published for the first time. With grateful thanks to the projects designer Matt, we have been given access to the first test frames from the Beaufort tooling, along with the first full test build from these initial parts. Although we are happy to show them at this very early stage, please do remember that they show kit components which are still in development and may be subject to many changes before the kit is released for production.
An exclusive treat for Workbench readers, this next selection of images are the first component frames to be produced from the new 1/72nd scale Bristol Beaufort tooling. Still in the early stages of product development, these test frames will be inspected and scrutinised thoroughly, before a list of improvement recommendations are sent back to the production facility
Representing a crucial stage in the development of any new model tooling project, the arrival of the first test frames must be a time of great excitement for the Airfix team, though undoubtedly mixed with a little apprehension. The first opportunity the kits designer will have to assess the fruits of many weeks hard labour, these test frames represent the first physical samples from his newly designed model tooling and the start of an intensive period of assessment and report creation.
On the day new test frames are delivered at the Airfix office, a large box containing around ten complete component sets arrive from the manufacturing plant, with the honour of opening the box usually reserved for the designer responsible for the project. Once a basic initial inspection of the contents has taken place, the serious business of review can begin in earnest, something which calls upon every ounce of the designer’s experience and a period of activity which requires intense concentration. Every aspect of the kits design has to be assessed, from surface detail to checking for sink marks and from the general fit and finish, to checking overall tolerances.
Once this detailed component inspection has taken place and a review report started, the next stage is to continue this assessment through a test build, where the actual fit of components can be checked. Usually, at least two full builds will be completed, one to assess the actual fit accuracy of the individual parts, with the other used to check construction order, working closely with our illustrator Richard, as he puts the finishing to the new model’s instruction leaflet.
For the modeller, the sight of these early development images offer a fascinating insight into the work the Airfix designers do in ensuring their new kits are as accurate and enjoyable to build as they can be. This next selection of images are not computer renders, but the first time actual plastic components are constructed to build an Airfix Beaufort. Though still subject to change, they show that this much anticipated model project is advancing nicely
Even though great care is taken during every stage of the design process to ensure any new kit is as detailed and accurate as it possibly could be and accepting the fact that our design team have an incredible wealth of experience to call upon, at this first test frames stage, their assessment typically results in as many as 50 or 60 improvement recommendations being fed back to the manufacturing plant. All these alterations will have to be completed before the next set of component frames can be assessed, where this entire process will be repeated once more.
In most cases, this process of inspection, assessment and improvement takes place three or four times during the development of a new kit, before the designer is happy to release his latest modelling masterpiece for production and the enjoyment of thousands of modellers all over the world.
Before the new Bristol Beaufort Mk.I can take its place in the Airfix range, Matt still has much work to do, but with so many impressive Airfix projects already behind him, we can all begin to allow ourselves to get just a little excited at the prospect of adding this kit to our 2020 build schedules. Having shown itself to be a popular choice of subject with our readers, we look forward to bringing you further updates as the Beaufort continues its journey towards eventual release.
Latest 1/72nd scale Warhawk is a real ‘showstopper’
As appealing as ever, this latest box artwork shows that a pilot posting to Wheeler Field on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu must have been a dream come true, that is until the events of 7th December 1941
With so many new model kits included in the recently announced Airfix 2020 range, modellers are in real danger of being a little spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting their next build project and indeed with some of the re-issued kits featuring new decals potentially being lost in the excitement of headline new tooling projects. That could have potentially been the case with the next release from our beautiful little 1/72nd scale Curtiss P-40B Warhawk kit (A01003B), however, this one is just too good for us to allow that to happen. Due for imminent release and with a spectacular RRP of just £6.99, this is a real cracker of a model and one which includes details for one of the most historically important aircraft restoration projects the world has ever seen.
On 26th November 1941, a Japanese carrier task force left their home islands and headed for Hawaii, home of the powerful US Pacific Fleet. At the time, Japan was still trying to negotiate a settlement to a dispute with America that had seen crippling sanctions imposed against their nation, but as they had clear military expansionist ambitions in South East Asia, the hope of a satisfactory settlement was fanciful at best. Fearing this and wishing to prevent America from challenging their ambitions in the Pacific region, an audacious plan to launch a surprise attack against the American fleet moored at Pearl Harbor was drawn up, with its success very much dependent on stealth and the American forces being completely unprepared to repel the initial attack.
At 7.55am on Sunday 7th December 1941, the first wave of Japanese aircraft arrived over Hawaii and launched their devastating attack – over the course of the next two hours, the Japanese inflicted terrible damage and significant loss of life at Pearl Harbor, in two coordinated air attack waves. Despite their successes, a potentially catastrophic third wave was cancelled for fear of American counter attack against the Japanese strike force and the raid failed to destroy any US aircraft carriers, which were to prove crucial in the Pacific battles to come. Importantly, the Japanese misjudged the mood of the American people and their stomach for war – a once divided nation was now united in their resolve to win a war they now found themselves in, whatever the cost.
Curtiss P-40 – An unsung aviation war winner
A particularly aggressive looking aeroplane, the P-40B was the best fighter the USAAC had in service at the time of the Pearl Harbor raid and had the Oahu based units had advanced warning of attack, many more Japanese aircraft would have fallen victim to the guns of the Warhawk
When discussing the subject of significant fighting aeroplanes of the Second World War with modellers and aviation enthusiasts, you will usually see their eyes light up with excitement, before they go on give you a long list of perfectly credible contenders and undoubtedly, ending by offering their own particular favourite. Although several famous aircraft types will undoubtedly appear regularly on many people’s lists, it is unlikely that the Curtiss P-40 fighter series will feature, as this magnificent aircraft never receives the recognition it deserves, despite the fact that it was certainly one of WWII’s most important fighters.
The latest in a long line of successful Curtiss fighters designed during the 1930s and 40s, the Curtiss P-40 was one of the most advanced fighter types in the world as Europe descended into conflict at the start of WWII. A capable and extremely well built aircraft, the fact that the P-40 was one of the few modern US fighters in full scale production at the start of WWII really does give the aircraft significant historical provenance, particularly as it proved to be one of the fighters which ‘held the line’ at the start of the conflict, when German forces were sweeping all before them and America had not yet been dragged into the war.
With conflict in Europe looking inevitable and being fully aware of the fast and heavily armed fighters which were now in service with many European air forces, the US Army Air Corps placed a sizeable order for 524 of the new Curtiss P-40 fighters in April 1939, the largest order for fighter aircraft they had ever placed. A historic development in itself, this decision would later prove to be one of the most significant of the entire war. Unusually, despite the aircraft being one of America’s most modern aircraft, they allowed European nations to order the aircraft almost immediately and as the USAAC began equipping with the powerful new fighter, orders were accepted from both France and Britain for the Warhawk.
The P-40 would eventually see its combat introduction with the RAF Desert Air Force in early 1941, a theatre of war where the aircraft would make a significant contribution, whilst at the same time ensuring that new Spitfires and Hurricanes could remain with home based RAF units. If Britain was to prevail, her forces would need to keep fighting until America could be persuaded to join the fight and the P40 would prove significant in that struggle. Later that same year, P-40s of the USAAC would score some of America’s first aerial victories of a conflict they would find themselves involved in and allow them to begin challenging Japanese dominance in the Pacific theatre.
Despite never receiving the popular historical acclaim the aircraft undoubtedly deserves, the Curtiss P-40 has to be regarded as one of the most important US fighter aircraft of WWII and one which helped stem Axis aggression in the Pacific and in the skies of North Africa. The aircraft would remain in production until the end of 1944 and would become the third most numerous American fighter type of the war, after the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and North American P-51 Mustang.
Genuine Pearl Harbor survivor
This spectacular box artwork was used on a previously released 1/48th scale version of the Curtiss P-40B Warhawk (A05130) and gives some impression of how devastating the surprise Japanese attack against Pearl Harbor must have been for the unsuspecting American forces
In the hands of American pilots, the Curtiss P-40 would see its first combat action during the devastating Pearl Harbor raids which took place on 7th December 1941, an infamous date which would see America finally enter the Second World War. The surprise attack on the Island of Oahu caught the Americans completely off guard, however, despite the raids claiming 188 US aircraft destroyed and a further 159 damaged (mostly on the ground), a handful of aircraft did manage to get off the ground during the raids to take on the Japanese raiders.
The Curtiss P-40 fighters flown by George Welch and Kenneth Taylor are without doubt two of the most famous US aircraft in the history of flight, taking off from Wheeler Field whilst it was under heavy attack and tenaciously engaging any Japanese aircraft which entered their gunsights. Destroying at least six Japanese aircraft between them, their actions not only resulted in the first American aerial victories of the Second World War, but also highlighted the resolve of American service personnel in the face of adversity and their determination to do their duty. This famous display of aviation heroism also ensured that the aircraft flown by Welch and Taylor would become popular scale modelling subjects in the post war years, undoubtedly making this early variant of the Warhawk the most popular with kit manufacturers.
Profile artwork of an aircraft which whilst stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of 7th December 1941, was probably in the skies above Duxford airfield more than it was over the Island of Oahu
Although unable to play its part in the defence of Wheeler Field on 7th December 1941, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk 41-13297 ‘Buzz Number 284’ was in a hangar undergoing maintenance whilst the attack was taking place, but would later go on to provide a unique link to the heroism of that infamous day and the actions of a small number of its hangar mates. Some 66 years later, she would return to the skies to become the only airworthy Curtiss P-40B in the world and of even more historical significance, the only surviving American fighter from the Pearl Harbor raid.
Curtiss P-40B Bu.No.41-13297 was one of 131 aircraft built at the Curtiss factory in Buffalo, New York between late 1940 and early 1941 and was delivered to the US Army Air Corps in March 1941. Sent to Wheeler Field, Hawaii the following month, she joined the 6th Pursuit Squadron, 18th Pursuit Group and was given the ‘Buzz Number’ 284, taking her place as one of the most capable fighter aircraft in USAAC service at that time.
In October 1941, the young pilot who was returning to Wheeler following the completion of a patrol in 284, misjudged his landing and ground looped the aircraft, probably resulting in an uncomfortable few minutes in the Commanding Officers office for him and an ignominious drag across the airfield for the fighter. The aircraft was still in the hanger undergoing maintenance when the skies above the airfield filled with Japanese aircraft on 7th December 1941 and despite the devastation they wrought, 284 did not sustain any further damage.
Full scheme details of a famous aeroplane which for five glorious years was the star item at Duxford’s Flying Legends Airshow, one of the most historic airworthy aircraft in the world. It was also a direct link to the Pearl Harbor raid and one of the most significant days in world history
On her return to airworthy status once more, the aircraft would suffer a much more serious incident on 24th January 1942 and one which would claim the life of her pilot. During a routine patrol, the aircraft inexplicably lost control, entering a spin from which it did not recover. Coming down in a remote mountainous area of the island, the pilot was later recovered, but the aircraft simply left were it had crashed.
43 years later, the wreckage of 284 was discovered once more and an expedition launched to assess the viability of a recovery operation. Although suffering from the effects of being exposed to the elements over that period, the rarity value of the aircraft and its relatively good condition made it an extremely attractive proposition for recovery and over the next few years, two major projects to recover the wreckage were mounted. Once transported to the home of ‘Project Tomahawk’, the aircraft formed the basis of an ambitious restoration project, which would also benefit from parts collected from two other crashed Warhawks. Using as many of the original components as they could, everything else proved invaluable as fabrication templates for parts which would need to be newly manufactured.
The aircraft made its first post restoration flight from Chino on 12th January 2007, almost 65 years since it took off from Wheeler Field on its fateful last flight. By this time, the aircraft had come under the charge of the Fighter Collection in the UK and despite its US aviation provenance, it was soon in a shipping container and on its way to Duxford airfield in England. Taking its place on the flight line at Flying Legends 2007, it would not be until the following year that this magnificent aircraft could make its world Airshow debut, attracting thousands of aviation enthusiasts to see this historic fighter and to hear the throaty sound of its distinctive V12 Allison V-1710 engine.
Good things come in small packages. Keep an eye out for this box in your local model shop over the coming weeks, as this is a little cracker and will be snapped up by anyone aware of the history of the aircraft depicted on the box artwork
As the only airworthy Curtiss P-40B Warhawk in the world and the only surviving airworthy American fighter from the Pearl Harbor raid, 284 captivated Airshow audiences whenever she performed, a unique flying link to one of the most famous days in world history. Acquired by a private buyer in 2013 and donated to the Collings Foundation in America, this famous fighter returned back home in 2014 and whilst it would be sorely missed by UK enthusiasts, it historical importance to the American people meant that few could argue about its repatriation. Those who were fortunate enough to see it fly will consider themselves extremely lucky and will be able to say that they had the chance to experience one of the world’s most historic aeroplanes flying for their enjoyment.
Scheduled for release in the next few weeks, P-40B Warhawk A01003B is a fabulous little kit and in these new markings, will be of interest to a great many people. The completed kit will serve equally well as a scale representation of a US fighter based at Wheeler Field on the day of the Pearl Harbor raid or the historic restoration project which graced the skies over Duxford for five glorious years. Either way, it will definitely be £6.99 very well spent.
Dare to enter Panther Country
The ever expanding range of impressive 1/35th scale Airfix military vehicles is about to welcome its latest high-profile addition, this time a mighty German tank which is a real thoroughbred of an AFV. Although perhaps not enjoying the same notoriety as the larger Tiger I, many military enthusiasts would happily describe the Sd.Kfz.171 Panzerkampfwagen V Panther medium tank as the finest tank of the Second World War, one which was the perfect blend of firepower, speed, manoeuvrability and armament.
Developed following Wehrmacht combat experiences on the Eastern Front and the impressive performance of the latest Soviet tanks, the Russian Campaign would later also see the combat introduction of the new Panther, as the first machines took part in the Battle of Kursk during the summer 1943. Although classed by the German’s as a medium tank, the Panther weighed in at a hefty 45 tons, 5 tons heavier than the British Churchill, but proved to be significantly more mobile than its size suggested. After overcoming some challenging initial service introduction issues, the Panther soon began to show its destructive potential and became the scourge of Allied armoured units.
Whilst proving to be an exceptional battlefield tank, the Panther was much easier and cheaper to produce that the much vaunted Tiger I and at a time when Germany needed as many tanks as it could produce, far more Panthers were available than any other heavy tank. During a production run which began in late 1942, around 6000 Panthers were eventually produced, compared to just 1,347 Tiger Is over a similar period. Although there were never enough in the field at any one time, the Panther’s peak period of combat strength occurred at the beginning of September 1944, when a reported 2,304 machines were in service – unfortunately, that same month also experienced the largest number of Panther losses, with just under 700 machines either destroyed of captured.
Rather confusingly, the first versions of the Panther tank to enter service were the Ausf. D or Model D, of which 842 were built during 1943. These were superseded by the Ausf. A in late 1943 and finally by the Ausf. G, which would be the most heavily produced variant of the tank, with just under 3000 machines eventually being built. As far as the modeller is concerned, there is quite some latitude available when tackling a Panther build project, as many design and model discrepancies occurred during the final months of the Second World War. Germany’s desperate need for tanks and the constant production disruptions caused by Allied bombing raids resulted in components produced for earlier versions being used on later models, not to mention any number of field modifications made by individual crews.
Two very distinctive late war Panther Ausf G scheme options are available with this magnificent new kit, which whilst basically using the same colours, could hardly look more different. The Panther has to be considered one of the most effective military vehicles in the history of warfare
The colours used on German armour are also the subject of significant debate, as these too were subject to supply disruption and ‘adaptation’ in the field during the final months of the war. Unless you have an authentic Panther tank in your back garden, it would be difficult to definitively challenge anyone on the finish of their model project and a well-researched, most likely representation is usually as close as you are going to get.
This extremely attractive 1/35th scale Panther Ausf. G kit (A1352) is supplied with two distinctly different late war schemes in which to consider finishing your model, both of which compliment the famous profile of this magnificent machine. Underlining the rather fluid nature of armoured combat during this period, a definitive unit attachment for the tank wearing either scheme could not be ascertained, as tanks were pressed into service wherever they were needed, often after becoming separated from their assigned units.
Scheduled for imminent release, this latest Panther is an appealing addition to the increasingly popular 1/35th scale armour range and is a fine representation of one of the worlds most famous tank designs.
We are afraid that’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, however, we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with a further selection of Airfix modelling delights for your enjoyment. If you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use this email@example.com link to contact us.
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