New Airfix Fleet Defender takes off at Telford

New Airfix Fleet Defender takes off at Telford


With the 2016 Scale ModelWorld Show at Telford now behind us, it is time to provide Workbench readers with more details on the spectacular New Tooling announcement we made at the Show last Saturday morning. We make no excuse for the fact that this 34th edition of Workbench will be almost exclusively devoted to our new 1/72nd scale McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 tooling, which already seems to be causing quite a stir within the modelling community. As one of the most regularly requested new model tooling suggestions over recent years, the Scale ModelWorld Show proved to be a good indicator of just how popular the British Phantom will be as we had a constant stream of visitors over the weekend, eager to catch a glimpse of the prototype model. With all of our recently announced new toolings on display at Telford, 2017 is already looking like being a significant year for Airfix and our modellers.



The previous edition of Workbench was a Telford Show Announcement Special and was published to coincide with the first visitors arriving at the Airfix stand. As these early birds rushed to see which new model we would be announcing at this year’s show, we coordinated the announcement with our website and social media followers, so that everyone could share in the news at approximately the same time. Although this special edition included a small selection of images from the Phantom FG.1 project, we promised you all a much more detailed review in this latest edition including many more exclusive development images from this exciting project. Before we bring you this, let’s take a look at the history behind the British Phantoms and why they have proved to be such a popular addition to the Airfix 1/72nd scale range.

A Very ‘British’ American Aviation Classic


Iconic picture of a FAA Phantom FG.1 about to launch from HMS Ark Royal


Although the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II was undoubtedly an exceptional jet aircraft, it was not initially destined for service with either the Royal Air Force, or the Fleet Air Arm. The Navy were looking to replace their De Havilland Sea Vixen fleet defenders with a more capable aircraft and were expecting the Mach 2 V/STOL Hawker P.1127 to fill this role. At the same time, the RAF were looking to replace their Canberra and Hunter Squadrons with new reconnaissance, strike and close air support aircraft. They were originally expecting the Hawker P.1154 and BAC TSR.2 to fulfil these roles, but protracted development, significant cost overruns and a period of political uncertainty resulted in the cancellation of all these indigenous aviation projects and a need to act quickly.

Frustrated by the procurement delays and spiralling costs, the Navy had begun to look across the Atlantic at a readily available solution to their fleet defence requirement and an aircraft already in service with the US Navy. Aware of their interest, McDonnell Douglas ensured that a Phantom just happened to call in at RNAS Yeovilton whilst on the way back from the Paris Airshow and further aircraft were subsequently made available to the Navy to show how compatible the Phantom was with British aircraft carriers. Impressed with the American jet fighter, the Admiralty made it clear to the Government of the day that the Phantom was their preferred option for a new fleet defence fighter and an order for 150 aircraft was subsequently placed in 1964.



A British Phantom FG.1 landing on board USS Nimitz in 1975


It would be accurate to say that the Royal Air Force were much less enthusiastic about the Phantom and virtually had the aircraft thrust upon them. With the Admiralty choosing the Phantom and with the lack of a suitable British built alternative for the RAF, the Government announced that it did not make financial sense to procure different aircraft for both the Navy and the Air Force and the F-4 Phantom had been selected to equip both. The British Phantoms would also be distinctly different from the American version, powered by a British built engine and requiring some significant structural modifications. Concerned about operating these mighty jets from the relatively confined decks of Britain’s diminutive aircraft carriers, the Admiralty wanted their Phantoms to have the extra thrust offered by the larger and more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engine, which was used so successfully in their Buccaneer strike aircraft. This resulted in British Phantoms requiring a re-design of the engine bays and rear fuselage, larger air intakes, auxiliary intake doors to the rear of the aircraft, larger flaps and a folding nose radome. The Navy’s Phantoms would also employ an extended nose wheel oleo, which could be extended during the catapult launch procedure, affording the aircraft a much higher angle of attack and giving the aircraft an unusually aggressive profile immediately prior to launch.

As the heaviest and fastest fighter aircraft to serve on board Britain’s aircraft carriers, the Phantom FG.1 has become a source of fascination for aviation enthusiasts and modellers over the years and have to be considered as some of the most iconic jet aircraft of the Cold War period. Requiring the very best pilots to land these mighty aircraft on the relatively small decks of British carriers, the Phantoms of the Fleet Air Arm are arguably the best looking incarnations of this classic American aircraft. It will be an extremely popular addition to the Airfix model range.

Airfix 1/72nd scale Phantom FG.1 by popular demand



As some of the most distinctive post war British aircraft, it is no surprise that the Royal Navy’s McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1s continue to fascinate aviation enthusiasts around the world. We have discussed in previous editions of Workbench how naval aviation really does seem to capture the imagination of the enthusiast, and certainly from a British perspective there can be few aircraft as impressive as the Phantom. Already commanding unprecedented levels of interest from modellers, the new 1/72nd scale Phantom FG.1 tooling will fill a significant gap in the existing Airfix kit line up and news of its existence has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the modelling community. Many will be looking forward to building their example of the new model, with the pre-launch HMS Ark Royal carrier configuration surely a popular option. With many official MOD photographs in existence showing Fleet Air Arm Phantoms reared up on their extended nose oleo in the seconds prior to launch, looking like an aviation equivalent to a praying mantis, it is no wonder why the popularity of these aircraft continues to endure.



Inspecting Duxford’s Spey engined Phantom XV474



The team also had the opportunity to visit the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and XV408


As this new British Phantom kit will be a high profile and extremely popular model release, there was undoubtedly quite an amount of pressure on the Airfix research and design team to produce an impressive and accurate representation of this iconic aircraft, but as you would expect they were very much up for the challenge. In recent editions of Workbench and specifically during this latest round of new tooling announcements, we have extensively covered many of the processes and challenges that face the Airfix design team in the production of a new model tooling. Although we do not intend to cover exactly the same ground during our Phantom review, we will include more development imagery which are the things that most readers are really interested to see.

As one of the most successful jet aircraft ever produced, there is plenty of research information available for the Phantom, all of which would be put to good use by the Airfix team. Britain would prove to be the first export customer for the Phantom, but their aircraft would be significantly different to those operated by the US Navy, including some structural alterations which gave the British aircraft a very different profile, particularly towards the rear of the aeroplane. These complex shapes and curves would need to be accurately represented on the new model tooling, as this is a distinctive feature of the British Phantoms.


Scanning an aviation icon


The Airfix team were able to scan a British Phantom at IWM Duxford


Workbench readers will now be familiar with many of the processes involved in producing a new model tooling and will be interested to learn that the team had access to two British Phantom airframes, allowing them to obtain the vital research details they needed. Crucially, they had the opportunity to obtain scan data from a British Phantom at the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, which would prove vital in helping designers produce the base model files, around which the tooling work would revolve. We included a full explanation of the LIDAR scanning process in the Sea Fury edition of Workbench, which you can re-visit here.



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A selection of images showing the scan data and how it was used to help build the base model


The team were also able to take detailed photographs and closely inspect every aspect of the Phantom's design, determined to incorporate this detail into their new model. Everyone at Airfix would like to extend their grateful thanks to both the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum for their invaluable assistance in helping to bring the British Phantom to the Airfix model range.




Selection of base model and part construction screen grabs from the Phantom project


Once the team have collected all their research data, it is on to the next stage of the development process and many hours of painstaking work at the computer workstation. The scan data files are scaled down to the required size and used as a design trace around which the base model files are constructed. It is vital that the shapes and profiles associated with the British Phantoms are accurately represented during this stage of the design process and the team will use all of their experience and the powerful computer tools at their disposal to ensure this happens. The creation of a fully functioning and highly flexible CAD base model file will now form the core of the entire project and will be used to develop the individual components of the new model. The lead designer will have a wealth of experience in this type of complex computer work and will be looking to optimise the files for the plastic injection moulding manufacturing industry and the creation of an accurate and highly detailed model tooling block.


Computer rendered Phantom already looking Phabulous


A sight for sore eyes - the magnificent new Airfix Phantom FG.1


From experience, we know that you will be very much looking forward to seeing the ever popular computer rendered 3D images of the new McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 model and we have a real treat for you. The following selection of images not only show the beautiful lines of Britain’s Phantom, but also give us a good indication of some of the options and features that will be included in the new kit. We can clearly see that the model will benefit from an opening radome, which will reveal the Ferranti licence built version of the Westinghouse AN/APQ-59 radar and alternate positions for the flaps and slats. There will also be alternate positions for the cockpit canopies, the distinctive extended nose oleo for carrier launches and folding outer wing sections to aid storage whilst at sea. There will also be the option to have the in-flight refuelling probe extended, the auxiliary air intake doors open and a vast selection of external stores to attach to your model.



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This selection of computer rendered 3D images show why modellers are getting a little excited by this new kit


The following selection of images are absolutely fascinating for anyone interested in modelling, or aviation in general. They show not only a computer rendered 3D image of the new Phantom FG.1 model kit, but also a rendered representation of the actual scan data taken from the aircraft at Duxford. This is the first time that we have shown this type of image and clearly demonstrates the difference between the scan data which is used in the creation of a base model CAD file and the final kit itself. Many months in the making, these fantastic images illustrate how hard the Airfix designers work to produce the models we all love to build and how they are superb representations of the aircraft they are based upon.


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A fascinating series of images showing the scan data next to the final model render


The new 1/72nd scale McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 is currently scheduled for release in October 2017 and we are looking forward to bringing you regular updates on this exciting and new tooling project in the months to come. Already looking like being one of the most popular new models of recent years, it looks as if this distinctive Cold War warrior is about to see another surge in interest, as Airfix bring us a beautiful scale representation of this iconic aircraft. The Phantom product page is already live on the Airfix website, where you can pre-order your model which is almost guaranteed to be completely sold out on the website by the time it is first released - alternatively speak to your local stockist to secure yours. You can also be sure that Workbench will bring you all the latest news from this exciting project.


Christmas Quick Build 3 for 2 Offer



Looking for a Christmas gift to encourage a child into modelling?  We have a fantastic pre-Christmas 3 for 2 offer which is currently running on the Airfix website until 20th November, and that you may also have seen in your local retailer.

The Airfix Quick Build range is an impressive collection of models, which snap together without the need for paint and glue and build into robust and extremely attractive representations of the aircraft and vehicles they are based upon. An ideal gift for younger people, these impressive little models can be built and displayed, or taken apart and built again – you may even decide to have a festive speed build competition that involves all the family.


Modelling World Record Attempt

Modelling history could well be made on Sunday 20th November at Old Warden, as the Shuttleworth Collection, in conjunction with IPMS Brampton Scale Model Club attempt to break the Guinness World Record for ‘The most people constructing aircraft models’ and there could hardly be a more fitting venue. Home to some of the world’s rarest aeroplanes and one of the major Airshow venues in the UK, Old Warden is steeped in aviation history and one of the most famous centres for aviation conservation.

This world record attempt will be aiming to beat the current record of 250 people, which was set at the RAF Museum in December 2009, with the Shuttleworth/IPMS Brampton team aiming to have 300 (or more) taking part. The model kit they will be using for this world record attempt will be the Airfix 1/72 scale Albatros D.V, which is rather fitting, as an extremely rare airworthy example of this aircraft flew at Old Warden during the 2015 Airshow season. We are sure that you will join us in wishing everyone involved record success and we hope to be able to report good news in a future edition of Workbench.
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Airfix Workbench. From our Telford feedback, we already know that many modellers will be looking forward to adding the Phantom to their 2017 build schedule and we hope you have enjoyed seeing the exclusive development images we included in this edition. As usual, Workbench readers are the first to see many of these images and we are extremely grateful for your continued support – you never know, we may even have more new tooling announcements for you before the year is out.

There are now many ways for our readers to get involved in all the latest Airfix modelling chat and sharing ideas with other modellers.  You can always e-mail us directly by using our address, or there is our dedicated Workbench thread on the Airfix Forum.  If social media is more your style, you could either access the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench.  Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modellers.

Don’t forget that all the very latest model release information can be found by checking the New Arrivals and Back in Stock sections of the Airfix website, which can be accessed by clicking the shop section 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.

Until next time, enjoy your latest modelling project and we hope you enjoyed seeing the new British Phantom.

The Airfix Workbench Team


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