New Spitfire kit joins the Airfix ranks
Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.
Almost two months down in 2020 and there is absolutely no let up in the pace of new modelling information we have to bring you in our fortnightly Workbench blog - indeed, the real problem we are going to have this year is how on earth are we going to manage to fit everything into our production schedule. Prepare for another edition packed full of new model tooling news, exclusive imagery and information regarding a number of highly anticipated impending kit releases.
In this latest edition, we begin by continuing the long association between Airfix and the magnificent Supermarine Spitfire, arguably the most famous aircraft ever to take to the skies. Straight from the computer of one of our talented young designers, we have early development information from the latest scale kit incarnation of this famous fighter to be inducted into the Airfix ranks and find out what it was like to take on such a significant challenge. We also have exclusive built model images from the highly anticipated new 1/48th scale de Havilland Tiger Moth for your delectation, a kit which is surely destined for ‘classic’ status in the years to come, before ending with details of the latest kit to join the growing ranks of our 1/35th scale Military Vehicle range. Another feature packed edition awaits you.
We’ll start you with a Spitfire!
This computer rendered 3D image of the new Supermarine Spitfire Vc tooling was produced during the development of this latest Airfix Spitfire, the most heavily produced variant of this famous fighter
From a modelling perspective, the names Spitfire and Airfix seem to go together like a hand in glove, Britain’s most famous aircraft and the country’s best loved model hobby brand. With that being the case, it will come as absolutely no surprise to discover that the first aircraft kit ever produced by Airfix was a model of a Spitfire back in 1955 and since that date, Spitfire kits have always been amongst the most popular releases in any of our model ranges. With ever improving scale kit versions of the aircraft continually developed by the company numerous times over the past 65 years, produced in several different scales, it seems as if the modelling world continues to have an enduring fascination with all things Spitfire, as these kits are always amongst the most popular releases in any range.
With the early January announcement of the 2020 Airfix range, modelling enthusiasts would have noted with some interest that a newly developed 1/72nd scale kit of the Spitfire would be joining the range during the year, a new tooling project which would feature a relatively early-war variant of the Spitfire which has been described as arguably the most effective ‘stop-gap’ aircraft the RAF has ever introduced. What is perhaps of even more interest to Workbench readers, the new kit was the first aviation related project for a young product designer who happens to be the latest member of the Airfix team. We have been fortunate enough to be allowed to discuss the project with him, as he embarks on his career with Airfix.
Anyone who is fortunate enough to represent the Airfix brand, has the unique opportunity to write their own little piece of modelling history for this famous company, with the projects they are involved with on going on to become familiar to millions of people all over the world. Thankfully, the talented youth of today don’t seem to be too concerned with the pressure of stepping into rather large modelling shoes and are simply determined to make their mark in an industry which brings so much pleasure to so many people. Despite this, it is difficult for us mortals to imagine how product designer Paramjit Sembhi must have felt when he was told that his first Airfix aviation project was going to be a newly tooled kit of a Spitfire.
Joining the Company in September 2018, Paramjit quickly became a popular member of the Airfix team and one who clearly had all the attributes to flourish in this role. Although certainly too modest to tell you himself, as well as being a talented product designer, he is an extremely accomplished modeller in his own right and many Workbench readers will have already admired some of his exquisite kit builds, in particular one of the several 1/24th scale Hellcats he has produced, which featured on our blog, on the Airfix stand at model shows and on the Airfix YouTube channel.
This selection of development images has been supplied by Paramjit and show work on the early shape geometry and surfacing, right through to the skeleton models, from which individual kit components were designed
Asking him about the challenge of working on the new Spitfire, Paramjit told us that this was not the first project he had been involved with since joining the company, but was the first aeroplane. With a wealth of design experience within the team, new designers are allowed to take on projects almost straight away, honing their skills under the watchful eye of more senior designers, who are always on hand to provide assistance and advice whenever it is required. The design team also meet regularly as a group, where the progress of current projects can be reviewed and any particular challenges team members may be experiencing, discussed and overcome – a fresh set of eyes on any project is always helpful.
With our proud heritage of producing excellent Spitfire kits over the years, Paramjit could rely on an impressive amount of research and recently produced CAD data at the outset of this project, even though this would only be used as his base skeleton model, from which each individual part of the new kit would have to be designed. With this wealth of information available to him, he could have opted for a slightly safer and less challenging route with this project, however, both for reasons of kit accuracy and in order to develop his own skills, he chose to completely re-work everything, creating his own base model from the existing files. He describes how this did not pose him too many problems, it was just a case of paying attention to detail and thinking logically – we told you he was a modest chap.
We always like to ask designers if there was any aspect of the project which caused a little more head scratching than usual and Paramjit was quick to reply ‘wing joint fillets’. The iconic Spitfire wing may be both beautiful and distinctive, but where it joins the fuselage, particularly at the trailing edge, there is a coming together of shapes and surfaces which poses something of a geometric nightmare for a kit designer. Bearing in mind that he was working on producing a model kit and also had to consider the component thicknesses associated with the injection moulding process, this area of the design proved to be a quite a challenge and required several days hard graft to figure out correctly.
With the accurate representation of certain shapes found on a Spitfire clearly requiring special design attention, another head scratching area proved to be gun blisters on the top of the wings, a significant feature on the Spitfire Vc and one Paramjit had to get right.
Moving on to design elements of the new Spitfire kit with which Paramjit is particularly pleased, he explained that he managed to include quite a lot of detail into the cockpit area of the kit, something which he hopes modellers will enjoy when building it. Even though it is in the slightly smaller, yet more traditional 1/72nd scale, he wanted to try and include as much detail from the larger scale kits as he could, specifically for those modellers who liked to finish their kits without a pilot and with the cockpit canopy open.
This next selection of development images feature computer rendered 3D images from the new Spitfire project and show cockpit detail, the distinctive Vokes filter working and the propeller innovation Paramjit has been developing
In addition to this, he has also tried to incorporate something a little different with regard to the way the propeller and spinner are attached to the fuselage during the build process. Clearly something which has bothered him as a modeller when working on his own kit builds of piston powered aircraft in the past, he has designed this feature so that the fuselage section and indeed the entire build can proceed without the propeller needing to be fitted, making everything a little easier to handle and allowing the prop and spinner to be added right at the end, if desired. The challenge here is to make sure this works effectively and results in a freely spinning prop without producing unwanted propeller droop when this important detail is added. It will be really interesting to see how this turns out on the release version of the kit and equally, how it is received by fellow modellers.
In conclusion, Paramjit’s previous experience as a modeller of some repute has certainly helped him during the design process of this new Spitfire kit and has allowed him to view the project not only from the product designers perspective, but also with the modeller in mind. This approach will hopefully allow him to go on to create his own little piece of Airfix history and to be associated with some fantastic new kits which will be enjoyed by modellers all over the world.
We would like to thank Paramjit for allowing us to share his Spitfire experiences with Workbench readers and for supplying us with this fascinating selection of images from the kit’s development, images which are being seen outside of the Airfix development team for the very first time. We also look forward to following his career and future projects with some interest. The new 1/72nd scale Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vc - A02108 he has been working on is currently scheduled for an Autumn release and we look forward to bringing you further project updates as they become available.
Spitfires for overseas service
More new Spitfire exclusives, this section includes a further collection of computer rendered 3D development images which will hopefully be of interest to Spitfire fanatics everywhere
For many people, the Supermarine Spitfire is regarded the most famous fighting aeroplane ever to take to the skies, even though some may question how something so beautiful could be conceived as a weapon of war. A much more complicated aeroplane than the Hawker Hurricane which preceded it into RAF service, the Spitfire represented the pinnacle of aviation design when the first examples were delivered to No.19 Squadron at Duxford in the summer of 1938 and as the clouds of war were already gathering, the RAF were going to need as many of these magnificent aeroplanes as they could get.
The Spitfire’s ‘Finest Hour’ came during the savage dogfights of the Battle of Britain, where the enduring reputation of this iconic fighter was secured in a four month struggle for aerial supremacy in the skies above Southern England. Fighting alongside the more numerous Hawker Hurricanes, Fighter Command thwarted the Luftwaffe in their attempt to clear the skies of British fighters and with it, effectively removed the immediate threat of German invasion. Following the end of the Battle of Britain and a period of rest and replenishment, the RAF were ready to go on the offensive, with raids across the Channel hitting targets of opportunity and attempting to lure the Luftwaffe into combat.
Straight from Paramjit’s computer, these exclusive images show sections of the new Spitfire in greater detail, which is pretty impressive when considering this kit has been produced in 1/72nd scale
The Spitfire has the distinction of being the only Allied fighter to be in continuous production throughout the Second World War and was constantly upgraded to keep it at the forefront or wartime fighter technology. Unfortunately for the RAF, the Spitfire’s main adversary, the Messerschmitt Bf109, was also continually upgraded and improved and it was not long before British fighter sweeps into Northern France brought them into contact with the latest variant of this capable fighter, the Bf 109F. Sleek and extremely powerful, the Bf 109 ‘Friedrich’ was more than a match for the Spitfire’s currently in service and whilst a major development upgrade was already planned, an immediate solution was required.
Described as arguably the most effective ‘stop-gap’ aircraft the RAF ever introduced, the Spitfire Mk.V combined the additional power of the Rolls Royce Merlin 45 engine with the original Mk.I/II airframe (plus a number of design improvements already developed for the proposed future Mk.III) and proved to be more than a match for the latest Luftwaffe fighter. With the increased production capacity offered by the new Castle Bromwich shadow factory, Spitfire Mk.V fighters were produced at a spectacular rate, with this interim variant going on to be the most produced version of the Spitfire, with almost 6,500 aircraft manufactured. Seeing service in every theatre the Allies contested the war, Spitfire Mk.Vs fought in the home defence role, above the deserts of North Africa and the jungles of the Far East.
The introduction of the Spitfire’s ‘C’ or ‘Universal Wing’ was something of an engineering triumph and not only provided the fighter with a wing capable of supporting several different weapons configurations, but also cut down on labour and manufacturing time. The new wing strengthened the undercarriage, angling the main gear slightly further forward, making the notoriously challenging ground handling of the Spitfire a little more manageable for pilots.
As most people will agree, the Spitfire looks good from any angle and in this next image series, be bring you a computer rendered 3D virtual walk-around of the new 1/72nd scale Spitfire Vc kit
In order to preserve engine life whilst operating the Spitfire in hot and dusty airfield environments, the fitting of a Vokes Air Filter under the front cowling of the aircraft may have done little for the aesthetic appeal of the Spitfire and even inducing unwanted drag which reduced the top speed of the aircraft by around 20 mph. It did, however, clearly illustrate that from an eventual production run of more than 20,000 Spitfires, many would go on to operate in environments from which the aircraft was never originally intended, further enhancing the enduring legacy of this magnificent aeroplane.
Unfortunately, as the war progressed, the thoroughbred Spitfires which fought the Battle of Britain quite literally had the weight of war placed upon them and as additional equipment continued to be added to the aircraft, flight performance began to suffer. The Mark Vc with its Vokes filter may have allowed the fighter to operate in some challenging climates and conditions, but there was a slight performance price to pay. What was chiefly needed were more powerful engines and thankfully, the engineers at Rolls Royce were already working on them, ensuring that more capable marks of the Spitfire’s were always only a matter of months away.
Scheduled for an Autumn release, Spitfire Vc A02108 will be a fine scale representation of this most heavily produced variant of this famous fighter and a great addition to the Airfix range.
New Tiger Moth shows its colours
This evocative new box artwork will only serve to increase our modelling excitement levels, in advance of the release of this spectacular new kit
Seeing as new(ish) Airfix Product Designer Paramjit appears to be enjoying star billing in this latest edition of our blog, let’s take a look at another of his many talents. We mentioned previously that he came to the company with many years as a modeller under his belt and as we have all learned since his arrival, he is really rather good. Clearly not a man who needs too much sleep, when he finishes his day designing the latest Airfix modelling masterpieces, there is nothing quite like unwinding with a few hours working on his own modelling project. Sometimes, this homework can include building test shots of projects Paramjit, or one of his fellow designers have been working on over the previous few months and when finished, we are fortunate enough to be able to share pictures of them on the Airfix website and with Workbench readers.
One of his most recent projects was to work on the new 1/48th scale de Havilland Tiger Moth kit, taking the latest test frame components and completing a dual kit build to feature both scheme options included with the first release from this newly tooled model. As one of the most eagerly anticipated new kits in the hobby, we are certain that this latest selection of build images will be of interest to a great many of our readers, whilst also serving as the latest update on our series of Tiger Moth development features.
Scheme A - de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth, K-2585/G-ANKT (formerly T6818), owned and operated by The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden Aerodrome
This aircraft was built by Morris Motors at their Cowley factory in 1944, with the construction number 85087 and delivered to the Royal Air Force with the serial number T6818. Little is known of the aircraft’s military service history, however, like the thousands of other RAF Tiger Moths which trained a great many British and Commonwealth pilots during the 1930s and 40s, it will undoubtedly have been an extremely busy aeroplane.
The aircraft’s post war history is much easier to trace, as it was allocated the civilian registration G-ANKT and was acquired by the Shuttleworth Collection in 1966, along with two other Tiger Moth airframes. Over the next ten years or so, the aircraft was completely overhauled and re-covered by two Old Warden engineering apprentices, using components taken from the other airframes owned by the collection. It made its first post restoration flight in 1977 and began a new career as an Airshow performer and training aircraft for pilots hoping to go on to fly other aircraft in the collection.
Now a popular performer at many of the events held at Old Warden, the aircraft currently wears the colours of a Royal Air Force Central Flying School Aerobatic Team Tiger Moth from circa 1932/33 and the fictitious codes K-2585 – an aircraft wearing these markings would have represented the CFS at the annual Hendon Air Pageant. These massive events were an opportunity for the RAF to display both their flying skills and latest aircraft designs to crowd numbers which regularly approached half a million people and were a source of huge pride between individual squadrons. In these markings, Tiger Moth K-2585 (G-ANKT) is one of the most distinctive aircraft on the UK Airshow circuit and a real Shuttleworth favourite.
Scheme B - de Havilland DH82A Tiger Moth, K-4259/G-ANMO, Headcorn Aerodrome, Kent, England, 2018
This particular Tiger Moth was built in 1934 and allocated to the Royal Air Force as K4259 in November of the same year. Officially taken on charge on 12th January 1935, it was initially issued to No.1 Aircraft Storage Unit, before being allocated to No.24 Squadron and a service career training future Royal Air Force pilots, as the nation prepared for war. During this extremely active period, it passed through a succession of training units, including lengthy periods with both Nos 10 and 22 Elementary Flying Training Schools. It ended its impressive service career with No.12 Maintenance Unit, from where it was sold to a private owner in December 1953 and was allocated the civilian registration G-ANMO the following month.
In 1955, the aircraft was purchased by an owner in France and it would be a further 15 years before it returned to the UK and regained its original G-ANMO registration. On 30th July 1972, this Tiger Moth was involved in a non-fatal mid-air collision with a Stampe biplane at an Airshow at Weston-super-Mare, an incident which would result in the aircraft undergoing a major rebuild and many years in the hangar. Making its first post restoration flight in early 1987, it has remained in airworthy condition since that date and passed through the hands of several different owners.
In 2014, Tiger Moth K-4259 was acquired by Aero Legends, a company which offers experience flights in several historic aircraft types from their facilities at Headcorn Aerodrome, North Weald and Sywell. Offering members of the public the opportunity to experience what it must have been like for young airmen progressing through their elementary flying training during WWII, the company can also offer flights in a two seat Spitfire, for those looking for the ultimate wartime RAF flying experience.
Model builds of distinction – it is going to be difficult to choose which one of these attractive schemes to finish our first 1/48th scale Tiger Moth in
The de Havilland Tiger Moth was without doubt one of the most important aircraft of the 20th century and astonishingly, is still performing the same flying training role for which it was designed 88 years ago, to this day. Current Airshow display pilots who harbour a desire to progress to flying powerful Warbirds will need to gain plenty of ‘taildragger’ experience before that dream could become a reality and the most suitable aircraft in which to gain this experience is still a de Havilland Tiger Moth, designed during the 1930s. Just as it did in during the dark days of the Second World War, the Tiger Moth is still the most effective route into the cockpit of a Spitfire or Hurricane.
M36 'Jackson' – America’s late war Panther killer
In the previous edition of Workbench, we marked the impending release of the latest kit in our popular 1/35th scale Military Vehicle series by looking at how Germany became masters at re-purposing older and captured armoured fighting vehicles, up-gunning them and giving them a new combat role. Looking specifically at the diminutive Hetzer, you will notice that the box artwork reveal above also features an example of this tank hunter, but this one has fallen victim to the subject of this latest update, arguably the finest Allied tank hunter of the Second World War, the American M36 Jackson Tank Destroyer.
As the pace of WWII gathered following America’s entry into the conflict, their industrial might ensured that Allied forces had a steady stream of the latest ships, aircraft and tanks with which to wage war and the ability to react to advancements in German technology. A development of the earlier and relatively successful M10 tank destroyer, the M36 Jackson (90mm Gun Motor Carriage, M36) was a highly effective American tank destroyer from the final months of WWII and combined the tried and trusted chassis and drive train of the M4 Sherman with a powerful 90mm main gun. This AFV was developed specifically to hunt down the latest German Tiger and Panther heavy tanks, without having to engage them at dangerously close combat distances, like M10 Wolverine crews were forced to do.
Making its combat debut in the European Theatre in October 1944, the massive 90mm gun required a hollow cast counterweight to be added to the rear of the turret to effectively balance the gun, a significant feature of the vehicle and one which also allowed for the stowage of additional ammunition. To save weight and to allow the crew a more effective view of the battlefield, the turret was an open design, which did leave them vulnerable to airburst shells and enemy infantry, however, the additional range offered by the main gun dictated that they were rarely operated in close combat situations.
If the crew did have to defend themselves, they had access to a turret mounted .50 cal Browning machine gun and should the situation dictate, the option of using their own small arms as a last resort.
The new kit will be supplied with decal options for two M36B1 Jacksons, one US Army machine from the end of WWII and one French Army Jackson from the 1950s
Produced by our design team, this image shows the new M36 artwork added to our now familiar 1/35th scale armour box presentation
Proving to be effective against the feared German Panther Tank, many of which were rushed to the battlefields of Northern Europe in the weeks following the Normandy Landings, the initial M36 deliveries were quickly supplemented by 187 special conversions of the tank destroyer, which were designated M36B1. These vehicles were manufactured at the famous Grand Blanc Arsenal in Michigan and utilised the standard Medium Tank M4A3 hull and chassis, mounting the 90mm gun M3 and turret on top of it. They were rushed to the ETO to fight alongside the original M36 deliveries, as the Allies slowly began to push German units back towards their homeland.
Around 2,320 M36 Jacksons of all versions were eventually built, with many going on to see service long after the end of the Second World War. Scheduled for imminent release, A1356 marks one of the 187 M36 Tank Destroyers rushed to Northern France following the success of the D-Day landings and makes for a fascinating addition to this growing range of 1/35th scale model kits.
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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The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 6th March, when we will have more interesting features from the world of modelling.
On behalf of the entire Workbench team, thank you for your continued support our Airfix blog.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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