New tooling announcement to start RAF Centenary year

Welcome to edition 64 of our Workbench blog and all the latest news, updates and developments from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. Following rather quickly from the publication of our 2017 review special, this first traditional Workbench blog sees our schedule back on track after some late year shenanigans and we intend to maintain our fortnightly publication frequency throughout 2018. Before we begin, on behalf of everyone at Airfix, may we take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2018 and hope we are all meeting back here having enjoyed a pleasant Christmas holiday. As a team, we are very much looking forward to bringing you another year of interesting Airfix related content and plenty of modelling associated exclusives.

We are always humbled by the support and readership numbers Workbench continues to enjoy, but as far as grabbing your attention is concerned, there is one thing that works more effectively than anything else – New Model Tooling Exclusives. Tuesday 9th January saw the launch of the new 2018 Airfix model range and included the announcement of a spectacular new model tooling in 1/48th scale – the stunningly beautiful and much requested Hawker Hunter. Surely, there can be no finer way for Workbench to leap into a new year than with news and exclusive images from a new model tooling project and despite the fact that the 2018 Airfix range includes a plethora of other modelling highlights, this latest blog is unashamedly devoted to the new Hawker Hunter and one of the most attractive jet aircraft ever to take to the skies. Future editions of Workbench will look more closely at the models featured in the 2018 range, but if you have yet to inspect the latest offerings, please head for the Airfix website, where you will find all the details you need.

 

The genius of Sydney Camm

The capable Hawker Fury is regarded as one of the most beautiful aircraft ever produced

 

When considering the history of British aviation, there can be few aerospace engineers who enjoyed such prolific success as the great Sydney Camm, without doubt one of the most influential designers of the 20th Century. Able to put his name to such significant aircraft as the inter-war Hawker Fury, arguably the most attractive biplane fighter ever produced, the magnificent Hawker Hurricane, which came to Britain’s aid in her darkest hour and the Sea Fury, which represented the very pinnacle of piston powered aviation, Camm was to influence British aviation for over fifty years. Testament to his design prowess, at one period during the 1930’s, Sydney Camm designed aircraft made up no fewer than 84 percent of the aircraft currently in service with the Royal Air Force, which is almost inconceivable when considering the pace of aviation development during this time.

It has been stated by people who worked with Sydney Camm that he could be a difficult man to get along with, driven in his work and demanding excellence from everyone in his employment. With so much knowledge and passion for aeronautics and aviation engineering to share, it is no wonder that many under his guidance would go on to become significant aviation designers in their own right, working on such projects as the English Electric Lightning, Avro Vulcan and record setting Fairey Delta 2. Indeed, it is thought that Camm was directly linked with the design and creation of at least 52 different types of aircraft, from which a total of more than 26,000 machines were manufactured – a man of undoubted aviation pedigree.

 

Hawkers enter the jet age

The Hawker Sea Hawk was the first Hawker jet to see British service and was a graceful looking aeroplane

 

As the Second World War entered its final stages, the Hawker Aircraft company were extremely proficient in producing high performance piston engined aircraft, using some of the most powerful engines ever to take to the skies. Despite this success, with aircraft such as the Tempest and Sea Fury representing the pinnacle of piston powered aviation, Camm was already working on the future of aviation propulsion – jet power. With an initial proposal for a new RAF jet fighter being turned down by the Air Ministry, Camm turned his attention to producing a jet powered equivalent of the Sea Fury, which eventually resulted in the sleek and graceful Hawker Sea Hawk. An elegant aeroplane, the Sea Hawk adopted a conventional design, but was the first Hawker aircraft to feature a nose wheel design, making it much more suitable for carrier based operation – it would also become Hawker’s first jet aircraft design to enter British service.

The Sea Hawk allowed Camm and his team the opportunity to learn many lessons about jet technology and the ever increasing speed requirements of modern fighter designs, all of which were incorporated into their next major project. Initially taking the Sea Hawk layout and sweeping the wings and horizontal stabilizers back at an angle of 35 degrees, the design was further revised by incorporating air intakes in the wing roots and a single jet pipe at the rear of the aircraft, producing an extremely attractive and slender looking aeroplane. Designated Hawker P.1081, the aircraft showed great promise and provided Camm and his team with valuable data in their quest to produce a new interceptor for the Royal Air Force – tragically, this prototype aircraft was lost in an accident, claiming the life of test pilot and former Battle of Britain hero Trevor Sidney ‘Wimpy’ Wade.

 

The Hawker P.1081 is beginning to resemble a Hunter, but still retains many similarities with the earlier Sea Hawk

 

A revised Air Ministry requirement calling for an aircraft capable of attaining a speed of 629 mph at 45,000, a high rate of climb and the ability to carry significant armament saw Hawker’s develop their P.1067 fighter, which first flew from RAF Boscombe Down on 20th July 1951. Incorporating all the development lessons learned from their earlier jet designs and based around the new Rolls-Royce Avon turbojet, the new aircraft proved to be an instant success and held great promise for the future. As had been the case with several earlier Camm designs, he seemed to have a design philosophy which embraced the adage ‘if it looks right, then it probably is right’ and this was certainly the case with his new jet fighter. It was beautiful, arguably the most attractive jet fighter of all time and a classic early jet fighter. With a long, slender fuselage and swept-back wings and tail surfaces, the new Hawker jet was extremely easy on the eye, yet possessed all the attributes to make it a devastatingly effective fighting aeroplane – speed, manoeuvrability and firepower.

The outbreak of the Korean War and Britain’s significant involvement stimulated an urgency in the search for a capable new interceptor fighter for the Royal Air Force. It also led to a radical Air Ministry decision to procure not one, but two proposed future designs from different aviation companies ‘off the drawing board’, as the situation was given a high priority status – they also needed an insurance policy, should one project fail to result in a viable aircraft option. The two companies were Supermarine, with their design which went on to become the Swift and Hawker Aircraft with their new Hunter – both aircraft would go on to enter RAF service, although the Hunter proved to be the significantly superior aircraft, with almost 2,000 examples being built.

 

Hunter Prototype WB188 was used by Neville Duke for his record breaking flight on 7th September 1953 and is seen here at RAF Greenham Common in 1976. Image from Creative Commons and owned by RuthAS

 

The Hawker P.1067 (Hunter prototype – WB188) made its first flight on 20th July 1951, in the hands of famous test pilot Neville Duke and heralded a period of continual development, as the new fighter was prepared for RAF acceptance. Early 1953 saw the first flight of the first production standard Hunter F.1, which came from an initial batch of 20 aircraft, all of which served ostensibly as a pre-production series, with each one incorporating a number of modifications and improvements, ensuring each aircraft was more or less unique. A significant development in the Hunter programme occurred on 7th September 1953, when the heavily modified first prototype aircraft (WB188 – now designated as the only Hunter Mk.3) captured the world air speed record for a jet powered aircraft. Once more in the hands of Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot Neville Duke, the aircraft took off from RAF Tangmere and flew a course between Bognor and Littlehampton, setting a new world record of 727.63 mph and marking a significant achievement for the Hunter development team. In a poignant twist of fate however, this record would stand for less than three weeks, being bettered on 25th September by an example of the Hunter’s main rival, the Supermarine Swift.

 

Hawker’s first jet aircraft for the RAF

Entering RAF service in July 1954, the Hawker Hunter F.1 continued a proud company tradition of supplying the Royal Air Force with ground-breaking new fighter aircraft, following on from such classics as the Fury, Hurricane and Tempest over the previous two decades. The RAF now had their capable high speed interceptor fighter and could begin to replace the several first generation jets which were currently in service, such as the Meteor, Venom and the American designed Sabre, all of which were unable to match the Canberra bomber for speed. The Hunter proved to be highly manoeuvrable, possessed exceptional performance and was a relatively easy aircraft to both operate and keep serviceable. This first Hawker designed jet aircraft for the Royal Air Force included a number of notable firsts for the RAF, such as being the first high-speed jet aircraft to be equipped with radar and fully powered flight controls to enter service, along with the ADEN gun pack, which was fully removable from the aircraft to aid serviceability and speed of operational turn-around. Despite its impressive credentials as an interceptor, the Hunter was also a beautiful, graceful looking aeroplane and is still thought of by many aviation enthusiasts and historians as the most handsome jet aircraft to see RAF service and very much following the tradition of elegant looking Hawker designed fighters that had preceded it.

 

The unmistakable lines of the beautiful Hawker Hunter in the static aircraft park at last year’s Scampton Airshow. This former Swiss Air Force machine is still operated in the UK by Hawker Hunter Aviation

 

Representing the very latest in aviation technology, although the Hunter was clearly an extremely capable fighting aeroplane, there were problems during its service introduction and the aircraft was subject to almost constant development and various upgrades throughout its lengthy service career. The thirsty Avon engines and relatively low internal fuel capacity restricted the flight endurance of the initial aircraft, which saw early examples used more as a point defence fighter, as opposed to mounting long-standing defensive patrols, however, an aircraft possessing the pedigree of the Hunter was certainly worth the perseverance and most issues were addressed over time. Arguably, the definitive version of the Hunter proved to be the F.6 Fighter which incorporated a number of significant improvements and highlighted the adaptability of the basic Hawker design. The constant desire for greater speed and fuel efficiency resulted in Rolls-Royce developing the Avon 203, almost a complete re-design of the earlier engine and yielded an additional 33 percent greater thrust for the Hunter pilot to access. The F.6 also incorporated an improved fuel management system and tank layout, as well as introducing the distinctive outer-wing leading edge extension, which gave the wing a saw-tooth appearance and was developed to improve high speed stability. The Hunter F.6 was a thoroughbred fighting aeroplane, with the design changes only serving to enhance its reputation and certainly not detracting from its aesthetic appeal.

The Hawker Hunter went on to have a distinguished service career with both the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm, as well as becoming an extremely successful export aircraft for the British aviation industry. With RAF examples remaining in service until around 1994 and the civilian FRADU operating Hunters until the following year, the aircraft has also been a regular performer at Airshows across the world, in both military and civilian hands, introducing this enigmatic aircraft to millions of aircraft enthusiasts over the years. The Hunter was also used by two RAF aerobatic display teams during its service life, the ‘Blue Diamonds’ and the ‘Black Arrows’, both of which would regularly fly an impressive sixteen Hunters in tight formation. Indeed, at the 1958 Farnborough show, the ‘Black Arrows’ performed an awe-inspiring loop with 22 Hunters in close formation, a world record achievement which still stands to this day. Commanding a significant position in the history of British aviation, the Hawker Hunter is certain to be a popular addition to the Airfix model range and is news that will be welcomed by many Workbench readers.

 

New Airfix Hawker Hunter F.6 in 1/48th scale

Computer rendered 3D planform image of the new Hawker Hunter F.6

 

The entire Airfix team are excited to start 2018 by bringing you news of a spectacular new model tooling in 1/48th scale – the magnificent Hawker Hunter F.6. We have already seen why the Hunter occupies such a significant place in the history of British aviation and it will come as no surprise that the aircraft is always amongst the front runners in any poll of suggested new Airfix tooling requests on modelling websites, forums and our ideas box at Scale ModelWorld each year. Joining our growing range of 1/48th scale model kits, the new Hunter will bring the classic shape of Hawker’s first RAF jet to this slightly larger scale and complement the previously released Gloster Meteor, one of the aircraft the Hunter went on to replace in RAF service.

As you would expect, the Airfix design team will be working hard to ensure they produce a faithful scale representation of this classic British aircraft, using all the modern development technologies they have at their disposal. For such a high profile project, the Airfix team could not only call upon their extensive collection of research materials and original design drawings, but also had the opportunity to perform a LIDAR scan of a preserved example of a Hawker Hunter. Once again calling upon our good friends at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, the team were allowed access to Hawker Hunter F.6A XE627 in one of the display hangars, with this detailed scan data affording the designer responsible for this project a valuable additional level of reference information. This particular aircraft made its first flight on 13th June 1956 and was later delivered to No.45 Maintenance Unit at RAF Kinloss – it went on to see RAF service with Nos 1, 54, 65 and 92 Squadrons, as well as spending time with both No.229 Operational Conversion Unit and No.1 Tactical Weapons Unit, before retirement in the early 1980s. The aircraft is now preserved at Duxford wearing the markings of one of its former operators, RAF No.65 Squadron, but this aircraft is unusual in that it is currently on loan to the IWM from the United States Air Force.

 

The team were able to obtain a LIDAR scan of Duxford’s Hunter F.6A XE627. Image from Creative Commons belonging to Alan Wilson

 

When bringing our readers news of any new model tooling, we always attempt to speak to the individual designer(s) overseeing the project, to get their educated opinion on the project which has been dominating their working day for some weeks. With regard to the new Hunter, we wanted to ask some direct questions around the LIDAR scan technology and whether access to this kind of information makes a big difference – does it ensure a more accurate model and does it cut down on the time they will need to spend developing the model tooling? The answer we received was rather surprising. It seems that the majority of new tooling projects all follow a very similar path, relying heavily on drawings, plans, books and research materials, along with the undoubted skill of the designer (we added this bit ourselves). All this information has to be assimilated into the powerful design software used by the team to produce the model in its kit form - the data received from any LIDAR scan is clearly of huge benefit, even though this does not actually cut down on the amount of work the designer has to do on the project. In essence, the scan data acts more like an extremely reliable (and rather expensive) insurance policy for the designer.

 

A selection of Hunter LIDAR scan data images, captured at the Imperial War Museum Duxford in 2017

 

 

As you can see from some of the Hunter scan pictures we have included, whilst this scan data accurately captures the beautiful shape of the Hunter, there are certain areas that do not scan quite so well and require significant additional work, such as the area around the cockpit canopy. This raw data also needs to be tidied up in powerful software before it can be used effectively, but significantly for the designer, once he has access to this information, it can be used to check the shape and dimension details of the computerised drawing and CAD data they have for the aircraft. It is used as an incredibly accurate shape trace for the designer, against which he can base all his CAD development work, bearing in mind he is working on the production of a model kit and will need to reduce this shape information into large numbers of individual components and highly detailed sections. Although the LIDAR scan provides the designer with a significant amount of additional project reassurance, it will not necessarily reduce the time spent working on any new tooling project.

 

A montage of computer rendered 3D Hunter images

 

 

The selection of images we are exclusively bringing Workbench readers show some of the early computer rendered 3D images which have been produced to support the model’s entry in the recently released 2018 model range and show details for both the Hunter F.6 and F.6A variant. We also have some of the first detail images, showing cockpit and undercarriage areas, as well as the air intake detail which will all benefit this impressive kit once it is released. The designers will undoubtedly face some challenges as this model advances through the development process and we hope to bring you these details and how the designer overcame them, as this project progresses. We will also be looking to report on any areas they are particularly proud of or detail they feel is deserving of special note.

 

Workbench readers are always keen to see the computer rendered 3D images produced to showcase any new tooling announcement

 

 

The new Hawker Hunter F.6 is still relatively early in the design and development process, however, we very much look forward to bringing you many more updates from this exciting project in the weeks and months to come, as this heavily requested model advances towards its currently scheduled October release date. We also intend to go back and look at some of the very first CAD images as the Airfix designers transform this iconic British aircraft from a series of detailed files on a computer to the latest highly anticipated model release in the Airfix range.

 

That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, which we hope you found an interesting read. We have devoted the entire edition to the fantastic news regarding the new Hawker Hunter F.6 tooling, even though the latest Airfix model range has now been announced – we will look more closely at the new range in our next edition.

 

A final look at a computer rendered 3D image from the beautiful new 1/48th scale Hawker Hunter F.6

 

We are always keen to hear from our readers and there are several ways in which you can contact us, which include our dedicated e-mail address workbench@airfix.com 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, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

 

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New ArrivalsComing Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 19th January.

 

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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