Spectacular New Naval Fighter in 1/48th Scale

 

Welcome to the latest edition of Workbench and your regular update from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. With the huge IPMS Scale ModelWorld Show at Telford just around the corner, many readers will be planning their latest visit to this fantastic show and probably looking forward to adding just a couple more models to the stash. With some of Britain’s most talented modellers showcasing their talents at the Telford International Centre, along with a huge array of exhibitors and suppliers at the show, there will certainly be no lack of modelling inspiration available within the packed halls at Telford, which is certainly the place to be over the weekend of 12th/13th November. We will have more details of our own plans for the show later in the blog.

With three spectacular new tooling announcements made in the previous three editions of Workbench and our attendance at the IPMS show at Telford only days away, you may well have thought that we would be holding off with any further modelling news in this latest edition. We are pleased to say that this is most definitely not the case and Workbench edition 32 will be announcing yet another magnificent new Airfix tooling project and the latest edition to our ever popular 1/48th scale range. It also marks one of the most capable aircraft of its type to ever fly with the Fleet Air Arm, with a number of examples still airworthy and regularly performing at Airshows – we think you are going to like this one.

 

Naval Air Power and the Modeller

There is something quite enigmatic about naval air power and the operation of aircraft at sea. It may be the fact that these aircraft were asked to operate in a particularly hostile environment, with even less room for error than their land based counterparts, or that it took a special breed of airman to fly from the heaving decks of aircraft carriers at sea. It could simply be the appealing colour schemes that were often applied to naval aircraft, but whatever the reason, naval aircraft always seem to hold a particular fascination for modellers and aviation enthusiasts alike.

The need for effective naval reconnaissance at sea saw aeroplanes being flown from the decks of ships relatively early in the development of manned, powered flight and by the time the First World War broke out, the Royal Naval Air Service had more aircraft available to them than the Royal Flying Corps. Although aviation developed at an astonishing rate during the Great War, it was the inter-war years that witnessed the most significant advances in naval aviation and the realisation that military thinking would have to change. The seemingly invincible capital warships of the world’s great navies proved to be extremely vulnerable to air attack and despite their imposing size and reputation, could be destroyed by a well placed bomb delivered by a relatively primitive aircraft. This would prove to be an unpalatable truth for many naval commanders, but the more pragmatic amongst them would quickly recognise the need to protect their ships, as the aeroplane would clearly play a significant role in any future conflict. Aircraft carriers and other adapted vessels were produced to both protect their naval fleets and to destroy enemy vessels, with ship-borne aircraft also required to fulfil numerous other roles, as the aeroplane at sea was now a vital component of any naval fighting force.

 

Hawker Aviation answers the Navy’s call

 

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A catapult launched Hawker Hurricane on board a CAM merchant ship

 

Although winning the Battle of Britain was critical in allowing Great Britain to continue to oppose German forces during the early stages of the Second World War, there was another battle raging that would prove equally important to the outcome of the conflict. As an island nation, the supply of goods and materials was crucial to the survival of Britain and the regular Atlantic shipping convoys would bring cargo essential to the war effort. As British shipping losses began to mount, it became clear that the Royal Navy needed a fast, capable monoplane fighter that could be operated effectively at sea and protect vessels from aerial and U boat attack.

In the months following the Battle of Britain, the British fighter of the moment was undoubtedly the Supermarine Spitfire, but as all production was destined for the RAF who were desperate to replace the losses suffered during the Battle, the Navy would not be offered this fighter. Even though other aircraft were favoured by the Navy, such as the American Wildcat, the venerable Hawker Hurricane was selected for the task and once again this superbly versatile aircraft answered its country’s call. Initially operating from rocket powered catapults mounted on specially modified merchant vessels, all the early naval Hurricanes were refurbished, war weary RAF machines, but they provided the convoys with invaluable aerial support in the battle against Axis raiders.

Having proved itself during the savage dogfighting of the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane would also make a valuable contribution in protecting the vital sea lanes from German attack, both above and below the water. Modified with the addition of catapult spools and a fuselage mounted arrester hook, Sea Hurricanes would be embarked aboard Britain’s diminutive aircraft carriers from mid 1941.

 

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The ultimate Fleet Air Arm piston engined fighter – the Hawker Sea Fury

 

From these tentative first steps at producing an effective, if makeshift naval fighter, Hawker Aviation would go on to produce Britain’s most potent piston engined carrier based interceptor and arguably the best aircraft of its type ever to take to the skies. The magnificent Hawker Sea Fury can trace its development back to the inadvertent landing of a German Focke Wulf FW 190 at an RAF airfield in South Wales back in 1942. The opportunity to evaluate this latest Luftwaffe fighter resulted in requirements being issued for a new British design, which must have the performance to better the Focke Wulf in every phase of flight and ensure the RAF could secure air superiority in the skies above Europe. The protracted development of the new fighter resulted in a number of specification alterations and the RAF eventually withdrawing their interest, leaving the new aircraft to be produced as a high performance naval fighter. The Hawker Sea Fury was an extremely potent aircraft and handling this powerful machine from the deck of a moving aircraft carrier must have required nerves of steel. The first deck landing trials commenced in the winter of 1946, providing the Royal Navy with their ultimate piston engined fighter. Despite the advent of the jet engine, the Sea Fury would remain as the Fleet Air Arms principle single seat fighter until 1953, when it would be replaced by the jet powered Hawker Sea Hawk. The aircraft also saw service with a number of overseas air arms, in a variety of operational roles, including strike fighter, trainer and high speed target towing. As one of the most capable piston engined fighters ever produced, the Sea Fury would also become a popular aircraft in the world of air racing, where the brute power and sheer speed of this magnificent aircraft saw it victorious in countless competitions.

 

Airfix Hawker Sea Fury FB.II in 1/48th scale

 

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Sea Fury research trip image montage

 

For many modellers around the world, news that Airfix will be producing a new Hawker Sea Fury FB.II in 1/48th scale will come as a welcome surprise and they will very much be looking forward to adding this iconic aircraft to their future build schedules. As arguably the most capable piston engined fighter aircraft ever produced and certainly the last to see service with the Fleet Air Arm, the Sea Fury marks a period in aviation history where propeller powered aviation finally gave way to the jet engine. Indeed, the Sea Fury was to see action against the early jet fighters, where it acquitted itself extremely well, but illustrated how the day of the piston fighter was over, despite this superb aircraft being very much the pinnacle of piston engined fighter design.

As the Sea Fury holds such a significant place in the history of the Fleet Air Arm, it is no wonder that the aircraft continues to enjoy great popularity amongst enthusiasts and modellers. The news that this attractive aircraft will soon be part of the 1/48th scale Airfix range will also bring the Sea Fury to a larger modelling audience and ensure that this enigmatic fleet fighter becomes even more popular. With potentially airworthy examples at Yeovilton with the Royal Naval Historic Flight and Duxford with the Fighter Collection, the thrill of seeing a Sea Fury flying at future Airshow events around the country will surly see this new kit on the workbenches of many a modeller and we can be certain that the Airfix design team will be bringing us a highly detailed and extremely accurate new kit.

 

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Additional photographic references used on the Airfix Sea Fury project

 

The new Sea Fury is a significant project for the Airfix team and as we have discussed many times in our previous blogs, each step of the design process will require all of their skill and experience to be brought to bear. The critical first stage in any new tooling project is to secure as much research data as can be obtained, which can come from a multitude of different sources, with accuracy and authenticity being of paramount importance. Along with the many drawings, reference books and photographs already secured, the designers were able to call upon highly accurate LIDAR scan data on the Sea Fury project, which will ensure that they have extremely accurate information from which to build their all important base model files.

A LIDAR scan uses light from a laser to accurately map the surface of the subject aircraft in three dimensions, by analysing the light reflected from the scanned object. The scan produces a high definition 3D computer map of the aircraft which can help the Airfix designers when creating their base model files. The raw scan data is used as a trace for the base model, with the designers creating their own surface detail, ignoring any inaccuracies in the scan. This vital and highly complex work also has to take into account the fact that they are creating a construction kit and the manufacturing processes required to produce it. Years of experience and an eye for detail are essential in this fascinating stage in the creation of any new model tooling.

 

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LIDAR scan data from the new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.ll

 

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The scan data is extremely accurate but requires work to clean up the data

 

The ability to obtain scanned data is not quite as straight forward as it may seem. The laser scanner will need to be placed around the subject aircraft in as many as 40 or 50 separate positions, both on the ground and from a raised position, so that the best possible coverage can be achieved. In many cases, although a suitable aircraft may be available for scanning, its position within a museum and the close proximity of other display items could make it impossible for an accurate scan to be obtained. In these instances, the design team will have to rely on other research information to provide the detailed information they required. Where a LIDAR scan is possible, the positioned scanner rotates on its mounting sweeping the area with a laser, which will be constantly taking reflected beam measurements throughout the scanning process. As many as 5 million points can be mapped in each sweep, producing a 3D image file containing exceptional amounts of fine detail and even capable of picking up different layers of paint on the aircraft!

The scanned data is still quite raw at this stage and will need to be cleaned up, using a specialised piece of computer software. The individual scans are stitched together, cleaning out all unwanted material which may also have been captured during the scanning process. This could include clutter in the immediate scan area, bystanders or errors caused by reflective and refractive surfaces such as nearby glass and mirrors. Importantly, this type of scan produces an image file of the exterior of the aircraft and although this is incredibly accurate it is only used as a design trace in the production of a base model file, leaving the Airfix designers much work to do.

 

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A selection of base model computer screen grab images from the Sea Fury project

 

Thankfully, with an aircraft as important as the Sea Fury, the design team also had the opportunity to photograph preserved examples of the aeroplane at a number of museums around the country. In conjunction with all the other research data, these images allowed them to check the complex curves and shapes associated with the Sea Fury and to obtain visual references for even the smallest components used in its construction. All this information will assist the lead design engineer on the project to create a working CAD base model, from which every aspect of the design can be checked and re-checked, before using these files as a reference for all the many design processes to follow.

The Airfix team are extremely grateful to the Fleet Air Arm Museum, who arranged for our designer to make repeated research visits to Yeovilton and have unprecedented access to their magnificent Sea Fury.  Able to inspect every aspect of the aircraft, these visits ensured that the new model would be a highly accurate representation of the Sea Fury and proved vital to the success of the project.  We are extremely grateful to the Fleet Air Arm Museum for their help and can wholeheartedly recommend a visit to this magnificent museum.

 

We all love our computer rendered 3D model images

The new model tooling pictures that Workbench readers really love to see are the appealing computer rendered 3D images that help to give us all an idea of what these new models are going to look like. Requiring the skill and dexterity of the Airfix designers to produce, these images are another feature of the powerful software available to the design team and another important step in the development of any new model. As we have seen many times over the past few months, the relatively early announcement of new model toolings means that these computer rendered 3D images are now used extensively in the Airfix catalogue, on the website product listings and to inform Workbench readers about these latest models. Although requiring some significant effort to produce, they do allow the designers to effectively show the impressive levels of detail incorporated into the new model tooling and get us all a little excited about these future projects. They also allow them to show many of the design features, surface detail and alternative parts to be included in the new kit and give us all a good idea of what the finished model might look like on our display shelves.

The new Hawker Sea Fury FB.II is already looking like a spectacular addition to the growing 1/48th scale kit range and this ultimate piston engined fighter will surely go on to become one of the most popular models in the Airfix range. As we know you love to see as many of the computer rendered 3D images as possible, please enjoy this impressive selection and prepare for Sea Fury heaven.

 

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A selection of fantastic computer rendered 3D CAD images from the new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.ll project

 

The fantastic new 1/48th Scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.ll (A06105) will feature the impressive detail levels associated with this slightly larger scale of model and will incorporate a number of interesting build options for the modeller to consider. Along with the usual flying and static model configurations available to modellers, the new Sea Fury kit will include the option to have the wings folded for ease of operation on board an aircraft carrier, a feature unique to naval aircraft. The rigors of operation from carrier decks dictated that many naval aircraft were almost over engineered, with components required to be much tougher than would usually be the case with land based aircraft. The use of extremely robust undercarriage legs, arrester hooks and catapult spools were all features of naval aircraft, all of which have been faithfully reproduced on this beautiful kit.

 

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This head on view of the Sea Fury shows how its development was linked to the Focke Wulf Fw 190

 

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The classic profile of the Hawker Sea Fury FB.II

 

From the computer rendered 3D images shown above, you will also notice that the Sea Fury kit also includes a variety of stores options to be fitted to the model, allowing some extremely interesting models to be built. To supplement the effective 20mm cannon armament of the interceptor variant of the aircraft, the Sea Fury could also be used in a ground attack role and was able to carry up to 2,000lb of bombs, or a maximum of twelve 3-inch rocket projectiles. It could also carry a pair of 90 gallon drop tanks, or an underwing camera pod when employed on photographic reconnaissance duties, all of which are available with this impressive new kit. Perhaps the most interesting part option is the inclusion of a Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) pack, which was attached the underside of the rear fuselage and provided a welcome thrust boost for heavily armed Sea Furys trying to take off from the relatively short decks of British Aircraft carriers. All these interesting stores options will be included with the release of this kit.

 

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The beautiful Hawker Sea Fury will be a popular addition to the growing 1/48th scale range

 

The fantastic new 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.ll is currently scheduled to be released in September 2017 and is available to pre-order now - we very much look forward to bringing you regular updates on the project over the coming weeks, including confirmation of the livery options to be included with the kit.

 

Countdown to Telford

With just one week to go until the Scale ModelWorld show at Telford, the Airfix team are finalising their plans and looking forward to meeting lots of Workbench readers over the weekend of 12th/13th November. If you are intending to visit the show, please do come and say hello to the team and don’t forget to mention that you are a Workbench reader – you could even make some suggestions on what you would like to see featured in future editions. As we confirmed in our previous blog, we will have a sizeable make and paint area available for modellers of all ages and the Airfix stand will be full of interesting model builds, prototype models and other Airfix delights. The Airfix team will also be there in some strength, allowing visitors the opportunity to speak to some of the people behind the fantastic models we feature in our Workbench blog. Importantly, we will be announcing a new model tooling at the show and one which will certainly cause something of a stir – there will be prototype examples displayed on the stand and you don’t have long to wait now. For readers who are unable to make the show, we will include a full review in a future edition of Workbench and try to give you a flavour of the unique atmosphere at this spectacular annual modelling experience. For those who will be at Telford, we very much look forward to meeting you there.

 

BREAKING TELFORD NEWS!

In support of our new model tooling announcement at Telford, both our lead researcher and the lead design engineer on the model project will be giving a talk on Sunday 13th November at the show. Without wanting to give too much away at this stage, we think our announcement will be very well received by modellers all over the world and it will be fascinating to hear details of how this iconic aircraft was turned into a highly accurate model kit, by the men responsible for doing it. Please speak to any of the Airfix team members on the stand at Telford for the latest details on how you can attend the talk – don’t miss out.
Unfortunately, that is all we have for you in this latest edition of Airfix Workbench. We are really spoiling you with all these new tooling announcements at the moment and you already know that the next edition will include yet more new model information. As we head towards the end of 2016, it is already looking like next year is going to be a significant one for Airfix modellers, with the new Hawker Sea Fury joining an impressive line up of new model toolings. If there is anything you would like to see covered in a future edition of Workbench or you would like to send us pictures of your latest model build project, please do drop us a line with your suggestion to workbench@airfix.com.

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 workbench@airfix.com 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, we hope to see many of you at the Telford Scale ModelWorld Show and unveiling our latest new tooling announcement.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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