Victoria Cross Beaufort exclusive

Victoria Cross Beaufort exclusive

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

Two weeks is a long time in the world of Airfix and so much has happened since we published our previous blog, that we are often spoilt for subject choice when it comes to planning the current edition. Nevertheless, we have selected several subjects for this latest edition which we hope will be of interest, as we cover modelling projects which feature aircraft, warships and classic contemporary cars. Traversing a number of our 2020 ranges, we can promise you plenty of new information, including box artwork reveals, an update from an incredibly well received new tooling project and a selection of product images which are so ‘hot off the press’, they are still smouldering.

We begin with a project update from a new model tooling which was announced at the beginning of this year and one which came as a pleasant surprise for many thousands of modellers all over the world, our impressive new 1/72nd scale Bristol Beaufort Mk.I. By the time we have finished with this update, if the Beaufort is not already on your build schedule for a little later this year, it more than likely will be then. Spoiling everyone for choice, not content with bringing you a little Beaufort temptation, we also look at the return of a 1/350th scale kit which is a representation of one of the Royal Navy’s most advanced ships and one which will have warship modellers clearing a little space on their workbenches. We also have an interesting Quickbuild update and details of an impending addition to our Starter Set range which features one of the most capable air superiority fighters of the post war era, as we bring you our latest comprehensive Airfix roundup.

The enduring story of Airfix box artwork

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

With the announcement of our new 1/72nd scale Bristol Beaufort Mk.I tooling at the beginning of the year, Workbench readers would have been looking forward to seeing the box artwork produced to support this kit, particularly as its publication means its release can’t be too far away

The joy of Airfix modelling is something that has touched many millions of people over the years and even though many will tend to dip in and out of periods of modelling activity, the name Airfix and it’s famous logo are always associated with pleasant memories, past and present. Although the joy of this hobby will clearly mean different things to different people, one aspect of the Airfix brand which has always been ‘high profile’ and commands a fascination all of its own is that of our box artwork. Often a strong determining factor in a modeller deciding which kit will be their next build project, many Airfix fans of a certain vintage will probably also remember collecting cut out box artwork and instruction sheets as part of their modelling infatuation.

With the talented people responsible for producing this artwork occupying their own revered position in the history of the Airfix brand, the current range of artwork makes full use of the latest digital technology to bring our subject matter to life, providing irresistible inspiration for many a build project. With the fascinating stories behind the decal scheme options we include in our kits giving these scale representations of the real aircraft, military vehicles and ships a character all of their own, this artwork is effectively a visual manifestation of amazing events which may have taken place many years ago, accounts of which are only available in the written word. As most of us are blessed with fertile imaginations, it is no wonder we find this artwork so appealing and a huge part of our modelling enjoyment.

You all knew this preamble was leading us somewhere and are probably wondering why we didn’t lead this section with the exclusive box artwork reveal we are talking about, but all good things come to he who waits and this one is very much worth the wait. With the Airfix development team always having a keen interest in what our customers think about our current kits and future project development, we already knew that our Bristol Beaufort Mk.I tooling would be a welcome addition to the range, but had no idea just how popular this announcement would turn out to be. With that very much in mind, we were determined to do something a little different with the Beaufort box artwork, particularly as it was going to be a representation of one of the most heroic acts of the Second World War – we definitely think we have managed to achieve this.

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

We told you it would be worth the wait … what a stunning piece of artwork. Illustrating the moment Kenneth Campbell released the torpedo from Beaufort N1016 during his attack against the German battleship Gneisenau on 6th April 1941, does Airfix box artwork get any more dramatic than this?

During the 1930s, the Bristol Aeroplane Company were without doubt one of the most proficient aircraft manufacturers not only in the UK, but in the world. Responsible for producing the RAF’s most important fighter of the decade, the fast and agile Bulldog, the company would also play a significant role in the modern expansion of the Royal Air Force, as their Blenheim light bomber would point to the direction of future military aircraft design. An aircraft which was initially envisaged as an evolutionary development of the Blenheim, the Bristol Beaufort has the distinction of being the only monoplane type produced for the Royal Air Force which was designed from the outset to fulfil the dual roles of torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft.

Highlighting the pressing need for an aircraft possessing these maritime capabilities, the Beaufort was one of only a handful of aircraft to be ordered by the British Air Ministry whilst the project was still ‘on the drawing board’, a move which clearly reflected the faith they had in the Bristol Company. The Beaufort may well have started life as a Blenheim development, but it quickly became apparent that the new aircraft would look quite different to its predecessor. With a much deeper front fuselage section needed to accommodate its crew of four and the requirement to carry a torpedo in a semi-recessed position under the fuselage, a gross weight increase of around 25 percent over the Blenheim ensured that whilst the two aircraft may have been related in aviation terms, they most certainly could not be described as twins.

Historically, the demanding specifications the Beaufort was required to satisfy, in conjunction with Bristol’s existing Blenheim manufacturing commitments, dictated that an aircraft which had production contracts initially signed in August 1936 would not actually see its squadron introduction until almost three and a half years later, when Britain was already at war. Once in squadron service, the Beaufort quickly proved to be an extremely rugged and highly manoeuvrable aircraft, one which would be tasked with performing some of the most demanding strike attack missions of the war.

The magnificent box artwork which will accompany the first release from this new tooling features the dramatic moment Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell released his torpedo during a heroic attack against the German battleship Gneisenau. The successful attack would tragically result in the destruction of the Beaufort and the loss of its crew, with the pilot being awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in the face of enemy fire. This aircraft will be one of the two scheme options to be included with the new kit, with the other being so distinctly different that it will prove difficult for modellers to decide which one to go for. Having said that, the artwork is so dramatic and marks such a heroic action, that this option will prove almost impossible to resist.

Scheme A – Bristol Beaufort Mk.I, Aircraft flown by Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell VC (pilot), Sgt. J.P. Scott DFM RCAF (navigator), Sgt. R.W. Hillman (wireless operator) and W.C. Mulliss (air gunner) against the German battleship Gneisenau, Royal Air Force No.22 Squadron, St Eval, Cornwall, April 6th 1941

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Posing a significant threat to British naval forces and the vital merchant convoys which were keeping Britain in the war, the German capital ship Gneisenau was the second vessel in her class and sister ship of Scharnhorst. The two ships often operated as a pair during the early months of the Second World War, scoring some notable successes in the Atlantic and in Norwegian waters, which further underlined their priority target status for the British. After a further successful period raiding in the Atlantic during the early part of 1941, the two ships put into port in Brest to take on supplies and possibly to undergo repairs, although this has never been definitively confirmed. Their arrival in Brest was relayed to British authorities by French resistance forces and a concerted period of air activity followed, as the RAF attempted to destroy the ships before they could do any more damage.

Despite mounting several significant raids, the vast majority would prove ineffective and only served to keep the many anti-aircraft batteries stationed in the area well practiced and on high alert. This lack of success and the high priority nature of the targets led RAF officials to call for an ‘at all cost’ effort to neutralise the threat, with the Bristol Beauforts of RAF No.22 Squadron being tasked with the mission. The raid consisted of six Beauforts in two sections, with the first three aircraft equipped with mines attacking first, taking out the torpedo nets which had the potential of rendering the attack ineffective. The second wave would consist of three more Beauforts carrying 18-inch Mark XII torpedoes, with their target being the battleship Gneisenau, as her sister ship was in dry dock.

An extremely dangerous mission, the Gneisenau was moored parallel to a stone mole, which provided the ship with significant protection and making the attack run of the Beauforts incredibly challenging, almost impossible – it would require a huge amount of flying skill, all whilst under heavy defensive fire. Even if everything went exactly to plan, the chances of success were still relatively slight.

Bad weather on the day of the raid would play havoc with the meticulous planning and throw it into some disarray. It is thought that three of the aircraft actually failed to take off, as they had become bogged down in the soggy ground their airfield, due to the weight of fuel and armament, whilst a fourth failed to find the target area due to a thick haze shrouding the French coastline. A fifth aircraft did commence its attack run, but was forced to abort due to the haze totally enveloping the target – this just left one final aircraft.

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Profile artwork featuring Bristol Beaufort Mk.I N1016 (OA-X), the aircraft in which pilot Kenneth Campbell flew his heroic VC winning mission

Bristol Beaufort Mk.I N1016 (OA-X) took off from RAF St. Eval in Cornwall on Sunday 6th April 1941 and headed for a rallying point off the coast of France, close to the coastal town of Brest. Even though the weather was poor, the crew were surprised to find that they were the only aircraft to make it and after orbiting for a short while to hope the others turned up, soon had a big decision to make. Thinking they were alone and unaware if the earlier group had launched their attack, should they press on with their mission or return to base, to attack another day. Although the odds were seriously stacked against them, they turned towards the harbour and started their attack run. As the aircraft flew lower and lower, a solid wall of defensive fire burst into life and was aimed squarely in their direction.

Heading into one of the most heavily defended locations in Europe, anti-aircraft fire from shore batteries and the battleship itself peppered the lone aircraft, but it kept on its course, with the pilot expertly lining up his Beaufort for its optimum attack angle, avoiding the stone mole and coming in so close over shore batteries that they could hardly miss their target. Flying at almost sea level, Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell only released his torpedo when he was sure it was going to hit his target, knowing that his climb out would have to be steep and violent. As the torpedo hit the water and ran towards the ship, the Beaufort pulled up in a steep, banking turn, revealing its undersides to the anti-aircraft gunners, who raked it with everything they had.

Unable to withstand such an onslaught and with the crew probably having already sustained serious injury, the Beaufort crashed into the harbour almost immediately, claiming the lives of all on board. Their attack was successful and the torpedo blew a huge hole under the waterline of Gneisenau, causing it to return to the dry dock from where it had only just emerged. It would be out of commission for almost six months following the attack and it is impossible to gauge how many lives were saved and how much vital cargo reached its destination as a result of the heroic actions of the crew of Beaufort N1016.

As a lone aircraft, the selfless actions of Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell and his crewmates would have gone unheralded had it not been for the intervention of the French resistance. A report on the condition of the German battleship and the actions of the brave Beaufort crew were sent back to Britain, where records were updated. For displaying valour in the face of extreme peril and without regard for his own safety, Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for valour in the presence of the enemy. As the entire crew ensured this attack was successful and would probably have also been involved in the decision to attempt the attack in the first place, it does seem more than a little unfair that their valour was not also officially recognised. No doubt their squadron mates and loved ones would have been sad and incredibly proud in equal measure on hearing the news and anyone who has discovered details of this action in the years which followed can’t fail to be humbled by their unfathomable bravery and devotion to duty. These were very special young men indeed.

Scheme B – Bristol Beaufort Mk.I, Aircraft flown by Sgt. John Bell Rutherford (pilot), Sgt. Thomas Patrick O’Byrne (navigator), Sgt. William Samuel Ralph Browning (wireless operator) and Sgt. John Anthony Duckworth Wood (air gunner) against the German cruiser Admiral Hipper, Royal Air Force No.217 Squadron, St Eval, Cornwall, February 1st 1941

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

The squadron introduction of the Bristol Beaufort was not without its problems and despite having an unusually long development for an aircraft which was so badly needed, the first units suffered persistent reliability issues with the new Taurus engines. Intended to replace such aircraft as the huge Vickers Vildebeest torpedo equipped biplane, the early teething problems caused by engine reliability issues saw these totally unsuitable, obsolete aircraft, having to soldier on for a while, until a solution to the problem could be found. Once the Beaufort could be operated effectively, it quickly proved itself to be an exceptionally rugged aircraft and one ideally suited to the demanding task at hand – it was also a massive upgrade over previous aircraft in this role.

The new RAF airfield at St. Eval on the north Cornish coast was an ideal location from where to launch anti-submarine and anti-shipping patrols and strike operations covering this vital combat sector, something it would do for the majority of WWII. Interestingly, it actually became operational as a Fighter Command station during the early stages of the Battle of Britain, with the Spitfires of No.234 Squadron being early residents, but as the battle progressed, most of the action was taking place further east and the Spitfires were relocated by August 1940.

In its maritime strike and patrol role, the residents around St Eval airfield would soon become familiar with the sound of the Bristol Taurus engines of the Beaufort torpedo bombers which operated from the station, with the U-boats and warships of the Kriegsmarine being regular targets. Another of St. Eval’s aircraft tasked with attacking a major German warship moored in the heavily defended Brest harbour, Beaufort Mk.I L9866 launched its attack some two months before the famous VC winning action by Kenneth Campbell and his crew. Following the completion of repairs, the German cruiser Admiral Hipper was due to leave Brest harbour to embark on a further Atlantic raiding sortie, with the intention of causing havoc amongst the merchant convoys bound for Britain – the Royal Air Force were determined to prevent this from happening.

Airfix Bristol Beaufort Mk.I model kit scheme detail and box artwork review on the Airfix Workbench blog

Profile artwork featuring another RAF St. Eval based Beaufort Mk.I, this time wearing a very different camouflage scheme to the aircraft flown by Kenneth Campbell

Taking off from St. Eval in the mid-afternoon of 1st February 1941, the crew of Beaufort L9866 had a short but treacherous flight over open ocean ahead of them and if they did manage to locate their target, they would be facing withering defensive fire, not just from the German cruiser, but also from the many shore batteries of various calibres which protected the harbour. The Luftwaffe were also fully aware that the French resistance would have reported the movement of Admiral Hipper from the harbour and would have been expecting a powerful RAF force to attack the ship. They had assembled a mighty force of Messerschmitt fighters to provide a hostile reception for the RAF airmen.

Admiral Hipper must have been regarded as something of a lucky ship, as it often evaded detection by enemy forces sent to look for it. The ship slipped out of Brest harbour virtually unopposed, in the main, thanks to the many patrols mounted by Luftwaffe fighter units on the day. It is thought that Beaufort L9866 was intercepted and shot down by the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 of Uffz Horst Bochmann of II./JG77, with all on board being lost. Crashing into the sea off the northern coast of Brittany at around 17.00 hrs, it is thought that due to the location and timing of the incident, the crew had already launched their attack against the Hipper and were heading back to base when they were attacked by Luftwaffe fighters, although this has never been definitively corroborated.

The Luftwaffe airfield at Dinan in Brittany was the home base of II./JG77 and was one of the airfields designated to provide defensive air cover for the vital harbour facilities at Brest. With the Kriegsmarine’s large warships posing a significant threat to the British, Luftwaffe units in this sector would be kept incredibly busy fighting off numerous raids, but as this was one of the most heavily defended areas in Europe, many RAF aircraft would be lost during these operations – a mission to Brest harbour, or indeed the entire region of Brittany, would have been one fraught with danger.

The brave and well trained Beaufort crews of RAF Coastal Command would go on to take a heavy toll of German naval assets and make a significant contribution in turning the tide of war in favour of the Allies. If they were not actually destroying German heavy warships, they did an effective job in keeping them in dock, with raids pinning them under the protective shield of their ports, or undergoing repairs after sustaining damage. Facing not only the might of the Luftwaffe, but also the heavy fire of well defended naval facilities, it is perhaps just as well that this aircraft, which must be described as something of a WWII unsung hero, was an incredibly tough and stable attack platform – it did still have to be flown by heroes though.

With our new Bristol Beaufort Mk.I kit attracting plenty of modeller attention, it will also have been noted that the two scheme options included with the first release may feature aircraft which both operated from RAF St. Eval only two months apart during 1941, but with both wearing dramatically different schemes. With the lead scheme representing the famous VC winning aircraft flown by pilot Kenneth Campbell and the one featured on the stunning box artwork, this will clearly be a popular choice for many modellers, however, the second option is so different and possibly even more attractive, we may well be in ‘dual build’ territory with this kit. It could also be argued that the Beaufort is an under-represented aircraft type on many workbenches, so it must surely qualify as a suitable dual build subject for later in the year?

British stealth warship on the horizon – or is it?

Airfix Type 45 Daring Class Destroyer warship model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

As highly capable fleet defenders, the Royal Navy’s ‘Daring class’ Type 45 Destroyers now have two extremely high profile ‘big sisters’ to look after

The sea trials of Britain’s two mighty new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers has re-engaged the nation with our Royal Navy in an extremely high-profile manner, with the subject of the country’s sea power once again becoming a topic of public conversation and images of the ships regularly appearing on various media platforms. The largest ships ever to enter Royal Navy service, these new aircraft carriers will significantly enhance Britain’s naval standing on a global stage and provide the navy with one of the most powerful international offensive capabilities in the world. Equipped with the latest Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II strike jets, these mighty ships would make tempting targets for any adversary in times of conflict and will require the assistance of specialist ships to protect them from air and missile attacks. Underlining the coordinated nature of Royal Navy procurement over recent years, they already have these important vessels in service, the distinctive Type 45 Destroyers.

Constructed to replace the Navy’s ageing Type 42 Destroyers, the six ‘Daring class’ Type 45 Destroyers are certainly some of the most distinctive looking ships currently in service, in addition to being arguably the most capable. Performing the crucial role of shielding the Royal Navy fleet from air attack, these vessels feature systems which allow them to protect multiple ships from aircraft and missile attack, utilising a powerful long range radar and target acquisition system which is fully integrated with the ships vertically launched Sea Viper missile system. The ships are able to track in excess of 2000 simultaneous targets down to the size of a cricket ball and can engage them at long range, allowing timely re-acquisition should they encounter a problem with the first interception attempt.

Although not a fully ‘stealthy’ design, the profile of the Type 45 is very different to other ships, as its design incorporates a number of innovations to greatly reduce its radar signature, making it more difficult to detect, but if it is, effectively shrouding its true naval identity. It is thought that the technology employed gives these ships the radar signature of a fishing boat, as opposed to one of the most capable warships in the world, something which could prove crucial during times of conflict. With an impressive array of offensive and defensive weaponry, the Type 45 also has its own air power, which could consist of either one or two Lynx helicopters, or a single example of the larger Merlin. The flight deck is actually large enough to take a Chinook heavy lift helicopter, which once again underlines the multi-role effectiveness of these ships.

Airfix Type 45 Daring Class Destroyer warship model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

A welcome addition to the 2020 range, the 1/350th scale Type 45 Destroyer kit allows the modeller to finish the project as any one of the six ships in this class and includes the option to go with either a full hull, or waterline construction

Airfix Type 45 Daring Class Destroyer warship model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

HMS Daring was the first of the six Type 45 Destroyers to be launched back in February 2006, eventually being commissioned in July 2009. Her five sister ships are Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender and Duncan and with their introduction, the Navy proclaimed the ships to not only be the most capable destroyers ever operated by the Royal Navy, but also the most effective air defence ships in the world. This is quite some boast and something Britain should be rightly proud of.

Our 1/350th scale kit of the Royal Navy’s impressive Type 45 Destroyer was first released as a new tooling project back in 2012 and we are delighted to inform readers that this highly regarded kit is now available once more. A development which will delight ship modellers and may temp others to have a go at warship modelling for the first time, this is actually quite a large model when built, coming in at a hull length of 436mm and with these ships destined to become increasingly familiar as the seaborne chaperones of our new mighty aircraft carriers in the years to come, an accurate scale representation of one is sure to make for an eye catching display piece.

With the ability to finish your model as any one of the six ‘Daring class’ type 45 Destroyers constructed, the model also features Lynx and Merlin helicopters and can be constructed with a full hull and display stand, or as an attractive waterline build just crying out for an ocean diorama. One of the most modern warship kits in our range, this 1/350th scale Type 45 Destroyer kit is available now.

Impressive Quickbuild Audi a modelling delight

Airfix Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe snap together model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

The new Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe looks just like an Airfix kit when fully assembled and is a real testament to the skill of the designer

Anyone who has sampled the delights of our ever expanding Quickbuild model range can’t fail but to have been impressed with the design and quality of these fantastic little kits. Aimed at the younger, less experienced modeller, but not exclusively so, these popular kits are designed to be build using a snap together construction method, without the need for glue, but once finished, are a faithful scale representation of the car or aircraft they are based upon. With the kits also including stickers to further embellish your finished model, the Quickbuild kits can either be dismantled again for more construction fun, or stay assembled as an appealing display piece.

When we devote so much time in Workbench to looking at the latest traditional kit projects being developed by our talented design team, it could be argued that we don’t give our Quickbuild models the exposure they deserve, but with significant new tooling development investment currently being directed at this range and the latest collection of models being more ‘Airfix like’ than ever, that really does need to change. We did speak to our senior designer Matt about his work on the Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy in a previous edition, where he described how working on Quickbuild projects is a pleasant change for Buccaneers and Wellingtons, but this is definitely a range we will have to re-visit in the very near future.

With these kits having quite a specific intended target audience and a clear design mandate, you might think that they would be much quicker and easier projects for our designers to blast through, but that is not actually the case. Although time can usually be saved during the initial research phase of the project, this extra time will be more than used up during the design stage itself, which in many ways can actually be more challenging than working on a traditional Airfix kit. With their push together construction, the part split design is very different with a Quickbuild as opposed to that of a standard plastic construction kit and requires a very specific set of design parameters. Thankfully, our small team of designers are now very experienced in this type of work and push the boundaries of design and manufacture with every new Quickbuild project they are involved with.

Airfix Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe snap together model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

When looking at the collection of parts in the Audi TT Quickbuild box, it is clear we are going to have fun building this snap together kit, but how accurate is the finished model going to look

Airfix Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe snap together model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

It is also interesting to note that whilst most of us would probably think Quickbuild projects wouldn’t require particularly significant tooling outlay, we would again be sorely mistaken. The moulds for these models can be extremely complicated and incorporate additional side actions to create the parts needed for a Quickbuild kit - in addition to this, the tooling costs can be greater by the simple fact that each kit may require four or five separate moulds. We are told that all parts of different colours used in the models construction require their own tooling mould.

One of the most impressive features of the latest Quickbuild models is that once you have had your fun building the kit, the finished model is every inch a faithful representation of the aircraft or vehicle it is based upon. In actual fact, other than the coloured plastic used to produce the individual parts, you would be hard pressed to tell this apart from a well made Airfix kit. Despite their push together brick-like construction, the finished model is all smooth lines and graceful curves, with not an unsightly protrusion to be seen anywhere – most impressive.

Airfix Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe snap together model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

A design marvel, although this Quickbuild kit can be assembled and taken apart numerous times, the finished model makes for a worthy display model in its own right

Airfix Quickbuild Audi TT Coupe snap together model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

This is certainly the case when looking at the test models the designer has the chance to inspect before the model is released for production. As these are just produced in a uniform light grey plastic, it is almost impossible to tell if this is a new Airfix kit or a Quickbuild model. It’s no wonder that these kits have become such a popular addition to the Airfix range over recent years. The images featured above show the recently released and newly tooled Audi TT Coupe, a model which we featured during our review of the 2020 range at the start of the year. They clearly show that despite their simple, push together construction method, the finished models are impressive representations of an actual, if slightly smaller Audi TT. Combining the fun of building a push together kit any time you feel like it, with the ability to have an accurate display model when you have finished, it’s no wonder our latest range of Quickbuild models are finding new fans with each release. With more new tooling releases to follow in the very near future, we will be hearing much more from our Quickbuild range in 2020 and beyond.

The sky is ours!

Airfix McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle Starter Set model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Don’t even think about coming to fight if a McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is in the air

We end this latest Workbench update by featuring a forthcoming kit from our current Starter Set range, one which presents an American air superiority jet which was based in Europe during the Cold War era – this one also happens to sport a rather distinctive tail. The McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle was a single seat, all weather air superiority fighter, which at the time, was the product of one of the most expensive military programmes in history. The resultant aircraft may have been the cause of heated debate during its development, but when it eventually entered service, was without doubt one of the truly great combat aircraft of the post war era.

Designed around the fighter pilot with the intention of producing an aircraft which would allow him to dominate the skies, the F-15 was known colloquially as the ‘Ultimate MiG slayer’, as it provided the USAF with a fighter which was without equal and one which quickly became the aircraft against which all future fighter designs would be judged. Despite being in service for more than forty years, the F-15 Eagle is still a formidable combat aircraft and is even being considered for further upgrade to keep it in front line service for many years to come. The last of the original A series fighters were finally retired in September 2009, but not before they had assured the reputation of this magnificent aircraft.

Airfix McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle Starter Set model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

A special scheme applied to this early USAF F-15A Eagle to commemorate its home base hosting the 1981 NATO Tiger Meet, the already handsome profile of the Eagle is enhanced further by the addition of this stunning tail

This particular aircraft is in the colours of the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Bitburg in Germany, with these aircraft being some of the most capable to be based in Europe. 75-0053 was one of the first four F-15A Eagles to arrive in Europe in February 1977, one of the aircraft delivered to Bitburg to act as a maintenance familiarisation aircraft ahead of the main force of F-15s. The much larger ‘Operation Eagle Ready’ contingent of 23 Eagles arrived towards the end of April 1977, following a concerted period of training in the US – the idea behind this development was that Bitburg’s new F-15A Eagles were fully combat ready as soon as they arrived in Europe. Their arrival would prove significant as a strong deterrent force during a particularly volatile period of world history.

The scheme featured on this aircraft made it one of the most photographed military aircraft in the world during 1981, as it was one of the stars of that year’s NATO Tiger Meet event, which was held at the aircraft’s home base in Germany. Although this was a special commemorative scheme to celebrate holding the event at Bitburg, this aircraft was fully operational and would have been seen flying sorties over Germany in these markings for a short time. As nothing could match the Eagle in the air combat arena, this highly distinctive scheme didn’t really place the aircraft at a real visual disadvantage during sorties, but definitely must have made pilots feel like they were almost aviation celebrities when flying the ‘Tiger Jet’.

Airfix McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle Starter Set model kit on the Airfix Workbench blog

Full painting instructions for a kit which will be a popular addition to the Starter Set range

This beautiful new kit marks the welcome return of this classic fighting aeroplane to the Airfix range and as one of our popular Starter Set releases, (this one is a Large Starter Set) will come complete with glue, two brushes and six acrylic paints, everything you could need to build this beautiful kit as a standalone project. If you like your modern jets to look just that little bit different, this may well be the next build project for you. McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle A55311 is scheduled to be available by the end of September and with its smart tiger tail, should not be difficult to spot in your local model store.

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 link to contact us.

In between new editions of our blog, the Airfix conversation continues over on our Airfix Forum Worbench thread, with further discussions taking place on both the official Airfix Facebook page and the Airfix Twitter channel please do get involved in the discussions and let us know what you think about Workbench.

Whenever you decide to visit, the Airfix website is always the place to be for all the latest model availability information, previous editions of our blog, a selection of modelling tips and much more.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 4th September, when we will have more interesting features from the world of Airfix 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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