A farewell to Seafires…

At the end of May 1950, North Korean troops headed across the border between them and South Korea. Despite UN resolutions, they continued on toward the capital at Seoul. Allied forces in the region were mobilised and the Korean War started.

Not far away in Japan, a British ‘Colossus’ Class light fleet carrier, HMS Triumph, was despatched to join with the American carrier USS Valley Forge to form a naval strike force to provide fast reaction to the invasion and to try to slow the advance of North Korean forces. Aboard HMS Triumph were the Seafire FR.47s of 800 Naval Air Squadron and the Firefly AS.1s of 827 NAS. And my Dad. By 2nd June 1950, both squadrons were engaged on air strikes against airfields, railways and other logistic sites.

The Seafire FR.47 was the last in the long line of Spitfire/Seafire aircraft. Major differences over the Seafire Mk.17 they replaced were a six-bladed contra-rotating propeller to reduce the huge torque swing of the Griffon engine on take-off, four 20mm cannon replacing the mixed cannon/machine gun armament of the Mk.17 and a powered wing folding mechanism. Previous Seafires required a crew to unlock and fold the wings.

Light fleet carriers were built toward the end of WW2 and were not imagined to last for very long. It was not surprising that it wasn’t long before HMS Triumph developed a problem in the after gland of one of its two propeller shafts. As a consequence, it could only steam at about 17 knots on one screw. This had a huge impact on the ability to launch their Seafires. Fully loaded with fuel and bombs or rockets, the Seafires needed a strong headwind to get airborne from Triumph‘s small deck. There was a hydraulic accelerator (predecessor to the steam catapult) but that only allowed a very slow rate of take-offs. Two solutions were adopted – one of which was decidedly ‘Heath Robinson’.

The sensible solution involved adding a battery of four solid fuel rockets to the aircraft to help push them into the air more quickly. The rocket carriers were dropped after take-off as they contributed to very significant drag. The other solution addressed the fact that the Seafire only had two flap settings – up and 35 degrees down for landing. What was needed was a partial flap deployment – say around 15 degrees – that would boost lift without too much extra drag. So, before launch the pilot would select flaps ‘down’, aircraft handlers would then hold wooden chocks inside the flap bay and the pilot would select flaps ‘up’. The wooden chock held the flaps open at around 15 degrees. After take-off and in a stable accelerating climb, the pilot would briefly select flaps ‘down’ so the chocks fell out, allowing him to select the flaps fully ‘up’ for the rest of the flight. Landing back on the deck he was able to select flaps full ‘down’ for landing.

This model is the same kit from Special Hobby as I built some time ago. The kit comes with an array of parts not required, as it apparently covers the Spitfire Mk.21, 22, and 24 as well as the Seafire Mk.45, 46 and 47. Once you take away the extraneous bits, you are left with some sparse sprues of plastic!

The build was much as before, with nice photo etch parts as decent detailing. I cut away the outer flap panels from the lower halves of the wings (these are split flaps, so the upper surface of the wing is fixed).

I also had to drill holes for the rocket mountings and the IFF aerial as these are not provided in the mouldings. There is a diagram in the instructions saying where the holes must go, but it would be easier to have them set up in the mould. On many kits, such as the new Airfix Buccaneer, optional stores stations have a hole half-way into the plastic from the inside. So, you know where to drill if you want it, or you can leave it and the skin is untouched. A tiny difference, but something very easy to do.

Anyway, I think that in the time since my first FR.47 my skills and patience has improved somewhat, such that I have added all kinds of little detail bits that come with the kit (such as the rocket fuse wires) as well as all of the tiny stencil decals.

I have also tried to make the aircraft look well used, as it might have done after a few months of hard flying.

After repairs, HMS Triumph continued on the Korea station, providing fighter cover and armed reconnaissance for the fleet during the invasion at Inchon. They continued until late September 1950 when HMS Theseus arrived with its Sea Furies and Firefly AS.5s. By this point 800 NAS had only four airworthy Seafires, having lost most of its original aircraft and most of the replacements it was issued. None was lost to enemy action. One was shot down by a US B-29 ‘Superfortress’ that confused its profile with that of a Yak-9D of the North Korean Air Force (the US Navy kindly reaching the pilot), leading to the adoption of the black and white ‘invasion’ stripes shown here. The rest were lost in landing accidents or from over-stressed fuselages.

The Korean War marked the end of the front-line use of the Seafire in the Fleet Air Arm. The Seafire was never a rugged aircraft, and by the time of the FR.47 the ever-increasing landing weights meant that the basic structures were getting too weak. The day after the squadron was relieved, it moved to ‘peacetime’ flying rules and the remaining allegedly-airworthy Seafires were immediately grounded due to airframe buckling in the tail. 800 NAS returned to the UK and were disbanded, being reformed shortly thereafter at RNAS Ford to work up with the Supermarine Attacker and to form the first British naval jet squadron.

First of the, well, quite a few really…

From time to time, I take the view that one or two early models need replacing. I am hoping that my skills, such as they are, are on the way up and new kits appear that are really quite good to make. So it is in this case, with the remake of the first of the Hawker Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes operated by 800 Naval Air Squadron.

I have opted here for an aircraft based at RNAS Lee-on-Solent in 1942. This was when they were training pilots for the squadron to re-equip on retiring the Fairey Fulmar. The Royal Navy had their own training aircraft because the radio system was different from the used by the RAF, and as the pilots no longer had the radio operator they carried in the Fulmar they had to get used to doing it themselves. As it was a procedural trainer it didn’t have a tail hook for deck landings, so technically is a converted Hurricane I rather than a Sea Hurricane I…

The kit is by a relatively new kid on the block from Poland called Arma Hobby. Everything about them is slick in presentation, from the decent box artwork to the very well designed and colour printed instruction sheet.

The kit itself comes with one huge sprue and one smaller one, plus a sprue of transparencies and a decal sheet. All of the plastic is very well moulded with sharp, but not too obtrusive, panel lines. Variations included are a set of de Havilland propellers and a set of the later Rotol props with three types of spinner. So in essence some options for a Hurricane I or a Hurricane Ia. Transparencies include hood open or closed – the open hood version has to be a bit wider to fit over the fuselage. In reality the hood just slid back, but you can’t make the hood strong enough and thin enough at this scale in clear polystyrene. The decal sheet includes all kinds of things like yellow tips for the propellers and the red fabric patches for the gun port covers. The set of stencils is about as comprehensive as any hurricane model I have seen. However, as this is a Royal Navy aircraft, most of the markings come from a separate sheet made by Print Scale.

What i did invest in, and later regretted to a large extent, was some customising. The detail kit by Eduard is excellent and comes pre-painted. The flaps kit is one of the fiddliest things I have ever had to use.

So, to start off we build the cockpit area. This is very well modelled, and includes the structural tube frame around the pilot.

Then we move on to the flaps. First you cut out the existing flaps from the bottom half of the wing (these are split flaps).

Then fit the new flap housing. The kit is designed specifically for the Arma Hobby Hurricane, so the fit is actually very good.

There are a few brackets to assemble and you need to add a couple of lengths of 0.5mm rod to make the flap support arms for the inner flaps. Very fiddly stuff, but we got there in the end!

The rest of the kit goes together quickly and well. There are alignment posts on things like the fuselage halves, and everything fits together first time. This is the result of brand new moulds and modern formulations of polystyrene. Everything is crisp and sharp and easy.

There is even a mount for the reflector gun sight, the sight glass is cut from a spare bit of clear acrylic about 2mm x 2mm.

You will have noticed how much weathering has been applied. As this aircraft was used for training, I imagined it to be a very old hack of an airframe, so I dirtied it up enormously. Here you can see the starboard side before I get going.

Then compare it with a roughened up version applied already to the port side…

Look pretty darned good, I thought. Anyway, getting close to the end and it is time for the flaps to go on. They have loads of ribs that have to be bent backward and glued to the inner surface of the flap itself. These were a bloody nightmare.

Still, got something reasonably good at the end and they were glued in place in the fully open position.

So, there we have it, a Hawker Hurricane I from 800NAS based at RNAS Lee-on-Solent in 1942. I must say I am extremely happy with this kit.

The Osprey folds its Wings…

I am concerned about this project, and what it does to the mind by way of obsession. I can’t think of another reason why I would choose to try to do a wing fold conversion on a biplane. But I did.

Ever since seeing photos of Hawker Ospreys of 800NAS with folded wings, I have felt obliged to build one. The process was, well, interesting. I know how I’d do it in the future if I had to, but this one didn’t turn out too badly. Anyone with any knowledge of aviation will spot mistakes straight away, but this isn’t a build for a museum so I’m going to chill out and think positive. It looks like an Osprey and the wings are folded.

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The donor kit was the Osprey III/IV by A-Model that I have built before. The kit started as before with the fuselage taking shape. Then came the modifications.

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First was to mark up the wings for cutting. There are clear marks where the fixed and folding portions meet up, which is helpful.

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Once cut, the lower plane inboard sections can be fitted to the fuselage and the tension struts to the fuselage put in place.

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Then the upper centre section can be fitted to the cabane struts above the fuselage.

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Then the outer (folding) portions of both wings can be attached with the struts and a short length of polystyrene rod to represent the braces used in reality to support the inner edge of the upper wing.

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After that, we can start painting. All over aluminium dope with cerrux grey on the nose metalwork and the red and blue stripes of HMS Ark Royal.

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One photo reference I found showed an Osprey of 800NAS with a red tail but with a striped panel superimposed – my guess is that this is a flight leader’s aircraft. I used the usual distressing powders and oils to make it look a little ‘lived in’. Then the big moment…

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Joining the wings went more simply than I had anticipated, with the two sides lining up roughly the same. I just have to photograph from the right angle to hide the worst gaps… I painted the inside of the fold lines an interior green and added a small bracing rod on the lower planes – I can’t see the Admiralty allowing the wings to be unsecured completely when folded.

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So that is the pair completed – an Osprey III with folded wings and an Osprey IV with wings out.

Next will be another modification project to replace a model i have already done, but with a new set of decals. Intrigued? then watch this space!

Another day, another Bucc…

Time to go back to heavy metal – the heaviest of all the metal flown by 800NAS, the superb Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2 and the new Airfix kit. You may recall I have already done one with wings folded, etc., so now I want to do one ‘clean’ and in the early Fleet markings.

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The kit is exactly as before, except there are more bits I’m not using. Airbrakes are not deployed, wings are level and the flaps are not set.

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Most of the faff with this build has been finding the decals to go on it. The all-over extra dark sea grey (EDSG) used in later years means that the underside decals are all white. I had to get a decal set from KH World that included black underside markings. However, this also included some yellow panel edging and other bits that the later Airfix markings didn’t use. I managed to cobble together the serial number and used things like the squadron badge from Airfix. The ‘E’ for HMS Eagle came from an Xtradecal set of white letters.

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All things considered, I’m happy with the look. Anything white at sea gets grubby quickly so I added some oil stains to the black panel lines to make the plane look a little ‘lived in’.

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So, what is next? Probably a lot of work. Both kits that are due to arrive first will have some modification to a greater or lesser extent. Let’s see how brave I feel…

Osprey comes home to roost

As mentioned before, at its inception 800 NAS operated the Hawker Nimrod and Osprey biplanes. Having completed a Nimrod I, Nimrod II and Osprey I, it is time to complete the line-up with an Osprey III. Well, I say “complete”. There was a problem (of which more below).

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There really isn’t much to say about this kit that wasn’t covered before. The biggest difference is that the model comes either as a float plane or with wheels.

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The colours are a bit brighter than on other biplanes, as this aircraft represents an Osprey flying from HMS Ark Royal, so the identification stripe is red on blue. The tail has a nice red colour that foretells of many aircraft to come.

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Now, the problem. While researching the aircraft I saw a photo of an Osprey with wings being folded. Yes, folding biplane wings. The hinge is at the trailing edge of upper and lower wings at the end of the ‘slot’ – just behind the rear support strut on the lower wing and the rear cabane strut on the upper wing.

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(Photo courtesy British Aerospace archives)

So, I need to do some research into the method of keeping the wings apart – I can see a v-shaped pair of bracing bars fitted toward the front of the break line – and what they did with the bracing wire that goes from the upper forward strut to the top of the undercarriage forward strut – here it appears to be loose but that isn’t exactly very Admiralty. Also, find out where the hinge is. So, I haven’t finished with the Ospreys just yet…

From Fury to Nimrod

When 800 NAS was formed from the amalgamation of Nos.402 and 404 Fleet Fighter Flights, the squadron was equipped with two Hawker biplanes, the Nimrod and the Osprey. I have previously made a resin kit of the Nimrod II and a polystyrene kit of the Osprey I. My sense of completeness demands a Nimrod I and an Osprey III and/or IV.

Problem is that there are no kits of the Nimrod I available. There was one made by Czech Master resin, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. However, a common way round this is to convert a Hawker Fury. How difficult could that be?

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So, to start off are a couple of Hawker Fury kits as donor models. Fortunately these are inexpensive and easy to find. There are several changes needed, but none was too troublesome (or so I thought).

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The Fury kit is reasonably simple – three sprue and a tiny windshield transparency. The first step is extending the wings. The wings on the Nimrod I were straight (the Nimrod II had a slight sweep) and four ribs longer than those of the Fury but with the same chord.

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So all you have to do is cut one wing to either side of the cabane strut marking, cut the other wing two ribs wider than that on each side, then square them off and glue them up. To help out, the two kits had been moulded from slightly different colour plastic – very thoughtful!

This has to be done for both top and bottom wings. Luckily, this means the outer struts will still line up with the holes for them in the wings.

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So, we then build up the fuselage as per the kit. We have to add some extras. First of all is a headrest being the cockpit for when the pilot was shot off the deck by the ‘accelerator’ (catapult). We also need to extend the exhausts, make an oil cooler for under the engine and, of course, an arrester hook.

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The headrest can be cut from the underwing gun pod supplied. The other of these can be used for the basis of the oil cooler, which is built up with tiny bits of plastic and acrylic. The exhaust is simply a bit of 1mm plastic round rod cut to length.

Nimrod_I__DSC8785To decorate the upper surface of the main wing, I am using the blue diamond pattern. I marked this out on a wide piece of masking tape then cut out the diamonds. Worked very well, I think!
Nimrod_I__DSC8786 As always, it is best to lay down some white first, then the colour on top. Then the blue is laid down to complete the diamonds.

The fuselage was painted a mix of cerrux grey for the metal panels and aluminium for the doped fabric on the rear fuselage and wings.

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Wings are a bit of a pain to set as there are no pins or recesses to help. I then set the struts to roughly the right angles, then when the glue has almost set I put the main wing in place, holding the wings apart at the right distance.

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We then had to make the undercarriage from some spare bits of the Osprey IV kit, as the Fury came with the later single-piece undercarriage legs. They were lower drag than the original triangular legs, but not as sturdy for deck landings.

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Finally, the rigging is put in along with some radio wires, plus a bit of dirt and oil and there we go, a not too shabby Hawker Nimrod I. Oh, and some Micro Sol applied to the port upper roundel to make it conform to the curve of the wing.

So, an Osprey IV is next then back to the heavy metal with a Buccaneer.

Scimitar folds its wings

I was nosing about on various web sites the other day, looking for a kit that was affordable and needed by the Project. Just for fun I had a shufti at the Aviation Megastore in Amsterdam and saw the Xtrakit Scimitar there for an absolute song – even including postage. I knew there would be something wrong with it – but in fact all that was missing was the decal sheet. These are easily available, so I decided to get out all the sharpest scalpel blades and go for a wing fold conversion.

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The kit is as before (sans decals, as I say), so there is little to discuss about it in general. The fun started when marking out the wing fold lines.

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As you can see, not exactly a simple straight line. But, with perseverance and not a small amount of luck I was able to get to a “that will do” stage and could glue the wing halves up.

The inner sections then went onto the fuselage (using the same peg and hole adaptation as before), and I turned to the newly exposed surfaces.

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I had lying around a Buccaneer wing fold conversion set from the days before the new Airfix Bucc.

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So I cut, bent and generally coerced it around the Scimitar with, I think, reasonably convincing results.

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Then it was a matter of paint, including a primer green on the inside of the wing. The scheme is for a Scimitar of 800NAS embarked on HMS Ark Royal (hence the ‘R’ on the 800NAS red tail) I had expected the wing interior to be either bare metal or white (to match the underside), but the Scimitar in the FAA Museum at Yeovilton has green primer.

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With some dirt and some oil, it is quite convincing I think! BTW, I remember saying this once to my Dad about another kit I had done – saying that the dirt and oil made it look realistic, not that (I added) this was any commentary on the standards of FAA servicing but in wartime things such as Admiral’s Inspection Standard go out of the window. He just laughed – mainly at the idea that anyone would care. He said the oil showed the wing wouldn’t jam up or down, and the dirt showed that no spanner-hand had been messing around with it! Well, he has the right to say stuff like that…

Anyway, back to this aircraft and I wanted to add some stores to the outer wing pylons (the inner pylons having fuel tanks). I mused about buying some bombs or rocket packs, but instead opted to use some 25-lb bombs I had lying around and use them as practice rounds.

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They look pretty good, especially when painted blue (as inert practice rounds were).

So, final assembly went well enough with the wings glued directly at a 90 degree angle and with a small piece of plastic sheet as a prop on the open side. This is painted red to act as the wing lock that was used when the aircraft was parked up. As a last flourish, I added some FOD (foreign object debris) guards for the engine intakes and exhausts and a ladder.

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These come as a single photo etch sheet and are simple enough to assemble. Painted red, they give a nice finish to the aircraft. I also added some spare NACA duct covers and got some pre-painted rbf (remove before flight) tags for the bomb pylons and for a pitot head cover for the wing. Oh, and a wheel chock!

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Overall I’m really happy with the way this has turned out. So much so that I’m going to add FOD guards to all my jets and rbf tags as needed.

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So, what next? Perhaps a Nimrod Mk.1…

 

 

 

 

 

Phase One complete

So, with the Nimrod done, I can look back on almost two years of model making and the progress to date – plus plans for the rest of the project.

I now have one of each named type flown by 800NAS. I do have many variants as well, but not of each type and not including wing folds. However, in order of their accession in to the Squadron, the types are as follows.

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Hawker Nimrod II

Nimrod I: May 1933 – Jan 1939

Nimrod II: Apr 1935 – Jan 1939

 

 

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Hawker Osprey I

Osprey I: May 1933 – Aug 1939

Osprey IV: Apr 1935 – Aug 1939

 

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Miles Magister

Dec 1937 – Sep 1938

 

 

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Gloster Sea Gladiator

Sep 1938 – Feb 1939

 

 

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Blackburn Skua

Oct 1938 – Apr 1941

 

 

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Blackburn Roc

May 1939 – Nov 1939

 

 

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Fairey Fulmar I

Fulmar I: Apr 1941 – Nov 1941

Fulmar II: Jun 1941 – Jul 1942

 

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Hawker Sea Hurricane IIc

Sea Hurricane Ib: Jun 1942 – Oct 1942 Sea Hurricane IIb: Sep 1942 – Oct 1942 Sea Hurricane VII: Sep 1942 – Oct 1942 Sea Hurricane IIc: Oct 1942 – Nov 1943

 

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Grumman Hellcat I

Hellcat I: Jul 1943 – May 1945

Hellcat II: Oct 1944 – Nov 1945

 

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Supermarine Seafire FR.47

Seafire XV: Jul 1946 – Feb 1947    Seafire XVII: Jan 1947 – Apr 1949 Seafire FR.47: Apr 1949 – Nov 1950

 

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Supermarine Attacker FB.2

Attacker F.1: Aug 1951 – May 1952 Attacker FB.1: Feb 1952 – Jan 1953 Attacker FB.2: Sep 1952 – Jun 1954

 

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Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.4

Sea Hawk FB.3: Nov 1954 – Jul 1955 Sea Hawk FGA.4: Jun 1955 – Apr 1956 Sea Hawk FGA.6: Jun 1955 – Mar 1959

 

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Supermarine Scimitar F.1(K)

Scimitar F.1: Aug 1959 – Feb 1964 Scimitar F.1(K): Sep 1963 – Aug 1966

 

 

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Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2C

Buccaneer S.1: Mar 1964 – Nov 1966 Buccaneer S.2: Sep 1966 – Feb 1972

 

 

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British Aerospace Sea Harrier FRS.1

Sea Harrier FRS.1: Mar 1980 – Apr 1995 Sea Harrier FA.2: Mar 1995 – Mar 2004

 

 

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British Aerospace Harrier GR.9A

Harrier GR.7: Mar 2006 – Mar 2009 Harrier T.10: Mar 2006 – Mar 2009 Harrier GR.9: Mar 2006 – Dec 2010

 

 

With eight more models to go, plus a few strategic replacements, perhaps the 800 Squadron Project will be complete by the end of 2020 – the 70th anniversary of the Squadron’s service in the Korean War.

Last of the many is the first…

So, as the last shall be first, so the first shall be last. This is the last kit in Phase One of the 800 Squadron Project – with this kit I have one of every type of aircraft flown by 800NAS in its history, from 1935 to 2010. What I don’t yet have is every mark of each type – with wing folded examples too – but that is Phase Two and the culmination of the whole thing. Oh, plus the aircraft of 4020 and 404 Fleet Fighter Flights that were the direct antecedents from which  800NAS was formed. But I digress…

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So, the Hawker Nimrod, in this case the Mark II. These already equipped 402 Flight when the amalgamation with 404 Flt spawned 800NAS. Very similar to the RAF’s Hawker Fury, but designed from scratch, the Nimrod was a very fine machine and very popular with its pilots. The Mark II differs from the Mark I by having a slightly larger main wing with a distinct yet small sweep and a more powerful version of the Kestrel engine.

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The kit is made from polyurethane resin (PUR). I have used PUR in detailing items before, but this is my first whole kit. I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience as the process of working with PUR is a steep learning curve. ‘Normal’ kit glue (polystyrene cement) doesn’t work, so the best thing is superglue. But that, of course, has its own issues. Also, although the detail achievable with PUR is amazing, the two fuselage halves were poorly fitting and had a slight warp. I’m told you can correct stuff like this with hot air as PUR is a thermoplastic, but it’s not something I’ll try. I’ll live with a wonky tailplane. The interplanetary struts are also of a rather optimistic definition of ‘fitting’, in that they don’t naturally line up correctly.

The kit also is bewildering in its included stuff. Decals are fine, and the small slab of photo-etch detailing is excellent. Then there is a kind of transparent blob from which one is supposed to fashion the tiny windshield. It was done much better in the Miles Magister kit, and would have been cheaper to make I suspect.

Anyway, I didn’t take any production photos because I found the whole thing reasonably traumatic (in a very much First World sense). It didn’t help that, while painting the rigging lines, I dropped the bloody thing and had to completely reset the upper wing.

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The paint is for an aircraft of HMS Courageous, with an adapted squadron badge on the fin and a painted blue stripe. The checker markings on the upper wing derive from the markings from 402 Flight as seen in a photo from Ray Sturtivant’s superb book “Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm“. I think 404 Flt used the blue diamonds seen on some Nimrods, so I’ll use those on the Nimrod I.

If I get over this, I will do more PUR kits as they are the only way to get some things, the Parnall plover, for example. But I’m not looking forward to it. Instead, I’ll probably go for the aforementioned Nimrod Mark I by converting the Hawker Fury. But in polystyrene…

Bombing up the new Bucc

If you’ve read my account of building the new Airfix Buccaneer S.2, you’ll know I think it to be an outstanding kit. But, there were a few niggles, and one was the empty bomb bay.

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I mean, why go to all that trouble to have a bomb bay if you’re not going to put anything in it? So, I get a set of resin 1000lb HE bombs of the period from a company called Reskit.

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They are resin with photo-etch brass fins. Fiddly is a word that springs to mind. Plus a few others, anyway, I think they work OK and give the Buccaneer the right sort of aggressive intent. BTW, I did fix the fin of the bomb at lower right…

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As with all the decal action on the belly of the plane, not many people will bother to look for them when the kit is on the shelf, but I feel happier and it’s my project, so there!

Next up is a report of something that caused me many troubles. If the last shall be first (and it was, as I think the Harrier GR.9 was the first 1/72 kit I made here), then naturally the first shall be last, and the last kit of Phase One of the project is the Hawker Nimrod.