AIRFIX


Airfix 1/48 Hawker Sea Fury FB.11


by Steve Long

 

Introduction

Originally conceived as a “Tempest light fighter” for operations against the Japanese in the Far East, the Sea Fury evolved from a joint RN / RAF specification of 1943. Overtaken by the jet age the RAF withdrew from the project and the Royal Navy, cautious of the development of jet aircraft for Naval use, continued with the aircrafts introduction to service.

The first prototype SR.661 made its maiden flight February of 1945 and the first production version, the F.X entered service in August 1947. The next version, the FB.11 introduced provision for underwing bombs or rockets in addition to the four 20mm Hispano cannons fitted in the wings.

Powered by a Bristol Centaurus sleeve valve radial engine of 2,550 HP the Sea Fury is arguably one of the fastest piston engine fighters ever built.

101 Sea Furies served with the Royal Australian Navy from 1949 until being replaced by the DeHavilland Sea Venom in 1956. RAN Sea Furies served in Korea with 805 & 808 Squadrons and were famous for the famous “runaway Auster) incident in the skies over Sydney in August 1955.

Four RAN aircraft remain in Australia, VW.647 at the Camden Museum of Aviation, VW.623 & WG.630 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Nowra and a hybrid of several airframes now marked as VX.730 at the Australian War Memorial.


The Kit

Airfix’s announcement in 2016 of a new quarter scale Sea Fury was met with much fanfare, especially from those of us with an interest in the Fleet Air Arms of the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy. Before the Airfix kit the only kits in 48th scale were the ancient Falcon vacform, the basic and challenging Hobbycraft kit and the accuracy challenged Trumpeter kit.

The kit arrives in Airfix’s standard red box with a painting of a Royal Navy Sea Fury doing some bridge work in North Korea. Inside are five sprues of blue grey styrene in a single bag. The single clear sprue is individually bagged to prevent damage.

Options are given for landing gear up or down and wings folded or spread. Underwing stores include double tiered rocket projectiles, British 500lb bombs 90 & 45 gallon drop tanks and the underwing camera pod based on a 90 gallon drop tank. To help you get this lot into the air a full RATOG pack is included. What looks like two US 500lb bombs are included. This caused some raised eyebrows when first shown as to why Airfix would include American munitions, however some recent research by the chaps on Britmodeller have found evidence that these stores are in fact be leaflet carriers with a visible longitudinal seam down their sides.

 

The Construction Layout:

Construction starts in the cockpit. A front and rear bulkhead assemble to the cockpit tub, the detail on the bulkheads is noteworthy as Airfix has correctly portrayed the rear bulkhead as an open frame work not as a solid bulkhead as with previous kits. The bracket at the back of the headrest is a bit short. The tub has the side consoles molded integrally. The detail here is basic and accurate. It should be adequate for most modellers but still give the super detailer something to do. The control column captures the distinctive shape of the original and the rudder pedals feature delicate linkages. The instrument panel has fine details molded on and several decals to represent the dial faces.

 

Two omissions do draw attention, there is no gun sight provided and the distinctive compass pedestals at the base of the instrument panel are missing. This may have been due to Airfix using a restored aircraft as reference, the gun sight is usually removed in a flying warbird and the position occupied by the compass pedestal in used for the installation of modern avionics in the RN Historic Flight aircraft.

 

Two fuselage sidewalls mount to the cockpit tub, these have the VHF/ZBX radio controllers, canopy winder and throttle quadrant molded in. Again the detail here is more than adequate for the scale.

The cockpit tub, tail wheel well and bulkhead with a wing spar and now fitted before the fuselage is closed up. Unfortunately the review kit has a short shot on the right hand fin leading edge. It is easily fixed but it would be better if it wasn’t there.

The next step involves the main landing gear well and lower wing. The gear well has a centre part to which a set of gear door jacks are fitted, the well is then fitted to the lower wing. The detail in the well is a bit basic, it has the door jacks and gear up locks but misses the myriad of wing fold and fuel pipe work that fill this area on the prototype. In fairness to Airfix it would be extremely difficult to convincingly mold this nightmare of British engineering.

 

Next comes a single piece air intake and some cleverly designed cannon barrels. These attach in such a way to allow the barrels to sit in the centre of the wing cut out and certainly improve the look of the finished model. The lower wing is now assembled to the fuselage.

The engine assembly comes next. The engine face has cylinder and manifold detail that will look the part under the close fitting cowl. Two cowling panels and a rear ring mount to the front ring. Two finely detailed sets of exhausts complete the engine assembly.
Moving on we next fit the tailplanes and rudder. Here Airfix has molded the panel fastening screws as raised. These are flush on the prototype and should be sanded off.

The next sections deal wing fitting the outer wings. For a spread version two large brackets are fitted to the lower wing. The upper inner and outer wing complete then fit to this part.
For folded wings the inner and outer sections are assembled separately with wing fold point details added. The detail here is spot on with accurate hinges and such items as the expansion loops in the hydraulic lines and cannon shell feed chutes added.

 

One the underside of the wings are a set of lights, landing light under the left wing and downward ident lights under the right. On the prototype these are a lamp assembly fitted to a bracket under a clear panel. Airfix have provided decals to sit in molded recesses in the wing.

 

The landing gear comes next, the tail wheel strut assembles from three pieces, it’s quite good but the strut seems a little long, I would shorten the strut by a millimetre or two. The main gear is very well detailed and very accurate. One thing to watch is the tear drop fairings molded on the gear doors. These were part of a modification to later Sea Furies to increase the extension of the gear legs and prevent “pecking” of the propellor. These weren’t fitted to RAN aircraft but can be easily removed with a sharp knife.

 

The colour callouts here are incorrect, the gear doors and legs should be the same colour as the underside.

Main wheels come in two halves. The detail is quite good but cleaning up the seam on block tread tyres will be a chore.

The propellor has been a weak point in all previous Sea Fury kits but Airfix have captured the look of the prototype perfectly. Its construction allows it to be fitted after the rest of the kit is built and still allow the prop to rotate for the occasional game of hangar pilot (not that we ever do that!)

Jumping a few steps brings us to the last few details. An extendable footstep is included though the flap on the fuselage step will also have to be opened to be accurate. A separate oil cooler flap is a nice touch. The pitot probe clear nav lights and arrestor hook come next. The only comment here would be the knuckle on the hook is a bit large.

 

Last part of the airframe is the windscreen and canopy, the windscreen incorporates a section of the upper fuselage. This makes installation a lot easier and prevents wayward cement stains. The canopy is quite clear and can be fitted open or closed.

To complete the model the under wing ordinance is now addressed. The drop tanks assemble from two halves and feature the ridge line that runs around the outer edges of the tank, modellers should note the 90 gallon tanks were only used for ferrying purposes and were not for operational use. The bombs and leaflet canisters are ok for the scale. The 60Lb rocket projectiles come in two halves. This makes for a finer looking end product but cleaning up the seams will be hard work.

The RATOG pack consists of 9 parts and looks great. These weren’t used on RAN aircraft.
The camera pod assembles well but has no internal detail, the modeller will have to source their own camera.

Hawker yellow, a brief note

Some years ago in the early days of the authors association with the Camden Museum of Aviation it was noted that many Sea Fury components were painted in a light yellow primer. These were dismissed as a form of yellow zinc chromate primer and promptly forgotten about. Later a pair of nav light covers were discovered in the Sea Fury parts area, one was still in its original primer and the other had been hastily brush painted with yellow zinc. The difference was immediately apparent.

Further research in the museum archives and with many a long discussion with noted aviation historian, the late great Edgar Brooks it was discovered the Hawker Aircraft Company used their own in house primer on several of their aircraft, most notably the Sea Fury and the Sea Hawk.

The result of this research was passed on to Airfix who have used Humbrol 74 as an acceptable match.

 

Colour Schemes:

Two colour schemes are provided

A full set of airframe stencils are provided, these are both accurate and quite legible.

Dimensional Accuracy

When compared to the dimensions stated in the aircrafts leading particulars the kit scales out within a millimetre or two.

Conclusions

The Airfix Sea Fury is a superb interpretation of what many consider the ultimate piston engine fighter. It does have a few niggly omissions and issues with quality control it is now possible to build an acceptable and accurate replica from the box without resorting to expensive aftermarket parts.

Highly recommended.


References

Special thanks to Nicole Thomas, Director of the Camden Museum of Aviation for access to VW.647.