Special Hobby Fairey Firefly Mk.1 “Home Fleet”
Title of model in white (Trebuchet MS) text
by Steve Long
The Firefly was a truly versatile aircraft, having served in the fighter, night fighter anti submarine warfare and target tug roles to name a few. It served with distinction in the closing stages of the Second World War and the Korean conflict.
Developed as a result of Admiralty specification N8/39 issued in 1939 for a new ship board reconnaissance fighter power by the untried Rolls Royce Griffon. At a time when the turreted fighter still in vogue, the design team at Fairey Aviation Company found a turret would interfere with a potential fighter’s agility and so settled on a low wing monoplane similar in layout to the previous Fairey Fulmar.
No prototypes were ordered but a preliminary production contract of 200 aircraft was awarded. The Firefly went from drawing board to first flight in 13 months. The first true production aircraft flew in January 1943. Carrier trials were carried out onboard HMS Illustrious towards the end of 1942. Although not as fast as had been hoped, the Firefly was a vast improvement over the previous Fulmar in both agility and firepower.
Fireflies were soon in action with both the Home Fleet and British Pacific fleet. Fireflies operated by 1770 Squadron, based onboard HMS Implacable were involved in “Operation Mascot” the operation to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz. 1770 Squadrons aircraft were used for both reconnaissance and flak suppression mission. The first production aircraft, Z1830 was used during these operations.
The Firefly was unable to prove its worth in the air to air role in Europe, having to wait until its deployment to the Indian Ocean, scoring its first aerial victory in January 1944.
The Firefly proved its worth during the invasion of Okinawa and into the early stages of the Korean conflict, gaining a reputation for sturdiness and reliability.
Special Hobbies Firefly family has been long awaited by devotees of Royal Navy aircraft. This, the first in the series arrives in Special Hobbies trade mark box with artwork showing a 1771 Squadron aircraft.
Inside are 6 sprues in light grey plastic, one in clear and a resin undercarriage bay and exhausts. The plastic parts have finely engraved lines that hold the detail well. Thankfully there are no masses of rivets. While not being able to compare the kit parts to reliable plans, the kit does appear to match the principal dimensions from the types leading particulars and captures the look of the prototype very well.
There are multiple parts marked not for use on the instructions. These include a 4 bladed propellor, two tier rocket rails a radar pod and rack different rear cockpit parts and underwing drop tanks. These are for future releases including the much hoped for Mark V.
Construction starts in the cockpit. The floors and bulkheads are assembled then detailed with numerous detail parts. While not as detailed as the AZ kit in this area it still builds up into an acceptable replica that matches the pilots notes quite well. The only criticisms I could have here are the lack of seat belts and the sparse detail on the instrument panel. A decal is provided for the panel but it looks basic and unconvincing.
The cockpit sub assemblies are fitted to the fuselage as well as the chin radiator, arrestor hook insert and two beautifully detailed resin exhausts. Next is the wing assembly. This has a resin insert for the gear wells. The insert is nicely moulded but a touch shallow. The wing has separate nav lights in clear and a clear insert for the landing light, though the prominent light itself is missing.
The landing gear follows. The struts have separate scissor links, drag links and side links. These are very well detailed. The tyres are the correct non treaded variety and have excellent hub detail. The gear doors are finely moulded and capture the shape of the original perfectly.
The final stage of construction gives the builder several options to choose from including faired and unfaired cannons, both long and short barrelled cannons are supplied, early and late style pilots canopy and underwing rocket rails.
The canopies are thin, clear and unfortunately moulded in one piece. Separating them will be an exercise in patience. The supplied underwing fairings for the rockets are a touch to angular but can easily be reshaped by any competent modeller.
Three colour scheme options are supplied:
Fairey Firefly MK1 Z1905 / Q No 1771 Squadron HMS Implacable. 1944.
Fairey Firefly MK1 Z1830 / 5-M No 1770 Squadron HMS Indefatigable, July 1944.
Fairey Firefly Mk 1 Z2116 / E3-J No 731 Squadron East Haven, Late 1944.
The decals are well printed, in register and the colours appear to be correct, though the yellow is a bit bright. A full set of airframe stencils is supplied.
Overall a good beginning to the long awaited Firefly family from Special Hobby, the added bonus of the unused parts will allow the modeller to build not just the Mk1 of the kit but the later FR 1 and NF 2 variants.
Review sample courtesy of MPM via CMR.