Special Hobby


1/48 Special Hobby Fairey Firefly Mk.IV /V "Foreign Service"


by Steve Long

 

Review Type

First Look

Scale:

1/48

Price:

 

Contents and Media:

7 x sprues, 1 PE fret, Rsin x 2 pieces and clear sprue x 1

Advantages:

 

Disadvantages:

Some detail missing

Recommendation:

Highly Recommended

 

Introduction

Following the successful introduction of the Firefly Mk 1 into service with the Royal Navy, the Fairey Aviation Company began development work of a new variant to take advantage of the recently developed two speed two stage supercharged Rolls Royce Griffon engines. A Firefly FR.1 was converted to take the 2035 HP Griffon 61 and was designated the Firefly Mk.III.

Although the new engine increased performance the “beard” type radiator of the Mk.1 caused considerable aerodynamic instabilities and a redesign was required. The radiators were moved into the leading edge of the wing, the area previously occupied by the radiator was used for an air intake scoop for the carburettor. This was changed early in the new aircrafts production run to an intake directly behind the propellor. The fin leading edge was redesigned to include a fillet and the wing tips were fitted with a “clipped” tip. The aircraft was redesignated the Firefly Mk IV.

The Firefly Mk.IV powered by the 2,245hp Griffon 74 entered service in 1947. The aircraft served in several rolls including fighter reconnaissance, night fighter and target tug. Its endurance was increased over the earlier models with the introduction of 55 gallon underwing tanks.

The next variant was the Firefly Mk.V. While similar to the MK.IV it differed in having power folding wings and a retractable tail wheel. The Mk.V was the first variant to take on the anti submarine warfare role. This saw the removal of the wing cannons and the installation of an ac inverter for the flight instruments fitted in the port outer ammunition bay.

Firefly Mk.IV’s & Mk.V’s served with both the Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy in the Korean conflict, proving itself to be an excellent strike aircraft.

The AS.6 was a development of the AS version of the Mk.V. It differed in having British rather than American sonar buoys and equipment.

The Royal Australian Navy operated 108 Fireflies of different marks (Including four T.5’s locally converted from kits) from 1948 until 1966.

The kit

Special Hobbies new Firefly kit has been highly anticipated since its first announcement some time ago. Previously the only way to have this important naval aircraft in quarter scale was to tackle the challenging (and expensive) PP Aeropart’s multi-media vac kit.

It arrives in Special Hobbies standard blue and white box with a painting of a Dutch Navy FR.4 over a rocky coast line. Inside are four full-sized sprue’s and three small sprue’s in mid-grey styrene, with fine engraved detail, a clear sprue, a small fret of photo etch brass for the under wing rocket mounts, resin undercarriage bay and exhausts, decal sheet and an old eye unfriendly instruction booklet. Four of the sprue’s are common with the previous Mk.I release and include several superfluous parts for that variant. Among the parts marked not for use are the 90 gallon drop tanks and cannon barrels used on the Mk.IV and Mk.V versions not represented in this kit, allowing the modeller to easily create any sub type of these variants from the kit.

 

Construction begins in the front cockpit. Two bulkheads assemble onto the floor, the seat, control column, rudder pedals and various levers are then attached. The detail here is quite good though there are no belts on the seat and the seat pan appears to be too deep.

 

Next is the rear cockpit. The construction is similar to the front office but unfortunately the detail here is largely inaccurate. Special Hobby has included a full bulkhead for the front of the cockpit with some detail on it but have missed the black boxes and battery mounting.

 

AS.V rear cockpit

The rear bulkhead has some nondescript indentations on it but misses the smoke float launch tube and the various equipment stowage’s. Replacement with an accurate plasticard version would greatly enhance this area.

 

A single part is used to represent the shelves and electronic equipment. This is the same set up as used in the MK.I kit and is totally inaccurate for any version of the Mk.IV or Mk.V. The supplied faces for the various black boxes are very well detailed. The prominent floor vent has been missed. The seat is usable but would benefit from some minor reshaping.

 

The next stage involves detailing the front cockpit side walls and instrument panel. The side walls are built up from multiple components including the throttle box, switch and fuse panels trim gear box and flare stowage. Even the Very pistol is included.

The instrument panel is well detailed but uses a decal to represent the instrument faces. I’m not convinced in this method and would recommend using the excellent instrument decals available from Airscale. A stand by compass and three part gun sight are fitted to the panel. The gun sight is the earlier reflector type fitted to the Mk.I and needs to be replaced with the later Mk.4B gyro gun sight. Other than the lack of seat belts and the incorrect gun sight the cockpit creates an extremely good replica.

 

Colour call outs for both cockpits are overall black. The author has been associated with four of these aircraft, all had black front cockpits but WD-826, WD-828 & WJ-109  (built as AS.6’s)all had interior green (British) rear cockpits. VX-388 (built as an FR.V and  the reference for this review) has both cockpits in black. Another case of check your references first.

Assembling the fuselage is next. Two superb resin exhausts are fitted followed by the cockpit assemblies and tail wheel mount. Inserts for the lower engine cowl and arrestor hook bay are next. These fit reasonably well. The engine cowl has the louvers for the air filter and looks good. The original “lip” intake fitted to the Mk.IV prototype and early production versions is included for those wishing to build this variant.

 

The arrestor hook bay is far too shallow and needs to be deepened. A few passes with the tip of a razor saw and some plasticard backing should improve this area.

There is a “V” shaped section in the rear fuselage aft of the recess for the hook knuckle not represented in the kit. This is to prevent the arrestor wire from damaging the fuselage during an arrest. It can be clearly seen in this photo.

The smoke flare/ sono buoy chute is missing.

The generator and magneto blast tube inlets will need to be opened up.

Next is the wing assembly. A one piece resin undercarriage well is fitted to the lower wing. The well is finely detailed though a tad shallow. The canvas lining used in the prototype is missing here though in this scale this is purely a nitpick. The upper wings are fitted next then the radiators and fairings. The radiator splitter plates are finely reproduced, the radiators have moulded on matrix detail and the leading edge fairings capture the distinctive look very well. The radiator outlets and cooling flaps on the underside of the wing are missing. The outlet duct needs to be opened up and the flap can be made from plasticard or some left over P/E fret.

A clear landing light cover is next; unfortunately the distinctive landing light itself is not supplied. Clear wingtip nav light covers finish the wing assembly, these need a splash of clear green and red to complete.

Next is the undercarriage assembly. The gear leg is has separate torque links and bracing struts. These are very finely moulded but appear to be about 3mm too long. Luckily the extra length is at the top of the strut and can be removed without losing detail.  The gear doors are superb. The wheels have reasonable hub detail but the tyre appears to be slightly too large in diameter and does not have the correct block tread pattern.

 

The next stage deals with the underside of the fuselage. The arrestor hook has a separate knuckle; the tail wheel is in two parts, the fork and separate wheel. If the builder intends to make a Mk.IV the engraved lines for tail wheel doors will need to be filled as this variant didn’t have the retractable unit. The arrestor hook bridle hooks, footstep and aerials for the radalt  (RT-7 / APN-1) are supplied and are quite small and delicate. The only criticism here is the area around the catapult hooks needs to be reshaped to show the concave section of the prototype. A few swipes with a round file should work well.

Now we come to the under wing drop tanks. The kit supplies both the 90 gallon auxiliary tanks and the ASH radar pod. The subtle differences between the fuel tanks and radar pod have been captured extremely well. Though not noted in the instructions the kit also supplies the two 90 gallon long range tanks. These are very well detailed down to the cut out in the wing rack fairing for the link chute clearance.

 

Oddly the under wing pitot probe has been missed, fortunately it is quite easy to scratch. The short cannon barrels can be fitted now if they are relevant to the variant, these butt up against the wing leading edge and may need a touch of filler.

Underwing rocketry next. The blast plates fitted to the wing under surface is supplied as a P/E part. Two racks of twin tiered 60Lb rocket projectiles are supplied for each blast plate. There are additional rockets supplied that would allow the modeller to display the four rack set up carried on some Fireflies, though additional blast plates would need to be fabricated.

Photograph via the RANFAA Museum

The RP’s are quite acceptable in this scale though the purist may wish to change the fins for a more in scale appearance. The final stage of construction deals with the cockpit canopies and propeller.

The propellor consists of four blades, a spinner and a spinner back plate. The spinner is accurate in outline and length. The blades are too much of a taper and have a distinctly pointed tip. They look more like the blades fitted to a Mk.I than the later variant.

 

Not an easy fix as the kit blade is too narrow to reshape.

The canopies are reasonably thin, clear and annoyingly in one piece. Separating them will be an exercise in patience and profanity. Barracuda studios offer a vac canopy replacement for the AZ/Grand Phoenix Mk.I that may be usable on this kit as well; at the very least the pilots sliding hood and the aft observers hatch. The distinctive air vent / mirror mount on the pilots canopy has been missed. Not an easy thing to scratch given its size in 1/48th. Note the subtle curve on the top of the windscreen and canopy.

Finally a very nice HF aerial mast is fitted. Two additional areas to be addressed are the missing exhaust glare shields and wing fold jury struts. The glares shields extend from mid way on the exhaust stack back to the auxiliary gearbox access panel.

 

Research appears to indicate they were fitted in mid production of the Mk.V and after. They appear absent on most Mk.IV’s though they may have been a retro fit on the NF.IV.

Royal Navy FR.IV’s

They can be easily replicated from thins brass or plasticard.

The wing fold jury struts are represented in the kit by a thin engraved section on the aft rear fuselage. On the prototype the jury strut is a two part affair consisting of a square section and a tubular section, hinged in the middle. When retracted the tube section sits in a well in the fuselage sit while the square section lays flush against the fuselage skin.

 

Colour schemes

Three options are supplied.

 

The decals are by well printed, in register and feature quite legible airframe stencilling.

Dimensional accuracy

When compared to reliable plans and the main dimensions stated in the aircrafts leading particulars the kit is over size in wingspan by four millimetres and spot on in length.

Conclusions

This is a long awaited kit of an important and overlooked FAA aircraft, Special Hobby have done it justice. While it could be more detailed in the areas mentioned above, the basic shapes and details are spot on.  It will build into an accurate replica from the box and reward those wishing to put in the extra effort.

Highly recommended.

References

Special Thanks to Nicole Fransen of the Camden Air Museum for access to VX-388