by: Ben Micklem [ ]
Originally published on:
Introduction to the Typhoon The Hawker Typhoon followed in the footsteps of the Hurricane- and still shared many of that aircraft's construction techniques, such as the forward fuselage being based on a tubular framework rather than stressed skin. It was designed for the same fighter role as its predecessor, but as it turned out, the thick wing reduced its viability in this role by limiting the top speed at medium and high altitudes.
However, its thick wing allowed it to be developed into a stable weapons platform for ground attack. Typhoons regularly carried 2x 1000 lb bombs, and were particularly feared due to the use of 8x (and occasionally 12x) 60 lb rocket projectiles in the last year of the war.
Its role supporting the advancing Allied troops across continental Europe was one of the significant uses of air power in WW2. This success came at a high cost in lives of pilots, mostly lost to flak.
Airfix Airfix have been refreshing their product range, under Hornby management, to include many newly tooled aircraft kits. The first kits to get this treatment may have left experienced models a little underwhelmed- the surface detail on the Spitfire Mk IX in 1/72 was to a low standard. However, refinements have been made, and recent kits have been very well received.
The old Airfix Typhoon was one of their weakest kits, not only was the surface detail lacking, but also the shape had significant problems. Airfix hinted in the 2012 web-based advent calendar that we would get a new mould Typhoon in 2013, and it arrived in April.
The kit follows closely on the heels of the Brengun Typhoon that can be made up into many different configurations, with a car-door boxing announced to follow.
Examining the sprues It is immediately obvious from the sprues (four grey and one clear) that this kit is special. It has 74 parts, which for a 1/72 single engine fighter is quite high.
The kit can only be built into a late model Typhoon with four bladed prop, large Tempest tail planes, faired-over wing landing lights and of course the bubble canopy. The bomb racks are also positioned for 1000 lb bomb carriage (earlier 250 and 500 lb bombs had the racks slightly more inboard and had a longer fairing). Only the Mk. I steel rocket rails are provided. I don't know of any source for 1/72 aluminium Mk. 3 rails that are needed for a late-war rocket installation.
It differs from other kits by implementing three key engineering innovations.
Cockpit, wheel wells and radiator
Unlike the Brengun kit that reproduces the cockpit as a single unit with its tubular framework, Airfix have divided the cockpit into parts that are attached directly to the fuselage halves (instrument panel, seat and head armour) and those attached to the underside of the wheel wells (rudder pedals, control column and ankle boards). From building the kit, I see that this makes it nearly impossible to get the alignment of anything wrong. With kits with separate cockpits as a single module- e.g. Hasegawa 1/48 Typhoon- it is easy to get the cockpit installed at a slight angle, or closer to one fuselage half than the other, resulting in the head armour not being central.
This design feature also allows the wheel wells to have the correct squared shape- rather than the curves of the wing underside opening. Airfix have also included different versions of the wheel well covers, enabling fool-proof (and gap-proof) modelling of a wheels-up aircraft. This is a common feature of Airfix 1/72 new tools, and combined with providing a pilot, is a great differentiator from other brands by providing excellent in-flight modelling potential out of the box.
A third benefit is the resolution of how to represent the upper surface of the radiator fairing (that between the engine and the radiator). The kit part for the cockpit floor framework and integrated wheel wells also has the radiator attached to it, and represents this upper fairing both core and after of the radiator itself.
Another really nice feature of the cockpit is how the instrument panel supports the compass and gun sight. The gun sight is a much better representation than any other injection kit (even the Hasegawa 1/48), having the correct non-reflector design, the head-protecting padding block, and the support framework.
Cannons An aircraft kit with four long cannon fairings poses a problem- should these be moulded into the wing halves, or as separate items, or a combination with the tips being separate parts? Individual parts are hard to align (things are trickier when their are two on each wing which have to be parallel, any mistake is very noticeable). Moulding a thin round cylinder into two halves leaves alignment and clean-up issues. Airfix have solved this by making both fairings into a single piece that is sandwiched into the wing. As a side effect, it was quite easy do them to include cannon and ammo details in this part, and by supplying additional cover panels, allow the opening up of the wing to reveal them.
Spinning Airscrew A spinning prop is still a satisfying result in a finished kit. One of the established ways of achieving this is to sandwich a rubber grommet into the fuselage halves (or between spinner and prop) to allow the insertion of a fixed axle from the prop (or fuselage). This also allows the prop to be removed, as it is a friction fit. The only issues with this is that the axle has to be perfectly aligned with the front of the engine and back of the spinner, else the prop won't spin, or there will be gaps.
Airfix have solved this by having a separate spinning prop module that is built independently of the fuselage. This is then friction-fitted into the nose in a way that allows tilting the module in any axis, as well as inserting to different depths, allowing you to correct any spacing issues between the engine cowlings and spinner back plate. It also retains the ability to remove the prop for transport.
Marking options and decals The kit comes with two marking options. I would have preferred a third option for a kit in this price range.
Option A) Sqn Leader Basil Gerald 'Stampe' Stapleton DFC, No.247 (Chino-British) Sqn, RAF Eindhoven 1944.
This is a rocket-armed and under-surface invasion stripes machine, with a nice nose-art of a rocket hitting an eagle and swastika emblem that has burst into flames. The spinner is also a striking red with yellow back plate. The colour painting guide and assembly instructions gives both bomb and rocket options, but the aircraft, being from 247 Sqn, would have been rockets-only. The colour painting guide correctly shows this aircraft without the tropical air filter on the belly, but this could be added into the instructions at the appropriate stage. This aircraft would have had a Ďcuckoo-doorí air filter in the middle of the radiator, and one is not supplied. It can be scratch built from sprue and thin plastic card. This being a 1944 aircraft, it may well have had Mk. I rocket rails, which are the type supplied.
Option B) Flt Officer A H Fraser, No.439 (Westmount) Sqn, No.143 Wing (RCAF), RAF Eindhoven, 1945.
This pilot claimed an Me 262 in this aircraft. It carries the 1945 2TAF markings of C1 roundels in all positions which makes is a bit more colourful. It would have only carried bombs, not rockets, but again the colour guide shows both, and doesnít indicate which to include in the assembly instructions. Also, the colour painting guide correctly shows this aircraft with the tropical air filter on the belly, and again they should have put this in the assembly instructions. Again, a cuckoo-door filter is needed, but not supplied.
The decals in two samples of this kit are well printed with accurate (to my eye) colours. All the colours are in register. This is the first 1/72 kit of the Typhoon to include any stencil markings, which is great to see. Decals are also used for the instruments. I would prefer to have embossed detail and dry-brush, personally.
The Build I built up the kit in a couple of hours for the purpose of this review. I used superglue everywhere except the canopy, for which I used the Revell acrylic glue, Contacta Clear. As such, the gaps that you see are almost always due to the gluing method (I wanted to be able to take the kit apart to paint one day). I was also building quickly, not even test fitting parts, so it was a real test of the fit and engineering of the kit.
In the beginning I started by removing the small internal parts from the sprues. There are only a few visible ejection pin marks. Unfortunately, four of these are in the beautiful wheel wells, amongst the ribs, and would be hard to remove without damaging the ribs. The parts are on the whole free of flash. When cleaning a hint of flash from the head armour, I had not noticed the very thin and fragile seat mounts, and I broke one off (can be seen in the photo). Take care here.
Stage One Progressing to through the first stages of assembly, everything went very smoothly. The gunsight and compass connect to the instrument panel, the seat to its panel, and the control column and rudder bar to the combined wheel well/radiator/cockpit floor part. The air splitter attaches to the radiator, which is the first 1/72 typhoon radiator to be accurately shaped. The grille texture is super fine, perhaps too fine. You cannot see the mesh with your eye. It might be brought out by careful dry-brushing with a really dry brush. The rear wheel has the right profile for the late-type anti-shimmy wheel, but due to the limitations of moulding, it doesnít feature the groove that should run around its perimeter. This could be added with a saw.
The fuselage The next phase of assembly is the fitting of parts into one of the fuselage halves. Here I purposely (honest!) forgot to include the pilot and the radiator flap (which is a nicely repositionable part) before I closed up. Both could be squeezed in afterwards. I was particularly impressed at the pilotís fit, as this is often an issue with a generic pilot being supplied (and leg amputation being a necessity). The pilot should however be wearing his oxygen mask, as this was compulsory in the Typhoon due to CO poisoning. Revell make some nice pilot figures with masks in place, so a head transplant onto the Airfix body will make this good. The closed fuselage shows the nice gunsight framework, and the seal around the rear of the bubble canopy, the first time I have seen this on any kit of the Typhoon, which is important if you have the canopy open.
The rudder and tailplanes match up well. I had a slightly worse fit with the right stabiliser, but if I had sanded the sprue gate more this probably wouldnít have occurred.
the big bits The wing and fuselage halves have excessively large attachment points, so take care to remove them. Do not clean up around the holes for the cannon- they are not supposed to be round, nor follow the round panel line of the base of the fairing, and if you open them up, the cannons will have gaps around them. When attaching the lower wing to the fuselage and wheel wells, you first have to have decided whether you will open the pre-marked holes of bomb rack or rocket rails, the bellow air filter, and the stirrup step hole. Donít forget to add the underside navigation light that is on the clear sprue. If you are build a wheels-up model, fit the wheel well doors now (out of phase in the instructions), as the fit is tight and cannot be easily adjusted later.
the cannons Next, the cannons are fitted. This takes a little time to get the alignment right, with test fits of the upper wing parts, before committing to glue. I didnít take this time, and was using superglue, so one of my wingís upper part doesnítí t fit as well as it should. Note that the cannon shell chutes are represented by a single slot, whereas the real ones have one long and one short, per cannon. Maybe one is for links and one for casings, Iím not an expert. Open these smaller ones up using a reliable plan of the underside of the wings and a sharp blade, before closing the wings. If you which to exposure the gun bays, cut through from the upper surface, to ensure a good finish. The replacement folded doors for the bays look really nice, with ribs and the inside of the bulges modelled.
Undercarriage The undercarriage legs have the thinnest sprue gates on the kit, which is lucky as they are very fine parts. The holes for the legs are very deep, so the angle is pre-set to the correct one. The angle of the bulged wheels is also pre-set by non-circular axle mounts. The wheels have the right amount of toe-in. It might seem, from photos of the unassembled wheels, that the bulges are too pronounced, but I feel they are quite good. The inner sides of the tyres (those away from the legs, with the hub spoke detail), have a large bulge due to the toe-in, a nice touch. The wheels have a well-thought-out build-up from two parts, with the inner hub being integral on the outer wheel half. This should make painting the inner hubs separately from the tyre possible. The inner wheel well doors have integral pistons, which allows them to be very finely detailed without fiddly assembly. However, they are so thin they can easily be bent, and the angle of the doors changed, so test fit and if necessary carefully bend the pistons to the correct angle.
Rockets 'n' rails Iíve not test-built the rockets or bombs, but they look good on the sprues. I have a feeling that having all the rocket rail mounts the same is an error. I believe, from looking at photos, that only the outer rail is attached in the way depicted in the kit, and as you move inwards, the mounts are shorted. The two inner mounts on each side are short enough to not have fairings around them. If you are interested in this level of accuracy, I am sure scratch-building new mounts for the six inner rails would not be a problem.
The propeller The last sub-assembly to build and add to the kit is the prop. It is made from five parts (axle, mounting cylinder, spinner back plate, prop and spinner. The only glue is used to attached the prop and spinner both to the back plate, and then the axle is inserted into the mount with a drop of glue at the end to attach to the back of the prop. This is pre-set to allow a good space between the mount and the moving back plate. This whole assembly then fits into the fuselage without the need for glue, and allows for adjustment of the depth and angle of the prop to get a good spacing all around.
And finally, the clear parts are added. The fit of these is perfect, and just a touch of Contacta Clear holds them on very well.
In summary, the kitís fit was really good, especially considering the complexity of some the parts and the options available.
Conclusions An excellent kit from Airfix, with some really nice engineering touches. The open gun bays make for an extra point of interest, without any stress, time and cost of fitting aftermarket parts. I would have liked there to be separate clear parts for the wingtip navigation lights, as I hate sanding bits of clear sprue to achieve this by hand.
The panel lines look good, and although the fasteners on the cowling would be better has rings rather than just holes, I like the surface detail on the whole. The moving surfaces edges could be better defined- they are no wider than the panel lines. I would be most happy if the removable panels had lines as thick as they are now, and all non-opening panel lines were a bit thinner.
There is some mis-match of the fin shape and the overall length of the fuselage with published plans, so if this is of concern, check your references and you might have some work to do. The Brengun kit doesnít have these issues, and the surface detail is a fraction nicer. However, the time to build it to achieve the same level of fit will be mush greater.
I would love to see a future boxing with an extra sprue for 45 gal drop tanks, Mk. 3 rocket rails and the cuckoo-door air filter.