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Swift FR.5 Kit

Airfix 1/72 Swift FR.5 Kit First Look

By Michael J. Gething

Date of Review December 2015 Manufacturer Airfix
Subject Swift FR.5 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 4003 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Excellent detail Cons Duff belly tank
Skill Level Basic MSRP (BP) £14.99

First Look

Swift FR.5 Kit
Swift FR.5 Kit
Swift FR.5 Kit
Swift FR.5 Kit
Swift FR.5 Kit
Swift FR.5 Kit

Although not the greatest Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter of the late-1950s/early-1960s, in its photo-reconnaissance role the Supermarine Swift FR.5 (Fighter, Reconnaissance Mk 5) redeemed its reputation to a degree, while the later F.7 model went on to play an important part in the development and testing of early British air-to-air missiles (AAM).

Having flown two development models, the Type 510 and Type 535, powered by Nene centrifugal jet engines in 1948 and 1950, the Swift was ordered into production (two prototypes and 100 series aircraft, powered by the axial-flow Avon jet engine) in November 1950 as a potential alternative, should the Hawker Hunter (ordered a month earlier) fail to meet requirements. The prototype Swift flew on 5 August 1951 and the first production Swift F.1 on 25 August 1952. The F.1 was armed with two 30 mm Aden cannon, while the F.2 model with four cannon and featured a cranked-wing leading edge. The Swift F.3 introduced afterburning (re-heat) and the F.4 had a variable-incidence tailplane.

The Swift was the first British-designed swept-wing fighter to enter RAF service. The F.1 and F.2 models were only issued to one RAF Fighter Command unit – 56 Squadron (Sqn) – where it served from February 1954 to May 1955, when it was withdrawn from service after various difficulties fulfilling the daylight interceptor role. Only 20 F.1s, 16 F.2s and 25 F.3s (which never entered service) were built. Many F.4s were converted to FR.5 on the production line.

However, the RAF had a need for a fast tactical photo-reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Meteor FR.9 (essentially an F.8 with a camera nose). The F.4 model was given a lengthened nose to accommodate three F.95 cameras (one forwards-facing, two oblique), a saw-tooth wing leading edge, a belly fuel tank and clear-view canopy to become the Swift FR.5. Powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7 (delivering 7,500 lb st), it had a speed of 660 mph (at sea level) and a range of 730 miles. It was also the first series-produced aircraft to feature afterburning to enter RAF service and of the 95 aircraft built, 35 began life as F.4s and 59 were new-builds.

The Swift FR.5 entered service with 2 Sqn as part of the RAF’s 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany in February 1956, and also with 79 Sqn in June that year. (Decals for both units are provided in the kit.) It remained in service until March 1961, giving way to the Hunter FR.10. (To complete the story, the Swift F.7 had a longer fuselage than the FR.5 and increased wingspan and the 20 examples built served with No.1 Guided Weapon Development Unit at RAF Valley from April 1957 to November 1958, testing the Fairey Fireflash AAM.)

And so to the kit, which continues to meet the high standards of what must only be described as “the new, improved Airfix” construction kits. Four solid sprues and two of transparent parts are provided plus a decal sheet offering marking for both units which flew the types, the 2 Sqn option featuring a dark green/dark sea gray/high-speed silver underside and the 79 Sqn option having a dark green/dark sea gray/PRU blue underside. Of particular note on the decals, apart from all the stencilling warnings, is that the underside serial numbers are in two parts, as they cross onto the retracted undercarriage door, thus removing the need for complicated cutting with a fresh scalpel blade.

[Modellers based in the UK might be interested to know that the 79 Sqn aircraft depicted in the decals (WK281) has been preserved and restored, and can be seen at the Tangmere Aviation Museum in West Sussex (on loan from the RAF Museum’s collection). However, the aircraft has is displayed with the later high-speed silver underside!]

Swift FR.5 Kit Swift FR.5 Kit Swift FR.5 Kit

There is much detail provided in this kit, particularly prior to bringing the fuselage halves together. The cockpit comprises rear and side walls, instrument panel coaming (including a transparent reflector gunsight), control column and a three-part ejection seat with a cushion seat option of moulded straps or without (assuming you wish to place a pilot figure within). However, for the first time in my experience, Airfix has not provided a pilot figure with this kit – most curious. They do, however, provide instrument panel decals for the side displays as well as the main panel.

A two-part undercarriage nose-bay is attached to the cockpit, splitter plates are provided for the air intakes, solid or transparent camera windows (effectively an in-flight lens cap), a three-part rear jet efflux and a three-part bifurcated intake tunnel. A nose-weight of 2 grams is recommended, should you wish to display the aircraft on its tricycle undercarriage.

The centre fuselage and lower wings are moulded as one item onto which the upper wings fit (with undercarriage and flap bay detail) fit. The finely etched panel lines emphasise the improvements Airfix has made in recent years. All control surfaces (including flaps) are separate parts, so scope for unique ‘posing’ there. The belly fuel tank, apparently, is incorrect in both size and shape (not sure what happened there) and so, should you wish for total accuracy a replacement resin tank is available from of the UK. Freightdog also produced resin conversion kits for the F.1 and F.7 versions (the latter including the Fireflash AAM) but both appear to be out-of-stock when I checked.

The undercarriage itself looks straightforward, although the supporting arms (and several other small parts elsewhere) look very delicate so take care when separating them from the sprue. The main canopy is in two parts (a rear fairing mounted inside the transparency, so remember to paint it first); while the windscreen features an internal transparency as well – take care with your cement when joining them and, again, don’t forget any framing paintwork ahead of fixing.

So there it is: a kit with great potential but, I think, needing careful assembly, paintwork (bearing in mind the interiors of ducts and exhausts) and decal application. (Applying the stencilling can take time and care.) This kit is a ‘must’ for collectors of early jets of the Cold War, and I look forward to building mine.