Airfix 1/72 Lightning F.6 Kit First Look
By Michael J. Gething
|Date of Review||May 2016||Manufacturer||Airfix|
|Kit Number||5042||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Excellent detail||Cons||Some delicate parts|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (BP)||£18.99|
The English Electric (EE), later British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), Lightning was the only Mach 2+ fighter of purely British design to enter service with the Royal Air Force (RAF). The origin of the Lightning goes back to a 1947 proposal for a supersonic research aircraft, which resulted in EE receiving an order for three P.1A aircraft, making its maiden flight on 4 August 1954, to be followed by an order for three P.1B fighter prototypes, the first of which flew on 4 April 1958 and, on 25 November 1958, became the first British aircraft to exceed Mach 2. The RAF’s first operational unit, 74 Squadron (Sqn) received its first Lightning F.1 in June 1960, with a slightly modified version, the F.1A, powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce RA24 Avon 210 turbojets, becoming production standard shortly afterwards. It was armed with a pair of 30mm Aden cannon in the upper nose and two de Havilland Firestreak ‘heat-seeking’ air-to-air missiles (AAMs).
Further development led to the F.2, F.3 (with a square-topped fin and guns deleted), T.4 (two-seater version of the F.1A/F.2), T.5 (with the square-topped fin) and F.6 (with a cranked and cambered wing, provision for overwing fuel tanks and a larger ventral fuel tank, plus Red Top AAMs in place of Firestreak). Initially only missile-armed and designated F.3 (Interim), a pair of 30mm cannon were added to the forward section of the ventral fuel tank (thus removing some fuel capacity). Export versions of the F.6, with improved weapons capability on the overwing pylon, were delivered to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as the F.53 (with the export two-seater being designated T.55). Later the 30 F.2 models (which only served in RAF Germany) were updated to F.6 standard (but without the ventral tank guns, as they retained their nose cannon) and designated F.2A. This version was considered by the Lightning community as the best to fly operationally as an interceptor fighter.
The Lightning served the RAF well and was a true ‘Cold War Warrior’, serving with ten operational units – 5, 11, 19, 23, 29, 56, 74, 92 and 111 Sqns, plus 226 Operational Conversion Unit, and various trials units and target facilities flights. The RAF’s last unit, 11 Sqn (with which I had the privilege to fly as the ‘anti-penultimate journalist to fly in the Lightning’ on 21 January 1988 – that’s another story), was disbanded on 30 April 1988. It was, as one pilot observed to me, “outsmarted by software”, reflecting decisions not to upgrade the Lightning’s radar or weapons systems beyond the F.6 iteration.
Modellers of my generation will, no doubt recall the original 1/72nd Lightning F.1A kit released in 1963, which was later modified and reissued in 1988 as the F.3 variant. In December 2013, Airfix released a new 1/72nd tooling of the Lightning F.2A (A4054) with the F.6 variant (A5042) coming out in October 2014. No surprise there, then and (should you be so inclined and are aware of the subtle differences) it can also be built as an F.2A, although this is not made apparent in the instructions. Indeed, only F.6 decal options are included: an all-silver aircraft of 74 Sqn, based in Singapore in 1970, and a ‘shades of grey’ aircraft in Lightning Training Flight (LTF) markings, on the strength of 11 Sqn at RAF Binbrook in 1988. Full stencilling is provided as well as the markings on the AAMs.
The kit itself comprises 112 parts (including transparencies, which provides a two-part canopy, HUD [Head-Up Display] and the ‘live’ seeker noses for the Firestreak and Red Top AAMs). As one has come to expect from the current generation of Airfix tools, there is fine engraved detail and delicate parts. The three-piece ejection seat features the initiation handles (to be painted black with yellow stripes) so for once I’ll not need to fiddle with rose wire. The pilot figure is a new sculpt and seems to replicate the appropriate fit, with mask over face.
The fuselage details comprise full air intake up to the forward part of the Avon engines, while the tail jet pipes extend to the rear of the engines. A detailed cockpit sits on top of the intakes and the full fairing for the AI.23 radar (with integral nose wheel bay) is also provided. Don’t forget to load this with weight (the instructions recommend 4 grams) before adding the radome itself, to ensure the model sits on its undercarriage. This is by far the best detailed Lightning undercarriage I’ve seen (the others being Frog, Hasegawa and Matchbox/Revell).
The wings come in top and bottom halves and should you wish to add the over-wing tanks (provided for the 74 Sqn aircraft) you need to drill out the locating holes in the upper wing half. Similarly, should you wish to add the refuelling probe, the locating holes in the lower port wing also need drilling out. The flaps are provided as a separate one-piece and, if deployed, should be set at a 45-degree angle. Among the other welcome details are separate air brakes for the fuselage, a nose-intake blanking cover (good for dioramas) and the ground arrester hook.
For the F.6, modellers should ignore (as the instructions do) parts C1-C4 inclusive as these depict gun ports for the F.2A model. On the subject of guns, the kit offers option to build with or without the ventral tank gun. For the 74 Sqn aircraft, the no-gun option is required, while the LTF/11 Sqn option needs the guns. Both Firestreak (for the 74 Sqn version) and Red Top AAMs (LTF/11 Sqn version) are provided. Again, these are the best depictions I have seen of each type in 1/72nd scale (although one of my Red Top parts had a broken fin (a replacement for which I shall claim via the Airfix website which, I might add, has worked efficiently in the past).
In summary, the Airfix new-tool Lightning (be it F.2A or F.6) kit is well up to the new standard I look forward to building it ... although it needs must take its place in the queue.