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Buccaneer S2 Kit

Airfix 1/48 Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S2 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2015 Manufacturer Airfix
Subject Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S2 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 8101 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Unique subject, nice options Cons See text
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Buccaneer S2 Kit
Buccaneer S2 Kit
Buccaneer S2 Kit
Buccaneer S2 Kit
Buccaneer S2 Kit
Buccaneer S2 Kit

The Blackburn Buccaneer was originally developed as an aircraft carrier based nuclear strike aircraft for the Royal Navy in the 1950s. The original Buccaneer S1 was underpowered and was soon replaced by the Rolls Royce Spey powered Buccaneer S2 in Royal Navy service. The RAF considered the Buccaneer but favored the supersonic TSR-2, and when that program cancelled and the F-111K alternative concept also cancelled, the RAF finally adopted the Buccaneer S2.

Much has been written about the type including Mike Abbot's look at the Airfix 1/72 Buccaneer kit, so I'll share a quick war story instead. When we attended a Red Flag in the early 1980s, we were told about the Buccaneers that the RAF had brought to the Red Flag cycle before ours. The aircraft and crews had performed very well on the range, but it seems that one of the pilots had visited the Circus Circus casino in Las Vegas near the end of their deployment. He had won a huge stuffed bear which he was taking home to his daughter in the UK. He went out that evening, opened the rotary bomb bay, and put the bear onto one of the weapons mounts inside.

The next morning, the squadron commander was scheduled to demonstrate a nuclear strike profile for some US Navy dignitaries aboard a destroyer off shore from NAS Point Mugu. When his aircraft had a maintenance fault, he took one of the other aircraft and flew the strike profile. As the Buccaneer made its high-speed approach on the deck toward the waiting destroyer, the squadron commander pulled up into the toss-bomb maneuver and as the aircraft approached vertical, the rotary bomb bay opened to simulate weapons release. Out comes an odd object. As the Buccaneer sped away, the object reached its apex, then fell toward the destroyer. The bear bounced off the ship and into the sea.

Airfix produced the Buccaneer S2 in 1/48 scale a few decades ago and much to my surprise, this is one of the few kits in their catalog that has not returned after the company was acquired by Hornby. There were at least two Buccaneer kits released by Airfix, this one (8101) representing the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) configuration and kit 8100 which was the Royal Air Force S2B with the electronic warfare additions and the distinctive bulged weapons bay door.

I built the S2B kit back in the 1990s and while it had a few challenges during the build, it taught me some valuable skills when building limited production kits like those from the now-defunct Classic Airframes. The final result came out nice and did well in our IPMS contest, but unfortunately did not survive the move in 1999. Ever since then, I've been on a quest to find another kit and build another Buc. I periodically scan through eBay and finally found this kit which was the first I'd seen that wasn't commanding a collector's price. When it arrived in the mail, I had forgotten how large that kit box was! Evidently Airfix released a number of the kit #8101 Buccaneers with two complete kits in the box. I was lucky to find this to be one of them.

The kit is (was) molded in light gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. The kit was developed using scribed details which was relatively new for Airfix but the panel line detail is soft and will be easily lost with any sanding (speaking from experience). The AMS modeler will want to do some scribing of the major airframe components before start of assembly. We're fortunate to have a great modeler's reference available now with Willy Peeter's book.

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Cockpit with decals for instrument panels and side consoles
  • MB ejection seats
  • Two optional crew figures
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable outer wings (folded or flight-ready)
  • Positionable speed brake
  • Flat weapons bay door

The kit provides the following external stores options:

  • Choice of small or large capacity slipper external fuel tanks
  • 2 x Matra 155 rocket pods
  • 4 x bombs

The kit comes with two large sheets of decals with markings for four examples:

  • S2C, XT296, 809 Sqn, R/022, FAA, HMS Ark Royal, 1970
  • S2D, XV869, 809 Sqn, R/020, FAA, HMS Ark Royal, 1976
  • S2, XV156, 800 Sqn, E/100, FAA, HMS Eagle, 1966
  • S50, 426, 24 Sqn, South African AF, Waterkloof, 1970

After photographing one set of sprues out of the kit, I took a look at the second set still in their bag and found that it has the bulged weapons bay door - the S2B. That kit lacks some of the updates that were present for Desert Storm, but many of these can be scratchbuilt.

A note on Airfix's instructions. Many of today's kit makers could follow Airfix's example in this kit. There are actually two instruction books in the box. One covers assembly in with unambiguous assembly diagrams, the other is nearly identical except that it includes painting instructions for each of the assembly steps (we don't see much of that anymore in other kits). Of course the paint callouts are all using Humbrol colors (Humbrol still owned Airfix in those days) but you can use the color references here on Cybermodeler and other websites to translate those Humbrol numbers to other brands of paints.

For a kit that has been off the market for over a decade, I am pleased to see that many of the aftermarket items produced for the 1/48 Buccaneer are still available today. Eduard produced in interior and exterior photo-etch set, Airwaves also produced a cockpit, wingfold, and speed brake detail set. Flightpath developed some weapons sets and a set of photo-etched boarding ladders and FOD covers for the engine ducts. In addition there are many decal sets likewise available for this kit. I found most of these over at Hannants' website.

It would be nice to see the 1/48 scale Buccaneer back in Airfix's kit line-up, but until then, you can still find reasonably priced copies of this kit with time and patience.