Bristol Beaufighter TF X
I recall a visit to the RAF Museum where I first stood next to a Beaufighter. It's tall, looks powerful and exudes machismo. You instinctively know that wimps need not apply and forget about your dainty little fighters, this is a big boy's aeroplane. Developed as a private venture by the Bristol Aeroplane Co. using from their Beaufort torpedo bomber, the Beaufighter arrived at a time when the RAF was desperately in need of an aircraft that could lift a heavy armament, plus radar equipment and two crew members. The Blitz was already in full swing by the time the Beaufighter arrived, but it had a significant impact on the campaign, with Luftwaffe losses mounting to the point where it was becoming untenable. Coastal Command was also looking for a heavy/long range attack platform and with the addition of torpedoes and RP's the Beau could pack a hefty punch and became a very effective anti-shipping platform. By then the night fighters had evolved with ever more sophisticated radar and eventually they would join the bombers as part of 100 Group and its Bomber Support operations over Germany. Still in use post war, the Beaufighter continued in RAF service into the early months of 1960 before being phased out.
This new kit from Revell has been the subject of quite a bit of anticipation/expectation, the only other offering in 1/48 being available from Tamiya in three variations. Although the Tamiya kit was a bit of a disappointment in respect of completeness of the interior and general level of detail, there's still a lot to live up to in respect of competing with any Tamiya product, so let's have a gander to see how well Revell have done 'in the box'. The box art is very well done in my opinion, I wouldn't mind a good size print to frame and hang on the wall.
The box is large, unfortunately it's the usual dreaded end opening and flimsy effort that we've come to expect, in this case surprisingly full of goodies separately packed in poly bags.
Dealing with the sprues in sequence as they are listed in the instructions, first off we have A and B.
Close ups on A. You can see a floor, ailerons, flaps and various internal parts. There are two nose caps, one of which is marked in the instructions as not for use, plus the arrow head AI aerial and two types of DF loop also not for use, which gives us an instant indication further variations of the kit will arrive. I will point out others as they emerge.
Close ups on B. This has the standard fin, rudder, flap options, wing roots, some undercarriage parts and various internals. Curiously there are two instrument panels, but only one is referenced in the instructions, I would assume it was meant to be blacked out as not required - another indicator of further issues to come.
The fuselage parts, C and D. Panel lines are very fine, to the point that those that like to do panel washes might like to give them a light application with a suitable tool so that a wash has the chance to get a bit more 'bite'. There's more than enough representation of internal structure that should look good after painting washing and highlighting - a lot will disappear once the halves are closed up. There's very little to worry about in respect of ejection pin towers or divots.
Sprues E and F (two of each) contain a multitude of engine and undercarriage components. The eagle eyed among you will note parts 122 and 123 that look like AI Mk IV wing azimuth aerials. They're not marked as not for use, but I think they should be, they're not otherwise shown in the instructions and I don't recollect them as being a feature of the the thimble nosed centimetric radar. the engines look delicious with very fine finning (very prototypical), nice detailing on the gear boxes and a good representation of the exhaust including a one piece collector that fits on the front of the engine that will eventually be enshrouded within the cowling. The pity is that much will be lost once the cowlings are closed up and the more adventurous modeller might wish to add harnesses etc and leave off a panel as appropriate so the innards can be viewed. The props bosses and hedgehog exhausts are very nicely represented and the prop pins are fitted within the engine, so the props can be left off until final assembly, a good thing. There's some fine moulding on the undercarriage gear and cooling gills are provided in open or closed options.
Close ups on E
Close ups on F.
Sprues G and H provide the wings. As with the fuselage the panel lines are very fine and you might want to run an engraving tool along them to provide a little more definition if panel washes are your thing. The one piece lower component is a little trick in that it engages into a recess on the fuselage, so the engineering will need to be good if this is going to fit properly without any problem. In fact this is a bit of a departure from the normal practice of slots and tongues that you might expect with a mid-wing configuration and I think the reasoning is to simplify the wing to fuselage fairing, but the engineering will be make or break.
Sprues J, K, L (transparencies and M (2x, cowling pieces). The transparent parts are reasonably thin, clear and distortion free. I like the observers hatch, it is prototypical and could be posed in an open position, although I think crew entry would be by the lower hatch, which can be left open (both crew hatches can be left open). I would have expected to see a DF loop fairing and possibly the gun-less observers hatch amongst the clear parts, but I would guess these will appear on subsequent releases. I'm a little unsure about the three piece cowlings, although being glued around the large engines should make achieving a proper circular shape reasonably simple and you should be able to use the cooling gill parts as a jig.
Sprues N, O, P, R, W, Y provide tailwheel fork, torpedo, extended dorsal fin, two types of dihedral tail, spinner option and thimble nose. No RPs are supplied, but you can see the RP blast plates that are marked not for use, so RPs should come with another issue. R has the spare ammunition (the cannon could be re-loaded by the observer, not an easy task according to the accounts I have read).
Decals are provided for two schemes, one for a TF X of 489 (NZ) Squadron, RAF Langham, July 1944 and a thimble nosed TF X of 254 Squadron, RAF North Coates, May 1945. The latter is a bit dour with the black codes, but the 489 (NZ) has the benefit of AEAF stripes that livens it up considerably. There's a number of post war options that could be used on thimble nosed TF Xs and there are already numerous aftermarket sets that can be picked up. The decals are nicely printed and the density looks good, so there shouldn't be any issue with colours grinning through the white.
Instructions are in the regular A4 format and I'm including here the colour callouts, a couple of sample pages and the paint guide. This is one of the most extensive set of instructions I've seen in a Revell kit, running to twenty eight pages and reflects the complexity of the kit and various options availabe.
You can find a full set of instructions here.
In summary, it's inevitable that this kit will be compared with the already available and cheaper Tamiya offering. In all honesty the packaging and overall finesse in the mouldings is not in the same league, but you are getting a very competent package that offers better detail and several options in the box - in fact it would be perfectly possible to build a Mk VI with the parts provided with the modeller only having to either fabricate an observer's hatch without the gun, or find a suitable replacement from elsewhere. With only a minimum of additional and optional moulded parts, Revell would be able to offer a Mk I/VI package. I find it difficult to find any faults with the kit shapewise, although it is always possible glitches will come to light when actually building the kit, but the completed models I've seen really do look the part. The real test will be in the building, where the unusual engineering could be found to be wanting. I'd like to get this one on the bench sooner rather than later, but I'm hanging on for the announced Eduard PE set to become available before I do. In the mean time I like what I see with this kit and I think Revell have a winner on their hands. Recommended to all RAF fans.