De Havilland Vampire T.11
The distinctive De Havilland DH.100 Vampire was designed to fulfil a wartime requirement for a small, lightweight jet fighter for the Royal Air Force. Although the prototype aircraft first flew in September 1943, the production aircraft arrived too late to see service in the Second World War. Nevertheless, well over 3,000 were eventually produced and it enjoyed a relatively long service life by the standards of the day.
Powered by a single De Havilland Goblin turbojet, the Vampire was capable of a maximum speed of 548 mph and had a service ceiling of over 40,000 ft. In common with many RAF fighters of the day, armament was comprised of four 20mm cannon. Due to the pace of aeronautical development in the post-war period, the fighter variants of the Vampire were superseded in service by other types by the mid-1950s. The design was well suited to other roles though, and thanks in
part to its forgiving handling characteristics it made an idea jet trainer.
The T.11 was the principal trainer variant, over 700 of which were built. It remained in RAF service until 1967, by which time it was replaced by the Folland Gnat. It was widely exported to other countries, and a great many examples survive to this day. The Vampire Preservation Company keep one example, WZ507, in flying condition and it regularly displays at air shows around the UK.
I have to admit that I got quite excited with Airfix announced a Vampire T.11 as part of their now-famous advent calendar teaser. Judging by the reaction on the Britmodeller forums though, I’m not alone in this respect! Less than two months later, the kit is on the shelves of the model shop and hopefully is being enthusiastically assembled in living rooms and modelling sheds up and down the country. The kit is part of Airfix’s series 2 range, and comes packed into a smart red box adorned with a high-quality Adam Tooby illustration of WZ507 soaring above the British countryside.
The kit is comprised of 55 parts spread across three sprues of grey plastic and one of clear plastic. Although Airfix’s recent kits have been met with a great deal of enthusiasm, they have attracted criticism from time to time for overly prominent panel lines and clunky sprue attachment points. Happily, none of these traits are present on this, their first 1:72 kit of 2013. The panel lines are generally very restrained and are complemented by engraved fastener details around the removable panels on the wings and tail booms. The only fly in the ointment is a couple of sink marks which are visible on the ailerons.
These should be simple to fill though.
The overall shape of the model looks good and it compares very well to the plans that I have. The cockpit is very good for the scale, with plenty of detail. It is comprised of a floor with rear bulkhead moulded in place, the rear cockpit decking, the front bulkhead with rudder pedals moulded on, the instrument panel, control columns and ejector seats. Sidewall detail is moulded in place on the insides of the fuselage halves, and it looks very good indeed. There is even a tiny trim wheel for the port side of the cockpit. If I had to level a criticism at this part of the kit, the seats are quite plain (although the shape of them is fine), but the overall effect is very convincing. This is handy, as the cockpit canopy can be posed in the open position if desired.
The engine intake is a full-length assembly with what looks like a compressor face at one end (not sure how accurate this is for a De Havilland Goblin, but it will barely be seen). The mouths of the intakes are moulded as separate parts, which will make construction so much easier. The upper wing is moulded in a single span. It fits beautifully into the upper fuselage (yes, I have started mine!) and once in place will help with the alignment of the tail booms. The fits of the tail booms themselves is very positive and I haven’t had any trouble lining mine up. The landing gear legs fit into small slots on the sides of the booms, which should make the join nice and strong as well as helping with the alignment of the main gear legs.
The landing gear legs are nicely moulded. Alternative main gear doors are provided in case you want to build your model with the wheels up. The main gear wheels are moulded with very subtle flats moulded in place. As mentioned above, the canopy is moulded in three parts, which means it can be posed in the open position. A couple of drop tanks are provided to add some under-wing interest.
A choice of two schemes is provided on the decal sheet:
- WZ507 of the Vampire Preservation Group, North Weald, Essex, 2012. This is the aircraft depicted on the box artwork, and is finished in High Speed Silver with yellow bands; and
- WZ590 of No. 5 Flying Training School, Royal Air Force Oakington, Cambridgeshire, March 1962. This aircraft is finished in High Speed Silver with Dayglo Orange parts.
The decal sheet is nicely printed and includes an amazingly comprehensive selection of stencils. The improvement over the sheets Airfix used to include in their kits a few years ago is absolutely astonishing.
If you’ve been looking forward to the release of this kit, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be disappointed. Airfix have delivered an excellent kit that manages to combine excellent detail with intelligent engineering which should help to make the kit easy to build. Overall this is a great little kit which doesn’t seem to have any major drawbacks. This truly is
a subject from the golden age of aviation fit for the golden age of modelling. Unreservedly recommended.