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Paul A H

Gloster J-8A/Gladiator Mk.II - 1:72 Airfix

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Gloster J-8A/Gladiator Mk.II

1:72 Airfix


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The Gladiator was developed by the Gloster Aircraft Company as a private venture, albeit with the hope of fulfilling Air Ministry Specification F.7/30, which called for a fighter aircraft capable of 250 mph and able to carry four machine guns. Rather than opt for a new design, Gloster decided to develop an enhanced version of the existing Gauntlet fighter. The resulting aircraft featured improved aerodynamics, cantilever undercarriage, an extra pair of machine guns, a more powerful engine and an enclosed cockpit. The Gladiator flew for the first time in September 1934 and entered service in January 1937.

Such was the pace of aeronautical development in the late 1930s that the Gladiator was becoming obsolete even as it was entering service. Nevertheless, over 700 examples were built (including navalised Sea Gladiators) and it saw action in most theatres of the Second World War. It also served with a number of air forces including those of Sweden and Finland. Despite being more demanding to fly than the Gauntlet, the Gladiator was popular with pilots. The Gladiators finest hour was probably the battle for Malta in 1940, when a handful of aircraft formed the entire air defence of the besieged island.

Airfix's new Gladiator was one of the more surprising announcements when the Kent-based firm's schedule for 2013 was released at the end of 2012. The original kit, which we reviewed a few months ago, was part of Airfix's Series 2 range. I was expecting this follow-up release, which contains new decals and an additional sprue, to have migrated up to series 3, but happily it remains at the more affordable end of the spectrum. The kit arrives packed into a red top-opening box with the usual high-quality artwork on the front. Inside are three sprues of grey plastic and a single clear sprue, holding a total of 63 parts nine more than the original release. The mouldings are clean and crisp, with fine, recessed panel lines around the nose of the aircraft and a subtle but effective stretched fabric effect elsewhere.

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The cockpit is well appointed, being comprised of a framework floor, seat, headrest, and a single piece for the control column/rudder pedals. A pilot is also included for those who like to use them. The inside of the fuselage sidewalls are nicely detailed and you have the option to remove the access hatch and replace it with a dedicated part which can be fixed in the open position. Before closing up the fuselage halves, you must also fix the fuselage mounted .303 inch browning machine guns through the muzzle holes in the fuselage. These are quite finely moulded and should look much better than if they were just moulded as lumps on the side of the airframe.

The remaining steps in the construction process are fairly conventional, but with some clever twists. The upper fuselage immediately in front of the cockpit is moulded as a separate part. The inner struts, the rearmost of which also includes the instrument panel, have to be sandwiched between this part and the fuselage. The lower wing follows, and as you can see from the photograph below, Airfix have marked the points you will need to use if you want to rig the model. The engine and cowling is quite a complex assembly, made up of no fewer than ten parts, but this is made necessary by the shape of the cowling. The Bristol Mercury engine itself is comprised of the exhaust manifold and the single row of nine cylinders, as well as some smaller parts. The three-bladed propeller used by the Mk.II version is included on the additional sprue.

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The inter-wing struts have to be added before the upper wing can be fixed in place. Airfix have taken a novel approach to what is traditionally one of the most challenging stages in building a biplane. Each pair of struts is joined by a small sprue which holds each strut at the correct angle. These have to be left in place while the wings are joined together and then removed afterwards. This is a clever twist, and it's nice to see Airfix have tried to make this model as easy to build as possible but without compromising on detail.

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Once the upper wing is in place, the tail planes can be added. The rudder is moulded as a separate part, but all of the other control surfaces are moulded in place. The undercarriage is simple but effective, and the wheels have separate hubs, which will aid painting. A choice of tyres is provided, both with and without flat spots. As this is the J-8A edition, extra parts are included for the ski undercarriage conversion.

When it comes to the canopy, Airfix give you a choice of using either a single part or a canopy split into two parts. There are also different windscreens depending on whether you choose to build the RAF or Irish Air Corps version. If you choose to rig your model, a full page diagram is provided, which shows how to break the job down into simple steps.

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Two schemes are provided on the decal sheet:
Gloster J-8A of Flygflottilj 19 (Swedish Voluntary Air Force), Finnish Air Force, Kemi, Northern Finland, 1940; and
Gloster Gladiator Mk.II. No.605 (County of Warwick) Squadron, Royal Air Force Tangmere, Sussex, England, August 1939. This aircraft is finished in Dark Earth and Dark Green over black and white lower wings and silver upper wings/tailplanes.
The decals are nicely printed and include the full range of stencils, as well as a decal for the instrument panel.

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Conclusion

As I stated when I reviewed the first edition of this newly tooled kit, this is now the best Gladiator available in the scale. Although I have a soft spot for the Matchbox version, Airfix's new kit has a wealth of extra detail, more options and should be just as easy to build. It's nice to see Airfix putting so much thought into their new kits, and details like the pre-marked rigging points are most welcome. Overall this kit looks like a real gem and should build up into an excellent model. Highly recommended.

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Review sample courtesy of logo.gif

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It seems N5583 survived until March 1942, when it flew into a tree while serving with 1401 Met Flight.

John

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