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RAF Lockheed Lightning RS Models 1/72nd scale


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This is another kit I finished earlier this year and represents AE979, one of the few RAF Lightnings actually to wear roundels. The British and French ordered a total of 667 aircraft plus spares of the Lockheed Model 322. These differed from the version being ordered in small numbers by the USAAC in that the the first 143 aircraft would lack the superchargers fitted to the P38.

After the fall of France the British took over the entire order calling the initial 143 Lightning I and the rest became Lightning IIs fitted with turbochargers. On test the Lightning I had a relatively poor performance and major concerns were expressed over control due to compressibility effects. This resulted in the USAAF (as the Air Corps had now become) taking over the order. The Lightning I became the P-322 and were used to convert some of the large number of new pilots being trained  after Pearl Harbour and the Lightning II became incorporated in to the  the P38F and P38G contracts.

I have always liked the look of the Lightning in British markings since reading a conversion article by Alan Hall in the Airfix Magazine about 50 years ago and so when the RE models kit appeared I bought one. This is not a kit for beginners, the instructions are vague in places and the part numbers do match the instructions. to squeeze the maximum number of variants RS offer  of alternative engine nacelles and I ended up marking the parts for use with a Sharpie to keep track of everything. There is also a lack any indication on a lot of parts as to position of undercarriage bays etc. Most major parts are butt joints and all need fettling to fit together, The cockpit interior needs work to fit it into the fuselage, especially with regards to depth and I do wonder if the manufacturer had built the kit. before release. Having said all that the one piece canopy was quite a good fit. The model was finished in Temperate Land Scheme with Sky undersurfaces using Mr Hobby Aqueous Hobby Colours that gave a bit of a contrast to other models I have finished in Xtracyrlix. Decals came from a Kits At War decal sheet. It needed a lot of weight to stay on its nose, but I am glad I persevered with it.

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Hope you like, Share and Enjoy!

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39 minutes ago, Matt P said:

Very nice indeed. I never knew the RAF even had these. 

They didn't. RAF test pilots flew the prototype in California, realised it had various doggy aspects and said it wouldn't do. The Air Ministry attempted to cancel all but three examples, and thereby got into a big contract argument with Lockheed. Lockheed said they would hold the Air Ministry to its much larger order - it wasn't Lockheed's fault that they'd ordered a version with the wrong spec, so they wanted paying. Nothing except hot air happened until the Pearl Harbour panic, when the US entered the war whereupon the USAAF nabbed the lot, thus neatly solving the commercial argument.  

Eventually, three of them were exported to the UK for trials at various research establishments in Spring '42. They were unsurprisingly found to be still fairly useless as potential combat aircraft and the Air Ministry sent the three back to the USA again. The Lightning I and Lightning II never reached an RAF squadron.

 

Much later in the war one or two Droop Snoot versions were borrowed by Bomber Command to try them out for pathfinder duties, but as far as I know officially those continued to be USAAF machines. 

 

Edit: In my hurry to do history, I forgot to say congratulations, Mr T, that is a beautiful model. The Lightning when saddled with a pair of mere P-40 engines might not have been much of a weapon but it shared the visual appeal of its more successful siblings. And it does look good in those colours.

Edited by Work In Progress
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Great looking Lightning ! :clap2: ... I always thought that was a deliberate sabotage by the purchasing commission. To order the plane minus superchargers & both engines turning the same direction. Against Lockheed's advice as well. I would have to think they knew it would cause acceptability issues. Mind you this is just my opinion though. 

 

Dennis

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Sabotage is a funny word to use, and a harsh moral judgment against the Commision members. Why would they _want_ to make their own lives difficult? Much easier just not to order the thing at all. 

 

What they wanted was something that in itself was an objective with some attractions: to reduce maintenance problems and make the supply chain rational, by specifying an engine which was already in RAF service in large numbers in the P-40. Logistics is a real and vastly under-rated problem in military effort.

 

So it's not necessarily an unreasonable question to put to Lockheed : "Can we have this aeroplane, but with the very similar engines we're already buying in bulk for the P-40? And will that be OK?" 

 

I see that my sentence in my earlier post was ambiguously worded., so let me clarify.  I wrote: "Lockheed said they would hold the Air Ministry to its much larger order - it wasn't Lockheed's fault that they'd ordered a version with the wrong spec, so they wanted paying."

 

I intended the meaning "Lockheed argued it wasn't its fault that the aircraft were the wrong spec", not "it wasn't Lockheed's fault" .

 

In fact Lockheed actually did know better, but the argument in Lockheed was between the commercial side of the business over-ruling the engineers in accepting an order which the engineers knew would not lead to a good aeroplane.  Short-term commercial greed won out over the longer term interests of the aeroplane and the business. If Lockheed has said "Nope, we're not going to make those, it's superchargers and handed engines or nothing", then whichever way _that_ choice had fallen would have been better than what did.

 

So, it was an idea which turned out badly, but war is full of those (e.g the P-39 experiment which also didn't work out in RAF service)  and you can't pin it wholly on the Commission. If the Commission had been working for the wrong side then they wouldn't have brought about the introduction of the Martlet, Mustang or Lockheed's own Hudson, all of which were extremely successful procurements, though none of those were nailed-on certain successes either at the time they were ordered.

 

Edited by Work In Progress
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Thank you for the additional history, I kept it brief and so cut some stuff out. My understanding is that the turbochargers were also in short supply and the Air Corps got first call. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see that the some aircraft were never going to be a success when it came to actual combat, but it was not that easy to how the air war would shape up in 1939. As an example, the British government thought that there could be a million casualties from bombing in the first few months of the war. 

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59 minutes ago, Mr T said:

Thank you for the additional history, I kept it brief and so cut some stuff out. My understanding is that the turbochargers were also in short supply and the Air Corps got first call. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see that the some aircraft were never going to be a success when it came to actual combat, but it was not that easy to how the air war would shape up in 1939. As an example, the British government thought that there could be a million casualties from bombing in the first few months of the war. 

Indeed, we have the benefit of hindsight and a lot of the conventional wisdom of the era turned out not to be so. 

 

One of the the unusual features of the paint scheme of this aeroplane is the colour of the spinners as a variation on the early-war fighter scheme, and indeed the scheme itself, which is anachronistic for the time of the flight trials by RAF pilots in Burbank.  If they had actually gone into RAF service in, say, September '41 they would have been in Day Fighter Scheme with Sky spinners and rear bands, and probably yellow leading edges - very much the scheme seen on the short-lived 601 Squadron Airacobra deployment.  I might do a What-If in that scheme some time.  It would look good alongside an Airacobra.

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4 hours ago, Doc72 said:

Interesting and well built model! From what I have read so far, the kit has quiet a daunting reputation. So congrats on overcoming all these issues.

I have a seen couple of builds and reviews that have commented on the not so easy build of the RS kit and I would agree with them. I think the main issues are the parts breakdown to get the maximum use of the moulds in terms of variants and the very nature of short run technology in terms of clean up of parts. Also the Lightning airframe is not the easiest proposition. Despite my best efforts to get everything square getting the booms lined up and the tailplane square was very difficult and I am not sure it is right. 

Thanks for your kind comment and I am pleased to have made this model in this scheme. 

 

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5 hours ago, Work In Progress said:

"Nope, we're not going to make those, it's superchargers and handed engines or nothing"

Hey, the historical interplays of WIP and Mr T are very welcome and interesting!  At first, I did not even notice this model had no superchargers. 

The opportunity to learn about the aircraft we build (however much debated it may be) is one of the great things about this forum.

Oh, and I think the model is excellent too.

:goodjob:

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Lovely build! I have often thought about building on in 1/48.  Maybe I'll start with a Whif based on an early supercharged P-38...

 

From what I understand, the decision to not have handed engines was a daft one anyway, as I believe the only difference between the two engines was the firing order,,,,

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18 hours ago, Mr T said:

I do wonder if the manufacturer had built the kit. before release

I was thinking the same when I built my RS F5A Lightning.

The answer is: probably no.

I had the very same problems in assembly.

Your Lightning turned out pretty neat, despite all the issues!

 

 

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From my reading of 'Air Arsenal North America', the issue was around availability and the understandable  desire of the home  military to have suitably equipped aircraft. This makes some sort of sense given that the US aviation industry was gearing up production from a fairly low base. If you think in 1938 the order for Hudsons the RAF was greater in number than the total procurement by the US military. By the time the USA looked like entering the war, American aircraft factories were already producing substantial numbers of aircraft for  non US users. 

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This takes me back. The Alan Hall conversion in Airfix magazine from the late 1960s was the first conversion I tried and I was delighted to discover that I could indeed shape balsa wood. These were the days of clear dope and talcum powder mixture and plastic wood.

Lovely model and well done.

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Marvellous work.  I did not know there was a kit of the Lightning I without the turbochargers.  I need to get one of these, as I particularly like foreign types operated by the British armed forces, and I don't think my skills are up to converting a later variant.  Thanks for showing what can be done with what sounds like a tricky kit.

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Thanks for all of the kind comments. As a kit it tried my patience and I consider myself a very patient person. At one stage I did wonder whether to bother with or not. Part of the problem are the instructions with part numbers that do not match the plastic provided and which involve some head scratching to work out. Alignment of the booms is also not easy. 

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Very nice and an interesting subject too. But does it mean that for RAF purposes the F-35 should in fact be the Lightning III?

 

Justin

Edited by Bedders
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20 hours ago, Bedders said:

Very nice and an interesting subject too. But does it mean that for RAF purposes the F-35 should in fact be the Lightning III?

 

Justin

A good point, I suppose you could argue that as the Lockheed Lightning never entered service with the RAF, then the F35B is legitimately the Lightning II as far as the RAF is concerned. BTW, anyone know what the official designation given to the British  F35B Lightning is? 

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