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Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B Gulf War (A06022A) 1:72


Mike

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Blackburn Buccaneer S.2B Gulf War (A06022A)

1:72 Airfix

 

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The Buccaneer needs little introduction to most British aviation enthusiasts, as it was in service for a long time, first in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, and latterly with the RAF after remaining airframes were handed-over, performing a similar strike role in both branches of the British armed forces.  The Buccaneer was originally designed by Blackburn for the Royal Navy, which is why even the RAF aircraft retained their folding wings and arrestor hooks. Blackburn was later rolled into Hawker Siddeley, hiding away its lengthy heritage.  It was designed to a rugged low-level attacker that was to approach below the enemy’s radar horizon, and had a reputation as a highly-stable weapons platform that although it was just sub-sonic could leave behind other more modern aircraft in the weeds if things got down and dirty.

 

After the last British aircraft carriers were retired at the end of the 70s, the hand-over to the RAF was completed, and older airframes were scrapped due to safety concerns after an accident, leaving them with a fleet of around 60 aircraft that served until 1994 when the Tornado took over the tasks it had been carrying out.  The type proceeded from initial S.1 variant to S.2, ditching the underpowered De Havilland engines for the powerful Spey engines that were also used in the Nimrod and British Phantoms amongst others.  This required a larger intake to gulp-down sufficient air to feed the engines, and later the S.2B was further upgraded to carry Martel missiles.  The S.2A moniker was reserved for former FAA airframes after they had been converted for use by the RAF, while the C was the Navy’s name for the S.2A, and the D were former Naval airframes upgraded to S.2B standards.  The last hurrah of the Buccaneer was during the first Gulf War, lasing targets for the Tornados it flew with in the event they encountered problems with their own pods.  They were instrumental in the destruction of many bridges in Iraq, and they were also sent to dive-bomb airfields and bunkers either solo, or with lasing provided by other aircraft.  On its return from the Gulf, it was decided that they were no-longer needed, and were retired early, despite having been substantially upgraded at great cost just a few years earlier – typical!  Their role was taken over by the Tornados after they had been upgraded to operate the Sea Eagle anti-shipping missiles the Buccs had been carrying.

 

 

The Kit

The cheers of the 1:72 modellers still echo from the release of the original tooling in 2019 before everything went sideways with Covid.  It was a well-detailed model that looks even better in the new darker grey styrene that Airfix are using of late, which seems to make the details pop just a little bit more.  This reboxing adds new decals to depict a Gulf War airframe, during the Bucc’s last hurrah when she served her country and assisted her replacements with their targeting.  The box is Airfix’s usual red-themed top-opener, and inside are five sprues in grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, decal sheet by Cartograf, and the instruction booklet that is printed in spot colour on plain paper in an A4 portrait form.  Detail is excellent, and now that the 1:48 modellers have their new tooling, the jealousy has subsided a little and we can talk about it rationally.

 

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Construction begins with the ejection seats, with two made up from different two part shells, and identical cushions that include the headbox fronts, and you are provided with detailed painting directions.  The cockpit tub has the nose gear bay glued to the underside, the rear bulkhead fitted at an angle, with painting and decaling information for the side consoles, fixing the seats then the rear seater’s coaming with more decals, trapping the assembly between the nose halves whilst building the pilot’s panel from three parts plus clear gunsight, applying decals to depict the dials.  A suggested 15g of nose weight should be installed in the nose before closure, then the coaming can be glued over the pilot’s console once the glue has set.

 

The underside of the fuselage has the lower wings moulded-in, and if you are depicting your model with folded wings, you’ll have to cut them along the pre-marked lines, as well as drilling out holes to accommodate any underwing stores you are planning, the arrows having visual representations of the intended stores to assist you.  A well-detailed bulkhead with the rear faces of the two Spey Mk.101 turbofan engines is laid into grooves in the lower fuselage, adding two inserts that form the inner faces of the main bays along the line of flight, and another bulkhead behind the bays.  The space between the two bulkheads is filled by a two part representation of the exhaust trunks that have small sections of the bays moulded-in, which should be painted the same colour as the bays.  Another bulkhead fixes to the rear of the trunk with detailed holes that wait for the exhausts later in the build.  At the front end of the air path, another bulkhead depicts the first compressor blades, to which a two-part intake trunks on an interlinking support are fixed, fitting into a set of grooves near the front of the as-yet nose free fuselage, then the upper fuselage is prepared by painting the details of the bay roof the same colour as the rest of the details, after which it can be glued over the lower fuselage, adding the wing-fold inserts if you have cut the outer panels free.  For the flight-ready model, an A-frame is inserted outboard of the main bays to stiffen the area before gluing the upper wing panels into position to hide them, removing one solitary vortex generator from the surface as you do.  The tail section is formed from two vertically split halves, with a bulkhead at the rear to hang the air-brake assembly from later.  The finished assembly is glued to the rear of the fuselage. Fitting a pair of exhaust cans with fairings to each side of the tail, taking the time to align the tapering fairings for reduced seam-hiding later.  The nose is joined to the front on a stepped line for added strength, and it has a pair of intake fairings slipped over the trunking that is already in position.

 

One of the Buccaneers stand-out features was its high T-tail, which is a single part that is locked in place by the upper fairing, adding the rudder panel underneath, which you can deflect for a more candid look.  A two-part bullet fairing inserts into the front of the join, with another single part covering the rear, then flipping the model over to install the arrestor hook insert under the tail.  Another prominent feature was the use of the aft section of the fuselage as a pair of fold-out air brakes, with a choice of posing them closed or deployed, as you see fit.  The opened brakes are mounted on a W-frame with a pair of fairings added to the sides, which glues into the rear of the opened brakes that have the rest of the fairing added to the forward-facing side.  The whole assembly is slotted into the rear of the fuselage with a set of three rams that are inserted at an angle, as shown in the accompanying diagram, with a tiny part fixed to the lower fuselage.  The closed brake option is much more straight-forward, with a choice of exterior skins that fit around the central spine that create the fin on the top, slotting into the fuselage without further work.

 

The underside of the Bucc is the focus for the next steps, adding either the closed bomb bay doors, or inserting a bulkhead in the rotated bay “roof”, although no weapons are fitted in there.  The flaps fill the notch in the wing trailing edges, and the main bays are detailed with a large trunking running front to back, then the rest of the underside is detailed with inserts and various antennae, actuators for the flying surfaces, fairings and pitot probe, plus clear wingtips that you should mask off before painting unless you have a good memory and steady hand.  The nose gear leg is made from two halves that trap the nose wheel in place, inserting a clear landing light in a slot in the front, with a retractor jack behind it in the bay, and a sideways opening door.  A scrap diagram shows the correct orientation of the leg assembly.  The main gear legs are similarly put together, with the brake housings moulded into the end of the outer yoke for additional detail, taking care to insert the correct leg into the bays.  A bay door is fixed to the outer edge of the bay, semi-captive to the gear leg itself.  Under the tail, the five-part arrestor hook and bump-stop are fitted, either deployed for landing or flush for flight.

 

Moving back to the upper surface, the model could be stood on its own wheels if you followed the instructions to the letter, but when do we?  More antennae are inserted into holes around the spine and tail fin, a pair of hands-on-laps pilots can be placed in their seats, and separated by a clear blast shield before gluing the windscreen to the front of the cockpit and the canopy to the rear.  There isn’t an option to open the canopy in the instructions, but it slides to the rear, so it’s not a great leap to pose it open.  In front of the windscreen the refuelling probe is fixed into its slot, and a scrap diagram shows the correct position from the front, which is canted slightly to the starboard side as you look from the pilot’s seat.

 

Amongst the choices of weaponry are a pair of slipper tanks that fix to the wing root, or are replaced by a pair of pylons, with a choice of Sidewinders of Laser-Guided Bombs on the outer mounting point, or a couple of pods in the shape of an  AN/ALQ-101 ECM pod outboard on the starboard wing, and an AN/AVQ-23E designation pod on the inner station under the port wing.

 

The folded wing option is dealt with last, gluing the two wing halves together, then adding the hinge bulkhead and clear wingtip, plus the other fairings, actuators and pitot probe as before, and your choice of weapons/pods, drilling out the location holes as applicable.  The wings can then be joined to the roots on the short pegs that project from both sides of the join.

 

 

Markings

There is a choice of two Desert Storm aircraft in their desert colours, as follows:

 

  • XW533/A, Fiona/Miss Jolly Roger, Operation Granby/Desert Storm, Muharraq Airport, Bahrain, January to March 1991
  • XV863/S, Debbie/Sea Witch, Operation Granby/Desert Storm, Muharraq Airport, Bahrain, January to March 1991

 

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Decals are by Cartograf, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

 

 

Conclusion

It’s a great kit of a much-loved aircraft that sadly committed the cardinal sin of getting old, leaving service after one last outing where it served its nation with distinction.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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This just screams for a pun on how low they fly and I think I've got it:

"Price is too high. A Buccaneer could get below that"

 

(I have no idea about the cost for this kit!)

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