Boulton Paul Defiant MK. 1
The “turret fighter” concept dates back to the early thirties, and contrary to some histories, the first Turret Fighter used by the Royal Air Force was actually the Hawker Turret Demon biplane, which was tested and operated by No. 23 Squadron from 1934. A hydraulically operated power turret was fitted to a standard Demon fighter, itself a development of the Hawker Hart light bomber, and a considerable number was produced by Hawker and Boulton Paul. The turret itself was a Frazer-Nash creation, and all of the Boulton-Paul produced Demons had them, and some were retrofitted to the Hawker produced models. By 1938, the Turret Demon was being operated by No. 23 and No.64 Squadrons, but the type was out of first line service by 1939, being replaced by Blenheim Mk. 1F’s.
The concept was still in vogue, however, and the appearance of Hurricanes and Spitfires apparently inspired designers at Boulton Paul to develop a turret fighter to RAF Specification F.9/35, which called for a high performance low wing monoplane capable of engaging enemy bombers and flying long patrols. With an airframe similar in appearance to the Hurricane, and powered by an early Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the plane made its first flight in 1937, albeit without the turret installed. Development was slow, and by the outbreak of war in 1939, only three Defiants had been delivered. By this time, the turret fighter concept was outdated, and the combat record of the type has been well documented in many publications. Although Defiants came off the production lines until February, 1943, when a total of 1,060 had been produced, most of the later Defiants, after being used successfully as night fighters, were converted to target tugs, air sea rescue aircraft, gunnery trainers, or for other specialized uses. Hawker developed a competing design, the Hotspur, but it lost out to the Defiant.
Airfix first issued a 1/72 scale kit of the Defiant about 50 years ago, and this has generally been available up until about 2013, when the new tool kit was issued. This is a huge improvement over the older issue, featuring such innovations as a complete cockpit and turret interior, an accurate outline, realistic wheel wells, an accurate landing gear assembly, and recessed panel lines consistent with current Airfix products. Although other kits of the Defiant have appeared over the years (Burns lists: CMK/CMR, Condor, Czechmaster, Final Touch, Frog Penguin, JMK, Modelland, MPM, Pavla, Pegasus and Wings/UK) none of these has been readily available, and if I hadn’t checked in my Burns Guide, I would have never known they existed. The Airfix product solves the problems of the inadequacy of the older issue in producing this state-of-the-art kit of an interesting and historically significant aircraft that belongs in any collection of 1/72 scale World War II RAF fighters.
Cast in light grey styrene, the kit has 70 parts, including no less than three canopies, and decals for a day fighter and night fighter version. Panel lines are recessed, and basically realistic, although some of the parts require trimming where the sprues attach to the parts. The cockpit interior is better than most kits, although it is a little crude in some places. Even with the canopy opened, it is hard to see anything except the pilot’s cockpit interior. The forward gunsight is missing (Gotcha! The airplane didn’t have one) and the quad machine guns in the turret look nice, although the turret interior is hard to see into.
The kit comes with highly detailed instructions, including 8 pages which provide the aircraft’s history, some generic assembly instructions in no less than 12 languages, 36 exploded assembly drawings on 4 full sized sheets, and two pages of full color four view drawings of the two aircraft for which decals are provided. Also, there is a 4 view drawing showing positions of common stencil data. The only problem I had with the instructions was the fact that only Humbrol colors are mentioned, and this is on the box side, not on the inside instructions. This gives the Humbrol color numbers, so I had to go on line and figure out what these were, as I don’t have access to Humbrol colors here. It would have been easier to just use the RAF colors, dark green, dark earth, sky, matt black, etc. Nearly all modelers are familiar with those, and this would take out the guess work for newer modelers.
Assembly is fairly straightforward, especially with the instructions. The Eduard PE parts have their own extensive instructions, which I’ll deal with later, and some modifications to the kit are required if you are going to do the superdetailing possible with this set. The model goes together easily, and very little filler is needed, although some seams will require filling. The wing to fuselage fit is especially good, and the tailplane lines up with no problem. Once together, the three color camouflage is easy to paint and mask, and the little yellow paper masking set for the glass areas saves at least an hour of painting prep time, as the little squares just pop off the sheet and fit onto the glass areas with pointed tweezers. They’re really a good idea. I think they’ll become more popular as time goes on, and we’ll see them as standard equipment in models of the future. The only inaccuracy I found was the rear LF radio antenna mast, which is shown in its extended length. This is correct if the gear is retracted, but it retracted somewhat when the gear was down, so you’ll need to trim the mast to the proper length. Otherwise, the plane will rest on the mast, not on the tailwheel. Check photos. This is not mentioned in the instructions.
Painting and Finishing
Once the masking is done, painting is a snap. I decided on the day fighter version, as I already have an old all black Airfix kit on my shelf. Side by side, the new kit looks 1000% better, but then, it came out fifty years later, so duh! Decals are provided for two aircraft, Mk. 1, PS-U (L7013) of No. 264 Sqdn. in Battle of Britain day fighter colors, from Martlesham Heath, in July, 1940, and Mk. 1 Nightfighter, DZ-Z (N3328) of No. 151 Sqdn. RAF Wittering, February, 1941. This is in all black finish. The decals are excellent, and do not need much trimming.
This kit is not only a much better kit than the previous one, but the price is very reasonable. When I asked for this kit for review, I thought it would include the kit as well as the Eduard add-ons, but when I found out that it didn’t, I went on line and got one in a couple of days from Amazon.com for $9.99, which is close to what they are going for everywhere else. Our local hobby shop can’t get Airfix issues for some reason, so Amazon was my lifesaver. It was worth it, as it turned out to be a very nice model with few problems. I highly recommend this kit.