"The de Havilland Sea Vixen represents the zenith of British twin boom jet fighter design. This all-weather carrier borne aircraft was the first British fighter to be designed without guns. Armed with rockets and missiles, the Sea Vixen, with its integrated weapons systems, transitioned the Royal Navy into the era of modern fighter aircraft.
": Roy Sutherland
The first thing that strikes you about Airfix's Sea Vixen is the BIG box - ironically so big, I almost missed the beast at my local model shop because the staff couldn't fit it onto the section of shelves where I'd normally look! Excitingly, when you open the box, there's not a lot of wasted space, with three large main sprues taking up most of the room, along with a whopping great decal sheet that proved too big to fit on my scanner. The kit comprises:
215 x very pale grey styrene parts
12 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
I have to admit that my first impression was a little mixed, because there's something about the plastic used that makes details seem a little soft. Maybe it's the colour? Whatever, looks can be deceptive, and closer inspection reveals an excellent overall finish. There's no flash, but there are a few irritating light ejector pin marks in areas such as the cockpit. A slight fly in the ointment is some shallow sink marks on the wings where the styrene is thinner for the locations supports for the extended-wing option.
Surface detail comprises very precise engraved panel lines and a few raised panels. Overall, the model captures the sleek but hefty look of the original very well.
There's nothing quite like that Wow-factor when you you dry fit a pretty big kit with quite a few complex joints, and precise engineering ensures everything clips together very neatly! Airfix have done a great job. The fuselage/inner wings are split horizontally and line up perfectly with a clean seam along the circular cross-section nose (the only awkward thing is that the seam crosses a pair of access panels - but that's arguably de Havilland's fault!). The outer wings panels clip together cleanly and are a good tight fit to the centre section, even without their support "spars". Make or break on any twin boom aircraft is how well the booms themselves fit and line up, and Airfix have done a lovely job on the Sea Vixen, promising a very straightforward assembly.
A few details
The cockpit is reasonably detailed, built up from 15 parts, into which slot a pair of identical 6-part ejector seats. Panels consoles have quite delicate raised switches, but the pilot's main instrument panel has clumsy raised bezels and dial details which do look a bit crude compared with the recessed instruments visible in photos. A pair of crew figures is included, but there are no seat harnesses provided should you chose to omit them. Bearing in mind that the predominant colour for both the pilot's and radar operator's cockpit is black, the overall detail is adequate, although superdetailers have plenty of scope to add more, and I can imagine the aftermarket producers already getting set to really go to town.
The same applies for the belly air-brake and wheel wells. The former can be posed open (not fully open if you want the model to stand on its undercarriage), and the kit parts provide a fine basis to work on but, once again, photos of the real thing show just how much extra detail you can pile in if you desire. The wheel wells are boxed in and show some internal detail, but there's plenty of pipework and wiring that can be added to good effect. A nice point is that the designers have avoided placing any ejector pins in the wells (where they are notoriously difficult to tackle). The main undercarriage is suitably beefy to support the model, while the nose gear leg is built from three parts, so you could offset the castoring fork. There's a choice of weighted on un-weighted tyres, with separate hubs for the mainwheels.
For anyone looking to add extra detail to their Sea Vixen, I can recommend two fine references: our own Walkaround
by Luciano Sartonetti, and Barracuda Studios' superb Flightline Book by Roy Sutherland reviewed HERE
. The latter covers the Sea Vixen in unparellelled detail, inside and out.
The bicurcated intakes are capped with a nicely detailed blanking plate with the engine-fronts, while the separate tailpipes are similarly blanked off to provide a deep, but not "see-through" look to the fuselage.
The outer wing panels are separate and can be modelled folded or extended. For the former, there are well detailed fold-inserts, while very solid A-frame "spars" support the wings when extended (the locations for these are the culprits for the sink-marks mentioned earlier). All the control surfaces are separate, and the landing flap bays have internal structural detail.
There's a good supply of underwing stores provided, with a pair of drop tanks, and a quartet each of Red Top air-to-air missiles and Matra rocket pods. The fins of the Red Tops are arguably a bit thick, but the nose cones of the Matras are nicely moulded and will look very effective with a light wash to pick out the details.
Modellers may be disappointed that there's no radar provided to fit inside the separate nose-cone. One reason soon becomes clear - according to the instructions, the kit needs 35g of nose-weight to prevent it being a tail-sitter, and there's not a great deal of room ahead of the cockpit tub in which to fit it into the fuselage, so it'll mostly end up in nose cone. You could lower the arrestor hook to act as a prop, but a better answer may lie with aftermarket accessories; I'm sure radar equipment will be produced, and a chunky resin (or white metal?) cockpit tub could provide the necessary weight to allow it all to be squeezed in.
The transparencies are unfortunately something of a curate's egg. On the positive side, they are thin and beautifully clear - but on the down side, the pilot's canopy is moulded with a separate frame, something I'm no great fan of because it almost always means a joint that's tricky to conceal. Worse, its sprue attachments are on the visible part of the canopy. Photos of the full size canopy show quite a wide sealing strip that might just hide the attachment points, but it still means some very delicate sanding and polishing to remove them. Why Airfix didn't mould the canopy conventionally (or at least position the attachments on the mating-surface of the clear section) is beyond me...
Instructions and decals
The instructions are printed as a 22-page A-4 booklet. The assembly illustrations are very clear, and construction is broken down into no less than 84 stages! This is rather overkill (e.g. the identical ejector seats each have 4 stages devoted to them), but I'd far rather have a lot of simple stages than try to fit too much into too few over-cluttered diagrams.
The kit is accompanied by a huge decal sheet, half of which is devoted to a comprehensive set of stencil markings, and there are 3 full pages of placement diagrams to deal with them all.
Four colour schemes are provided:
A. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XS577, No. 899 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Eagle, 1975
B. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XN650, No. 892 Naval Air Squadron, Yeovilton, 1968
C. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XP954, No. 893 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Victorious, 1966
D. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XP924, (registration G-CVIX), 2010
The decals are printed by Cartograf and look very good quality as usual, with precise registration on my sheet. Unusually, they are printed with rather matt finish, which makes the carrier film show up on the sheet from some angles, but (hopefully) they should look fine when applied and sealed with a gloss coat.
Airfix's new Sea Vixen looks set to build into a real stunner straight from the box! It's something of a dream come true for fans of British aircraft and deserves a place in any collection of classic jets. Airfix have called this a "limited edition", but it's certainly not limited-run in the conventional sense and the quality of moulding and easy construction makes it suitable for modellers of all abilities. Highly recommended.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE