by: Tim Hatton [ ]
Entering RAF squadron service in 1960, the Lightning represented a quantum leap in capability and performance over the RAF's previous interceptor jets, offering Mach 2 performance as well as a phenomenal rate of climb. Until its retirement in the 1980s, the Lightning had few rivals for outright speed and climbing ability, however, it did have some shortcomings, most notably its lack of range as well as its limited armament of just two air-to-air missiles.
The F.6 was the ultimate Lightning version to see British service. Originally, it was nearly identical to the F.3A with the exception that it had provisions to carry 260 gal (1,180 l) ferry tanks on pylons over the wings. These tanks were jettisonable in an emergency, and gave the F.6 a substantially improved deployment capability. There remained one glaring shortcoming: the lack of cannon. This was finally rectified in the form of a modified ventral tank with two ADEN cannon in the front. The addition of the cannon and their ammunition decreased the tank's fuel capacity from 610 gal to 535 gal (2,430 l), but the cannon made the F.6 a “real fighter” again.
The final British Lightning was the F.2A. This was an F.2 upgraded with the cambered wing, the squared fin, and the 610 gal ventral. The F.2A retained the Ferranti A.I.23 radar and Firestreak missile, the nose cannon, and the earlier Avon 211R engines. Although the F.2A lacked the thrust of the later Lightnings, it had the longest tactical range of all Lightning variants, and was used for low-altitude interception over Germany.
The Lightning was eventually replaced in 1988, superseded by the more capable and more heavily armed Tornado, but a number survive today in museums, a reminder of one of the RAF's fastest fighter jets of all time.
I missed the first incarnation from Airfix and also the kits reincarnation from Eduard much to my regret. So I am very pleased that Airfix have re released this fine looking interceptor.
The big top opening box contains one bag holding all the plastic sprues and one small bag containing the clear plastic parts. The box lid has an excellent illustration of the F.2A which features as one of the marking options. How about some box art prints Airfix? A strangely tiny but important motif on the side of the box is for the Cartograf decals included with this release.
-4 x large grey plastic sprues.
-1 x clear plastic sprue.
-1 x large sheet of decals, printed by Cartograf
Cockpit: the one piece tub has reasonable low relief detail on the side consoles. The control stick and the throttle lever are separate parts. The separate instrument panel like the side consoles has reasonable if simplified low relief details for the dials and switches. Included on the decal sheet are excellent representations of the instruments for the side consoles and instrument panel. The level of detail on the decals is very good, but the instructions suggest overlaying the decals on the low relief detail. Realistically you need to decide whether to highlight the moulded detail or scrape off the detail and use the decals. The part of the cockpit where the canopy hinge is located and the hood for the instrument panel are separate and very crisply moulded. The HUD is a separate item although the glass display screen is represented by grey plastic. So this needs to be replaced with a small piece of clear plastic. The five piece ejection seat is not bad at all, but will definitely be improved with some photo etched or scratch built harnesses and some additional pipe work. There is a rather obvious sunken ejector pin mark in the seat cushioning that needs filling.
The cockpit area inside the fuselage has no detail at all. A correctly attired, but rather odd looking pilot figure moulded in the sitting position is included. The poor chap has been pulling to many “g's” as his neck has disappeared into his shoulders. The figures arms are separate.
Canopy: and windscreen are separate. The plastic is a bit on the thick side but there is some good detail moulded onto them and the plastic is clear. Very good shape.
Fuselage: the distinctive deep shape of the Lightning is captured very well. The panel lines and fasteners are recessed and delicately done. The various recessed and protruding intakes and vents are particularly well represented. The parts that differentiate the two types of the Lightning are separate parts and includes:
-two different two part forward ventral fuel tanks.
-separate panels around the nose for the fitting of guns for the F2.A and smooth panels for the F.6. The gun troughs for the F.2A look shallow and the hole for the gun barrels are none existant.
The squared off fin is separate and one piece, the more rounded fin of the Lightning F.2 is also included on the sprue, but not required.
The airbrakes are separate items so can be positioned open or closed. There are a couple of deeply recessed lines to the rear of the ventral fuel tank, that should provide a very positive fit for the two strakes. The arrestor hook is separate. There are a lot of blade aerial to attach, you may want to fit these after painting and applying the decals.
Air Intakes and Engine Nozzles: Airfix seem to have done a fantastic job around this potentially tricky area of the air intake and ducting. The one piece shock cone fits into the two piece rear fairing. Part of the inside of the rear fairing has ribbed detail and this forms the part of the forward undercarriage bay where the wheel locates when the undercarriage is retracted. The rest of the space including the shock cone is hollow and will be an ideal place to pack as much ballast as you possibly can. The shock cone and rear fairing then fits into the two part air ducts. The ducts are split vertically and you may want to fill in some of the recessed ejector marks that are on the inside surface. I very much doubt you will see them, its your call. There is some rib detail on the lower part of the duct that forms another part of the forward undercarriage bay. To the rear of the ducting a one piece bulkhead is attached to prevent seeing into the bowels of this beast. The primary compressor of the lower engine is moulded onto the bulkhead. Airfix have not wasted time and money on representing the upper engine compressor as you will not see it. Some practice dry fitting of the air intake/trunking, shock cone and the cockpit tub will be required to find the best fit option before buttoning up the fuselage halves. The front is finished off with a one piece air intake lip.
To the rear of the fuselage of the two jet pipes are split vertically, each side has two jet pipes moulded together. There is good rib detail inside the jet pipes. A bulkhead is attached to the forward part of the jet pipes. The bulkhead has two re heat matrix's moulded onto to it. The two exhausts of the jet pipes are separate and reasonably detailed. This area is finished off with a one piece fairing that fits over the exhaust pipes. The jet pipes must be fitted before the fuselage halves are joined.
Wings: the Lightning has a very interesting aerofoil cross section, as well as shape and Airfix look as if they have done an excellent job replicating both. Airfix decided that to accurately portray the concave shape of the lower wing, the slightly flared lower leading edge would be separate. This does make the wing construction a little fiddly, but thankfully Airfix decide the to with accuracy rather than simplicity. Incidentally the straighter leading edge of the F.2 is included on the sprue, so don't get the two confused on your F.2A /F.6.
The two part flaps are separate, check your references for dropped positions. A pity they are two part as this makes the trailing edge a little to thick. Strangely there are locating holes on the inner surfaces of the flaps, but no locating pins. To finish the wing off there are a couple of clear plastic parts for the wing tip lights.
Before joining the wing halves together don't forget to drill out the holes for the over wing ferry tanks if you are using them. The undercarriage bays in the wings
The flying stabilisers are both one piece with nice sharp trailing edges. The locating pins for the fuselage look a little delicate so attach these after all the masking and painting is completed.
Undercarriage: looks very well done particularly the lanky looking main gear. The nose oleo has a split part to fit around the one piece wheel. The top of the oleo has a strong looking locating peg to fit into the undercarriage bay. The wheel has some excellent detail, but is slightly marred on one side by two recessed ejector marks on the rim of the hub.
The complex main gear retraction jacks are well done although where they locate into the wing is a little vague. The oleos have separate torsional links. The chunky locating pegs at the top of the oleos seem to have a tiny area of plastic in the wing to attach to, so there may be a bit of a weak point. The main gear doors are very well done. The inside of the large wheel door has some excellent detail. There is a very slight ejection pin mark right in the centre, but it should be relatively easy to remove without damaging any detail. The other gear door, which is attached to the oleo is two part and exceedingly well done. There is no detail in the main undercarriage bays.
Missiles and Ferry Tanks: included are:
-2 x Firestreak missiles for the F.2A. and F.6.
-2 x Red Top missiles for the F.6.
-2 x Over wing ferry fuel tanks for the F.6.
The Firestreak and the Red Top missiles are made up from seven parts. Both types of missile have clear plastic part for the seeker head. The F.6. has the distinctive external conduits for the extra cabling required for the Red Top missiles that run along the forward fuselage.
The over wing ferry tanks for the F.6. are two piece split vertically. The over wing pylons are moulded with the tanks.
Marking: the kit offers three sets of markings:
[A] Lightning F.2A XN793, flown by Wing Commander J.B. Mitchel, Commanding Officer No. 92 Squadron, RAF Germany, Gütersloh, August 1972. Overall natural metal finish, blue fin and spine.
[B] Lightning F.6. XS901, No 11 Squadron, RAF, Binbrook, Lincolnshire, England, August 1978. Upper surface disruptive camouflage scheme painted dark green and dark sea grey. Under surfaces natural metal.
[C] Lightning F.6. XR770, No 5 Squadron, RAF, RAF, Binbrook, Lincolnshire, England, 1987. Overall Barley grey and light aircraft grey with red upper and lower wing leading edges, fin and spine.
Colour references are for Humbrol paints although the names of the colours are provided so you can cross reference to your favorite paints. Federal Standard [FS] references are not provided.
Decals: as already mentioned they are produced by Cartograf. Airfix you really should have the Cartograf name a lot more prominently on the box lid as this will have a very positive effect on marketing this release as the Cartograf name is a by word for quality. The decals on the large sheet look superb. The colour depth, registration and minimal carrier film is what we have come to expect from Cartograf. There should be a Government health warning on the day glow orange decals for the tail markings and stabilisers of the No 11 Squadron F.6. There are a lot of stencils included on the decal sheet. Also included on the sheet are both black and white wing walk way lines as well as the yellow lines seen around the canopy. Very comprehensive.
Instructions: look excellent with 29 stages of construction. The exploded line drawings are very clear and generally concise. Well worth mentioning are the excellent colour paint guides which show port and starboard side profiles as well as upper and lower plan views of each of the three choices. Also included is colour guidance for the missiles. Airfix have included stencil guides for each of the options and similarly to the paint guides includes port and starboard side profiles as well as upper and lower plan views as well as individual drawings for the canopy, ventral fuel tank, undercarriage doors.
This looks like a fine kit from Airfix that captures the distinctive shape of this brute of a fighter very well. Looking at reviews from when this kit was first released, the decals supplied by Airfix were a sore point with reviewers. Not anymore, Airfix by having Cartograf produce the decals have a quality release in their portfolio. With the many After market products available for this kit, the skies the limit how the finished kit will look. Straight out the box, it should look excellent. I think I may be acquiring a couple more of these kits. Nicely done Airfix, very nicely done.