by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Sea Venom was a navalised version of the Venom NF.2 two-seat night fighter, and was used as an all-weather fighter and strike aircraft by the Fleet Air Arm [FAA] and the Australian Navy. The French Navy also operated the Aquilon, a version of the Sea Venom FAW.20 licence-built by SNCASE [Sud-Est].
The necessary modifications for use on the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers included folding wings, a tailhook [which retracted into a characteristic "lip" over the jetpipe] and strengthened, long-stroke undercarriage. The canopy was modified to allow ejection from underwater. The first prototype made its first flight in 1951, and began carrier trials that same year. A further two prototypes were built. The first production Sea Venom took the designation FAW.20 [Fighter, All-Weather]. It was powered by a single de Havilland Ghost 103 turbojet engine and its armament was the same as the RAF version. The next variant was the FAW.21, which included the modifications introduced in the Venom NF.2A and NF.3. Some of these modifications included the Ghost 104 engine, a clear-view canopy and American radar. The final Royal Navy variant was theFAW.22 powered by the Ghost 105 engine. A total of 39 of this type were built in 1957Ė58. Some were later fitted out with the de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missile.
Seven FAW.21s were modified in 1958 for Electronic Counter Measures [ECM] purposes, with the cannon replaced by the ECM equipment. These became the ECM.21. 831 Naval Air Squadron, the sole squadron to be equipped with it, was shore-based at RAF Witton RAF from 1963 and disbanded in 1966. Converted FAW.22s was similarly known as the ECM.22.
The kit is contained in a top opening box, the lid has a very fine illustration of a couple of Sea Venoms FAW.21 flying above some cumulus cloud, with the aircrafts carrier far below. Underneath the box are several CAD views of the kit. The plastic sprues are contained in two bags and the photo etched fret, decal sheet and canopy are wrapped separately. The box contains:
-3 x light grey plastic sprues.
-1 x small clear plastic sprue.
-1 x small photo etched fret.
-1 x decal sheet.
-1 x construction and painting guide.
Cockpit: is made up from five parts: a one piece floor and rear wall, two separate side panels, a one piece forward instrument panel and flight control stick for the pilot. The side instrument panel on the portside has a couple of low relief trim wheels moulded on the surface, but other than that both side instrument side panels are devoid of any detail. The forward instrument panel although it has some detail does look a little odd, particularly on the navigators side. To be fair to Dragon, it looks like they have lifted the detail from the FAW 21 displayed at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, in Yeovilton, UK. The instrument panel of the FAA museums Venom has a few instruments missing on the navigators side. There is some good internal detail on top of the fuselage just behind the two seats that the rear canopy fits over. The two very simplified one piece bang seats are significantly undersized in scale. The direct swap of more scale sized seat is not the answer as they will not fit. The sill that the canopy fits on is very wide so trimming this down may help with the fit of more scale sized seats. But itís not uncommon to fit specially sized seats to aircraft rather than a generic seat. The two seat Venom cockpit was a particularly tight fit. The fit of the completed cockpit fits positively into the top of the undercarriage in the lower fuselage half.
Canopy: is one piece and is nicely moulded. Dragon have made an excellent attempt to replicate the complex double curved shape of the canopy. The canopy despite the claims on the underneath of the box cannot be displayed open or closed without some surgery. The windscreen on the kit looks too square in shape compared to photos.
Fuselage and inner wing: The fuselage halves, which are split vertically, incorporate the inner wing. I donít normally work out scale dimensions from aircraft specifications, but the length and wingspan is pretty spot on. The distinctive double vanes that are located in the engine air intakes are four individual parts. Oddly the fitting of the four parts donít get a mention in the instructions, the illustration of the lower wing suggest they are moulded with the wing. There are positive slots for the vanes that will allow the fitting of the after the upper and lower halves of the fuselage/wing is joined. The air intake ducts are two pieces, each part is spoiled by two recessed ejector pin marks on the inner surfaces. The shape of the ducts does prevent any view of the engine compressor blades. The engine access panel on top of the fuselage is a separate part and allows the chance to see the de Havilland Ghost engine that is included with this release. The separate air intake that is attached to the access panel is nicely done. The shape of the fuselage towards the rear looks good and captures the distinctive look of the real thing. The one piece arrestor hook can be displayed retracted or extended.
There are no gun cartridge ejection chutes for the underside of the fuselage. The distinctive air intake on the access hatch just aft of the radome is a missing detail. I am not sure why Dragon has decided to have the two access hatches either side of the forward fuselage as separate parts, as there is no detail in the bay if you want them open. It does complicate the build a little for no reason.
The flaps on the inner wing are separate parts with commendably thin trailing edges. Dragon have not taken the opportunity to detail the inside of the wing that will show if you decide to drop the flaps, but there are a rather obvious raised ejection marks on the inside of the upper wing. The wing fold joint on the inner wing has separate detailed ribs to insert if you want to display the wings folded.
The front and part of the main undercarriage bays are very shallow in depth, but they do have some good low relief detail in them.
de Havilland Ghost engine: is beautifully replicated in eight parts. The 10 combustor chambers look resin like in their detail. The jet pipe is two piece and sandwiches the separate low pressure turbine which has some very fine fan blades moulded on it. The lip of the jet pipe is nicely thin.
Tailboom: Each boom is one piece and very nicely moulded. Unlike many previous kits of the Vampire/Venom the tail booms are full length and extend across the upper wing. To help with a attachment there are a couple pins on each boom that fit into holes in the upper wing providing a very positive fit. Shape of the fin and rudder looks good; the pitot probe is moulded on top of the port tail fin. The horizontal stabiliser is one piece with separate and positionable one piece elevator.
Outer wings: are built from upper and lower halves. The wing tip fuel tanks are moulded onto the wings. The ailerons are separate and one piece. There is a locating tab for a positive fit of the ailerons, but there is enough play in the fit to slightly offset their position from neutral. There is some rib detail at the fold joint incorporated in the upper wing. The wing fences are separate photo etched parts.
Wingfold: Dragon have given the modeler the opportunity to display the Sea Venom with the wings folded or extended. If you go for the wings folded option, then there some good rib and hinge detail at the wing fold joint. I am a bit dubious with the supplied attachment parts if you want the wings extended. They are very small, it would be better to glue the outer and inner parts of the wing together before assembling the two halves of the aircraft.
Undercarriage the two piece nose wheel has some fine detail on the hubs, the oleo is also two piece with some excellent detail. The oleo is a bit short, because of the shallow bay. The detail is very good and looks accurate. There is the possibility that the wheel will rotate if you wish. The main wheels are two part split vertically. There is the option of being able to rotate the wheels if you add the separate spindle. The oleo legs and undercarriage doors are nicely detailed
Markings: there are two Fleet Air Arm options:
[A] XG693 No 894 Squadron FAA, HMS Albion, late 1950ís.
[B] WW18 No 892 Squadron FAA, HMS Ark Royal, Suez 1956.
Upper surfaces are painted extra dark sea grey on both aircraft, option [A] has white under surfaces, while [B] has sky under surfaces.
Decals: are printed by Cartograf and they look superb you may not be to surprised to read. Colour density and definition is excellent and there is minimal carrier film. The black cheques on the wing fuel tanks of XG693 are supplied as decals. The Suez campaign stripes for the wings and fuselage of WW18 are included as decals. There are plenty of stencils included and they are all legible. The red wing walkways are also included.
Instructions: the black line illustration are very helpful and there are eight stages of construction. Ignore the first stage of the construction process. Dragon would have you gluing the undercarriage in first. The painting guide includes separate side profile views for stencil placement. To help with painting there are upper and lower plan as well as port and starboard side profile of both aircraft featured. Paint references are for Model Master, Aqueous Hobby Color and Mr Color, no Federal Standard references are provided. Beware that the upper and lower colour reference in the instructions for [A] are incorrectly numbered. Dragon would have you painting the under surfaces black using their paint numbers. There is no mention of the sky colour for the under surfaces in the painting instructions for option [B].
Dry fit is generally very good. The two tail booms and horizontal stabiliser fit very positively. The only slight fit issue is the radome, although the shape matches the shape of the fuselage, the flange on the radome prevents a snug fit. So the best bet is to remove the flange. This could be a great weekend build for you speed builders out there.
Well despite the question about the look of the windscreen and those undersized seats this certainly looks a handsome looking 1/72 Sea Venom. The breakdown of the parts generally is very well thought out and to put the kit together you will not need anything more than liquid glue. Even dry fitting the components the kit is a joy to put together. There no hefty sprue attachment points to the parts and there are two excellent choices of markings. Nicely done Dragon, nicely done.