The Valiant was the first of Britainís V-Bombers. It was ordered as an interim measure while the RAF waited for the Vulcan and the Victor. Because of this, it was soon supplanted in the bombing role and became available for other tasks. The best known was as the RAFís first aerial tanker, which enabled the V-Force to reach properly strategic range. Another very important role was photo-reconnaissance, in which Valiants explored the routes that the other bombers would take and helped to prepare new, much better maps of northern Europe. Valiant tankers kept going for nearly ten years until fatigue problems in low-level flight led to their retirement; by then, the Polaris programme had enabled the Victor to give up bombing and take over as the tanker for the Vulcan.
Airfix released the much-anticipated Valiant last year (reviewed HERE
) and it walked off the shelves. The options inside were effectively all bombers - although three were nominally B(K).Mk.1s, the only options in the kit were to build them in bomber configuration with the bomb doors open or closed. The other variants were missing. However, as Vickers had, Airfix had engineered the kit to allow them to be built, and this new kit supplies the necessary parts. From it you can build a Valiant B(PR)K.Mk.1 (the second, more versatile PR version) or a B(K).Mk.1. Visually, if you can get hold of suitable decals, the PR version could probably pass for a more basic B(PR).Mk.1 as well.
ďDetail-upĒ sets arenít new to the market, but this is an innovative approach for Airfix. Itís both a good thing and a bad thing. It means that, if you want to build the PR or tanker variants, you have to pay more than if you want to build the bomber. On the other hand, since no Valiant kit contains the extra parts, perhaps it has allowed the price of the main kit to be kept down a little. One peculiar thing is that the new set doesnít actually contain everything that you need - this is because the main kit already includes the glazing for the camera ports, sitting waiting to be used.
So, letís take a look at the parts.
You get one simple grey sprue with 11 parts. One of them is the underside of the PR variant with all ten camera ports fitted into the bomb doors. To build it you simply tuck the glazing into it and pop it under the fuselage in place of the standard closed doors.
The others are all for the tanker version. The largest is a replacement bomb-bay roof, with plumbing moulded in. Most of the other parts make up the hose-drum unit and its cradle, with two going to make up a pumping unit and the last acting as a cover for it whose purpose isnít really clear. Building it is relatively straightforward, effectively following the build sequence for the bomber version with the doors open.
Detail is pretty good, although not top of the range. The moulded-in pipework is inevitably only half-round, although this shouldnít matter very much once everything else is installed. The hose wrapped round the drum isnít really right, as it canít form a true spiral, but again it will give a fair impression. The part that stands out as not quite good enough is the drogue on the end of the hose. In real life this is a metal-and-fabric basket that hangs untidily in a flat oval when not out in the airflow. The kit offers instead a perfectly round shape with rudimentary detail on the outside and none at all within. It will look OK installed, but isnít really much of an advance over what the Matchbox Victor offered nearly thirty years ago.
The instructions are well laid out and do a cunning trick. While you canít actually replace an entire page from the main kitís booklet, you can just skip from one to the other and replace Step 16 (or 17) with a different Step 16 (or 17), then return to the standard instructions. The bulk of the instructions are for the decals, in full colour.
There are two decal options. For the tanker, you get an anti-flash white aircraft (XD812) of 214 Squadron at RAF Marham in 1960; for the PR aircraft, you get WZ399 in high-speed silver with red wingtips and tail surfaces, flying with 543 Squadron at RAF Wyton in 1957. These are really only individual markings and you have to rely heavily on the main kitís decals for national markings and stencilling. The one exception is the fin flash for WZ399, which has a white border, unlike the one in the main kit for the silver prototype and the camouflaged version. The blue on this replacement flash looks a trifle too light to my tired old eyes, but the rest seem fine.
All in all this is a very welcome set of parts. Iíve not seen many Valiants built yet but I suspect a large proportion will be white bombers. Although I canít prove it, I suspect this is one reason why Airfix elected not to make all three variants available in the original boxing. This set enables you to build one of the more unsung - but possibly more important - variants instead. It also allows you to cover all the roles that the V-bombers took on, either in the form of three Valiants or by adding, say, the PR Valiant to a bomber Vulcan and a tanker Victor. Moulding is of the same standard as the main kit, so nothing will look out of place. Token sprue-fondling indicates that fit should be OK too Ė as good as the main kit, though not just a drop-fit.
My only real quibble is value for money. This set is about a quarter of the price of the main kit and doesn't give you a quarter of the parts count. And if you want the PR version, you get worse value than if you want the tanker. The solution is to arrange to share a set with someone whoíll be happy to have the parts you donít want. And remember, if you want to build both, you will of course need to buy two Valiant kits as well!
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