Novo/Frog 1/72 Fairey Barracuda
KIT #: F161
PRICE: 7/6 many years back
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


The Barracuda Mk1 was a 3-seat high wing monoplane designed for dive-bombing torpedo carrying and reconnaissance duties. It is regarded as one of the most controversial aircraft of WWII, it is ugly, underpowered, lacked performance, it broke up in mid air, couldn’t pull out of a dive, yet ex-Barracuda aircrew never had any misgivings about flying the type and indeed may even appreciate its ruggedness and operational capabilities. There were many who felt that the Barracuda was even more suited for the task (torpedo and reconnaissance bomber) than the American counterpart, the Avenger. Pilots identified the basic problem with the type as being incorrect handling of the aircraft and engine. In spite of all the Barracuda was a valuable strike aircraft.


The emerged basic design of the Barracuda included a span of 50’, reducing to 18’ when folded, a length of 37’ and a height of 14’9” with the tail down. A maximum speed of only 18 knots at rated altitude at a maximum all up weight of 10,500 lbs, an endurance of 6 hours (8 hours with extra fuel) at 120 knots at 2,000ft. Typically it could carry a 1,500lb torpedo or bomb load. It had to be able to dive at 70 degrees for dive-bombing load and was suggested that flaps should provide stability in the dive and recovery. Defensive armament was to have a single fixed forward firing .303 machine gun and one or two for the Telegraphist air gunner in the rear cockpit. Six under wing hard points allowed a combination of bombs up to 1,500 lbs. Trials with 827 Sq in early 1943 to carry four 500 lb bombs was abandoned due to poor handling and loss of performance. Instead a 1,600 lb mine could be added.  Early versions were powered by Merlin 30 with a 3-blade variable-pitch propeller and constant speed unit. The Mk II and Mk III had a Merlin 32 with a 4-blade propeller. The Barracuda was continuously under development during the war with problems being fixed by modifications as they appeared.


The Barracuda had a reasonably long service history. They began replacing Albacores in January 1943 and No 827 Sq was the first operational unit at Stretton to receive a mixed bag of Mk1 and Mk II. In the same month No 810 Sq also changed its Swordfish for Barracudas. Nine more FAA squadrons followed to receive the type. Since 1943 Barracudas have proved to be a formidable strike aircraft sinking some 14 enemy ships and continued to do so until the end of the war. Among the important operations, it took part in the planned series of strikes to destroy the German battleship Tirpitz that were launched from two fleet and four escort carriers.


Several home based carriers and their complement of Barracudas were used during the latter stages of the war for attacks on German shipping in and around the Norwegian coastline. Several air groups were involved with most aircraft carrying bombs whilst a few had torpedoes fitted. ASV equipped Barracudas operated along the East Coast in support of RAF Coastal Command. The radar scanner in a bulge beneath the rear fuselage could identify the type. A brief peculiar event involved Barracudas from 822 Squadron. This formed part of the emergency force in the Pacific that alongside aircraft from 823 Squadron embarked on escort carriers HMS Etheling with 815 and 817 Squadrons aboard HMS Begum. These were dispatched to Madras India. The Commanding Officer of 823 Squadron Lt.Cdr.L.C Watson DSO. RNVR, led a procession of Barracudas for 2 miles through streets, wings folded, they proved an interesting spectacle. All reached the shore strip without damage and took off for RAF Ulunderpet. Shortly afterwards the fear of a Japanese attach abated and the aircraft returned to UK. In the same month 17 Barracudas from HMS Illustrious took part against the Japanese oil installations in Sabang islands. The last operation took part in 1st September 1945 on enemy shipping that defied the cease-fire off Hong Kong. In the Indian Ocean the type again struck at Japanese positions in the Nicobar Islands.


 A number of Barracudas were exported to foreign navies. The French Navy received ten ex-Fleet Air Arm, Mk II. These were equipped with ASH radar between March and July 1948. The Dutch Navy 860 Sq took over 21 Barracudas from 822 Squadron in June 1945. They operated from HMS Nairama until May 1946.


The Fairey Barracuda is also listed among the endless list of aircraft that operated in Malta. Soon after the war ended, during February 1945, hurried arrangements were made at Hal Far airfield to deal with the arrival of four squadrons of Fleet Air Arm aircraft. The expected influx of FAA squadrons on temporary attachment for training began on 8th March 1945 with the arrival of personnel. The aircraft flew in on the 20th March and no less than 48 Fairey Barracudas of 812 and 814 Sq, 47 Chance Vought Corsairs of 1850 Sq and 1851 Sq and three Seafires of 736 flight. These flew in from the carriers HMS Venerable and HMS Vengeance. Apart from a bent tail wheel on an F4U all went well. During the month of April 1945 there were no less than 4,700 aircraft movements. On 11th May the Barracuda Squadrons carried out a large-scale dummy attack on Tripoli, Operation ‘Sling’ before leaving Hal Far on 20/21st May at the end of the training period. 812 revisited Hal Far on several other occasions with Barracudas operating alongside Fireflies before the latter replaced them.

The Novo kit was bought in 1980 and molded in cream styrene and was complete with instructions and decals for two FAA aircraft, one of which were SE Asia markings, the Russian Frog kit was sent by courtesy of Scott Van Aken and the kit was in dark brown styrene, no instructions or decals included in the polytene bag. These two ex-Frog kits have detailing missing being a release of 40 years ago, still they merit extra work so that a satisfactory replica can be produced.

In improving the two Barracuda models it is necessary to involved a certain amount of drilling, filing and addition of detail parts to a practically straight from the box assembly. The first stage of construction is to work on and around the cockpit area, as it is basically bare in detail. But before making a start the panel lines are removed from all the kit parts. These are then carefully scribed while making reference to drawings and Barracuda photos. The long glass cockpit canopy yearns for additional details to the crew compartment.  The two air intakes at sides of nose are drilled and filed to shape the opening. These were blanked with a black piece of plastic card from deep inside. The main air intake had a divider bracket added. This was in form of an inverted ‘Y’ and was built from pieces of plastic card. Inside to the bracket fine copper gauze was glued. The next stage is detailing the canopy interior. Appropriate radio and navigation equipment was fitted in the observer’s spacious compartment where the observer also had the advantage of bulged transparency below the wing root to allow downward vision for taking bearings. Under the continuous transparent canopy an instrument panel was added to the pilot area, rudder pedals, control stick and side consoles. Bulkhead was also fitted and added head rest to seat position. Another crew seat added forming a total of three. Crew figures were carefully painted in FAA style of overall with a yellow mea-west.   

Needle files refined the exhaust stubs and also added a lower end extension using a flat piece of plastic shaped and fitted at a vertical inclination to side of nose. More detail is now added to other areas externally. A tiny pitot tube bent at 90 degrees was fitted under port wing. Tail wheel leg was replaced with a stronger one made from metal wire. Footsteps added on port side of fuselage for both cockpit entries, thinned down the wing fences, since MD965 that I modeled carried an
ASV radome, this was made and shaped from wood and prepared to fit at a later stage. This will form a bulge beneath the rear fuselage. All interior was painted in cockpit green with instruments in matt black with touches of white and gray at instruments. The wheel wells were also detailed while the undercarriage toggle strut that secured the undercarriage in lowered position had detail added to. A ‘V’ frame deck landing arrestor hook was made from bent wire and fitted under fuselage. Torpedo crutches were also added under the fuselage. One of the models had two ASV complex antennae made from metal wire added on top of both wings. Landing light added to port leading edge and navigation light added. Dinghy release markings were added at the rear of fuselage.

I used Humbrol slate grey and extra dark sea grey for the upper camouflage. The pattern differed on the two aircraft. The demarcation line between the two colours was a merging type and I did that using plasticine as masking. The lower surfaces were painted in duck egg green using Model Master brand. The interior was cockpit green. Decals came from kit and spare decal box.


Considering the age on the kit and compared with more recent issues by Special Hobby (at some 16 times the cost of one Frog kit) I realized it was with some effort to do the upgrade but was well worthwhile. The Special Hobby kit that I also have can now be made to join the Squadron too.

Carmel J. Attard

August 2010

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