KIT: Special Hobby 1/48 Barracuda V
KIT #: ?
PRICE: 25.52 at www.hannants.co.uk
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Short run with resin parts

HISTORY

       The Fairey Barracuda was created in response to Air Ministry Specification S.24/37, issued in 1937 for a monoplane torpedo bomber to replace both the Swordfish and the newly-designed Albacore.  From six submissions, Fairey's design was selected and two prototypes ordered, the first flying December 7, 1940.

      The aircraft had a high-wing configuration, with large Youngman flaps that were also used as dive brakes. Originally designed to use the Rolls-Royce Exe engine, production of this powerplant was abandoned and the prototypes eventually flew with the Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine, providing 1,260 h.p.  Only 30 Mk. I Barracudas were built as the airplane was seriously underpowered. The Mk. II upgraded to the more powerful Merlin 32 with 1,640 h.p., swinging a four-bladed propeller.  1,688 Mk. IIs were produced and it was the main version to see combat. While the Barracuda was a torpedo strike aircraft, it never used the torpedo in combat due to the fact it was too underpowered even with the Merlin 32 to get off a carrier deck with this weapon.

      Barracudas first entered service in January 1943 with 827 Squadron.  The Barracuda first entered combat with 810 Squadron in the Salerno landings in September 1943. 23 FAA squadrons eventually operated the Barracuda.  From the spring of 1944, 852 TB Mk. III Barracudas equipped with centimetric radar were used for anti-submarine warfare. 

     The final version of the Barracuda was the Mk. V, which replaced the Merlin with a Rolls-Royce Griffon 37 engine with 2,020 h.p. a 40% increase in power which allowed the payload to be increased to 2,000 lb. The Mk. V had ASH radar under the left wing and featured a revised and enlarged tailfin to deal with the increased torque from the Griffon.  Crew was reduced to two, and the rearward-firing Vickers guns were deleted, having been found to not be worth their additional weight. Unfortunately the prototype was delayed and did not fly until November 16, 1944.  Fairey built only 37 before the war in Europe was over.  These aircraft equipped at least one Fleet Air Arm reserve squadron, and were used by British carriers in the COD role until the mid 1950s.

      Despite its odd appearance, pilots came to appreciate the Barracudas, and the aircraft was an effective dive bomber, playing a pivotal role in the eventual sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz.  The Barracuda continued in service until the mid 1950s, when they were all replaced by Grumman Avengers. Not a single example exists today, although the Fleet Air Arm Museum has large pieces of wreckage from two crashed aircraft and hopes to collect enough parts to eventually assemble a complete example for static display.

THE KIT

     Special Hobby released the Barracuda II two years ago.  This kit differs from that one in replacing the earlier wings with their rounded tips with longer-span wings that have squared-off wingtips.  The kit utilizes the fuselage of the earlier kit, with additional plastic parts for the different nose cowling and the larger fin, which can be done in either the early or final configuration. A resin nose cap and radiator finish the changes.

      There are resin parts to create a very complete interior, as well as underwing bomb racks and bombs which were not originally included in the earlier kit. (The images of the clear bits and photo etch were too out of focus to include. Ed) Decals are included for a Barracuda V in Extra Dark Sea Grey/Dark Slate Grey/Sky camouflage, with the early vertical fin, as operated by 783 Squadron from RNAS Lee-on-Solent in the late 1940s, or a Barracuda V in overall silver with the final vertical fin, operated as the COD for HMS Illustrious in the early 1950s.

CONCLUSIONS

      The earlier kit of the Barracuda made up into a very accurate model of this important Fleet Air Arm aircraft.  While the Barracuda V is more of a historical footnote than anything else, this kit also makes up into an accurate representation of this big brutal-looking carrier strike bomber.  For Fleet Air Arm fans, it provides the final version of one of the two successful British monoplane carrier strike aircraft to see combat in the Second World War.  Recommended for those who are fans of really ugly British aircraft that look cool because of that fact.

January 2007

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