Revell/Matchbox 1/32 Sea Venom FAW.21

KIT #: 04709
PRICE: $48.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Berna Decals BER 32008, and AMS Resins seats used


A DeHavilland Vampire became the first jet in history to land aboard a carrier, when LCDR Eric Brown landed the second prototype Vampire aboard HMS Ocean on December 3, 1945. The Fleet Air Arm's interest in the Vampire - which had just entered full production for the RAF - was more as a way of becoming familiar with the problems of operating jets from carriers than any intrinsic interest in the Vampire as a combat aircraft.

In 1947 the Vampire was upgraded with a Ghost engine developed from the original Goblin. Making use of the 50 percent increase in power meant airframe modifications, which resulted in the Venom. The Royal Navy became very interested in a DeHavilland proposal for an interim night fighter developed from the Venom using the 2-seat cockpit and radar developed for the Vampire night fighter. This design also became the RAF Venom NF Mk.2. Designated the Sea Venom NF Mk. 20, the airplane first flew April 19, 1951, with the first fully-navalized version flying on July 26, 1952; this was different from the first two prototypes in having power-folding wings. 60 aircraft, designated FAW (Fighter, All-Weather) Mk. 20 were ordered that August, with 890 Squadron becoming the first fully-equipped Sea Venom unit in March 1954. 

The Royal Australian Navy ordered 49 Sea Venoms in 1952, with 39 finally delivered as Sea Venom FAW Mk. 53 between March and December 1955. These aircraft would serve aboard HMAS Melbourne until 1968. I remember seeing these aircraft over Sangley Point Naval Station in Manila in May 1963, following the end of that year's SEATO exercise. (Even then I was well-known as an aircraft spotter; no one else could identify the airplanes, so the squadron XO made a $5 bet I could identify them, which I promptly did.)

Difficulty with weak landing gear and tail hooks led to the Mk. 20 order being reduced to 50, with the last ten strengthened and equipped with Martin-Baker Mk.2 ejection seats, a bulged canopy over the pilot's seat to facilitate view during landing, and US APS-57 radar. They became the FAW Mk.21, the most-produced variant with 168 aircraft total. Those later aircraft in the XG-range were equipped with the lightweight Martin-Baker Mk.4 seat. The final version, the FAW Mk.22 which appeared in late 1956, had an uprated Ghost 104 engine which resulted in increased climb. 39 were produced, and another 40 Mk. 21s were upgraded to Mk.22 standard. 

1957 saw the Sea Venom equipping four FAA squadrons: 890, 892, 893 and 894, all aboard carriers. In 1958, the FAW Mk.22 aircraft were modified to carry Firestreak missiles. The Sea Venom left first line FAA service in 1961 with the disbandment of 894 Squadron. The Sea Venom was followed into service by the Sea Vixen, a development of the D.H.110 that had been considered by the FAA before adoption of the Sea Venom; the protracted development of this type is why the Sea Venom was considered an "interim" all-weather interceptor.

Operation Musketeer:

Operation Musketeer was the last large-scale action involving the Royal Navy's aircraft carrier force. Three carriers, H.M.S. Albion, Bulwark and Eagle, constituted the air component of the Royal Navy's contribution to the planned intervention.

Aboard the three carriers were DeHavilland Sea Venom FAW Mk. 21 all-weather fighters from 809 Squadron (H.M.S. Albion), 892 Squadron (H.M.S. Eagle) and 893 Squadron (H.M.S. Bulwark). The squadrons were tasked with providing night and bad weather air defense for the Anglo-French fleet, and as strike aircraft for daylight operations over Egypt. Though unstated, one of the tasks of the Sea Venoms was to provide early warning of any possible intervention by the U.S. Sixth Fleet, units of which were shadowing the Anglo-French ships from north of Cyprus.

The Sea Venoms first entered combat on November 1, 1956, with a surprise attack on Egyptian airfields in the canal zone. 893 Squadron destroyed a number of MiG-15s at Almaza airfield near Cairo, while the other two squadrons shot up other fields nearby. The ineffectiveness of the Egyptian Air Force meant the Sea Venom had no opportunity to display its air combat capabilities.

During the six days of Operation Musketeer, the Sea Venoms provided Fleet CAP against possible attacks that never materialized. The three squadrons made numerous low level strikes in the Canal Zone using cannon fire and rockets against airfields and other targets. They also provided top cover for the landings at Port Said on November 3. During this operation, LCDR R.A. Shilcock, CO of 893 Squadron strafed and sank an Egyptian E-boat. The squadrons performed "cab rank" attacks against targets of opportunity such as tanks, mortar batteries and vehicles.

During the operation, only one Sea Venom was lost, with WW281 of 893 Squadron making an emergency wheels-up landing aboard Eagle, during which it became the first aircraft to be saved by the ship's nylon deck barrier, though it was damaged beyond repair in the process.

Following the cease-fire proclaimed on November 6, Sea Venoms remained with the fleet to cover the withdrawal of British forces from Port Said, then sailed for Malta.


 Matchbox released the Sea Venom in the late 1970s.  While it has the most accurate shape of any of the injection-molded kits of the airplane, it also suffers from Matchbox's trench-like panel lines and a very simplified construction.  Overall parts fit is so-so.  The Revell re-release which first appeared in the 1990s has far superior decals to the original release.  The first Revell re-release was in overall light grey plastic, with later releases (like this one) in white.  The kit has separate rear fuselage parts and canopy to allow you to make an RAF N.F. 3 if you so desire.

The kit suffers from very simplified cockpit with seats that barely look like seats, let alone MB Mk 2s.

Berna Decals 32008 provides three Sea Venoms: two FAW 21s - WM577/O from NAS Ford in 1955 and WW189 451/J from 892 Squadron aboard HMS Eagle at Suez in 1956 - and one FAW 22, XG737 438/B aboard HMS Bulwark in 1958.  These have been recently reprinted and are available from Hannant's for US$21.99.

Harold Offield from AMS Resin has finally done the MB Mk 2 seats he had been planning for the past several years, which are a good investment in improving the look of the model.  They are not yet commercially available but should be soon at Sprue Brothers, which markets AMS Resins sets.


I was fortunate to receive a review copy of the last re-release of this kit from Hannant's.  I then waited for what turned out to be six years for the resin seats to show up that would make the model worthwhile, and in the meantime managed to find the Berna Decals, which as stated above are now available in a limited reprint at Hannant's. 

I assembled the wings separately, making certain to use the wheel wells that are for the Sea Venom.  I then assembled the fuselage, using as little of the jet engine as I could get away with, since I planned to have the model closed up.  Weight was placed in the radome sufficient to guarantee nose sitting. 

I then applied Mr.  Surfacer 500 to every joint and sanded things smooth.  I also made a new dorsal intake that was correctly-shaped.  I decided to use the kit instrument panel decal.  The cockpit is a tight fit, so with the new good-looking seats therein and everything painted black, I figured they would distract the viewer's eye from the lack of detail in the cockpit. I assembled the canopy and attached it to the fuselage.  I then masked it with Tamiya tape.


I first painted the Operation Musketeer stripes, airbrushing yellow and masking that, then black and masking that.  The radome was also painted and masked.  The lower fuselage was painted with Xtracrylix "Sky" and the upper surfaces with Xtracrylix "Extra Dark Sea Grey."  I then unmasked the model and applied a coat of Future.

The decals went on without problem under a coat of Micro-Sol.  The model was given an overall coat of Xtracrylix "Satin" clear varnish.

 The landing gear, wheel wells and interior of the gear doors were painted Tamiya "Flat Aluminum."  All was assembled once the paint was dry. The seats were painted per a color photo of a MB Mk 2 seat at The Ejection Site, and then installed in the cockpit. I scratchbuilt a windshield wiper from Evergreen strips and attached that after unmasking the canopy.  

I elected not to use the kit rockets, since they and their rails are awful.  I may at some point scratchbuild rocket rails and rockets.


 With the model cleaned up, and a set of good seats installed, and good decals used, the old Matchbox kit looks pretty good sitting next to my 1/32 Meteor F. Mk.4 and Hunter F.6.  The kit is no longer in production, but can be found at dealer's tables at shows, and on eBay.  The decals are available at Hannant's and also on eBay, and the seats will be available soon at Sprue Brothers.  This is an easy project for anyone with a bit of experience with kits that "need help."

Tom Cleaver

May 2014

Thanks to Hannant's for the kit.  Thanks to Harold Offield at AMS Resins for the seats.  Decals courtesy of my wallet.

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