Airfix 1/72 Saunders-Roe SR.53

KIT #: ?
PRICE: 50 pence
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


During 1953, a firm in Britain, Saunders Roe, pursued a concept of a so-called mixed power interceptor. This was a combination of a turbojet with that of a rocket power. Thereby using the fuel economy of the turbojet combined with a higher flight performance of a rocket. In 1953 this project took the form of an aircraft that carried radar and could carry an infrared guided missile on each wing tip, the Blue Jay guided missile. The aircraft was to have a powerful DH Specter rocket engine and a less powerful Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet.

Saunders Roe received a contract for three prototypes SR53s. This contract in spite of its steady progress was to be short lived. While the SR53 was on final flight preparations at the A&AEE at Boscombe Down, the Defence Minister Duncan Sandys issued his classic white paper where it was explained that the RAF was unlikely to require any fighter than the Lightning mk1 and so other projects were being shelved. If not cancelled altogether.

In the meantime, on May 16th 1957, John Booth who was S.R. chief test pilot made the maiden flight of the first SR53 where he reached a speed of Mach 1,33 and recorded a high rate of climb reaching 50,000 feet in one minute. That same year the SR53 XD145 performed at the SBACC show at Farnborough. After further flight development and ground handling as well as servicing tests that were progressing very well indeed, then without the slightest warning, the entire programme has been cancelled when no further funding was approved. This was done in spite of great interest expressed by the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine who already had indicated that the British aircraft was their first choice on technical and operational grounds as compared to the F-104 and Mirage III competitors. These have found it very difficult to understand the termination of a project SR177 that evolved from the SR53.

This was not the end of the story because following the most unbelievable and shortsighted decision; on the 5th of June 1958 Booth was killed while flying the second aircraft XD151 during a take off accident. This along with lack of backing from the government side brought a tragic end to the programme that could have been a world wide success much bigger than that of the F-104 and Mirage III, if only Mr. Duncan Sandys knew how many aircraft of the latter type were to be sold.

 SR53 Specification

Dimensions: Span     25 1.25

                     Length 45

                     Height 10 10

                     Wing area 274 Sq Ft.

 Gross Weight: 18,400 lbs

 Power plants: One Spectre rocket with full throttle rating of 8,000lbs.

                     One Armstrong Siddeley Viper turbojet rated at 1,640 lb trust

Performance:  Max speed Mach 2 above 35,000

                      Acceleration at 50,000 from Mach 0.9 to Mach 1.4 takes 31 seconds.


The SR53 was released some 40 or so years ago by Airfix and was one of Airfix exceptionally accurate kits in dimensions measuring 7.5 in overall length and a wing span of 4.16. The kit is made up of 26 moulded pieces in white plastic and one transparent piece for the cockpit canopy. A base stand in transparent plastic also comes with the kit. A crew figure is also included in the kit bag as is the custom with Airfix models. The components surface detail is quite good with flaps and aileron actuators being accurately spaced and moulded in recess form without being overdone. The inspection-paneling outline located behind the air intake is slightly on the heavy side.

 The instruction sheet is the familiar type of Airfix early kits, showing exploded view in black outline, shown in numerical order to indicate steps of construction with assembly detail being broken down in three construction stages. Plan and side views help with placing the decals in the correct positions. The artwork provided with the instructions is exceptionally good and acts as a source of reference when it comes to add the markings to the finished model; or the shape of engine outlets; adding the various antennae, whip aerials etc.


  Reference to photos of the actual aircraft will clearly indicate that the shape of the undercarriage doors need to be slightly altered and the section thickness reduced by half. If left open, the air brakes parts No 21 and 22 would also need thinning down and some detail added to the interior. Detail to cockpit office and wheel wells are practically non existent which was then the order of the day. It is therefore to conduct some research work to rectify these areas which are rather small. The under fuselage slot which is intended to take the stand that comes with the kit is blanked with putty and sanded smooth. The pilot figure needed some trimming and an easy way to improve on an otherwise plain ejection seat was to obtain an equivalent from after market supplies or rebuild detail to existing one upon reference to photos of the type used.

 An overall comment is that the kit contained a quantity of flash that needed to be removed with a little effort. The wing mounted Firestreak shaped missiles which were then known as Blue Jay needs to be replaced with more recent shapes or otherwise if one wants to use the missiles supplied these have to have new fins as the ones with the kit are on the thick side. I have preferred to leave the missiles off from the tops. To play safe I added nose weight to make sure that the kit would balance on its nose. This was encased to the nose cone area. Another observation is that one could see through the other end if one looks down the air intakes. This was interrupted using a blanking piece across during early construction. This area inside the fuselage was carefully painted matt black.


Having all the parting lines and imperfections attended to so that a smooth surface finish is obtained on a streamlined dynamic design using putty followed by sanding smooth, the kit was then given a coat of semi matt Humbrol white coat. After allowing time to dry the surface was given a smooth sanding with wet and dry and given the final semi matt coat of white overall finish. Anti glare panel ahead of canopy was painted matt black.

The decal sheet had a yellowish carrier film and this could be trimmed with a sharp modeling knife. There were 14 decal items besides the name of aircraft. In my case the decal only served to obtain the size of lettering and roundels to use. The Airfix kit serial was XD145, which is the aircraft that survived to this day. I preferred to make mine to represent XD151. As for the roundels and markings I used ones from Model Decal sheets. It is interesting to note that at one time both prototypes were undergoing intensive tests at the same SR facilities, standing only a few yards apart.


 The overall semi matt white finish showed the delicate characteristic features of the SR53 and with a most pleasing effect when the fine extra detail was added to the outside. The kit filled an interim gap when the RAF was still looking for a new fighter that was required to be fast in speed and with a high rate of climb. The scale model of the SR53 makes a good contrast when placed next to other research and development aircraft as the Fairey Delta 2 (Frog) and the TSR2 (Airfix). These were designs well ahead of their time. One still wonders what it would have been like if aircraft like the SR53 and TSR2 would have made it into production and active service with the RAF and other European forces as was originally intended to.  


Air Pictorial issues.   

June 2007

Carmel J. Attard

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