Eduard 1/48 English Electric Lightning F1A/F2

KIT #: 1134
PRICE: $94.00 MSRP
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Andrew Abshier
NOTES: Reissue of the Airfix kit with extra parts in resin and photoetch; canopy masks also included

HISTORY

The English Electric Lightning was developed as the operational culmination of research projects in Great Britain into high-speed flight.  In 1949 a contract was awarded to the English Electric Corporation to develop a high-speed interceptor based on the P1 research aircraft.  Although development showed great potential for the Lightning to become a true multirole combat aircraft, the Air Ministry, believing that the Lightning would be an interim type, stalled development.  What emerged was an austere point-defence interceptor, armed with just two cannon and two Firestreak missiles.  Even still, the Lightnings, upon entering service in 1960, represented a quantum leap in capability for RAF Fighter Command over the Hawker Hunters it would be replacing, and, in all variants, would serve the RAF for nearly 28 years.

The first Lightnings in service, the F1s of 74 Squadron, were quickly joined by the improved F1As of 56 and 111 Squadrons.  The F1As could be distinguished from the F1s by the external cable conduits on both sides of the fuselage.  The F1A, and all subsequent Lightning variants, could also be fitted with an inflight refueling probe underneath the left wing.  The F1As were quickly followed by the F2s, which equipped two squadrons, 19 Sqn. and 92 Sqn.  The F2s were the last of the first-generation Lightnings built with the pointed "witch's hat" tail; F3s would introduce the larger-chord tail used on all later variants of the Lightning.

The early Lightnings remained in front-line service until the mid 1960s, when they began to be replaced by the Lightning F3.  F1As went on to serve in training units and in target facility flights.  Most of the Lightning F2s were converted to F2A standard in 1968-69, which brought them up to near-Lightning F6 standard; the few F2s that were not converted were retired in the early 1970s along with the Lightning F1As.  A number of airframes survive as gate guardians and museum pieces. 

THE KIT


Refer to my preview for what’s in the box.

CONSTRUCTION

Construction started with the wings.  I started things off by fitting the wing leading edges (parts 58 and 61) to the lower wing halves.  The locator tabs were removed and a small amount of CA glue was used on the inside corner of the leading edge parts.  After careful placement to ensure the edges were flush, the remainder of the join was glued with Tenax, applied from the inside.  By going slowly and adjusting as I went, I was able to get a tight, flush join that required no extra work.

The photoetched (PE) bottoms for the wheel wells were added next.  The inside of the upper wing half needed a bit of thinning for clearance, but not much.  Once that was done, the wing halves were glued together, and the remaining PE details for the wheel wells were added.  Most of the PE parts went in easily, but I found part PE49 to be too tall, so I omitted it.  The etch bending was not that hard, and the installed parts  really added some good detail to the wheel well.

Attention then was turned to the cockpit.  As mentioned in my preview, Eduard incorrectly printed the instrument panel (IP) and side consoles in blue-gray, rather than black (if you build an F3, the color is fine).  To correct this, I made a color photocopy of the etch parts, then used the copy as a template to cut out masks for the parts of the IP and consoles already printed in black.  I then sprayed on Floquil SP Lark Dark Gray, an excellent near-black color.  The resultant contrast between the black-printed boxes and the rest of the panels was subtle but noticeable. 

Eduard has two vertical panels (PE 31 and 32) that go in the back of the cockpit.  I mounted them, but they didn’t come close to meeting the cockpit sills, so I removed them.  I instead extended the right-hand console to the rear bulkhead using part of the unneeded F2 console.  The other parts were added according to the instructions.

I did have a go at installing the color photo-etched harnesses on the resin seat.  I had a very hard time with it, ended up losing some of the harness parts, and finally decided to substitute a resin MB Mk. 4 seat with molded-on harnesses!  A more dexterous modeler could probably make this work, but PE harnesses have never been my best subject.  (If you’re the same way, CMK makes a good, and inexpensive, MB Mk. 4 seat; give the Airwaves version a miss, it‘s rather crude). 

The intake trunk halves were assembled.  Unlike the Trumpeter kit, the Airfix intake trunk meets the intake ring nicely, no effort required!  Nose weight was added to the radar tower and radome; the radome was painted in Testor’s faded Olive Drab, then left off for ease of masking until final assembly.

The PE flame holders were cemented in place as follows: I cemented together the exhaust trunks, then inserted a spare section of brass tubing so that the end of the brass tubing was about 4mm below the forwardmost rim of the exhaust trunks.  I then push-fit the flame holders from the front of the exhaust trunks, using the tubing as a leveling surface, then glued the PE parts in place.

I had problems cementing the fuselage halves together at the nose.  For some reason, every Lightning I’ve built (two Airfix, and the Trumpeter 1/32nd) didn’t want to go together on the upper nose section!  It took some heavy-duty CA glue and clamping to get things together.  Fit on the fuselage was otherwise very good.

The glareshield has all sorts of interesting PE and resin parts that busy it up nicely.  The only proviso is that you should cut a notch on the underside of the gunsight part (part 11) so that it clears the IP; I didn‘t realize it was needed, and had quite the merry time cutting it out without knocking off all the PE parts on top!  I also added a bulkhead from plastic card to the forwardmost end of the cockpit tub to give the glareshield more support.  After painting the inside frames of the windshield, the windshield was cemented in place.

The wing to fuselage fit was good, not great.  I tightened up the fit by using the putty smash method described in detail in my B32 Dominator build on this site.  This enabled me to leave the wings off for painting and finishing, which made life a lot easier for both, and I was also able to ensure that the correct anhedral was achieved when the wings were installed.

The Firestreak missiles were assembled, seams finished, and painted with Floquil Reefer White.  I then clearcoated with Future, after which I applied the missile markings.  The markings overlap, and I adjusted the decals so that the overlaps would be hidden as much as possible by the missile rails.  Once dry, the missiles were clearcoated with Testor’s Satin.  Seeker heads were smoke-tinted on the actual missiles, so I gave the clear seeker heads several coats of Tamiya Smoke before adding them to the missiles.  The missiles were mounted on the rails and set aside for final assembly. 

To complete assembly before painting, I added the vertical fin, after opening up the intake at the base of the fin with a small dental burr. Although the Lightning F1A was fitted with guns, the 56 Squadron aircraft I was modeling had the gun openings plated over, so I used the smooth plates (parts 30 and 34, intended for the Lightning F3) for the upper gun openings. 

One note: Eduard has the modeler install an auxiliary scoop (Part 136) to the dorsal spine.  This scoop was not fitted on Lightning F1As, so I filled the hole in the dorsal spine with stretched sprue, cut it flush, and sanded it smooth.  You’ll need the scoop for the later Lightning variants, starting with the F2.

COLORS & MARKINGS

I started with painting the dorsal spine and vertical tail on the fuselage, and the leading edges of the wings and horizontal stabilizers.  After priming with Floquil Reefer White, I airbrushed Testors Italian Red, in several coats.  The dilectric panels on the fuselage spine and fin were then taped over using Scotch tape, and a sharp knife was used to cut openings for the dilectric panels, which were then painted with Floquil Grimy Black.  These panels were then masked off using the previously cut out sections so that the finish on them would remain flat after clear coating. 

On the fuselage, I applied the decals to the vertical tail.  The less ornate squadron badge provided on the Eduard sheet was accurate for XM174, the aircraft I was building, so that was used.  The white outline for the fin flash was far too thick, so the outline was reduced using a straightedge and a sharp blade before applying the fin flash.  Finally, the aircraft letter “D” needed for XM174 was added from an Airfix kit decal I had on hand.  All decals went on very nicely using the Microscale decal system.   The fuselage spine and vertical fin was then clearcoated using Testor’s Satin finish.

The forward windshield and glareshield were masked off and painted in Floquil Grimy Black, and the canopy frames were painted with Floquil CSX Black.  Nose rings was typically polished on most Lightnings, so to represent this, I masked off the antiglare panel and the outline of the nose ring and painted the area first with Floquil CSX Black.  Once the CSX Black was dry, Alclad Polished Aluminum was airbrushed on.  The resultant shine was striking!  The antiglare panel and nose ring were then masked off for the remainder of metalizing, along with all the red areas.  To protect the decals on the vertical fin, paper was taped over the decal areas so that no tape would come in contact with the decals.  Once done, Mr. Surfacer 1000 was applied to all surfaces to receive Alclad II.  Once small faults were identified and fixed, a second coat of Mr. Surfacer was applied.

Alclad II Aluminum was then sprayed overall, with dissimilar panels sprayed in different shades of Alclad and Testor’s non-buffing Aluminum, using photo references as a guide.  To get the demarcation between the dark exhaust and the lighter areas, I used Silly Putty, carefully applied using toothpicks and blunt probes.  Other dissimilar panels were masked off using Tamiya tape or Scotch tape, with a sharp #11 blade used to cut out panels for painting.

Decals were then applied to the wings.  Eduard did not do the walkway stripes correctly, so I used the Airfix instructions as a reference; with some cutting, trimming, and some stripe sections from the spares box, I was able to accurately portray the walkway stripes.  The roundels, stencils, and serial numbers were then added from the Eduard sheet.  Once the decals were dry, I masked off the metal areas, using paper to cover the decals and tape otherwise, to apply Testor’s Satin finish to the red areas.

Returning to the fuselage, decaling revealed some other errors on the Eduard sheet.  One prominent stencil read KEEP CLEANER WHEN ENGINE IS RUNNING(!); fortunately I had a Barracudacals Lightning stencil sheet on hand, and was able to replace those stencils with ones with proper terminology from that sheet.  Other stencils needed for the F1A weren’t even provided on the Eduard sheet, so again the Barracudacals sheet was used to fill in the gaps.   Eduard also missed the black striping for the ventral tank, so I used the stripes from the Airfix kit decal.   

As mentioned in my preview, Eduard did not do the 56 Sqn. roundel bars correctly, so these were replaced with items from the Airfix kit decal.  The Eduard roundel was a bit too large to go with the Airfix bars, so it was replaced with a roundel from a Cutting Edge Lightning decal.  The Airfix decals, once the heavy carrier film was trimmed away, worked fine with the Microscale decal system.

Finally, the yellow striping and hash marks were applied to the canopy.  After applying the decals, the striping really looked too heavy.  I will eventually strip the canopy and replace the striping with that provided on the Airfix kit decal; I‘m showing the Eduard version for this review  so you can see what you think. 

A note for those building this kit: there are subtle but definite differences in stenciling between the F1A and F2 variants of the Lightning.  I would advise keeping the Airfix kit instructions close by when applying stencils on your model, so that you can get things right. 

FINAL CONSTRUCTION


The landing gear is well molded.  I painted the oleo sections with Floquil Bright Silver, and used Old Silver for the rest.  After a wash with Tamiya Black, I clear-coated all but the oleos with Testors Satin.

Eduard provides brake lines for the struts and the strut-retractor arm linkage.  Be careful that you orient the wheels correctly, and install the brake lines before gluing the struts to the wings.  It’s tricky, but it CAN be done.  For the retractor arm-strut linkage, I would glue that to the retractor arm first, then glue the retractor arm to the strut; I tried gluing the linkage in place after gluing the plastic parts together, and I couldn’t make it work.  Again, a more dexterious modeler could probably make this work.

To represent the aluminum plates used to cover the gun openings, I cut out a small piece of aluminum foil, and stuck it, dull side out, to a small piece of Scotch low-tack double-stick tape.  This in turn was stuck to a backing sheet from a label, and the plates were carefully cut to shape using iris scissors.  After peeling off the backing, I applied the foil to the gun plates, then burnished down the edges using brass tubing in a rolling motion.

After gluing the landing gear and doors to the wings, I glued the wings to the fuselage.  I then added the horizontal stabilizers, nose gear, nose gear doors, Firestreak missiles, and various other small parts.  The resin ejection seat was completed by using Eduard’s pre-printed face curtain pulls from the kit, then was added to the cockpit.  I completed the build by gluing the canopy in the open position.  

CONCLUSIONS

The “bones” of this kit, the Airfix Lightning, are very good--I would call it the best Lightning kit in any scale--and it is welcome to have the kit back in general availability.  Eduard’s extras were a mixed bag, as it turned out; the wheel well and strut enhancements were very nice and add a lot to the model, but I thought the cockpit, while significantly improved by Eduard’s parts, would have benefited from a resin tub with more cast-on detail.  The “Brassin” seat with it’s added-on harnesses and details may be beyond the skills of many other modelers besides me, and the brake line mounting is very difficult.  Given the limited utility of the PE parts for the cockpit and the error-prone decal sheet, I would have to say that the kit is priced rather high for what you get. 

Having said that, what I got for my work was a very nice model, and the enhancements that I was able to do from the kit really brought the model to life.  It was worth it just to build the colorful 56 Squadron markings, and I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my finished model.  Recommended for experienced modelers who have handled PE parts before; this is most definitely not a beginner‘s kit.

Review sample provided by Eduard via Tom Cleaver.

REFERENCES

Lake, Jon: "English Electric Lightning"; Wings of Fame Volume 7, 1997

Thunder and Lightnings website:
http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/lightning/index.php

Aviation Picture Hangar website: 
http://www.aviation-picture-hangar.co.uk/Lightning.html

Airfix Lightning F1/F1A/F2/F3 instructions

Andrew Abshier

April 2010

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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