Airfix 1/48 Sea Vixen FAW.2
KIT #: 10106
PRICE: $47.00 plus shipping from HLJ
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Xtradecals used


          In 1947, the Royal Navy promulgated a specification for a fleet defense fighter at the same time that the RAF issued a similar requirement.  De Havilland viewed the requirements as being so similar that a single aircraft could fulfil both.

           Gloster aircraft responded to the RAF requirement with the GA.5, which would later become the Javelin, while de Havilland responded with the DH.110.  While RAF liked the Gloster aircraft  five DH 110s were contracted for as insurance, plus four for the Royal Navy. The four naval DH 110s were canceled when Their Lordships of the Admiralty decided a simpler and cheaper option would be an improved version of the de Havilland Sea Venom, the standard model of which was about to enter service. The five RAF aircraft were cut to two prototypes.

           Gloster’s GA.5 was first to fly, and RAF interest in the DH.110 ended.  De Havilland continued working on the prototypes, the first of which flew on September 26, 1951. A year later this  aircraft starred in a spectacular accident at the Farnborough Air Show when the wing failed and the aircraft came apart during a rolling pull‑up maneuver that killed John Derry, his observer Tony Richards and 29 in the audience.  Following the accident,  the surviving prototype was strengthened and redesigned over the course of a year before trials continued.

           With the cancellation of the improved Sea Venom project, the FAA decided they were interested in the DH 110 after all.  WG240, the second prototype, successfully underwent carrier trials.  The airplane was significantly redesigned to create the DH.110 Mk.20X prototype for a production version to be designated the FAW 20. Ten development aircraft were ordered in 1955; the first was the Mk.20X, which had no folding wings and first flew on June 20, 1955. Trials went well and 35 additional airframes were ordered. The first full FAW.20 flew on March 20, 1957.  The initial specification called for four Aden cannon and four Firestreak missiles, but this was changed to an all-missile armament with unguided air‑to‑air rockets in pop-out boxes fitted in place of the cannon.

           The first FAW 1 was delivered in November 1957 to 700 Squadron, which formed a trials unit and tested eight FAW 1s until the unit was re‑comissioned as 892 squadron.  

                    The side‑by‑side seating of the Sea Venom was kept in an unusual form, with the observer seated below and to the right of the pilot in a cockpit known as “the coal‑hole” because of almost total lack of a view out of it; it was not a popular arrangement.

At the time of its introduction, the Sea Vixen attracted foreign interest, including West Germany and Australia.  De Havilland was working on an improved with thin wings when the British decided manned aircraft were obsolete in the 1957 Defense White Paper.  Foreign interest evaporated and the supersonic version was canceled.

           Another proposed improvement was a version with increased fuel in wing tip tanks and an extended forward fuselage, which never got off the drawing board.  Improvement went to the FAW 2 version which entered service in 1963.  It featured enlarged tail booms which extended forward of the wing leading edge, giving give more room for ECM equipment in the top half and additional fuel in the tip and bottom.  The missile armament was changed to the Red Top, which had limited all‑aspect seeker heads and Bullpup air‑to‑ground missile capability, as well as an alternative ground attack armament of 4 24-rocket SNEB pods.  The obsever’s hatch, which was flat with a small window in the FAW 1 was made fully clear and bulged; it was additionally possible for the observer to eject through this frangible hatch, which had not been possible in the earlier version.  If the seat failed to fire, this meant the observer had to try and escape through the clear part of the hatch, which was a very tight fit. In one sad case, an observer got stuck half way out and despite frantic efforts by his pilot to free him, ended up being killed.

           While the Sea Venom never saw combat, it did take part in the military emergencies of the 1960s.  When Iraq threatened to invade Kuwait in 1961, HMS Victorious transferred from the South China Sea to the Persian Gulf while HMS Bulwark landed marines in Kuwait. Sea Vixens patrolled the skies, and Iraq stepped back from invasion.

           In January 1964, Sea Vixens from HMS Centaur flew air cover for marines landed to support the government in Tanganyika and  provided protection for RAF transports bringing supplies and equipment.  Unfortunately, the 1966 Defense White Paper canceled the hoped‑for new carrier CVA‑01, on grounds that carriers were now obsolete.  The obsolete force proved its worth following Rhodesia’s declaration of independence, when Sea Vixens were deployed to replace Javelins that proved incapable of operating in the region. The Sea Vixen’s final mission was providing cover for the withdrawal of British forces from Aden in 1967. Sea Vixens of 893 Squadron operated on HMS Victorious during her epic far east cruise from 1965 to 1967 (Yours truly saw Victorious and her Sea Vixens at Singapore shortly before my return to the United States and return to civilian life).  The last Sea Vixen squadron was disbanded in 1972.   Several Sea Vixens were modified to D.3 missile target drones, but were too expensive for such work and were used to train drone pilots in flying aircraft by remote control.  Only five D.3 conversions were completed.  One has been restored for flight as G-CVIX and is a regular airshow performer, the most complex civilian‑operated type on the UK register until Vulcan XH558 was returned to the air.

           The Sea Vixen was a tough airplane.  Most famously a Sea Vixen made a bad landing, hitting several parked aircraft and other deck gear, yet still managed to stagger back into the air and make a successful landing ashore, minus 8 feet of the right wing.  While not an air-superiority fighter, it had good maneuverability and was supersonic in a dive.

           The Sea Vixen equipped two FAA flight demonstration teams: “Simon’s Sircus” named after the team leader, LCDR Simon Idiens, and “Fred’s Five,” also named after their team leader.  Though they only put on some 40 displays, “Simon’s Sircus” was considered one of the best British air display teams ever.


           Previous to the release of this Airfix kit, the only Sea Vixen kit in 1/48 was a very complex vacuform from Dynavector.  The kit was for advanced modelers only and required a lot of work to get a good model in the end.  The Airfix kit effectively makes the Dynavector kit obsolete.  The kit offers alternative armament of four Red Top missiles or four SNEB pods, and markings for four different Sea Vixens including one from Simon’s Sircus flight demonstration team and G-CVIX.


          Unlike the Dynavector kit, the Airfix kit is easy to assemble if one follows the instructions.  After painting the cockpit black and assembling it, the rest of the kit was assembled over an afternoon, requiring seam filler only on the forward fuselage, and that may have been a modeler-induced problem.  Overall, this was the best Airfix kit to be released until the recent release of the even-better designed Gloster Javelin.

           I opted to do mine with the dive brake and flaps retracted.  Usually, deployed flaps are really only going to fit in the deployed position, but in this case they fit closed, with only a little reshaping necessary for the part that fit into the booms. 

           The kit offers the option of folding or extending the wings, and the design is good enough that either choice will work without problems.  I put three medium-sized fishweights in the nosecone, which solved any tail-sitting without further problem.

           At this point in the project, I managed a self-inflicted wound when I managed to drop the completed canopy and find it the hard way - Crrruuuunnnnch!  For the first time in over 50 years of building Airfix models, I had to make use of Airfix’s legendary parts replacement service.  An e-mail to Hornby America resulted in an entire second kit being sent as replacement within a week!  I have decided to use the Dynavector canopy on that one, having used its canopy on this model, and will do a second Sea Vixen because I like this kit so much.  One certainly must score Airfix and Hornby high in customer service support.


          After pre-shading the model with Tamiya “NATO Black,” I painted the lower surfaces with Tamiya gloss white.  I masked that and painted the upper surfaces with Tamiya “Dark Grey,” which I post-faded a bit, the way airplanes look after a time at sea.  When all was dry I gave the model a coat of Future.

          I used the kit decals for the technical markings.  I had to do several applications of Solvaset to make the red markings on the upper rear fuselage sit down without silvering, but otherwise there was no problem.  I used the Xtradecals Sea Vixen decals 48089, to create Sea Vixen XP923, 493/E, of 899 Squadron aboard HMS Hermes in 1964.

           I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Satin clear varnish, then attached the landing gear and Red Top missiles.


          I have thought this airplane looked interesting ever since seeing photos of the prototype in my first “serious” airplane book, William Green’s “All The World’s Aircraft, 1954.”  I thought the airplane definitely looked very cool when I saw it in the flesh in Singapore in 1965.  The kit does not fail in achieving that look.  It is not difficult to build, and the result is a good-looking model that is only exceeded in good design by its Javelin stablemate.  Highly recommended.

 Tom Cleaver

December 2013

Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review copy.  Order yours at this link. Thanks to Hannant’s for the decals.  Order yours at this link.

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