Special Hobby 1/48 Blackburn Roc

KIT: Special Hobby 1/48 Blackburn Roc
KIT #: 48050
PRICE: $39.05 from www.greatmodels.com
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES:  

HISTORY

The British seem to be the only country that was enamoured by the concept of the 'Turret Fighter'. In theory, these aircraft were designed to fly into or along side enemy bomber streams. There, the withering fire from the 4 .303 machine guns in the turret would create havoc with the enemy (who I guess would continue to fly along in formation). Then, when it came time to tackle enemy fighters, the turret would swing around forward, allowing the pilot to use the guns in a normal mode for fighters.

Of course, this left out a few things. One is that the turret and operator would add considerable weight to the airframe. The second is that a large chunk of airframe like a turret would tend to create more air resistance. Finally, one would have to hope that the enemy would not be so stupid as to stay in formation and would scatter like leaves in the wind, leaving the turret fighter to chase after them, making it difficult at best for the turret gunner to keep sights on maneuvering bombers from an equally maneuvering aircraft.

However, this was apparently dismissed as no problem or ignored and two different aircraft were developed and put into squadron service. One was the Defiant of the RAF and the other was the Roc of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

The Roc was originally to have been fitted with floats, and four float plane prototypes were built. The first crashed but modifications made the remaining three flyable, although the concept was not pursued. First flying on 23 December 1938, the Roc's service life was brief, as the aircraft's design was quickly rendered obsolete.

The Roc was a "fighter" development of the Blackburn Skua dive bomber using the same turret fighter concept as the Boulton Paul Defiant in that its sole armament was four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns in a powered dorsal turret. The reduced firepower (compared to land based fighters such as the Hawker Hurricane) was offset by the ability to direct it in any direction. In practice the weight of the turret made the Roc even slower than the already slow for fighter purposes Skua, and the Roc eventually found its niche as a dive bomber.

While Blackburn designed the Roc, detail work and all 136 production aircraft were built by Boulton Paul in Wolverhampton alongside the Defiant, although the two aircraft were different and required separate production lines they did use the same Boulton Paul turret.

Although intended for carrier use, Rocs only served alongside Skuas in two land-based squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm between February 1940 and August 1941. During the British campaign in Norway a small contingent of Rocs travelled with 800 and 803 squadrons on board the HMS Ark Royal.

Finally the Roc was relegated to training and target-towing roles until 1943 when it was withdrawn from service.

Finland ordered a number of Roc aircraft to use in its 'Winter War' with the Soviet Union, but while several remarked and ready to be sent over, they were never delivered.

THE KIT

For those who have seen the Skua kit, then most of what is in this one will be familiar. The only real difference in this one are the fuselage halves and those parts needed for the turret. As you might expect, the majority of bits for the turret are done in resin. Photo etch is used for interior bits and the bomb racks that fit under the wings, for the Roc was used mostly as a dive bomber rather than as a fighter as originally intended.

Plastic is nicely molded with very good detailing and the resin is also excellent without any molding glitches. One glitch that continues from the Skua is that the placement of the prop blade molding resulted in one of the blades being broken. The broken blade fell off as I was lifting the sprue from the background after photographing it. I think that MPM needs to rethink putting these items on the outside and without any protection. The prop is not a delicate piece, yet this is two breakages in two different kits.

Instructions are very good with all color references in Gunze paints. There are markings for four aircraft, most with Dark Slate Grey/Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG) uppers. These two colors faded quickly after exposure to the elements so most will use just regular Dark Sea Grey in place of the EDSG.

First markings option is the box art plane from 759 NAS with 'sky grey' undersides. Next is an aircraft from 806 NAS based in the Orkneys with the left wing underside in black and the right in white. The 'sky grey' demarcation line is quite high and also covers the fin. A third option is an overall aluminum lacquer plane from 778 NAS in 1940. Finally, one of the Finnish Rocs in standard FAA colors but with Finnish insignia and code. You can do it as the delivery flight plane where the swastika was covered over with linen (for obvious reasons). The decals should work superbly and are very well printed, providing a nice selection of markings.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, a very nice looking kit. I've heard that some have found trouble getting the wing to properly fit on the Skua, and if that is the case it will cause problems with this one as well. Regardless, it is an interesting kit of one of WWII's operational failures, but will look great next to your CA Defiant as the ultimate expression of the concept.

REFERENCES

http://en.wikipedia.org

October 2007

Thanks to www.greatmodels.com for the review kit. You can find this and many other fine kits and accessories at www.greatmodels.com

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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