|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The last supersonic single seat fighter developed by the British and put into unit service was the BAC/E.E. Lightning. Though not built in large numbers, the type has etched itself into the consciousness of aviation fans all throughout the UK. A maintenance nightmare according to those who worked on it, the aircraft was, nevertheless, quite capable and extremely fast. In fact, its speed was a major plus for an interceptor in the UK when the warning time was minimal. It was also quite fuel thirsty and was often seen with its somewhat unique over-wing fuel tanks. This odd arrangement has been used on a few other aircraft for weapons, but to my knowledge, no other aircraft has routinely carried them in this fashion. Though the type was withdrawn from service in the late 1980s, several still operate in the UK doing fast taxy demonstrations and I believe at least one is airworthy in South Africa. The British aviation authorities will not allow private flying of the Lightning due to the ease at which the control surface hydraulic lines could easily be switched by accident and the lack of manual back-up. Then there is the problem with general maintenance, but the flight control deal that has kept them grounded.
The F.2A and F.6 are upgrades of the standard F.1A/F2 variant. The major differences are the enlarged belly tank that with the F.6 variant, includes the cannon armament, removing that from the nose where it was in earlier versions, and a larger, square-tipped fin. The F.2A still kept the upper nose guns and did not normally have them in the belly pack. Also added to this version were the ability to carry over-wing fuel tanks. These aircraft operated the Firestreak missiles, but could replace that option with additional guns in the forward tank section as was installed on the F.6, making it a four gun, no missile interceptor. The F.6 only had the guns in the forward tank and carried Red Top missiles. From what I recall, the F.2As basically served in RAF Germany with #19 and #92 squadrons.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be an all new tool kit and if so, it is a wise choice made by Airfix to kit this one first. The F.2A was used by only two squadrons and so would be considered by some to be the 'least desirable' version of this interesting British fighter. Since most companies who end up doing multiple variants of an aircraft do the one which was used the least first, here is the F.2A.
Molding is quite good and while some may still think the engravings are too large (and they are compared to some others), they look fine to me and I'm sure that most will be pleased with what they see. Based on their other more recent kits, the engineering should be first rate. The cockpit (which is quite small) has a bang seat and control stick, using decals for instruments and consoles. The seat is pretty generic so those not wanting to use the pilot might want to look for aftermarket. I will be difficult not to make comparisons with the Trumpeter kit as both model companies have designed their Lightning kits in a similar manner. This one has a full intake trunking with a blanking plate that has an engine compressor face in the lower section. The intake itself incorporates the nose gear well and is where you stick the weight, after which you install the radome. Kit instructions say 4 grams should cover it. Add more.
Long burner cans are provided with an exhaust compressor blanking plate on one end and the burner petals along with the exhaust plate on the other. These are then sandwiched in between the fuselage halves. The front part of the belly tank is separate and contains the two part forward section without the guns. Wings are in upper and lower sections and one must open holes for the refueling probe. Separate flaps and provided which is a bit of a waste as they were normally in the neutral position except during landing and maintenance.
Back in the front are inserts for either the nose guns or blanking plates. Apparently the F.2A could have lower guns, though it seems that in later years these were removed. As with every 1/72 Lighting I've seen or built, the nose wheel is incorporated with the nose gear. Main gear is nicely done and the kit offers either multiple piece main gear doors for gear down or a single piece for gear up. The kit also provides open or closed speed brakes, but again, these were normally closed. The proper Firestreak missiles are included though the clear sprue also has the rounded seeker nose for the Red Tops. The canopy can be displayed open or closed. A nice addition is the inclusion of an intake cover. Those who are anal about Lightnings know that the cable duct on the left side of the fuselage was different lengths for different planes. This one has an insert for the proper short length that was fitted to the F.2A.
Instructions are typical Airfix in that only Humbrol paint numbers are provided for the construction sequences. When it comes to the overall painting, actual colors are given. New to me is that some subassemblies are shown in color in the instructions. I guess it helps. Decals are nicely done and provide two markings; one for 19 and one for 92 Squadron. The19 Squadron plane is the camouflaged version that is shown on the box art. The 92 Squadron option is unpainted metal with a blue fin and upper spine as flown by the Squadron Commander. A sheet is dedicated to the myriad of stencils that are for the aircraft. There are some aftermarket options for this variant and I'm sure that new ones will be produced.
Did we really need another Ligtning F.2A kit? Well as nice as the Trumpeter kit is, this one has two pluses. One is that it gets some of the tiny details right, such as the cable duct length and the small rear fuselage exhaust fairing that were not correct on the Trumpeter kit. Secondly it is half the price of the Trumpeter kit, something that many modelers will appreciate. If you have the Trumpeter kit, by all means build it as it makes a nice model (see photo), but if you don't have an F.2A, then this would be the one to get.
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