|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
At the beginning of WWI two-seater airplanes were built in accordance with the "orthodox" layout, in which the pilot had a position in the rear seat, and a gunner-observer sat in the front. Only after the appearance of the famous Sopwith 1½ Strutter did the situation change, and the two-seater airplane gained its "classic" arrangement the crew changed places in the cockpit of the airplane. It was an era in which the classic single-seat fighter had not yet taken center stage, and that is why the majority of new designs consisted of two-seaters.
In 1916 British aircraft designer Geoffrey de Havilland developed one such type in accordance with the "classic" layout. It was a two-seater biplane which history came to know by its official name, the D.H.4. At first, it was planned as a multipurpose airplane with the 230 h.p. Beardmore B.H.P. engine, however in the process of putting it into series production it transpired that the engine would have to be exchanged for another type, because the B.H.P. still needed perfecting and substantial revision.
The airplane passed its tests successfully, and already the preliminary orders for it from the military were overtaken they were immediately doubled to 740 units from the previous order and that was not the end of it, because the front required plenty of machines of this type. Seeking the most worthwhile replacement for the powerplant the designers of the airplane chose the 375 h.p. Rolls Royce Eagle engine, which offered a substantial improvement in the airplane's basic flying performance, however it was not being built in sufficient quantities even for the D.H.4, let alone other types of airplane.
From that moment the production of the D.H.4 was expanded from the base of the main manufacturer, the Airco firm (AMC), on to the plants of several subcontractors, such as Palladium Autocars, Vulcan, Westland, Glendower and others. Taking into account the permanent problem of the availability of the main Rolls Royce Eagle engine, designers had to find a replacement for it.
As a result, many machines of this type were built with installations of the RAF3a, Fiat-A12 and Siddeley Puma engines. The characteristic feature of every version was a different shape of the fuselage's nose, following the differences in the overall sizes of the engines and their exhaust systems. The RAF3a was a rather temperamental engine that was designed for good high altitude performance. It was one of the least used power plants in the DH.4
The D.H.4's active service career began in January 1917, and soon this type gained great renown among the pilots of the R.N.A.S. and the R.F.C.. It was capable of climbing quickly to a considerable altitude, and it could maneuver in combat with enemy airplanes. Its main task was to conduct daytime bombing missions over the territory of the enemy; however, occasionally the D.H.4 was used as a transport for secret service agents, and as a fighter and interceptor.
During 1917 D.H.4s of various types were widely used in the skies of the Western Front, and even the arrival of the more modern D.H.9 did not end its career, because this successor appeared to be unsuccessful and was soon withdrawn from operations. And only the appearance of D.H.9A in 1918 pushed these machines into the background. They were gradually taken off from the front line, and passed on to training and patrol units. Many machines were sent to the British colonies, mainly to the Near East, to India and South Africa. There they were used until the mid 1920's, when they were exchanged for other types, mainly the Bristol F.2B Fighter
Roden has a reputation for providing modelers with good quality World War I aircraft types. They have managed to provide a lot of different sub-variants by having a goodly number of additional bits on their sprues. What this often means is that one will have a lot of parts left over and this kit is no different. Molded in their usual grey plastic, the detailing is actually quite good with only some thickish mold seams to have to deal with.
The fabric detailing is quite good with properly subdued features. A complete engine is provided that includes full braces and mounts. The inside of the fuselage sections has nicely done framework detailing. There are some ejector pin marks in this area, but should be either invisible when done or easily removed. There are nice pilot and observer/bomber positions, both having control sticks and pedals. A fuel tank sits between them. All of the wing struts are individual so some care will need to be done installing the upper wing. You have a choice of machine guns for the rear and this is clearly shown as to which schemes get what. The same goes for landing gear as one set of legs is a bit longer than the other. Under wing and fuselage bomb racks and bombs are also provided. When it comes to propellers, there are, again, two options depending on the camo scheme. As you can see, Roden believes in molding everything onto the sprues and then 'crossing off' those not needed for the particular variant being built.
Instructions are quite well done with Model Master and generic paint references. All three options in this boxing are British. The box art plane is an RNAS plane from 1917 and used to reconnoiter the Kiel Canal in 1917. This aircraft is in overall beige with lots of streaks of light blue-grey. You'll also notice the rather odd roundels that, while the British colors of red, white, and blue, have a very pale blue and an altered sequence on the rudder and wing markings.
The other two are pretty standard with green upper colors and linen undersides. The one with the barbell marking is with 49 Squadron while the one with the white square and white nose is from 18 Squadron, both from late 1917. The Roden decals are superbly printed, but will probably require some coaxing to work well. Decals are Roden's weak link and they really would be best served by having them done outside Ukraine.
It is great to see another engine variant of this important WWI aircraft. It is not a small model when finished and its complexity is such that it is not for beginners. However, the finished model is truly superb as one can see from the reviews here in MM.
Roden Web Site www.roden.eu
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