Airfix 1/72 Halifax B.III
KIT #: 06008
PRICE: $10 in 2005
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas

The Handley Page Halifax was four-engined heavy bomber, developed by to the same specification as the contemporary twin-engine Avro Manchester. Its origins can be traced in the twin-engine HP56 proposal of the late 1930s, itself being a backup to the Avro 679, with both of them designed to use the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine.
Seemingly due to the risk posed by the underperforming Vulture, the Handley Page design was wisely altered at the Ministry to a four-engine arrangement powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin, whereas the Avro 679 evolved into the Avro Manchester. The latter, though regarded as unsuccessful mainly due to the Vulture engine, was a direct predecessor of the famed Avro Lancaster with, finally, both the Lancaster and the Halifax emerging as capable four-engined strategic bombers.

In RAF service, the Halifax  quickly became a major component of Bomber Command, performing routine strategic bombing missions against the Axis Powers, many of them at night. Arthur Harris, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command, described the Halifax as inferior to the rival Lancaster (in part due to its smaller payload) though this opinion was not shared by many of the crews that flew it, particularly the MkIII variant.
During their service with Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew a total of 82,773 operations and dropped 224,207 tons of bombs, while 1,833 aircraft were lost. The type was also flown in large numbers by other Allied and Commonwealth nations, such as the RCAF, the RAAF, the Free French and Polish air forces.

Various improved versions were introduced, incorporating more powerful engines, a revised defensive turret layout and increased payload. It remained in service with Bomber Command until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing, with specialized versions being developed for troop transport and paradrop operations.

Following the end of the Second World War, the RAF quickly retired the Halifax, after it was succeeded as a strategic bomber by the (Lancaster derivative) Avro Lincoln, but the Halifax continued to be operated by the Royal Egyptian Air Force, the French Air Force and the Royal Pakistan Air Force. It also entered commercial service for a number of years, used mainly as a freighter. A dedicated civil transport variant, the Handley Page Halton, was also developed and entered airline service. 41 civil Halifax freighters were used during the Berlin Airlift, with the last remaining Halifax bombers were retired from operational use in 1961.

The Halifax was a solid, orthodox design that provided good service, performing well in its allocated tasks. In total 6,176 examples were built.

Airfix introduced this venerable kit in 1961, regularly reboxing it ever since with occasionally different decals. My copy was the 1993 rebox, discovered still wrapped in 2005 at a toy/hobby shop and carrying a low price.

The kit came in the usual big, nice and sturdy Airfix top opening box, featuring an attractive box art of three Halifaxes, presumably on their way to a bombing mission. Upon opening the box, I was greeted with 102 black and somehow brittle styrene parts. The fuselage, wing and aileron halves are separately provided, whereas all the rest of the parts were arranged in four sprues. Molding is reminiscent of the kit’s 60s origins with acceptable basic shapes but otherwise plain details. Apart from the moving surfaces borders, all other panel lines are raised and done in “rivet” style, actually not looking too bad, especially if toned down with some light sanding. There is a certain amount of flash to be cleaned, which will not be an easy task in the case of smaller parts, due to the brittleness of the plastic.
Interior, including the turrets, is as plain as it can get, with mummy crew figures to be attached, trying to fill the emptiness. The engines are molded with the cowlings and are passable, as are the exhausts, landing gear parts and wheels, but the same cannot be said for the totally empty landing gear bays. Ailerons, rudders and main wheels are moveable, with optionally retracted landing gear. No bomb bay is provided, with the doors molded closed.

Transparencies are thick with the framings barely distinguishable. Instructions are provided as a leaflet, containing a short history of the type, with the construction spread in 17 followable steps. Neither interior nor bays or engines color callouts are given, with the latest (2014) reboxing instructions stating Hu78 as interior color.

Only one scheme is provided, that of 158 Squadron’s LV917/NP-C at the classic dark earth/dark green over black, with decals looking usable. By netting, I found that LV917, at least from a point onwards, was named “Clueless”, carrying a distinctive nose art, which is not provided by the decal sheet. That the kit scheme depicts LV917 before the nose art application is not a totally unrealistic assumption. The upper /lower demarcation line is also depicted either straight or wavy at various profiles. Colors are given in both Airfix codes and generic names.
Instructions want you to first assemble the crew compartment and turrets, then trap them, together with the rear wheel, between the fuselage halves, having affixed the side windows from the insides before. The twin tail and wings are next assembled and attached, followed by the optionally moveable rudders, elevators and ailerons. The canopy and top transparencies are to be attached at this time, as well.

The inner nacelles that extend as wheel bays are then assembled with the main landing gear legs trapped. The outer nacelles come next and all four are attached under the wings, with the four engines, their exhausts and props following. Finally the four engine inlet ducts, the top DF loop antenna, the bottom aerial array, the aileron mass balances and the front glazing are to be attached, in order to conclude what looks a straightforward and relatively uncomplicated build.

I do have a soft spot for older kits, which is even softer for Airfix multi-engine bombers, so I joyfully unwrapped the attractive Airfix box and started putting the Halifax together!

I began by attaching the side windows from the insides of the fuselage halves. The crew compartment was then assembled and then trapped between the fuselage halves, together with the rear wheel. Basic interior color was Hu78 cockpit Green with black instrument panel. I did not spend any more time in the interior, since little would be visible through the thick transparencies. The rear turret was also supposed to be trapped between the fuselage halves, but, in order to facilitate painting, I decided to attach it at later stages by shaving off its base mounting lug.
The 2-piece wings were then assembled and attached, having the equally 2-piece ailerons affixed at zero angle. The 10-piece tail was also assembled and installed. The two 6-piece wheel bays were next assembled, trapping the 3-piece main landing gear legs in between and subsequently attached underneath the wings, followed by the pair of 2-piece external engine mounts. The engines were next attached, followed by the upper cowling air ducts. Finally, the main wheels were filed down to look weighted and attached as well.

Fit posed some challenges, with some gaps or mismatching at places, but nothing really too bad. After a filling and sanding session, I masked the transparencies with Maskol, blanked the fuselage openings and took the Halifax to the paint shop!

I first gave all undersides a coat of Hu85 black, including the landing gear and bays, then masked them off. The top camo was freehanded using Hu29 and Hu30 for the dark earth and dark green respectively, with a coat of Future preparing the model for decaling.

I used the kit decals, which, despite their age, behaved well: though they took some time to detach from their backing paper, they adhered well and succumbed to the raised detailing nicely. A coat of Future sealed them.

The engines were painted steel and then received a heavy black wash that brought out their molded-on details. The cowling innards were also painted steel, whereas their lips (which essentially are exhaust collector “rings”), were painted Testors Burned Metal. The latter color was also used for the exhausts, which were then attached. They did not fit too well, presenting some gaps, especially at the areas where they met the cowling lips, but I left them “as is”.  Lastly the props were painted black with yellow tips and attached.

I decided to add some weathering, not only to depict the effects of full operational use on these machines, but also to add some interest to the otherwise simplistic model with the monotonous black undersides. I thus first applied a black wash to every recession found (like moving surfaces hinges and cowling rears), then some silver dry brushing to bring out details on the landing gear parts and prop hubs, but also to show some wear at the blade tips. Finally some engine exhaust stains and underside dirtying was done with suitable colors of dry pastels. A final satin coat sealed everything.

The asymmetrical canopy and the top turret had their frames hand painted and attached. The front glazing was also attached with the not well molded front gun barrel replaced by a needle piece. Regarding the 3-piece rear turret transparency, not only was it crudely molded, but also any attempt in cleaning the excess plastic resulted in a multitude of emerging micro cracks. I thus decided to keep only the central oval section and fabricated two side sections out of clear acetate. While the result is barely acceptable, it is at least better than using the ruined kit parts. All guns were painted gunmetal.

The shoulder mounted DF loop and fore underside pitot were attached, whereas the off-scale port mounted aerial rail was replaced with one made from pieces of stretched sprue.
By netting I concluded that Halifax MkIIIs featured two long aerial wires running from each fin's inner side to (interestingly and not that commonly) the top of the DF loop antenna, and two shorter, running from the stabilizers' leading edges towards the fuselage: all were replicated with stretched sprue. The wing tip lights were represented as “pins” done with a fine silver pen, coated with red or green clear paint, before calling this successful workhorse done!

Revell came in 2011 with the Merlin powered Halifax, followed by the Hercules powered version in 2015. Though stated to have some minor inaccuracies, are “modern” down to every respect, build nicely, feature amazing decal sheets, are surprisingly cheap and are the natural way to go if you want the best 1/72 Halifax. Though not too easily found nowadays (as of 2022), feature reissues are almost certainly to be expected, hopefully keeping the low prices.

The Airfix offering is a venerable kit, a true dinosaur, to speak the truth, of this important and utterly iconic WWI bomber. Whereas general shape looks good, the kit is understandably lacking in detail at areas such as the interior and the wheel bays, among others. The lack of bomb bay should also be noted. Panel lines are of course raised (in fact they are heavily riveted). Instructions could be more informative regarding color callouts, but are otherwise sufficient. Transparencies are thick (again, something more or less expected from the kit’s Mesozoic origins) and not all of them fit well. Decals behaved very well (with the side note that they depict the #LV917 plane without nose art, which might be correct for the machine’s earlier times).

Construction is relatively straightforward, quite pleasant and not really complicated, making this kit a proper candidate four your first multi-engine bomber. Out of the box, a good looking Halifax will emerge. The kit was last reissued by Airfix in 2014 with excellent decals and better quality plastic. If you have one or come across one at a good price, do not hesitate to grab it and build it.
Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

10 October 2022

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