MPM 1/48 Fairey Fulmar Mk I

KIT #: 48056
PRICE: €35 when new
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas


Emerging from the Fairey Battle project, the Fulmar was submitted as a response to a prewar British specification, calling for a two-crew fighter capable of observation and fleet defense operations. As the aircraft was intended to routinely perform lengthy flights over the ocean, the presence of a navigator / wireless operator was considered an essential element, especially when flying at night time or during poor weather.

Since Nazi Germany, Britain's only foreseen enemy during that era, possessed no aircraft carriers of its own, the prospective aircraft was not expected to encounter any major fighter opposition, deeming aspects such as long range and heavy armament more important than high levels of maneuverability or speed. The resulting Fulmar, though possessing a substantial resemblance to the earlier Fairey Battle, was an aerodynamically cleaner aircraft, also featuring a folding wing.

Initial testing revealed the prototype inherited Battle’s relatively poor performance, with things somehow improving following the adoption of the more powerful Merlin VIII engine (a variant unique to the Fulmar with supercharging optimized for low level flight), as well as various aerodynamic improvements made to the airframe.

Due to the then desperate requirement for more modern fighters to equip Britain's carrier fleet, the moderately performing but promising to be available quickly and in quantity Fulmar was Royal Navy’s choice, with an initial order for 127 production aircraft placed in mid-1938.

The further improved Fulmar Mk II started to be produced by January 1941. It featured a more powerful Merlin XX engine and provisions for either a center-line drop tank or 250/500 lb bomb. The type was also launched from catapults on merchant ships, a convoy defensive plan that was being evaluated at the time.

The Fulmar proved to be operationally sufficient, counteracting its clearly inferior to typical land-based fighters performance with its frequently desirable longer range. During the 1941 chase of the German battleship Bismarck, multiple Fulmars were used as carrier-borne spotters, playing a crucial role not only in tracking the movements of the vessel, but also in performing an attack upon it.

In the North African Campaign, the relatively sturdy Fulmar was able to achieve dozens of victories against its Italian and German adversaries, with the type proving particularly effective against Italian reconnaissance aircraft. At the Battle of Taranto, the Fulmar was deployed to provide top cover for the attacking Swordfish torpedo bombers, whereas during the Battle of Cape Matapan it provided escort to the FAA's attack aircraft against the Italian Navy.

The type was also deployed in other theaters. At the Eastern Front, it was a common constituent of the numerous Arctic convoys to the Soviet Union and also played a prominent role in Operation EF, the ill-fated air raid on Axis-held Kirkenes and Petsamo facilities that was conducted during July 1941. During early 1942, multiple Fulmar-equipped squadrons were deployed to the Pacific Theater, in response to the Japanese advance in the Far East, with two such squadrons dispatched to defend Ceylon (though it was soon realized that the type was grossly outclassed by the Zero).

As a naval fighter, the Fulmar was being gradually replaced throughout 1942 by single-seat aircraft that had been adapted from land fighters, such as the Sea Hurricane, the Seafire and the Martlet. From then on, the type continued to be operated in night convoy escorting, long-range reconnaissance and as an intruder. It was also used to train crews for the newer and more advanced Fairey Barracuda, with dearmed Fulmars also seeing service in Africa as communications and dispatch aircraft. Approximately 100 examples were converted to night fighters, achieving only limited success in this role. In February 1945, the Fulmar was withdrawn from front line service.

Fulmar pilots were satisfied not only with the type’s fuel capacity and range, but also with its pleasant flight characteristics and the widely spaced undercarriage that provided less sweating deck landings. Most Fleet Air Arm fighter aces scored at least some of their victories while flying Fulmars.

Recorded as having destroyed a total of 112 enemy aircraft against the loss of 40, makes the Fulmar the leading fighter type in terms of aircraft shot down to be operated by the Fleet Air Arm during the course of the conflict. A total of 600 were built, with only one known survivor, #N1854, which was the Fulmar prototype (and first production Mk I) at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.


This “new generation” MPM kit hit the shelves in 2007. Done in full styrene, and seemingly a CAD/CAM project, though not “Tamiya”, it is really not easy to distinguish it from other good mainstream kits of the era. For a detailed look at this nice kit’s contents, please visit the MM preview  here.


I started by attaching per instructions all interior bits and pieces onto the sidewalls. The instrument panel, the front and rear floors and corresponding bulkheads were mini subassemblies that were individually built, then everything was trapped between the fuselage halves. Basic cockpit color was Hu78 cockpit green with instrument panels, various consoles and throttle box in black, brass (as stated in the instructions) fire extinguishers and leather pilot’s headrest, navigator’s seat cushion and stick gaiter. The raised instrument details were dry brushed with silver and some red knobs were “pinned” with red paint by a fine brush. Seat belts were added from masking tape, whereas a piece of acetate replicated the gun sight. Due to the many parts, of which some interlock with others, putting together the cockpit took some careful approach, as to make sure that everything went into place, but in the end all lined up nicely with the cockpit looking acceptably busy.

Moving onto the main wing, I first attached the six bay sidewall pieces onto the lower wing half. Whereas instructions then want you to attach the upper wing halves onto the lower half and then secure the complete subassembly under the fuselage, I took a different approach, in order to minimize the wing root gaps or mismatch: I first removed the locating pins from the sing halves, then attached only the lower wing half to the fuselage, followed by the upper halves, which were affixed to the roots (ensuring a gap-free joint) and then let them rest naturally onto the lower half, the joints taken care of water thin glue. The wing gun housings and wing tip transparencies were next attached, followed by assembly and attachment of the tail planes.

Some gaps emerged at the underside wing to fuselage joints, which were first treated with liquefied styrene and then sanded smooth. It was only then that the distinctive radiator chin was assembled and attached, presenting its own gaps. The hook housing belly part was also attached at this time, followed by the hook itself (sans its final protruding part, which I decided to add at later stages in order to avoid damaging it).

The wing leading edge landing light opening lacked the quite prominent interior walls, which were fabricated from thin sheet styrene (a strange omission, since instructions indicate to attach the lens onto where no attachment area exists). The blant gun openings were also drilled out by this time, as well as their equal underwing shell ejector holes.

Having a more or less basic model assembled, I treated all gaps first with liquefied styrene, then coare sanded them smooth, followed by application of normal putty and sanding. After attaching the radiator exit louver (at a slight “open” position that was witnessed at seasonal pics), I masked the wing tip transparencies with Maskol and took this elegant bird to the paint shop!



For the underside color I started by applying a coat of Hu90 Beige Green, which, to my eye, sort of came close to “sky”. Bays, door innards, as well as landing gear legs received the same color, per the standard FAA practice (at least from a point soon after the start of the war onwards). After masking it off, I went on and applied a coat of Hu123 Extra Dark Sea Gray on top, followed by freehanding Hu117 Light Green (which, again, to my eye came close to slate gray). The leading edge gun areas were masked and painted red, with a coat of Future preparing the bird for decaling.

I used the kit decals, in order to represent N1892/6K machine, belonging to 809 Squadron, as it stood in HMS Victorious in December 1940. The thin Aviprint decals, despite being more than 15 years old, behaved very well, easily detaching from their backing paper and adhering positively, while they were keen on following surface curvatures and succumbing to the engraved panel lines. Since they proved not too tolerant in repositioning, better be sure that they are positioned correctly once applied. A coat of Future sealed them.


The gear legs were assembled, including the nice looking but quite flimsy retraction mechanisms. Brake lines made from stretched sprue were attached per seasonal pics. Attachment of the legs into the bays is not totally positive, with some spot trimming needed in order to bed into position. Overall color was underside color, with black brake lines and silver oleos done by a fine tip silver pen. 

The two piece main wheels were tad filed to look weighted (not too much, as, I believe, they were kept at high pressure in order to counteract the intense carrier landings) and attached, together with the one piece rear wheel/strut. They had steel rims and black tires.

The exhausts had their tubes drilled out for extra realism, then painted Testors Burned Metal (from my dwindling reserves) and attached in position. By the same time I attached the hook end, the wing pitot plus some various underside small stuff, all accordingly painted. Since no gun barrels were provided, I fabricated them from stretched sprue, painted them gun metal and attached them. As a side note I believe the gunports were usually fully covered with linen and red dope to seal them from the elements, so the original bland holes provided by the kit might look correct after all. However, I wanted to go for the box art looks, depicting the holes opened and the barrels visible.

Since carrier conditions would nevertheless be harsh, inspired by the nice box art, I decided to apply some respectable amount of weathering. This included a hefty black wash at all undersides, more intensely at landing gear parts, bays and door innards and dark brown/black dry pastelling at all places that dirt, grim, or even engine soot would accumulate. Minor oil/fluid leakages from tiny drains around the engine area were represented by dark brown tempera and a very fine brush. Finally, some chipping was dry brushed with silver at places where personnel would walk (or hastily leaving their toolbox), like the wing roots aft areas.

The 5-piece propeller featured separate blades, but was a breeze to assemble. It had red spinner, black blades and yellow tips, with some silver dry brushing applied to its leading edges, in order to simulate erosion. After butt fitted in position, a final satin coat gave the bird its final finish.

The transparencies had their frames hand painted and attached. Fit was all over good, with the exception of the wing leading edge light cover, most probably being operator error, since yours truly managed to sand the leading edge opening to a wrong shape, only realizing the discrepancy when it was too late. Anyways, white glue took care of the emerging gaps.

I attached the top antenna mast fore of the navigator’s office, then ran a wire antenna made from stretched sprue towards the fin, connected with another two small pieces with the fuselage as per drawings. Two more wires were run from each horizontal stabilizer towards the fuselage sides. The front wing tip lights were painted with red and green clear paints, before calling the Fulmar done!


This is by all means a very good kit of the elegant Fulmar, with correct overall shape and all key areas (like cockpit, landing gear and radiator) sufficiently represented detail-wise. Fit is very good, posing no unpleasant surprises anywhere. Clear parts are well rendered, instructions are consistent and decals are superb. Out of the box a very satisfying Fulmar can emerge, with the not complicated construction deeming it suitable even for less experienced modelers.  

MPM has to be congratulated for coming not later than 2007 with a Fulmar in 1/48 scale, tackling a subject that not only leaned towards “esoteric” in attribution, but also rendering it in full styrene, practically providing a “mainstream” kit!

This kit can still be found nowadays (as of 2021) at the same very sensible prices offered back then. The latest (2015) Special Hobby reboxing is slightly higher priced, but with a more detailed full resin interior, PE goodies and extended decal sheet. As a side note, the styrene interior seems not to be included in the Special Hobby reboxing, so the modeler who wishes to go for the (very adequate) styrene interior must look for the original MPM version.

If you own such a kit or come across one, by all means grab it and build it! You will be totally satisfied by coming up with a nice result of a very elegant and by all means important aircraft that, though moderate in general “posture”, performed its assigned tasks in an effective and sufficient manner.  

Happy modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

25 November 2022

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