Airfix 1/48 Blenheim IF
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company (Bristol) which was used extensively in the first two years and in some cases throughout the Second World War. The aircraft was developed as Type 142, a civil airliner, in response to a challenge from Lord Rothermere to produce the fastest commercial aircraft in Europe. The Type 142 first flew in April 1935, and the Air Ministry, impressed by its performance, ordered a modified design as the Type 142M for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber. Deliveries of the newly named Blenheim to RAF squadrons commenced on 10 March 1937.
A development of the Type 142M was the Type 149 which Bristol named the Bolingbroke, retrospectively changed by the Air Ministry to Blenheim Mk IV and the Type 142M to the Blenheim Mk I. Fairchild Canada built the Type 149 under licence as the Bolingbroke. Blenheims Mk I and the Mk IV were adapted as fighters by the addition of a gun pack of four Browning .303 machine guns in the bomb bay. The Mk IV was used as a long range fighter and as a maritime patrol aircraft; both aircraft were also used as bomber/gunnery trainers.
The Blenheim was one of the first British aircraft with an all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers. The Mk I was faster than most fighters in the late 1930s but the advance in development of monoplane fighters made all bombers more vulnerable particularly if flown in daylight, though it proved successful as a night fighter. The Blenheim was effective as a bomber but many were shot down. Both Blenheim types were used by overseas operators, being licence built in Yugoslavia and Finland.
If you have seen Airfix's 1/72 Blenheim kit, then this one will look very familiar. The basic engineering of the parts is the same, only there are more of them as you'd expect for a 1/48 kit.
Unusually, this kit does not start in the cockpit. Instead, you are to assemble the bomb bay section first, cutting away part of the bay interior bits as the night fighter did not have a functioning bomb bay. Note that you can build the standard bomber with this kit as all the bits are there, but you have to do a bit of pre-planning in order not to modify parts as shown for the night fighter.
Next is the interior, which has quite a few pieces thanks to the framework that is needed to hold it in place, This attaches to the bomb bay section (which also has spar stubs) and is the attached to one fuselage half. The radio and bombardier's positions are fleshed out along with a few other bits and the fuselage halves are closed. Work then moves to the wings and the wheel well/lower nacelle pieces. You have the option to do the gear raised if you wish. If not, then a fairly complex main gear assembly process is required. This gear section includes fore, aft, and side bulkheads.
Construction then moves onto the wings where a flap blanking plate is installed prior to closing up the wing halves. Please note that the night fighter requires holes opened up in the wings for the radar antenna. The wing then fit over the stub spars and the aft wing fillets are put in place. Next, the tailplane sections are installed which includes separate elevators and rudder. Engine assembly along with the cowlings are next. Note that apparently the cowlings are handed so keep that in mind during the build. You can build the engine assemblies with the cowl flaps open or closed.
Next are the flaps which can be modeled raised or lowered. When I looked at period photos of the Blenheim at rest, none of them had the flaps lowered, though the elevators were generally slightly deflected down. With that completed, the turret assembly is built up and installed followed by the gear doors, wheels and the gun pack. Finally the pilot figure is built if you wish to use it and the clear bits are attached along with the prop.
The instruction booklet is modern Airfix and very nicely done, with large, clear drawings. Naturally, all color information is in Humbrol paints. Two markings options are provided. One is the box art plane in dark earth, dark green and black from 23 squadron in early 1940. This is the same scheme as on a warbird. The other is an all black plane from 54 OTU in December 1940. Decals are nicely printed and provide wing walk areas along with instrument decals.
This is really a very nice kit. It has enough detail for most and is an aircraft that many fans will enjoy building,. If you don't want the night fighter version you can either build this as the bomber and use aftermarket decals or buy the dedicated bomber kit. Either way, I'm sure you will like it. Oh yes, get a canopy mask set. You'll be glad you did.
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