|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The single-seat Hunter was introduced to service in 1954 as a manoeuvrable day interceptor aircraft, quickly succeeding first-generation jet fighters in RAF service such as the Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Venom. The all-weather/night fighter role was filled by the Gloster Javelin. Successively improved variants of the type were produced, adopting increasingly more capable engine models and expanding its fuel capacity amongst other modifications being implemented. Hunters were also used by two RAF display teams: the "Black Arrows", who on one occasion looped a record-breaking 22 Hunters in formation, and later the "Blue Diamonds", who flew 16 aircraft. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with a total of 21 overseas air forces.
During the 1960s, following the introduction of the supersonic English Electric Lightning in the interceptor role, the Hunter transitioned to being operated as a fighter-bomber and for aerial reconnaissance missions, using dedicated variants for these purposes. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the RAF and the Royal Navy until the early 1990s. Sixty years after its original introduction it was still in active service, being operated by the Lebanese Air Force until 2014.
The Hunter saw combat service in a range of conflicts with several operators, including the Suez Crisis, the Aden Emergency, the Sino-Indian War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Rhodesian Bush War, the Second Congo War, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition and the Yom Kippur War. Overall, 1,972 Hunters were manufactured by Hawker Aircraft and its successor, Hawker Siddeley, as well as being produced under licence overseas. In British service, the Hunter was replaced in its principal roles by the Lightning, the Hawker Siddeley Harrier and the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.
This is the initial release of the Hunter in 1/48 by Airfix. Previous to this Lindberg and Academy have produced 1/48 Hunters. The Lindberg kit is probably nearly 50 years old while the newer Academy kit has its issues including a difficult to attach wing and a cockpit that is undersize. This is the F.6 variant, which had several improvements over the previous aircraft including a more powerful but still somewhat unreliable engine and a 'dogtooth' wing leading edge. This provided some improved handling. A small number of F.6s were also later modified with a parabrake housing over the exhaust, a feature that was standard with the later FGA.9 ground attack version of the Hunter.
Typical of aircraft kits, construction starts in the cockpit. This is well appointed and Airfix provides the option of molded in harness or not. A decal is provided for the main instrument panel. Before the cockpit/gear well assembly is attached, one has to open the holes for the shell casing collectors.
One then goes on to attaching the rest of the nose gear well pieces, the first compressor stage and the intake assemblies. Before closing the fuselage halves, 20 grams has to be installed behind the cockpit to prevent tail sitting. Since Airfix will undoubtedly do an FGA.9, the exhaust section is separate so that is assembled and attached to the rear of the fuselage.
We then get to the wings. One is to attach the upper wing halves. After building up the main gear wells, the lower sections are to be attached. If you want to have drop tanks, be sure to open the holes for them. Then you can build the new forward wing pieces and install those. Ailerons, flaps and rudder are separate so you can pose those as you wish. The elevators are not and those are then slotted in place. The next three pages of construction all deal with installing the landing gear.
Next the speed brake assembly is built. This can be posed lowered if you wish. The drop tanks and pylons are next, followed by the canopy, which can be open or closed as you wish. This finishes the build. As the F.6 was an interceptor, there is no outer wing pylon. Note that while you do have a pair of rocket pods, they are not for this variant. Note also that even though the parabrake tail cone is provided, you cannot do an FGA.9 from the box as you don't get the flaps with the clearance cut out, nor the larger fuel tanks. While I do not doubt that you can sourse these items from aftermarket, just wait a bit as Airfix is sure to offer this variant.
Instructions are very nicely done and typical for Airfix, only provide Humbrol paint numbers during the build. The large decal sheet provides markings for three airplanes. The box art plane is with 63 Squadron in 1958. You also get a 4 Flight Training Squadron plane from 1968 and a Dutch plane with 324 Squadron. All planes are dark green/dark grey over silver lacquer. Full stencils are provided. If you don't like these options, Fantasy Printshop offers some very nice aftermarket decals you can use.
This kit sold extremely well when first released and as such is one that every fan of the type should have in their stash. In several ways it obsoletes the Academy kit, but if you have that older kit, I wouldn't toss it, though it won't be as easy a build as this one.
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