Supermarine Attacker F.1

Published: February 19th, 2013     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: Roger Rasor - IPMS# 34117
Scale: 1/48
Company: Trumpeter
Price: $38.99
Product / Stock #: 02866
Product provided by: Squadron

It seems amazing to me that Trumpeter is the fourth model company to market a 1/48 scale plastic kit of the Supermarine Attacker F.1 (the others being Classic Airframes, Falcon, and Magna Models). Amazing because this aircraft's single most significant reason for mention in the history of aviation is the fact that it was the Fleet Air Arm's first jet fighter. It was not particularly successful in that was just the first.

Conceived late in WW II from a previous RAF jet fighter project to satisfy Air Ministry Specification E.10 (1944), the Attacker was, in some ways, a jet version of the Supermarine Spiteful. It had a more portly fuselage, but it shared the same wing and the same undercarriage...all the way down to its tailwheel stance. The Attacker's development progressed at such a slow pace that the first test flight did not occur until June, 1947, three years after the Gloster Meteor entered service with the RAF. The Attacker's career was pretty brief. It entered first-line service with the FAA in 1951, was removed from that role in 1954, handed down to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and taken out of service in early 1957.

The Attacker was delivered to the FAA in two versions: the F.1 Fighter and later a fighter/bomber version known as the FB.1. All total, Supermarine built and delivered 146 Attackers to the FAA. In addition, another 36 of a land-based export version of the FB.1, called the Type 538 Attacker (AKA FB.50), were transferred to the Pakistan Air Force in 1953.

Hmm...doesn't seem to be much of a reason for Trumpeter to tool up to market a new 1/48 scale kit of such an insignificant subject that really didn't amount to much. But, I'm glad they did. The Attacker just happens to be one of those airplanes that I have been interested in for years, and one I've wanted to model (I have a partially assembled Classic Airframes kit to prove the point). Fortunately, Trumpeter has done a very nice job of it and modelers who want a 1/48 scale Supermarine Attacker now have a much easier way to build one.

The kit comes in a sturdy, two-piece box. It includes 81 gray injection-molded parts on 3 sprues, 2 clear injection-molded parts on one sprue, a small fret with nine PE parts, and decal markings for two aircraft. The parts exhibit delicate recessed panel lines and a good amount of surface detail. Overall, the molded parts fit well and panel lines align nicely. The plastic is a tad on the soft side, not unlike that in other Trumpeter kits, but friendly to scribers and pin vice drill bits. That's fortunate, because I found it necessary to rescribe and redrill quite a few of the more subtle recessed details. Many of them are so subtle that they will likely disappear under even a light coat of paint. But, the fact that they are there at all is a tribute to Trumpeter, because the other kits do (or did) not offer this level of surface detail.

Spending a little time at the beginning of the build rescribing and redrilling some of the details gave me the opportunity to examine and determine what enhancements could be added to the details to improve accuracy (more on that in a moment). Although the kit provides a number of mounting pins and holes to aid alignment of major parts, I also added a few styrene blocks along the inside of the fuselage halves, as I usually do, to make for a stronger bond all around.

The kit provides the parts necessary to build a model with the wingtips folded if the builder desires. I was happy to see that option is truly up to the modeler because the wings are provided in the complete non-folded form, with grooves on the inside of the top and bottom pieces indicating where to make cuts to separate the tips if they are to be folded. The flaps are separate parts so they can be placed in any position desired. The canopy is provided in two pieces so it may be modeled in the open position or closed position, and the landing gear can be built either up or down. The rather bulbous belly tank that gave the Attacker a most interesting profile is provided. The photo etch fret provides seat belts, antennas, and two flat strips that are intended to represent landing gear stabilization rods (I chose to replace them with actual rods and used the PE parts to fashion rudder peddle straps instead). Unfortunately, only parts for the shoulder belts are provided, and the instructions would have you attach them in the wrong way (they should be attached so the adjusting straps are on the front of the belts instead of the back side). And finally, since the kit is intended to represent the fighter version, no wing ordinance is included.

The eight-page instruction booklet provides clear assembly steps. Instead of starting with the cockpit, however, it guides you first to assemble the wings, flaps, and landing gear. Obviously, most model builders will focus on the cockpit and fuselage first and deal with the wings and landing gear in due time. That's the way I went about it.

Now, about those details that could be improved upon... In spite of all the delicate recessed details, I really could not understand why the air intakes on either side of the fuselage are not open. It just didn't seem right to look into the intakes and see a wall of plastic, so I took a few minutes to open them up carefully to enhance the appearance. I did it by drilling a series of small holes around the area to be removed, then "connecting the dots" with a sharp #11 blade, and then carefully sanding the edges of the openings to smooth them out and conform to the insides of the intake inserts. See the photo below.

The next thing that I focused on was the way the cockpit sidewall ribs are represented. They are there, but too subtle in my subtle that they tend to come and go. So, I enhanced them by adding some .020" square styrene stock on top of each of them (see the photo below), and later added various boxes and other details represented by bits of styrene and stretched sprue. I found a number of photos on the Internet to guide me, and it didn't take all that long to do.

Among those photos were two of the Attacker's ejection seat that helped me decide to make a change in that area, too. The parts Trumpeter provides in the kit to build the ejection seat do have a number of details, but do not appear to be all that accurate and, when the parts are assembled, the resulting seat is much too wide. It can be used, but I decided to open up that partially-built Classic Airframes kit and rob its well-detailed resin ejection seat to use instead (see the comparison photo below). While I was at it, I robbed the lap belts from the Classic Airframes PE fret and added them, too.

The decal sheet includes an instrument panel decal to apply to the molded instrument panel part. Instead of attaching it to the front of the instrument panel, I sanded the backside of the part to thin it, drilled out the dial faces, and attached the decal to a piece of .010" styrene that I then attached to the back of the instrument panel with Future so the instrument faces appeared in the recesses. I applied a few more dollops of Future to the instrument dials to provide 'glass' faces for each instrument.

With these changes (read enhancements), I assembled everything in the cockpit tub, placed the tub into the conveniently molded slots that properly align everything, inserted the tail pipe into the groove molded on the inside of each fuselage side, attached the tail wheel bay, and closed up the fuselage halves. Everything came together well, and again, panel line aligned perfectly. I think it's fair to say that if I hadn't decided to enhance some fuselage details and pre-paint most of the parts, I could have been at this point in the build in a day or two. Things fit that well.

I installed the wheel bay inserts and taped the wing tops and bottom together to test the fit to the fuselage. I'm glad I did and I recommend that others building this kit do the same, because I discovered this kit's only significant construction issue. The fit of the wings tops to the fuselage was so tight that the wings actually exhibited negative dihedral. So, before gluing the wing sections together, I sanded the wing root edges of each wing top piece enough to allow some dihedral to be reintroduced. Then the wings were assembled and, again, the panel lines lined up and the fit was excellent. It was necessary to do a little shimming with scrap styrene around the top wing panel cutouts for the molded cannon fairings. I could have used putty, but using styrene to fill the small gaps was faster.

The wings then almost snapped into place when I introduced them to the fuselage, and there was no need for filler anywhere. The fit of the tail feathers was equally impressive and, ironically, the mounting tabs on the stabilizers are molded at the correct angle to guarantee perfect dihedral...go figure!

I added the windscreen, making sure it was aligned, then masked it and the open cockpit area before giving the model a light coat of Mr. Surfacer to check seams and panel lines. After rescribing a couple that I had missed in my initial round of doing the groovy thing, I polished the primed surface with a dry paper towel and airbrushed most of the model with Tamiya's Sky (that I had mixed with a little IJA gray to tone down what seemed to me to be a color that was a bit too green...almost matching the RAF's 216 Eau-De-Nil). After enough dry time, I masked off the Sky and sprayed the top surfaces with Dark Sea Gray. I then masked and painted the wheel bays. A light coat of Future followed and it was ready for the decals.

Once again, I was impressed with the way Trumpeter's kit decals behave. They are easy to apply, adhere well, flatten out nicely, and are thin enough that they almost disappear when dry...especially under another coat of Future. It's actually possible to get by without using a setting solution. This time, the colors looked right. However, I believe Trumpeter still has some problems sizing the markings on their decal sheets correctly. In the case of the Attacker, the aircraft numbers for the fuselage sides are slightly oversized...maybe 10%...but something I could live with. However, the underwing aircraft serials are at least 25% undersize when compared to photos of the actual aircraft in service. In real life, the serials were large enough that they continued over the landing gear doors. The ones on the sheet hardly make it far enough to reach the wheel bays. Unfortunately, I didn't realize the problem until I had applied one of the decals. So, once again, I turned to the Classic Airframes kit for rescue, because fortunately the same aircraft markings are included on the decal sheet in that kit. See the photo below that compares the undersized Trumpeter decal on the underside of the starboard wing vs. the one supplied in the Classic Airframes kit applied to the underside of the port wing (after taking the photo, I replaced the undersized one from the kit decal sheet).

The landing gear, tail wheel assembly, underwing antenna, gear doors, tail hook, and canopy frames were painted and everything was attached without difficulty. Since the fuel dump pipe was not provided in the kit, I robbed that piece from the slowly diminishing contents of that Classic Airframes kit and added it to the lower starboard side of the fuselage. At this point, I realized Trumpeter also, just like the other manufacturers, missed the wingtip navigation lights. So, I masked off the respective areas and added them by first giving them a light spray of Alclad II Aluminum, followed by a topcoat of Clear Red and Clear Green. Ironically, the tail navigation light is molded into the little protrusion above the exhaust pipe. I painted it aluminum with a gloss clear topping.

I'm pleased with the results and I believe others will be too, even if they do not take the extra steps I took. With the exception of the negative dihedral issue, this one was a pleasure to build, and if the inaccurate size of the aircraft serials is not of great concern, the kit will produce a good-looking OOB model of a Supermarine Attacker that nicely captures the overall look of this early jet-era tail dragger. It may look a bit strange sitting there on its tail next to other jets, but remember, this is a jet you can build and not be concerned about adding weight to the nose. Besides, who can resist adding a model to the shelf painted in the color scheme of FAA aircraft from that era? I'm pleased I got to build this one.

In case you missed that last sentence, I highly recommend this kit and thank both Squadron and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build and review this kit.

  • Sprues
  • Canopy, PE, and decals
    Canopy, PE, and decals
  • Comparison with Classic Airframes decals
    Comparison with Classic Airframes decals
  • Sidewall corrections
    Sidewall corrections
  • Intake opened up
    Intake opened up
  • Seat comparison
    Seat comparison
  • Overhead left front
    Overhead left front
  • Overhead right rear
    Overhead right rear
  • Overhead right front
    Overhead right front
  • Left front
    Left front
  • Left rear
    Left rear
  • Rear
  • Right front
    Right front
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Underside

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