RAF Gladiator

Published: May 13th, 2013     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: Brian R. Baker - IPMS# 43146
Scale: 1/72
Company: Hobby Boss
Price: $15.99
Product / Stock #: 80289
Product provided by: Squadron

History

The Gloster Gladiator was one of the most famous RAF biplane fighters, and although outdated from the beginning, served with distinction with the RAF and numerous other air forces during the early stages of World War II. Most modelers should be intimately familiar with the story of the Gladiator, so it need not be repeated here. For backup material, I would suggest the following:

  • Gloster Gladiator in Action, Squadron Signal Publications No. 187
  • Gloster Gladiator Aces, Andrew Thomas, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces, #44.
  • Gloster Gladiator, Alex Crawford, Vols. 1-2.

In addiyion, googling the subject will bring up a number of websites devoted to this aircraft. These include the Wikipedia site, the RSAF site, Hakans Aviation page, and some articles on the IPMS/Stockholm website.

Needless to say, the Gladiator has been well publicized, and even a number of decal sheets are available in 1/72 scale, notably Microscale and Mike Grant Decals. The aircraft can be modeled in a number of liveries, including RAF, RN, RAAF, SAAF, Finnish, Soviet, Latvian, German, Iraqi, Chinese, Greek, Swedish, Egyptian, and Free French, not to mention civil registrations, so there is no reason to have less than 10 of these in any good 1/72 scale collection.

Other Kits

Previously, Airfix came out with a Gladiator in the fifties, complete with pilot head mounted in the cockpit surface, and later Frog, Matchbox, and Pavla have done this aircraft. Word has it that Airfix is retooling their kit, and I'd like to see that one when it comes out. If it's anything like their recent reissues, it certainly should be one to watch for.

The Kit

Hobby Boss, a Chinese firm, has been producing "quick build" models suitable for beginning modelers who are interested in building an acceptable model without the intricacies and details provided by some of the more advanced kits on the market today. There are no photo-etch or resin parts, and even some significant details are omitted, including complete cockpit interiors, but the overall result after assembling and finishing a kit of this nature is a model that fits in with its more complicated relatives. Of course, a little research and some detailing can result in a model comparable to some of the more modern models.

Consisting of about 16 parts, molded in pale grey styrene, the kit is extremely well packaged to avoid damage during the long boat trip over, and even the canopy is wrapped in Styrofoam securely taped together. The decals are enclosed in a plastic envelope, and provide markings for two aircraft. There is very little flash, and sprue joints are properly located to provide minimal problems in trimming them smooth. The major components, the lower fuselage and wing section, and the upper fuselage, snap together over a very basic seat and control stick arrangement. The elevators are separate, as is the upper nose section, which also contains the cabane struts. The wing struts fit into slots in the wing surface, and everything fits perfectly.

The engine is nicely detailed, and fits snugly onto the forward fuselage section. The landing gear and wheels have very positive fit, and it is difficult not to get them right. Once the struts are attached to the lower wings, the upper wing fits easily into position. Of course, all of this should be painted before final assembly, but this is true with all biplanes.

As with nearly all Hobby Boss kits, however, there are some glitches. Two props are provided, one good Watts two blade prop, and one smaller, thinner prop that doesn't look like anything I've ever seen on a Gladiator. I think they meant to do the Watts prop without the spinner, but they missed the boat on this one, and it is just a smaller prop. There is no three bladed Fairey-Reed prop included, so if you want to do the second decal option, the Sea Gladiator used in the early defense of Malta, you'll have to improvise. I did that one, and used the prop from an old Airfix Swordfish, which trimmed down quite nicely. I didn't have a three blade prop from a Frog kit, and the one from the Heller kit isn't quite right either. Also, there are no radio antenna masts on the tailplane or the upper wing surface, but these are easily scratch built. In addition, the purist would want to trim off the 30 mm. .303 machine gun barrels from their under wing mountings, and replace them with more realistically sized units, but I left the originals in place. At least, they're easy to drill out.

As far as markings go, decals and information are provided for two aircraft, a Mk. I from No. 73 Sqdn. in colorful yellow and blue pre-war squadron livery, and a Sea Gladiator, N5519/R, flown by Flt. Lt. George Burges of the Hal Far Fighter Flight out of Malta, in June 1940. These Sea Gladiators had their carrier arresting gear removed, so this is not a problem, unless you want to do a bona-fide Sea Gladiator. The squadron markings look OK to me, although other reviews state that the yellow is too bright, which may be correct. However, the Malta aircraft's markings are incorrect, according to resident Malta historian Carmel Attard, a prolific modeler from Malta who should know. His information shows Royal Navy topside colors of slate grey and dark sea grey, with medium sea grey sides, upper wing undersides, and vertical tail surfaces, along with a black and white lower wing, fuselage, and horizontal tail surfaces, with white on the starboard side and black on the port. His review of the aircraft on Modelingmadness.com give a very detailed account of the operational history of the type over Malta, and it is well worth reading just for the history. Even the Osprey drawing does not show the undersides, but I'll go with the guy who was there and has closest access to the information. In addition, the drawing in the Squadron Fleet Air Arm volume shows the same aircraft to have sky undersurfaces. The photos I have are inconclusive, but my model has the black and white undersides. The photo of N5519 does show it to be pretty grungy and weathered. Now, if we could just go back in time.....

Painting and Finishing

I sprayed the cockpit interior with RAF Interior Green, and pasted a paper instrument panel on the front bulkhead. You can't see much through the thick canopy, so you can probably get away with that. There are many color schemes that can be done with this model if you remember that there are differences in the prop and carburetor air filter, and with a little creativity, you can build almost any Gladiator version with this kit if you have access to the right prop. The real challenge with this or any biplane is, of course, the rigging, as there is no rigging information provided in the instructions on box art, but there is plenty of information available in the reference sources listed above, and on line, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Recommendations

Although this is not a highly detailed model, it isn't intended to be. It is a quick-build, and one of the better ones at that. Surface detail is good, and the end result is a model that looks like a Gladiator, which is the object as far as I'm concerned. And it was fun to build, and I didn't lose interest halfway through, as happens sometimes when I get into a really complicated model.

Try one of these when you feel like a quickie. You'll enjoy it.

Thanks to MMD-Squadron for the review sample.

  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator
  • Hobby Boss Gladiator
    Hobby Boss Gladiator

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