Hasegawa 1/72 Beaufighter Mk XXI "R.A.A.F."
By Drewe Manton
The latest boxing of Hasegawas Beaufighter represents the Australian-built Mk XXI, used by the RAAF against the Japanese with great success. The kit comes on 13 grey and one clear sprue and also contains a sprue of poly caps for the props. Not much can be added to what has already been said about this kit in the pressit is an absolute beauty of a model, and one, which demands to be built as soon as you open the box. The only extra provided for this release appears to be the nose fairing used to carry the Bendix autopilot so characteristic of Aussie Beaus.
The tooling is exquisite, with lovely recessed panel lines so typical of modern state-of-the-art tooling. The interior is basic to say the least, but will probably suffice under a closed canopy (cant be long before the resin chaps get to grips with it though!) Decals are provided for two aircraft from No. 22 Sqdn RAAF, both in overall foliage green. One (A8-186) carries nose artin this instance, just the name "Beau-Gunsville." About the only downer I can find is that no attempt has been made to replicate the hedgehog exhausts in plastic, and releases outside Hasegawas native Japan dont include the metal units provided for the Japanese market. The modeler is left to either detail the units provided or seek out alternatives (although I believe Aeroclub do a set of hedgehog exhausts).
Construction quite naturally begins with the interior, and as mentioned this is a basic affair- tub, control column, instrument panel and seat are provided for the pilot and just a seat and mounting for the observer. There is also a bulkhead behind the pilot. Instruments are represented with decals. I did toy with the idea of dressing up the interior but in the end decided, that, this would be done as provided except for masking tape seat belts. The interior was assembled and painted with Humbrol 78 grey-green; the control column was black and the seat padding was painted with burnt sienna oil paint to give a very nice-looking red-brown leather effect. Decals were added to the consoles and instrument panel and coated with varnish when dry to seal them. Tamiya tape was used for the seat straps, with details painted with a very fine brush.
With this done, the interior was cemented in place and the fuselage halves were joined (yes it was about as quick as the writing would suggest! I started the kit Sunday afternoon and had the fuselage halves together just before bed Sunday night). Fit is precise and, when dry, the joins were cleaned up with a knife, wetndry and Scotchbrite. Any detail lost in this operation was restored with a scriber and another wipe over with the Scotchbrite.
Now the finishing parts to the fuselage could be added- gunless observers fairing, belly fairing and cannon ports (which I had drilled out for more depth) and the nose cone. All these parts fit with absolute precision along the panel lines, and the only clean up necessary was a rub with Scotchbrite to render them almost indistinguishable from the rest of the fuselage. Finally, I added the tailplanes and the fairing for the Bendix autopilot in front of the canopy And I finally found something on this model that needed filler! Just a dab, mind you, and about 30 seconds sanding with 1200 grit wetndry, and this crisis was over.
The wings were next; be sure to identify which holes you need to open for your chosen variant. As my model was to have rockets, I needed to open the holes for the launcher fairing, and also two holes in each leading edge for the .303-caliber machine guns that the Aussie 21 carried. I was told that rocket equipped Beaus didnt use guns (I can see why- the fairings cover up the ejector chutes), but I assumed they still carried them and opened the holes anyway. With this done the wing halves were joined and the joint dealt with. Hasegawa has included all the wing lights as clear parts, so I painted the recesses for them black. Then the lights themselves were drilled out and a dab of the appropriate colour paint was applied to simulate coloured bulbs before all the lights were glued in place with zap-a-gap. When dry, these were blended in with various grits of wetndry, Bare Metal plastic polish and The Treatment model wax before being masked off for painting. The leading edge intakes were also glued in place and blended in.
Hasegawas breakdown of the engines is little short of outstanding, and by modifying the construction sequence slightly the modeller can paint each part of the assembly separately. I first assembled the complete intake assemblies and added them to the wings. This is the only other area of the model that needed any bit of filler, but this owes more to my poor trimming of the parts from the sprue than any inherent problem with the fit of the kit. After I attached the intakes without the rest of the engine assembly, my Beau looked like it had a proboscis protruding from the front of each cowling! The two engine cowling halves were glued and the seams attended to, and the cowling ring had the part between it and the hedgehog exhausts added. If you paint the various components separately you can, at the end, add the cooling gills to the main nacelle, glue the engine to its mount, slide the main cowling over the engine onto the lip present on the cooling gills and finally add the cowl ring. This comes in very handy, as all these parts are different colours! The fit will again make you smile and it does save on some very nasty masking jobs.
The cooling gills on Aussie Beaus appeared to be natural metal with a black line separating each gill. I sprayed them with Halfords Nissan silver; once dry, I masked each gill and sprayed Halfords matte black to represent the lines, The engine was also done with this silver and washed with black oil paint before the front housing was added to the engine. The main cowling is the same colour as the main aircraft and the cowling ring was painted with Humbrol 12 copperthis was one of the worst painting experiences Ive had in a long while. The copper pigment separated from its carrier within seconds of being mixed and needed constant agitation every 5-10 seconds of spraying to spray acceptably well.
The propellers were primed with Halfords white primer, and the hubs sprayed Nissan silver. The blades were painted Humbrol Matt black with Extracolor insignia yellow tips. At this point I was still cogitating over those hedgehog exhausts when my brother came to the rescue. A quick phone call revealed that he not only had a set of hedgehogs from the Matchbox Beau (left over from his Merlin-engine conversion) but also two sets of Aeroclub white metal hedgehogs "knocking around," as he put it! A brief excursion over to his abode and the problem was solvedthanks Rory!
With the wings and canopy in place and the canopy masked, I could now turn to painting the main airframe. Australian foliage green is, to say the least, a contentious colour among the "experts," but having asked the question on RMS and taking the median of the results (especially from the Aussie modellers- thanks guys!), I decided on FS43092 green as the colour least likely to cause argument. This was sprayed on in two light coats (Extracolor) and a couple of panels were picked out with very slightly darkened tone. More info from down under suggests that this was quite a stable colour not prone to fading like Olive Drab 41 and so while these aircraft may have gotten dirty, they did not fade excessively. Once the paint was dry, I applied a couple coats of Johnsons Klear with my airbrush and ran some oil paint (a mixture of burnt umber and black) into the panel lines. The decals were next and there are very few of these; it was a half-hour job to apply these with Superset/Supersol. This is when disaster struck. I left the model alone for an hour or two, and when I got back all the fuselage markings were distorted or hanging off. It turned out my lodger had picked the model up to show a friend and grabbed it right round the fuselage! After a brief sojourn to the back garden to bury the corpse of my errant lodger, I returned to see what could be done. About an hour of plenty of sol, plenty of teasing and some patching with white decal stock, and the codes were more or less saved (although one is still slightly distorted), but the roundels were irreparable. I used a pair of AeroMaster "C" type RAF roundels which come with separate centresnot a perfect match and marginally too big, but they would have to do. Two more coats of Klear followed to seal the decals and protect them from further abuse.
The undercarriage was added next. These need care but look great once in place. A photo of an Aussie Beau under restoration shows foliage green legs with zinc chromate wheel hubs and attachment points, and it is this that I chose for my model. Im not sure if this mix is a result of the restoration or historically accurate, but it looks good. The rockets were attached (green rails, black rockets) and some chipping was added with Extracolor Duralumin and a fine brush. The final varnish coat was a mix of AeroMaster acrylic semi-gloss and flat. These Beaus were not dead flat but had a definite sheen that I wanted to capture, and this mix seemed about right. Once the varnish was dry all the masking was removed, the engines were built up in situ and the ADF antenna and its clear housing was attached with white glue.
The final job was to airbrush some streaks around exhausts and cannon ports. This was done with Tamiya matte black and light grey heavily thinned with alcohol, and there she wasan Aussie Beau 21.
Hasegawas Beaufighter is close to the top of my list for "best 1:72 kit of the year." It is superbly well thought-out and executed, and a pleasure from start to finishtry it, youll like it!
Thanks are due to all those who responded to my queries about Aussie Beaufighters: Gary Byk, Brett Green and the other chaps down under. Thanks guys, you are gentlemen to a man and helped no end with this project (check out the Perth Military Modelling Society web page for some great pics and reference on the Beau). No thanks are due to my lodger who so nearly wrecked the project, and special thanks to the Dixie Chicks, whose album "Wide Open Spaces" was my constant companion throughout the project.