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Tamiya's 1/48 Meteor F.Mk. 1 and V-1

 

By Tom Cleaver

 

The Airplane

Probably because Gloster had stayed true to the old so long, the company being responsible for design and production of the last RAF biplane fighter, the Gladiator, the company was basically unemployed by 1940. Thus, when the Air Ministry presented them with the specifications for a jet-powered fighter, they quickly took up the opportunity of leapfrogging from the technological rear of the pack to the front.

The result was the first operational RAF jet fighter, the Meteor, which in various sub-types would be a significant part of Britain's aerial arsenal until the late 1950s. This is despite the fact that the design was already far behind that of its contemporary, the Messerschmitt Me262, and would be overtaken by the first American jet, the Lockheed P-80, and overwhelmed by the MiG-15, all within five years of its arrival on operational service in 1944.

The F.1 appeared on the scene in 1943. Its top speed of 480 mph was impressive in comparison with the piston-powered fighters of the RAF, but well below that of the Me262 by nearly 100mph. Ordered into production that year, the airplane entered service with 616 Squadron in the spring of 1944; interestingly, 616 Sqn had been the last RAF squadron to give up the Gladiator for the Spitfire in 1940.

At about the same time, Allied photo reconnaissance spotted ominous concrete ramps in the Pas de Calais region, all aimed toward southern England. The Allies were aware of the development of the Fieseler Fi103, called the V-1 by Hitler, and better-known in popular history as the "buzz bomb." The first operational cruise missile, the Fi103 was powered by a pulse jet (which gave it the buzzing sound) and had a top speed just 20 mph short of the Meteor's maximum, at the extreme upper range of the best of the piston-engine fighters. The Germans believed it would be unstoppable in any significant numbers, and planned to flood southern England with the robot missile to stop the build-up for the invasion of Europe. Inaccurate as it was, all it had to do was hit southern England at that time to have a strong likelihood of blowing up something of value. The intention on Hitler's part was to reduce London to rubble.

Throughout the period from late 1943 through to the invasion, the Allied tactical air forces - occasionally backed up by the strategic heavy bombers - attempted to destroy the "ski sites" as they were called. Built of concrete they were hard to hit and even more difficult to destroy, and it was at this time that the fighter-bomber potential of the P-47 Thunderbolt and the Hawker Typhoon became really useful. Armed with rockets, the Typhoons actually had a chance against these targets, which also gave them useful target practice for what they would accomplish that summer over northwestern Europe.

Fortunately for the Allies, their campaign against the launch sites, as well as the timely bombing raid on Peenemunde in the summer of 1943, set back the V-1 program enough that the first robots were not launched against England until the week following the Normandy invasion. It immediately became apparent that the only way to destroy the bombs was by use of high-speed fighter aircraft, operating in belts across the English Channel and southern England. It was a real stretch for the Spitfires and Tempests and Mustangs to catch the bomb, and it was dangerous to shoot at it, because the resulting explosion could take the intercepting fighter with it.

The RAF was loath to let their jet fighter out over enemy territory across the Channel, but here was a mission for which it really was the best possible answer. 616 Sqn, by this time also operating the Meteor F.3, was turned loose against the V-1 in July, 1944, and became the primary interceptor with the Tempest until the ski sites were overrun that fall.

On August 4, 1944, flying Officer Dean spotted and gave chase to a V-1. After his guns jammed, he flew alongside the flying bomb and "tipped" it with his wingtip. This toppled the gyroscopic guidance system; without ailerons, the V-1 could not recover, and dove to destruction below. This became the preferred tactic from then on, and the Meteor, which had sufficient speed to do this without blowing its engine in the process, became very proficient at it. 616 Sqn was eventually credited with the destruction of over 400 V-1s.

The Meteor Kit

Modelers were very happy to see the release of Tamiya's Meteor F.1 in 1997, believing it would be the first in a long line of a popular fighter that had long been desired. Unfortunately, Tamiya made the mistake of believing the real airplane they modeled their kit from was accurate, which it wasn't. The Cosford Meteor, while having an F.1 fuselage, had been re-equipped with F.3 wings; the two are visually very different. Wails arose.

Credit Tamiya with being responsive. By late last year, there was a re-release of the Meteor F.1, with the correct wing. However, they did not change the boxart, and modelers were left to wonder which kit was hiding in the shrink-wrapped box they were buying. Worry no more: if you buy this kit, you get the right Meteor F.1. This was probably easy for Tamiya to do, since the engineering of the fuselage shows that they had already taken into consideration developing an F.3, in which case they will still be able to use the original wing without fear of offense.

The kit is typical Tamiya: well engineered; with no flash to the parts and superb fit that requires little if any putty to give an excellent construction. Decals are provided for three F.1s of 616 Sqn in 1944. They are the typical thick Tamiya decal we are familiar with, but in my experience of the earlier release, they go down well under a coat or two of Super-Sol. The markings provide squadron codes and the tailband in Sky, as well as the yellow leading edges; these are things modelers have had to paint themselves in other manufacturer's kits. As you can see from the sprue scans here, they have indeed gotten the wing right.

The V-1 Kit

The kit is the essence of simplicity, as befits its forbear. Everything that was said about molding quality and fir applies here. The decals in this case are Invisi-clear, and provide the stenciling.

I have heard complaints that this V-1 from Tamiya is deficient in overall accuracy in its rendition of the real thing. Not being a V-1 maven, I can only say "it looks like one to me."

Overall

It's a Tamiya shake 'n' bake project, one that can likely benefit from a bit of effort in giving some extra detail to the Meteor's cockpit. If you have information on the buzz-bomb, you can accurize it easily if you must, since it is such a simple model.

 




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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

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87199-0933
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