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Tom-M 1/72 Resin
Vickers FB5

 

by Michal Beran

 

History

In Britain the Vickers Ltd. (Aviation Department) was one of the pioneering companies in the design of an aeroplane suitable to carry a machine gun. Although the army officials considered the aeroplane as only mobile observation posts in pre-war years, there were men at Vickers taking more realistic view of the aeroplane's abilities. And so their Vickers FB 5 "The Gunbus", successor of the pre-war Vickers "Destroyer" , Vickers EFB2 and EFB3 designs, equipped the first RFC squadron (and in fact the first squadron of any air arm) created specifically as a fighter unit.

The unit was No.11 squadron RFC arriving in France on July 25 1915. Powered by the not very reliable 100-hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary and armed with Vickers or Lewis machine gun, the type served with RFC squadrons Nos. 2, 5, 7, 11, 16 and 18.

"The Gunbus" served well and had some success until the Fokker monoplane began its operational career, which spelled the end of that of the "Gunbus". One of the 19 Victoria Crosses awarded to airmen in the Great war went to an FB5 pilot - 2nd Lieutenant Gilbert Insall of No. 11 squadron (you can find details in the book "Victoria Cross" published by Flying Machines Press). (Editor's note: I did the illustrations for this book and it includes top and side views of Insall's FB.5 - RNP)

The kit

Upon opening the box of the Tom-M 1/72 FB 5 kit you can find two plastic bags with 30 resin parts, brass rod material, instructions and decals. The instructions are rather sketchy and only in the Czech language, but the next kits in the range will see much improvement in this area, including instructions in English. Closer inspection of the resin parts reveals very clean mouldings, crisp surface detail and absolutely no pits or tiny air holes bubbles.

I have found drawings in the Datafile No. 56 and the ones from the Czech aviation magazine L&K in my archives. The drawings differ in some aspects so I was anxious to put the kit parts against them. I think the Ian Stair drawings in the Datafile are more accurate, so the following notices apply to the Datafile drawings.

Laying the wings down it appears that they are virtualy spot on, have acceptably thin trailing edges and convincing rib detail. the wing section is too thick to be in scale, but it could be acceptable or could be worked on. Horizontal tailplanes - hah! Too big in plan, needing to correct all around or make new from the scratch. The vertical tailplanes are again spot on and needing only gently thinning down.

The tail booms should be constructed from the rod material supplied. There is no jig for tail booms included, but you can use the drawing in the instructions to construct one yourself. The fuselage needs a little bit of attention. The lower part should be trimmed to shape in the nose. The upper part is apparently based on the L+K drawings (not accurate on this detail) and needs to be reshaped in cross section. The pilot's cockpit opening is too big in diameter. The Monosoupape replica is nice but will benefit from further detailing. You can find detail photos and drawings of the Monosoupape engine in the DH 2 Datafile. The Lewis gun is superb, probably the best one I yet in Czech resin kits.

The decals included are made by Extratech and provide markings for the FB 5 serial No. 2341. Photos of this machine can be found in the above mentioned datafile, which I can only strongly recommend to anyone building this kit.

Anyone who wants to build an early FB 5 should pay attention to the rudder shape and type of machine gun installed.

Conclusion

There were at least four kits of the FB-5 "The Gunbus". Airframe, Classic-Plane and Blue Rider produced vacuformed kits, Merlin Models did an injection one, the Blue Rider one being probably the best of all. The Tom-M kit is well engineered and will provide anyone willing to have a "Gunbus" in his collection with good kit which could be built into nice representation of this important aeroplane.

The kit is not for a novice, for sure. But those who have built WWI resin kits before should have no serious problems with this kit.

Thanks to Tom-M for providing the review sample. The kit is available from VAMP Mail Order for example.




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