MPM's 1/72 Fairey Barracuda Mk.II
Fairey has a long history of building Fleet Air Arm torpedo bombers. The most famous is probably the Swordfish, a biplane design that, despite its obsolescence, was used throughout World War Two. Fairey then designed its successor, the Albacore, but rather than taking over the duties of the Swordfish, the Albacore served alongside it. Fairey didn't stop there, though. Determined to come up with a replacement for both the Swordfish and the Albacore, the Barracuda was designed from the ground up as a torpedo bomber and a reconnaissance plane. Originally designed to take the Rolls Royce Exe engine, this was quickly changed to the Merlin and the Barracuda took to the air in 1940. The design incorporated several unique design features. The wing was a shoulder-mounted wing with Fairey-Youngman flaps that were actually separate wing shapes mounted below the wing. These added lift when in the "retracted" position, while lowering them greatly decreased the landing run. The landing gear was the other unique design aspect of the Barracuda, with an odd L-shaped strut arrangement being used to provide as wide a track as possible without using up much wing space for the retraction mechanism.
The Barracuda didn't replace the Swordfish and Albacore as originally planned, but it did have a very long service life. First entering service in 1942, the Barracuda got off to a rocky start, as several parliamentary figures pushed to cancel the production. The performance of the Barracuda quickly ended that argument, and over 2800 Barracuda Mk.IIs were produced. Although designed as a torpedo bomber, the Barracuda's main armament during the war was bombs. The first mission that brought attention to the Barracuda was an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz, when several squadrons made a surprise attack on the ship in a Norwegian fjord. The Tirpitz received 15 direct hits from 500 and 1000lb bombs, proving the accuracy of the Barracuda in combat. Unfortunately, the Tirpitz was not sunk in this attack and it wasn't until Lancasters dropped REALLY big bombs on the ship that it actually went down.
The Barracuda continued to make a good show of itself during the war and post-war soldiered on until 1953, when the Grumman Avenger eventually replaced it. The Barracuda was an excellent design that did its job well and will be known for its great successes in battle.
Prior to this kit, the only choice of a 1/72 Barracuda was the old Frog kit. I happened to have one of the Frog kits here, so I pulled it out to do a comparison between the two. Let's start with the boxes. The MPM boxtop artwork is a thousand times better. That kind of set the tone of the comparison from there on out. Upon opening the MPM kit, I was greeted by two sprues of gray plastic, one of clear plastic, a bunch of resin bits, and a nice set of decals. Compared to the Frog kit, well, let's just close that box and shove it far back into the kit closet, shall we? The MPM kit has finely recessed panel lines throughout and easily rivals that of Hasegawa. The fabric flying surfaces are depicted with just a hint of ribs and look very realistic indeed.
The interior looks very busy, although there is still room for improvement. The majority of the interior is molded in plastic, showing that MPM is getting better and better at providing injection details. The only resin parts for the interior are the rear guns, the instrument panel, and a fire extinguisher. When it is all together and painted up it should look quite good. With all the windows on this plane, though, added detail won't go unnoticed. The clear parts are very well molded as well, with no fogging present and surprisingly thin.
The odd landing gear is nicely done on this kit as well and accurately captures the unique look to the Barracuda on the ground. Inserts for the fuselage provide the well for the landing gear, but nothing is provided in the wings. Some plastic card will be needed here to blank off the bays in the wing. The Fairey-Youngman flaps are nicely molded and while they're set to be level in the kit, lowering them should be a snap.
The rest of the kit is pretty straightforward, with the only other potential problem spot being the propeller. It's molded in resin, with separate blades and hub. While it looks like the actual attachment points are well done, there is no positive key to get the blades at the proper pitch, so some care will be needed here. The resin exhaust stubs are very nicely molded, and an option is included for the long pipe exhaust as well. The antennae on the wings aren't included in the kit, but are rather outlined to be made from scrap plastic rod and all the dimensions are provided for those.
The decals are printed by Propagteam, which means that they are thin and in register. The markings provided give you an option of four different Barracudas: two in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific. All are camouflaged in Extra Dark Sea Gray and Dark Slate Gray over Sky. The Atlantic ones use standard roundels while the Pacific ones have the red centers eliminated to avoid confusion with Japanese planes. This plane will likely be a difficult one to paint up due to the high shoulder-mounted wing and the lower fuselage windows, but with some careful masking this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
It's been a long wait for a decent 1/72 Barracuda, and that wait is now over. This kit will make an excellent representation straight out of the box, while some added detailing in the cockpit can't hurt. It probably won't be too long before we see a brass detail set for this kit, as well as a Mk.III conversion and possibly even a Mk.V conversion (new nose, new wings, new tail... well, maybe we won't see one). This fills an empty spot in the FAA model shelf here, and now all we need are a pair of nice Swordfish and Albacore kits.
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