Special Hobby 1/72 Fairey Firefly Mk. IV/V
Following the success of the earlier Firefly variants, 100 Mk. III aircraft, fitted with the Rolls Royce Griffon 61 engine, were ordered. However, only one aircraft was built as a prototype in 1944 and development was then concentrated on the Mk. IV. The Mk. IV was driven by a Griffon Mk. 74 engine, with a two-stage supercharger, driving a four-blade propeller. This new powerplant resulted in greatly increased performance and led to some changes to the airframe. The ‘chin’ radiator was replaced with radiators mounted in the leading edges of the wings, the fin and rudder were broadened, and the wingtips were clipped. Nacelles were fitted to the outer wing panels, one to hold an ASH radar and the other for fuel. If required, the ASH radar could be removed and the nacelle used for additional fuel.
Fairey received a contract to produce 293 Firefly Mk. IVs. The first production FR. IV made its initial flight on 25 May 1946. A batch of 133 aircraft was canceled from the initial order due to the end of the war. The first Firefly Mk. IVs were allotted to the Royal Canadian Navy in August 1947 and the first FAA examples were available for 810 Squadron when it reformed on October 1. The Firefly Mk. V was the next version produced and was basically an FR. IV with enhanced internal equipment. One improvement was the introduction of power folding wings during production. This system was retrofitted to the first machines built.
Contrary to the Mk. IV, the Firefly Mk. V was produced in three main variants: fighter-reconnaissance, night fighter, and anti-submarine. Each could be easily modified into one of the other roles. The first Firefly Mk. V made its initial flight on December 12, 1947 and eventually Mk. V production reached a total of 352, with the last 16 finished as Firefly Mk. VIs. The Firefly went on to see service in the Korean War and over Malaya, finally retiring from active service in 1956, a fitting testament to a reliable and sturdy naval fighter. In addition to the Royal Navy, the Firefly also saw service with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, the Netherlands, India, Sweden, and Thailand as fighters, trainers, and target tugs.
For those out there that are wondering, this kit is not at all related to the Octopus Firefly kit. It is a nice little kit in its own right, though, and includes a collection of injection plastic, cast resin, and photoetch. The plastic parts are molded in a gray plastic and look to be low-pressure injection molded rather than the high-pressure moldings we have been seeing from MPM lately. This does not detract from the quality of the moldings, though, as the kit features finely recessed panel lines throughout and crisp edges. There will be a bit more cleanup needed, though, and some care exercised with the softer plastic.
A closer look at the kit reveals a nicely detailed cockpit consisting mainly of resin parts, with a photoetch instrument panel for the front office. The sidewalls are separate resin pieces, as are the various bulkhead pieces, which should make painting a bit easier. Also fitting inside the fuselage halves is a tailwheel bay and resin exhaust stacks. The fuselage halves also trap a propeller shaft, which takes the six-piece propeller assembly (separate blades and a two-piece hub).
The wings get some nice detail work as well, with the one-piece lower wing taking the separate resin wheelwell inserts. These inserts also include the radiator intake vanes and effectively blank off that opening. The landing gear itself will need a bit of cleanup, as the struts are not the best, but the additional resin and photoetch details will help spruce them up. For the wing armament, optional resin gun barrels of stub fairings are included, depending on which decal option you choose. Finally, as the box states, the canopy is injected, and this is done to the high quality seen in other MPM/Special Hobby kits. The clear parts are very thin and very clear, and a dip in Future will make them absolutely perfect.
For camouflage options, well, there ain’t much as far as colors go. All of the examples on the decal sheet are finished in Extra Dark Sea Gray over Sky, which is the finish the vast majority of late-model Fireflies wore. The most striking example would have to be the boxtop FR. IV scheme of the Dutch Marine Air Force, based in Dutch East India (New Guinea) in 1959. A big mouth with what looks like hairy lips adorn the nose, with large numbers on the wings. The second choice is an FR. Mk. V from 821 Squadron in Korea, 1953. This plane comes complete with the black and white Korean War stripes, and a bit of noseart. Finally, for those who are into minimalist schemes, there is a Royal Canadian Navy example, with miniscule roundels and small fuselage codes. This plane is from 880 Squadron off of HMCS Magnificent in 1951. The decals are well printed, although in my example the red is ever so slightly out of register. It really would not be noticeable except in the Canadian roundels. With such small roundels, even the smallest registration error becomes immediately apparent. Since I will probably do this one up with that mouth, this does not bother me.
Following on the heels of the Octopus Firefly Mk. I kit, this is a nice counterpart and finishes the Firefly family nicely. The resin details, coupled with the nicely molded plastic, should make this a well-detailed model when finished. If you are a nut for FAA aircraft, this is one you should not pass up.