by: Sean Langley [ ]
Originally published on:
IntroductionThe Gloster Javelin isnít very well known now. It was a transitional aircraft. On one hand it was an all-weather fighter, the first in the RAF to be armed with missiles, and the RAFís only delta apart from the Vulcan. Yet it was basically old-fashioned and originally armed only with four guns in the wings. See it from the side and itís impressively sleek, despite the fat front end, with a vast swept fin. But see it from the top and, despite the novel delta wing and tail, itís strangely olde worlde, with a broad wing that doesnít shout ďspeedĒ, and round-tipped tailplanes. The Javelin definitely looked a stranger to the Area Rule.
The original operational requirement was issued shortly after WW2 and led not only to the Javelin but also, by a roundabout route, to the Sea Vixen. But development was slow, and piecemeal when it got going properly. No two squadrons used the same version, it seemed, and Mark numbers were issued almost at random as different radars, engines and wings were fitted. Eventually the aircraft matured into a reasonable fighter in the form of the FAW.Mk.7, 8 and 9. The FAW.Mk.9, the subject of this new kit, was produced by rebuilding FAW.Mk.7s with the revised wing and afterburning engines from the FAW.Mk.8. By a quirk of the fuel system, these reduced thrust at low level, but added a useful margin at height. The FAW.Mk.9R was a version with one of the longest flight-refuelling probes ever fitted to anything (strictly speaking this is the Mk.9(F/R)), and most were capable of taking four large underwing tanks as well (the true 9R). The last were retired in 1968, twelve years after the FAW.Mk.1 entered service, although one stayed on support duties at Boscombe Down and can be seen at Duxford in its striking red and white finish. Somehow the Javelin picked up more than its share of nicknames: the Harmonious Dragmaster, the Flat-Iron, and the Ace of Spades were favourites.
What's In The Box?You get 212 parts on eight grey sprues, with another ten in clear. Construction follows a conventional sequence, starting with the cockpit, which has excellently detailed consoles and side walls and fits within the bulky forward fuselage. The main airframe is sensibly broken down. Airfix has resisted any temptation to make it out of full-width mouldings, matching the real thing by having the wings attach to the fuselage flanks. This is where one of the really cunning features comes in. If this had been an Eastern European kit, you might have to butt-join the major parts and be scratching around looking for heavy tube to use as spars. Airfix gives you a pair of spars that locate in channels within the wings for positive alignment. Even better, these spars also locate the long intake trunks and even longer exhausts. Both go all the way to the ends of the engines, where you get good compressor and turbine detail, although no actual engines. Way down aft there are three-piece afterburners, stuck right on the end as the real things were. The 27 separate nozzle sections arenít provided, but the nozzles are a good representation nonetheless. Most of these engine-related parts are marked P and S, too, to help you out with the way they converge from intake to exhaust.
The intakes are assembled by connecting them to the sides of the forward fuselage and then locking them together with the front spar. This little lot goes into the lower fuselage along with the exhausts, connected by the rear spar. There are ample locating points, but Iíd still be a bit wary of flexing until the upper fuselage is on and clamping the whole lot together. The intakes have separate lips to hide any lingering gaps. If itís still gone horribly wrong you even get intake and exhaust FOD guards.
All control surfaces, plus the split flaps and the airbrakes, are provided as separate parts. You can build the airbrakes open (with their bays well depicted) or closed. Ailerons and elevators can be offset, although the all-moving tailplane has no adjustment. The elevators are one-piece and have sharp trailing edges; the ailerons are two-piece and donít, which is correct. A full set of jacks for flaps, airbrakes and undercarriage doors is provided. The simple undercarriage is depicted well, including a decent debris guard for the nosewheel, and should be fairly sturdy. Thereís a bit of a threading job to do with the maingear retraction jack, which has to fit through the framing of the maingear well. All three wheels have keyed locating pins to enable the moulded flats to be aligned correctly (the nosewheel has a much more pronounced flat than the mains).
The cockpit is well detailed, for the most part, and even includes the large projection for the retracted nosewheel. The throttle quadrant is well represented but lacks actual handles, and the relief on the navigatorís radar panel is perhaps a little flat. Decals are provided for the pilotís instruments and one in the back, and with enough patience they could even be cut out and applied individually. The seats come together well out of six parts, although there are no belts, nor any crew. Thereís also a five-part boarding ladder to hook over the port intake. The omission of crew figures is an odd feature when you consider the kit can be built with the wheels up and the airbrakes open.
Underwing stores run to four Firestreak missiles and four 230-gallon tanks, and thereís the well-known Sabrina tanks under the engines too. Six pylons are provided: one pair, for the inner positions, is kinked for carrying tanks, which was done on the real thing to prevent them fouling the undercarriage.
At every point the standard of surface detail is top-notch, with fine, deep and consistent panel lines let into a smooth but not shiny finish. Overall Iíd put the standard a little ahead of Airfixís Sea Vixen and Valiant. The panel lines are as good, but with the addition of screw heads on the removable panels. And the runners are lighter and the sprue gates a lot finer, which will make life a lot easier.
There are no obvious ejector pins where theyíd matter, and only trivial amounts of flash. There are also almost no sink marks, although there is one unfortunate set. You have the choice of one-piece maingear doors for wheels-up and three separate ones for wheels-down. The middle one has prominent relief on its inner face, which has left small but awkward sink marks on the outer face, and you canít rob the other door because it has no interior detail. But this is the only example I can find. Fine detail is mostly top-notch, for instance the long pitot heads, although theyíll need to be removed very carefully from the sprue. The vortex generators on the outer wing are fairly fine - not as fine as if theyíd been photo-etched, perhaps, but hardly any coarser than, say, those on a Hasegawa Skyhawk. You can always try thinning them with a flexi-file, or replacing all seventy-eight with something finer if you like that sort of thing. One small minus point is that the two rings of fuse windows on the Firestreaks are raised when they should be flush. Sanding them down will remove the detail altogether. However, Firestreaks were often fitted with guard collars over the windows, and the kitís features are about right for these if theyíre filled flush.
The clear parts are thin and crystal-clear. They includes seeker heads for the missiles as well as four parts for the canopy and a landing light and a gunsight. One small quirk is that the canopy sills are separate parts that fix to the cockpit edges before the glazing is added to them.
Decals are by Cartograf and are well printed, nicely matt and with minimal carrier film. Full stencils are provided, most being readable. One nice touch is that the overwing roundels are perforated to fit over the vortex generators. When you get to this point, youíll notice that just ahead of the second row is another projection that doesnít have a matching hole. Donít despair, though. This is a stall-warning vane. It should be a fine hinged plate across the airflow, with a small wire guard to either side. The moulding isnít fine enough to manage this; but you can lop it off, apply the decal, and then add your own replacement if your scratch-building is up to it. Some of the parts sit quite high out of the plane of the sprues. One is the back of the ladder, which on mine was broken. Better protection would have been nice.
Options are XH893 in 64 Squadron service at Tengah, XH903 in 33 Squadron markings as sheís currently preserved at Staverton, and XH898 in the markings of 228 OCUís commanding officer, the only natural metal Javelin. Now, this is where things get a little tricky. Not every FAW.Mk.9 was a 9R, and you can build them differently. XH898 is correctly identified as a straight FAW.Mk.9. But Iíve consulted the oracle (Britmodeller!) and Iím fairly sure that XH903 should be as well - it should have neither the FR probe nor the tanks. Also, the underwing options are a little misleading. You can do four tanks, four Firestreaks, or two Firestreaks inboard and two tanks outboard. The most common load was in fact tanks inboard and missiles outboard. Four tanks was a ferry fit only and most training missions were flown without tanks. Another niggle is that the standard fit when the Javelin carried missiles was to use only the outer pair of guns, the inner muzzles being faired over. (Early aircraft still used four guns even with missiles, but that was mainly the FAW.Mk.7.) None of this means that the kit options were impossible, though, and plenty of pictures are available of just about every combination. So as always - and especially if youíre using other decals - it pays to check your references. Donít be misled by the marking diagrams. The radome is entirely black (it doesnít have a lighter underside) and has a narrow dark green ring immediately aft.
Other Javelin versions with the American radar were marginally shorter with a different radome hinge, while the trainer was nearly four feet longer. The fuselage construction might allow these variants to be tooled. However, I shouldnít hold my breath. The rear fuselage is designed around the afterburner system, while the wing has the late modelsí droop on the outer leading edge and would need that removed, with the vortex generators going for some earlier versions too. Still, who knows what the aftermarket is up to?
Up to now the only way to get a 1/48 Javelin was vacform, Dynavector's being a well-regarded kit. I'm reliably informed by someone who's built it that the Airfix kit beats it.
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