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1/72 Airfix Blackburn Buccaneer S.Mk1

Gallery Article by Carmel J Attard on Mar 22 2012

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Blackburn Buccaneer S.Mk1

History
Hal-Far airfield has always been a busy airfield with Fleet Air Arm exercises simulating combat between Seahawks, Avengers, Wyverns, Skyraiders, Meteors and Shackletons the latter pretending to be heavy bombers. Those who lived in areas around Zurrieq and Qrendi enjoyed the delight of witnessing dive-bombing on the island of Filfla barely 5 miles off shore, by day and by night. At the same time Hal- Far continued to receive FAA squadrons on both short and long term visitations. One important aircraft type present for three weeks in August 1959 was the prototype NA39, XK490, the forerunner of the Buccaneer, which was conducting hot weather trials. The shape of the type differed from the ones commonly seen at the airfield. The design involved the area rule bulged fuselage and the split air brake concept. This contained streaks above and below which varied in size difference until in due course a suitable configuration was adopted.

Buccaneer XP490 was also on display at Le Bourget Air show in June 1959 at a time when the overall dimensions were finally released to a none-too-surprised world. It also took part in the September 1959 Farnborough air show where it flew from Boscombe Down each day to keep it away from preying eyes as it was the only major new type present and therefore generated great interest. The month following the show XK490 became the first NA39 to be lost on 12.10.59 while it was on an evaluation flight from Boscombe Down with an American pilot and a Blackburn test observer.

The loss and subsequent investigations delayed carrier trials. The Buccaneer as it came to be known carried out its first carrier deck landings in January 1960. XK523 was the first to land on a carrier, HMS Victorious.

The production aircraft were designated S.Mk1, the S indicating strike i.e. nuclear capability. One of the Squadrons equipped with the S.Mk1 was No 809. This squadron besides continuing trial work did embark aircraft on board Royal Navy carriers. 809s principal task was to train pilots and observers for front-line Buccaneer squadrons. The activity continued until 26th March 1965 when it lost identity and was renumbered as 736 Squadron in recognition of its second line status.

An important element in the early days of the Navy Buccaneer operations was provision of in-flight refuelling. Owing to the low thrust of the Gyron Junior engines the S.Mk1 struggled to get airborne from carrier decks with full fuel and weapon load. Aircraft were launched with reduced fuel and then topped up by a Scimitar F.Mk1 tanker. They performed sterling service in support of Buccaneers during the 1965/66 Beira patrol, keeping very close eye on shipping in the vicinity of the port of Beira, which was the coastal terminal of oil pipeline to Rhodesia. Patrol by Buccaneers was from dawn to dusk tasked with ship plots and tanker reconnaissance. Due to lack of diversion airfields air to air refuelling was extensively used from Scimitar and Sea Vixen tankers.

The S.Mk1 was undoubtedly successful with its role but was generally agreed underpowered. During its time the S.Mk1 had given the FAA a potent low-level attack aircraft which had quickly supplanted the ScimitarF.Mk1 in the strike (nuclear) and attack (conventional) roles. The resultant comfort factor enabled S.Mk1 crews to make longer low-level target approaches with less fatigue, which resulted in more accurate, survivable attacks. The S.Mk1 was good and it passed the way for a much more effective S.Mk2 which therefore had a smoother entry into operational service powered by more powerful Spey engines.

 

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The kit
The Buccaneer S.Mk1, a kit sadly neglected by kit manufacturers. The closer to the S.Mk1 came from Airfix offering way back in the mid 60s in the form of Blackburn NA39. An impressive kit at the time of its release in view of the continuous progressive information on the type appearing in the press about its progress and capability as a Naval bomber. With some care and modification this could be turned into the production version of the Buccaneer. The Airfix kit virtually lacked internal detail with the fuselage moulded in white plastic being an empty shell divided horizontally. It was however clean and flash free mouldings with an accurate shape and kit parts fitting together very well. 

Construction
Designed with a strong airframe the Buccaneer was powered by two DH Gnome engines and with avionics fit continually updated with latest progress. The work involved to bring the NA39 model to an S.Mk1 standard is evident but for the modeller this was not a complex update and appeared to be within the scope of the average modeller.

After cleaning the kit parts when detached from the sprues the first job was to assemble the movable bomb bay door to a static position, as this was a gadget that I could do without for the sake of accuracy. The undercarriage well needed to be built up to simulate side of engines and to include spar construction forming part of the u/c bay internal detail. Rectangular pieces of plastic card were cut to form the fuselage and bay side bulkheads. I drilled a hole in the main undercarriage upper wing construction each to take the wheel leg. The two wing root air intakes also needed blanking pieces on the inside. These were added from scrap plastic card and painted black. A nose wheel well box was also built up from plastic card so that cockpit sits directly on it. A shallower box was built for the arrestor hook. These had the doors removed. I added lead weight to the nose cone, which was blanked with a round piece of plastic card, and this feature was intended to avoid a tail sitter in the end. The next step was adding detail to the cockpit making reference to scale plans in Aviation News. Detail was added to crew seats, instrument coaming and panels as well as side consoles added to both crew areas, adding a second internal wind screen made out of a small clear acetate cut and then fixed in place with Kristal Kleer. Cockpit interior painted medium grey and seats were black with light olive backpack. I also added crew figures since I photo the kit in flying configuration and also the crew figures give a much needed scale impression to the completed model. Ejection made from thin plastic bent to shape added to top of seats. The instruments that came from Model Decal sheet were added later before closing the cockpit canopy.

A major modification to the fuselage to bring it to S.Mk1 standard was shortening the engine nacelle so that the distance between the wing trail edge and end of engine exhaust pipe is reduced to conform to scale plans I was referring to. This was removing some 3/8 from the engine pipe at each side. A triangular piece was shaped and fitted at the rear of exhausts and the rest was shaped using Plasto filler. Interior engine pipe was added with cut lengths from ballpoint plastic tubes. There was one for each side which was blanked at the inside end. Another pair of pipes that were shorter was added to the air intakes, which also needed opening the aperture a little

Other alteration was made to the tailfin area where fore and aft bullets shaped fairings were added to upper tail fin. An air intake added to the leading edge of tail. Other smaller detail items added to the model were: red beacon light on upper fuselage, fairing under nose area, landing light to nose gear, refuelling probe made from shaped stretch sprue, two antennae under nose area and two in tandem antennae above fuselage. Small fairing detail to bay door and finally added 4x pylons under the wings while the leading edges had two ARI 18218 aerial housings shaped from thin plastic sprues. Armament consisted of four rocket pods.

Colour and markings
I made my model to represent Buccaneer S.Mk1 serial number XN934 of 736 RNAS Squadron that I picked from a photo taken at an Air display held at HMS Daedalus in UK. I opted for this specific S. Mk1 as it had the standard three-colour roundel rather than the ones in light blue that were not readily available among my decals spares. Upper fuselage and wings were airbrushed in Compucolor extra dark sea grey while lower surfaces were semi gloss white. In the end kit was given a coat of Klear and after decals applied which all came from Model Decal sheets, the kit was given a coat of semi gloss lacquer bring an even sheen on the overall finish.

Conclusion.
This was a simple conversion of a type that was common sight in both our ports on RN aircraft carriers and also at airfields during the carrier visit and the aircraft put ashore along with Sea Vixens and Gannets COD and AEW. It is a conversion certainly recommended to those keen on Royal Navy combat types. 

Carmel J Attard

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Photos and text by Carmel J Attard

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