Some planes get all the love. Spitfire, Mustang, MiG-21, F-15… the list can go on and on. These are the planes that even those who AREN’T hardcore students of aviation history will know; the famous, the powerful, the successful. There are a surprising number of planes that have such a wide recognition. However, there are far, far many more that don’t.
When it comes to making injection moulded kits of aircraft, it is usually the famous ones that get kitted first. This is no real surprise, since they’ll definitely be better sellers. This has long been the thought, but recently, it has occurred to some people that there may be saturation in the modelling market. After all, how many different iterations of the Mustang are really needed? How many more F-16s can the market bear? Someone must have asked this, and decided that it was time to start making some nice kits of the lesser-known planes in history.
As a result, the last few years has seen a veritable explosion of unusual subjects. Strange Russian and Chinese aircraft have begun to pour out of the factories, and now we seeing more attention being paid to the earlier jets as well. Those transitional jets weren’t all successes; slow, heavy and underpowered, they were a waypoint to the future but not the future itself. As a result, they’ve been largely ignored until now.
One such plane is the Supermarine Attacker. This rotund, straight-winged naval fighter was something of a hybrid. It used the wings of the piston-engined Spiteful with a new body housing a Nene jet engine. Originally designed to allow a new RAF jet fighter to enter production as soon as possible, it was eventually adopted by the Royal Navy as its first carrier-borne jet fighter. It didn’t stay in service long; the first entered service in 1951 and the last marks left RN frontline service in 1954.
Due to this rather brief and extremely lacklustre career, the Attacker is widely ignored in history, and it remained largely unloved by modelling companies. That was, until Trumpeter decided to make a Spiteful kit in 1/48, and then do exactly what Supermarine did and combine the wings with a new fuselage to create an Attacker!
Thus, we are now treated to a fully modern, injection moulded kit of the Supermarine Attacker in 1/48, something that most of us never thought we’d see in our lifetimes!
Like most Trumpeter boxes, the Attacker’s is a solid-feeling affair adorned with the usual blue background. The box lid has a very nice drawing of an Attacker flying above the clouds. The picture is not very dramatic, nor is it in any way action-packed. It has a very lazy, slow quality to it, and this is only exacerbated by the fact that it is a picture of an Attacker. Given that the Attacker was a very languid machine itself, the art is fitting.
There is a drawing on the side of the paint schemes that you can choose from, but these are very similar except for individual aircraft numbers. All RN attackers were apparently Dark Sea Grey and Sky. However, if you look at pictures of the few Attackers that have been preserved, the tint of the “Sky” on the box looks too green. I think the colour is actually supposed to be closer to Duck Egg Blue, but I’ll have to paint the grey and Sky together to see if it looks right. Trumpeter doesn’t have the best record when it comes to correctly calling out their paint schemes, so the paint plan on and in the box should be double checked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The very small fret of photoetch is also shown on the side. There’s a small write up about the Attacker as well. If other Trumpeter and Hobby Boss boxes are any indication, this will likely have been lifted nearly verbatim from Wikipedia, but I haven’t confirmed this. Overall, the box is nice but it doesn’t have a lot of pizzazz. It’s amazingly strong, though, so you can be pretty sure that the kit inside is undamaged even if the box is a bit dinged up.
While the box may be a bit lacklustre, the kit itself SEEMS excellent. There is very nice surface detailing everywhere on the kit, including both panel lines and rivet detail. However, there are several features that are extremely softly scribed, and I worry that they will disappear upon painting. Actually, that describes about half of the detail on this model. It will be interesting to see how this pans out during a build.
There aren’t a lot of pieces to the kit; the bulk of the model (and the real plane) is made up of the bulbous fuselage, which comes in halves in this kit. Thankfully, the large and characteristically unwieldy belly tank is moulded as one piece, and it is separate. Thus, you can build your Attacker without it; this is important to me, since I really, really hate that tank. It ruins the plane completely. Of course, it does also make it seem even slower and lamer… Hmm… It’s like the bubble-back on an LN7!
Unfortunately, there isn’t a full engine in this model, although there easily would have been enough room for it, both in the model and in the box. There’s an exhaust pipe, and a nicely detailed turbine at the end of it at least. I normally don’t care about aircraft with full engines, but having the tail pull off of this one might have been a nice touch. The wings, however, can be built folded or extended. It’s up to the builder to cut the wings if you’re going to fold them, though. There are wing ribs to put in each open end of a folded wing and that’s appreciated.
The detail in the cockpit is nice, although for such a big scale I would have expected a little bit more in the way of fine detailing. There is minimal detail in the landing gear bays, although I’ll admit that I don’t know what is in there on the real plane. The shape of the kit seems accurate, although on a bird as pudgy as the Attacker, it can be hard to tell if something’s a bit too thick or round!
The canopy transparency is very nice, from what I can see. It comes in a separate bag, protected with a plastic foam wrapper. This gives it both shock and scratch protection, theoretically, so I expect it will be in perfect shape when I take it out to work on the kit. One thing to note is that it is the “full vision” canopy normally found on F.1 Attackers, not the more opaque type seen on later models, like the FB.2. No, I don’t know why the Attacker regressed to having worse visibility later in life; regression and inability seem to have been the watchwords at Supermarine when they were building this thing!
The Attacker is a simple plane, both in real life and in the kit, so the instructions for it aren’t that difficult or involved. The illustrations are large and clear, and anyone can follow what’s going on. As usual, there’s a separate, full-colour painting guild that is included in the box. I still like this more than a black and white drawing like most people give, and more than a coloured plan on the back of the box. Those suck, because then you have to keep turning the box over, however, I use the box to hold the parts of the kit!
There are full decals for the different paint schemes shown on the box, and these are large, crisp and seem to be in generally good register. I’ve only worked with Trumpeter decals once before, but they were fine as far as toughness and ability to conform were concerned. I expect the same out of this kit’s decals.
The photoetch on this kit is very minimal (see above) consisting of seat belts and the fine sensors on the nose. I would have rather had the sensors as plastic; I worry the photoetch will be far too prone to bending.
The Attacker is a weird plane with a short and largely unimportant role in history. It initiated the RN into the era of jet operations, but barring that, it didn’t do anything of note. Some of the fighter-bomber versions served with Pakistan for a bit, but you can’t make them with what comes in the kit.
Given that the Attacker is at most a footnote in aviation history (like many early jets), it’s all the more unusual to see such attention lavished on it. That there’s a kit of it at all is amazing, that it’s this nice (if not basic) gives hope for ever more esoteric subjects to appear in hobby shops everywhere. This appears to be a good kit for anyone of any ability. It should be easy enough for a beginner, but moderately skilled builders will get something nice out of it too. As for the fit, well, time will tell. Trumpeter’s offerings have been dodgy in the past. For those with a lot of skills, some scratch building should help make this kit really stand out.
If you like fat, slow jets or just weird, forgotten planes, then this is definitely a kit for you. I am looking forward to building it based on my previous Trumpeter experience, and I don’t see it being anything but a fun project!