Trumpeter 1/48 Supermarine Attacker F.1

It may be roughly the shape of the Bell X-1, but don’t let that fool you. The Attacker was not about speed, or power, or finesse…

“You should never rest on past laurels.”

This is good advice. There are lots of instances of storied and successful companies doing just that, and then reaping the poisonous rewards thereafter. General Motors comes to mind… In aircraft terms, though, one “shining” example is the Curtiss company; once a pinnacle of fighter design and production, Curtiss reached its zenith before WWII was in full swing, and only the P-40 saw service.  For some reason, nothing Curtiss tried to make in WWII caught on, and by the end of the war, they had been eclipsed.

It’s hard to imagine the same thing happening to the famous Supermarine company, isn’t it? The firm that gave birth to the Spitfire should have been well in the forefront of aeronautical development, right? With the advent of the jet engine, a company with so much experience and expertise in high performance fighter design should have been poised to make the leap into the jet age, dominating the skies on turbines the way the Spit did on Merlins and Griffons. However, that was not the case.

It seems that the folks at Supermarine ran out of steam after developing the Spitfire and its progeny. Even the final versions, the Spiteful and the Seafang, were not successful, and according to some reports, not as good as the airplanes from which they were derived. If, though, there was ever proof that Supermarine had lost their edge, one need look no further than the Attacker. The Attacker was the Royal Navy’s first jet, but it was a very lacklustre machine.  Fat and slow, the Attacker tried to stretch the Spitfire even farther, taking a Spiteful’s wing and mating it to a more than Rubanesquely chubby fuselage housing a single Nene engine.  To add insult to injury, it was even a taildragger! This puts it in some very rarefied company with the Yak-15, itself not a raging success, but less of a let down than the portly Attacker.

The Attacker was an unqualified “meh” in service. It saw only 4 years of use, and only Pakistan bought it on the export market. Compared to the successes of the Meteor, Vampire/Venom family and the Canberra, the Attacker was significant failure. It seems that nothing  Supermarine could  come up with in the early jet age was right; the Swift was almost as big a failure, and only the Scimitar managed to salvage (somewhat) the reputation of its parent company.

With the Attacker being such a dismal example of the jet-builder’s art, it’s no surprise that it has not received a lot of attention in the mainstream. There was a FROG, and a Classic Airframes, but as far as plastic goes, that’s it. Until recently.  Thanks to their penchant for releasing interesting and sometimes little-kitted subjects (they seemed to create a mini Gannet revolution back in the day), Trumpeter saw fit to give us a 1/48 injection moulded kit of the Attacker.  That they also make a Spiteful in the same scale is interesting; I don’t know if they pulled a Supermarine and lifted the entire wing assembly or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Amazingly, you can get your Attacker in two flavours from Trumpeter! The first kit, the one reviewed here, was an F.1. More recently, the FB.1 was released. This has a different canopy, but doesn’t include underwing stores, apparently, which is a shame.

The Kit:

For an in depth look at the kit itself see the link below:

Attacker F.1 (OOB)

Building the Attacker:

Like most jets, the Attacker starts with the cockpit. The tub on the Trumpeter Attacker isn’t bad, but there’s not a tonne of detail in there. There is an instrument panel with recessed gauges, but no detail in them. If you want detail, you need to use the decal that is provided. However, I have some worries about this conforming properly to the sunken instrument faces.  I decided just to leave the faces black and gloss coat the instrument faces, since I was building my canopy closed anyway.  The seat is a surprisingly complex affair, with photoetch seat belts and a lot of detail on it. Coming from Matchbox and Heller 1/72 to this in 1/48 was quite a wakeup call! The photoetch is fiddly and very soft, but for those who are used to it, I’m sure it won’t pose a problem.

There’s no detail on the cockpit sidewalls, and I was a bit disappointed with the basicness of the rudder pedals and control stick. Overall, though, the cockpit looks nice enough when installed. One thing that is awkward is the coaming for the instrument panel. It should be installed at the same time as the cockpit. I thought it sat on top of the plastic behind the instrument panel, but it fits BETWEEN the walls of the fuselage! There’s not a lot of positive location for this piece, either. Mine was too thick with paint to install easily afterwards, so some scraping was needed. Installing it first will save time and trouble later!

This gives a bit of a look in the passable, but not super-detailed cockpit. It’s more than good enough for a “closed up” model, though.

The only other piece that has to be installed in the Attacker ahead of bolting up the fuselage is the jetpipe. This is a two-piece affair, with a nice, if not simple, turbine face at the end of the tube. I got this nicely painted and installed, only to realize you can’t really see the turbine once the plane is built, due to its taildragger nature. This turned out to be fortuitous, though; when I put a rod up the jetpipe to hold the plane for painting, it swiftly knocked the turbine face out of the engine! There’s no way that I could find to install the jetpipe after the plane was done, either, due to the taper on the rear fuselage.

Another frustratingly engineered part of this kit is the intake/splitter plate arrangement. The Attacker has distinctive ramps just inside the intakes’ openings. These stand off from the fuselage on multiple supports; their function is to bleed off sluggish boundary layer air and keep things happy for the Nene downstream. The problem is that the splitter plates are not designed to be installed AFTER the plane is done.

The spiltters are tapered as the intake; they’re narrower at the front than the back. That means there’s no way to slide them into the intake when everything’s done. This is a shame, because the masking for the Attacker’s distinctive paint scheme involves some work right near the splitters, and this would be easier if they weren’t in place. Thus, it behooved me to make some modifications. I cut the intake splitters down to create an opposite taper; now they were narrower at the “inside end” than at the “front end”. I tested the fit of the newly changed parts, and was very pleased with the results.  I was fairly certain that I would now be able to install the intake ramps when everything was said and done.

On the left is the original. On the right is the modified splitter. The new shape allows it to be put in AFTER the intake is on. Much better.

Once you get the splitter pieces fixed, the bulk of the build is pretty easy. It’s important to paint the “back wall” of the intake black, since the trunks are closed and there’s no engine face. Also, it’s pretty tight inside the intakes, so painting the inside walls before assembly will save you time and trouble. Don’t think you’ll just be able to glue the intakes on after you’re done; they didn’t fit very well, and a lot of sanding was needed to get them to blend into the rest of the fuselage.

Actually, the fit of the Attacker wasn’t all that great in most spots. I was expecting something more akin to a newer Academy kit, but I got a fit more like a Monogram or Revell back from the 1980s. This was disappointing. An extra wrinkle is provided by the wing cannons. Oddly, these are moulded in place in the wing, making sanding the wing seam between them much more difficult than it should have been.  Care is required when handling the wings, too; the pitot tube is also moulded in. Had I been smarter, I would have cut it off and installed it after the plane was built. It survived well, but I did end up snapping off the smaller diameter piece of it eventually. I chose not to replace this, because I figured it would just break again.

Seems like Matchbox or Monogram engineered this fit. Not what I was expecting from a newer kit, I can tell you…

The Attacker has separate flaps that can be positioned up or down. These fit into the wings surprisingly well, and add a neat dimension to the kit. I chose to build them up, since the pictures I’ve seen of Attackers in service show them up when parked.  One major area of contention, though, is the fit of the wing unit. This is made of a one piece lower pan and two top halves, typical of a WWII aircraft. I’d have preferred the normal “top and bottom half of a wing that plugged into the full fuselage” approach. The reason for this is that the dihedral on the wings is wrong.  If you look at a real Attacker, the wings do have a noticeable dihedral; the kit does not.

I tried to correct this with tape, heating, etc.; nothing worked, though. This is because the center “pan” on the lower wing doesn’t stretch, so you can’t bend the wings at the fuselage. Thus, unless you want to do a huge amount of work, the Attacker’s wings will leave you flat; literally!  The wings contain simple wheelbays that have a bit of structural detail in them, but no plumbing. The gear are a bit fiddly to get together properly, but the doors do go on nicely.

Does that look like a dihedral on those wings to you? NO? Way to go Trumpeter… there’s no easy fix for that, either.

I found that I had to rescribe a lot of the surface detail. Much of the detail was a bit soft, and I worried it would be obliterated by painting. This is not something I was expecting to do on such a new, mainstream kit. It did colour my enjoyment of the build considerably. I hate rescribing at the best of times, but on an old Heller or Matchbox, I expect it. On a new Trumpeter, I would think that the detail would be sufficiently crisp so as to obviate the need for this monotonous task; not so, my friends. Not so.

Here you can see some of the re-etched panel lines. Those two PE items on the nose were a pain in the prat too!

Painting , Decalling and Finishing:

The Attackers that served with the RN were all finished in a similar Dark Sea Grey and Sky paint scheme. On the box, the Sky is shown to be quite green; in fact, it is a nearly perfect match for the Testors Model Master Acrylic colour known as “Sky”. However, when the Sky is painted next to an appropriate dark grey, it is obviously far too green. I compared it to photos of preserved Attackers, and chose to go with a lighter colour. I mixed MMA Duck Egg Blue with some of the Sky and Light Grey, and got a colour that still had that odd greenish tinge, but was less pea green than before.

Here you can see the not-quite-Sky colour I used on the underside. This is much closer to what I’ve seen of RN jets online. Still has that green tinge, though!

Perhaps oddly, I painted the dark colour first. There’s less of it on the plane, so the masking job was easier.  After primering with Colourplace Grey Primer, I used MMA F-15 Dark Grey to simulate the Dark Sea Grey. This colour has a slightly purple tinge which matches the British colour very closely. I airbrushed this on with a Badger Anthem 155, and once it was dry, I masked it with Tamiya Tape and paper.  I also painted the wheelwells at this point, using MMA RAF Interior Green for the bays themselves. These were given  washes of Citadel Devlan Mud and Baddab Black to bring out the details. I used Silly Putty to fill the bays to prevent paint ingress; the same treatment was given to the intakes before painting the grey.

After masking, I re-primed the lower fuselage, since I didn’t see my RN Sky going over  the  dark grey without a fight. The RN Sky colour I’d mixed worked beautifully, and once it was on and dry, I was very pleased that I’d decided to adjust the colour. Unmasking, of course, proved to be a bit of a disappointment, with several instances of paint running under the tape. Thankfully, MMA paints can be easily touched up without changing colour, so after a bit of scraping and touching up, all the runs were relegated to history.

See that little bit of masking bleed? That’s not bad, and it’s a super-easy fix with Model Master Acrylics. They’re still the best paints, in my opinion.

I sanded the paint with 1200 Wet/Dry sandpaper, and then highlighted all the panel lines with a filed down mechanical pencil. This gave a nice, clean aircraft, which most Attackers were. After applying a coat of Future to seal the pencil in, I applied some chalk pastels to shade and blend the panel lines. To minimize the dirtying effect of this exercise, I adjusted the contrast between the pastels and the paint to be less than I have in the past. It worked very well. I think in the future, though, that I will skip the pencil stage and use only the pastels to highlight the panel lines. This will give a more subtle final effect.

The highlighted panel lines show up well, maybe too well. Despite adjustment of the pastels, I’m not sure I like the effect to be this stark…

The decals were an interesting experience. They are quite flexible, but they are not overly tough, and they are prone to curling under and around themselves. Unfortunately, when this happens, the results are generally bad, and getting them untangled is almost impossible. Thus, great care is required when applying them. Once again, the paint/decal plan is not quite right, at least not when compared to preserved Attackers. I was constantly checking photos on the internet against the plan, and found the plan to be off on the placement of some of the stencils, wording, and even the roundels!

Well, that’s not right… Part of my 6 went AWOL. Good thing I have a black calligraphy pen around from building Gundams!!

With a coat or two of Future brushed onto the decals, they softened up enough to push into the panel lines on the plane. By the time everything was try, the decals had conformed nicely to all the surfaces, and they were pencilled in where they crossed a panel line. I then used appropriately coloured pastels to darken (or lighten, in the case of black decals) the decal in areas where they crossed panel lines. Once a final coat of Future had dried, I sanded the plane with 4000 and 6000 grit polishing cloths to blend the decals into the surface.

I flat coated the entire plane in Delta Ceramcoat Matte Urethane varnish. This is dead flat, though, and Attackers are usually quite shiny (as are all RN aircraft of this period). I didn’t want a totally high-gloss aircraft, so I created a semigloss finish consisting of 7ml Future, 4ml Matte Varnish, 4ml water and about 20ml Isopropyl Alcohol. This gave exactly the finish I wanted; although it might not be as glossy as the preserved examples of the Attacker, it looks nice on the shelf and gets the point across.

While it might be a bit more matte than preserved Attackers, the finish looks good to me, and that’s all that matters.

Conclusions:

The Attacker was a transitional aircraft. Its design and execution where hurried yet late, its performance disappointing but not dangerous and its service life was short and unassuming. Because it was so pedestrian, and it came on the scene at a time when technology evolved so rapidly, it has long been forgotten by many. The fact that Trumpeter even considered making a kit of this pudgy pigeon of a fighter is surprising; the fact it exists in 1/48 is amazing.

At first look, Trumpeter’s Attacker seems like it will be a solid kit; the detail looks good, it’s not overly complicated, and it does come with nice decals and a bit of photoetch. However, just like the real thing, the 1/48 Attacker is something of a mixed bag. Even though it is a largely passable kit, it does disappoint in a few spots. While it generally looks correct, it falls down on the lack of wing dihedral; this is something that is very difficult to hide, and impacts rather negatively on the final build.  There are parts of the kit that are well engineered, but the intake ramps and engine nozzle aren’t among them.

Overall, the Trumpeter Attacker doesn’t amaze or betray. It builds into a large and solid model of a large and solid, if not unspectacular, aircraft. There are parts that are easy to deal with, and parts that are frustrating. I wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner, but there’s nothing here that those with intermediate skills can’t do. Mind you, to build this kit well requires some unconventional approaches in spots.

In the end, it can be said that Trumpeter has produced a model that is about as “middle of the road” as they come. In that way, this model is a perfect replica of the real thing!

It’s a “meh” kit of a “meh” plane. Being a taildragging Navy jet is nothing to write home about. Trumpeter nailed that part perfectly.

 

 

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