AIR: Airfix 1/48 scale Gloster Meteor F.8

Kit Review: Airfix 1/48 scale Kit No. A09182; Gloster Meteor F.8; 164 parts (153 in grey styrene, 11 clear styrene); retail price US$47.99

Advantages: nice, new mold kit with a lot of options including engines and gun bays; two different seats, two different canopies, parts for other vers ions

Disadvantages: no ordnance provided in the kit

Rating: Highly Recommended

Recommendation: for Cold Warriors and early jet fans

While the first models of the first British jet fighter to see production, the Gloster Meteor Mark I, came out late in 1944 and were used to try and suppress V-1 attacks on England, it was not until the Australians took the F.8 version into Korea during that war that it got is true baptism of fire.

Replacing the F-51D Mustangs with No. 77 Squadron, the Meteors initially w ere fielded as bomber escorts for B-29s. But nearly from the beginning they were found to be woefully ill equipped to deal with the nimble MiG-15 figh ters flown by the ?Unified Air Army? ? Soviet pilot s from the 64th Fighter Aviation Corps. So the Meteors were reassigned to g round support missions using rocks and bombs backed up by 20mm cannon.

The type acquitted itself well but 42 were lost in Korea: 4 to MiGs, 10 to AAA, 4 to midair collisions, 8 during ground attacks, 4 in non-combat situ ations and the rest to ?enemy action?. Six pilots became PO Ws and 16 were killed in action. One pilot did manage to claim a MiG in a d ogfight on 1 December 1951. The type soldiered on for a number of years but as a second-line aircraft; night-fighter/all weather versions remained in front line service as did trainers for a longer period.

Until the present time there have been kits from AMT, Classic Airframes an d Tamiya of varying versions of the Meteor in 1/48 scale but this nice new kit of the F.8 version is probably the best one of the bunch. (Classic Airf rames makes an F.8 and a PR9, but they are multimedia short-run kits and ra ther fiddly to deal with; AMT made a dreadful Mark 1 and Tamiya make a Mark I and an F.3.)

The kit provides a number of options to include engines with maintenance s tands and alternative access panels, ?weighted? wheels, opt ional early (hooded) and late (clear) canopies, the bubble for the RAAF com pass, alternate position dive brakes, optional position gun bays, a choice of seats (empty or with chutes and straps), separate controls, retracted or extended landing gear, and drop tanks or the big single streamlined belly tank. While holes for racks are provided in the wings, no ordnance is inclu ded in the kit. This means if like me you want the Korean version you need to either scrounge or wait for Airfix to release a bespoke Korean version.

Construction is pretty straightforward and well laid out. There are 98 ste ps (!) but most are very simple and cover only a few parts. The directions are a lot different than the old ?stick parts together? one s I remember from Airfix in the 1960s! These are clear, concise and use col or tinting to show how and where parts go. Construction begins with the coc kpit/nosewheel module which also includes the two gun bays. A separate nose wheel nest is provided and while the ejector seat mechanism is made from fo ur parts, a choice of a bare seat or a seat with straps and seat chute are offered.

In Step 13 the modeler is informed to leave out the guns and fittings if t he panel covers are to be used and the guns not displayed. Each gun has a r otary feed and belt carrier provided for it. Step 21 is for ?wheels up? builds only and shows the main door blanks being installed. If you want the drop tanks, the holes fro them need to be opened up here as w ell as those for the belly tank or an optional stand.

The engine blast tubes go in and connect to the main spar/engine mount. In Step 33 15 grams of weight is recommended to fit right up behind the pilot ?s seat.

The engine cowlings have inner and outer sections and offer alternate inta ke shapes - large or small. Control surfaces may be installed in any positi on, but there are no separate flaps.

The engines consist of compressor faces, exhaust guides, combustion chambe rs, starter motors and fuel distribution tubing; diehards will surely want to detail these components.

The landing gear comes with the fender/splash guards in place and ? ?flattened? tires on al three wheels. Hydraulic cables run throug h the front of the bays and door actuators at the rear of the main bays. Th e nosewheel attaches to the front bulkhead and extends out to the tip of th e nose with three doors when extended.

The kit has a two-piece clear reflector gunsight and the canopy may be pos itioned open or closed. In the two versions offered in the kit, the early c anopy with the metal ?hood? at the rear is not used.

Two finishing options are offered as well as complete stenciling for the a ircraft on a large sheet. No. 111 Squadron RAF North Weald, Essex, England

1954 (WL123, grey/green over light grey with yellow fin and rudder with bel ly tank); No. 85 Squadron RAF Binbrook, Lincolnshire, England 1968 (WH364, silver with red/black chequerboard panels).

Overall this is a lovely kit and it means the Classic Airframes one I have is going to go to the flea market pile. But I wish they had thrown in the RAAF version and some ordnance for the Korean War ones.

Cookie Sewell

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