Xtrakit 1/72 Sea Vixen - First Look

My Sea Vixens arrived this morning. Wooohoooooooooooooooo!
I'm pleased. Can you tell? This is my pleased face! :-D
So what is it like? Well on first impressions, it is a bit like the curate's egg. Parts of it are excellent. Other parts are not so good. And other parts are, quite frankly, abysmal!
Firstly, the box. The box is a typical Xtrakit thing - all gaudy red and yellow colours. The difference is that this is a tray-and-lid box, which is far better than the end-opening box of the Xtrakit Meteor F8. It is also very difficult to open. The box dimensions are 30 x 20 x 4.5 cm. We've all seen kits that have come in oversized boxes, so that they rattle around in there. The Sea Vixen isn't like that. If anything the box is a teeny bit too small. The two make sprues will not fit flat in the box and have to be propped in at an angle.
Inside the box. There are four sprues of mid-grey parts, plus a single sprue of transparent parts. The transparent parts are bagged separately. There are also seven resin blocks holding a number of detail parts, more on these later. The resin parts are separate bagged as is the decal sheet and a paint masks. There are 78 opaque plastic parts, 6 transparent ones and 16 resin ones. Not all of these will be used on this kit - here's a nice surprise... you can build an FAW1 from this kit!
The plastic has a somewhat rough texture. It's not exactly pebbly, more like the sort of texture you would expect to provide a good key for paint. The panel lines are engraved - and engraved quite superbly, in my opinion. There are no locating pins for any of the components, but that's par for the course with kits from MPM. Nothing whatsoever to worry about. There are no ejection pin marks on the visible faces of the parts. However there are some very intrusive pin marks on the inner faces, many in areas that locate together. These will interfere with the fit of parts and so will have to be removed. I can only find one sink mark, but hat one is quite horrendous - right on the tip of the nose cone. Having said that, I doubt I'll lose any sleep over it.
The airframe is broken down into upper and lower fuselage and inner wings, upper and lower outer wings, left and right halves of booms and fins and a one piece horizontal stabiliser. The boom extensions for the FAW2 are provided in left and right halves and are intended to be scabbed on top of the wing. I foresee a few fit problems here. I think that the joint line between the upper and lower halves on the nose will also need a lot of filler and filing but with the exception of two small panels, there are no panel lines to worry about here.
The cockpit interior is composed of nine plastic parts and two resin ones. There is a central wall dividing the pilot's cockpit and the observer's "coal hole". However, a little voice inside my head is telling me that there should be some form of access between the two cockpits. I did my RAF weapon loading and ejection seat training on Sea Vixens in the early 80s and it was certainly possible to climb from the coal hole into the pilot's compartment. There are side consoles for the pilot's compartment - very narrow ones, but then the consoles in the real thing were narrow. There are also nicely detailed instrument panels for both compartments. That in the observer's compartment even has a shroud for the radar display.
The seats are resin and now we come to the abysmal bit. The seats are unusable. They are nicely cast with some lovely detail. Sadly they are far too small. I reckon that they are about 1/90 scale. The pilot's seat won't even reach above the cockpit coaming! Now it just so happens that I have a couple of Pavla Martin-Baker Mk4 seats and these will fit in just right. Having said all of that, if you plan to build the model buttoned up, then the tiny seats probably won't look wrong, as long as you raise the pilot's seat up a few millimetres.
The intakes lead into intake trunking showing a pair of engine faces. My gut tells me that this area will need a lot of filling and filing to look right. The exhaust shroud is a separate component with plastic tailpipes and resin engine rears. I feel that this may also require a bit of blending in.
The outer wings are separate, which will allow you to build it with wings folded, if you are willing to put in the work. There is no provision in the kit for building the wings folded. Both the outer wings and fuselage/inner wing assembly have blanking plates which will provide an area to butt joint the outer wings. Again, I can foresee fit problems in this area and I think it would be best to fit the wing halves to the relevant fuselage halves first, providing a lot of reinforcement and ensuring that the joints look good.
The booms are also a butt joint to the wing assembly. Now here's an area that will *certainly* provide problems. Due to the moment provided by the tail, this joint will definitely need some reinforcement. I'm going to handle it by filling the boom stubs on the wings with Milliput and inserting a length of sprue. When that is cured, the booms will also be filled with Milliput and skewered onto the projecting sprue. This will provide a much larger bearing surface and the booms can be secured with epoxy. This will add more weight at the rear of the model and so I will have to take care that it's not a tailsitter. The instructions already recommend placing ballast in the nose, but doesn't say how much. The good thing is that the radome can be secured after the booms, so a correct ballast can be ensured.
The undercarriage bays are separate parts. There is minimal detail in the main bays and none whatsoever in the nose bay. This isn't really a problem as I have never seen a picture of an operational Sea Vixen with undercarriage doors open. The undercarriage legs don't have much detail, but then there wasn't much to be seen on the real thing either. The nose gear leg is combined with the nosewheel and is made from resin. The main wheels are in two halves and have nicely detailed hubs. There are two sets of main undercarriage doors, one for the FAW1 and one for the FAW2/D3.
The transparencies are nice and clear. There are two windscreens, again one for the FAW1 and one for the FAW2/D3. The main canopy can be shown slid back, but there is no coaming detail underneath it. The coal hole covers can be positioned open if desired. Again there are two choices. That for the FAW1 fits directly into the fuselage opening. The FAW2 has a raised fairing (provided in grey plastic) into which the canopy fits. I believe that this is because the FAW1 did not have an ejection seat for the observer but DON'T QUOTE ME ON THAT. It's possible that this is the reason for the undersized seats. A fully sized seat would not fit under the canopy of the FAW1, so it is possible that MPM made both seats small to fit.
Other detail parts include weapons pylons (six of them), an option refuelling probe or blanking plug (the plug is in resin), an optional extended or retracted arrestor hook and resin end plates for the air brake. There is no facility to display the airbrake open. Neither is there an option for extended flaps..
Now more bad news. There is no ordnance in this kit whatsoever. There are just two 100 gall fuel tanks. This is quite a shame as it will be difficult to source missiles and other ordnance for this aircraft. The FAW1 carried Firestreak missiles, the FAW2 carried Red Top. Both could carry SNEB rocket pods while the FAW1 could carry bombs and the FAW2 could carry Bullpup missiles. Hopefully the AAMs will be provided soon by aftermarket companies, otherwise it is down to raiding Lightning kits or scratchbuilding.
There are two colour schemes provided in the kit, both are for the same aircraft, XP924. One is for the aircraft as an FAW2 in Fleet Air Arm service with 899 NAS aboard HMS Eagle in the early 70s. This scheme as Extra Dark Sea Grey uppersurfaces and white lowersufaces. The other option is for the same aircraft as a D3 drone, operated by the Royal Aircraft Establishment from RAF Llanbedr in the late 70s. This aircraft is in insignia red with the extreme uppersurfaces and fin sides in golden yellow. This scheme will require some very careful masking and so there is a sheet of paint masks included, which also has masks for the canopies.
The decals appear to be of a similar quality to those in the Xtrakit Meteor. If so they will be very thing when applied and very glossy. The stencilling is all there as are the "Keep Off" warning panels. One problem that I can see is that the roundels are only suitable for the D3 version. They are too small for the operational aircraft. Xtradecal already has a Sea Vixen sheet for this kit. There are two complete sets of correctly sized roundels on that sheet.
So... what to make if this kit? Well, I've tacked the main components together and checked it from all angles. It certainly *looks* like a Sea Vixen. It's not a Tamigawa kit, so it won't fall together. It will need some care taken in the build, but I don't care. I'm supposed to be a modeller. The seats are abysmal and will look ridiculous if the canopy is posed open. But I don't care, I already have replacements. The cockpit and main undercarriage bays will require a modicum of detailing, but I don't care. I'm supposed to be a modeller!
Well, it's not going to be to everyone's taste, but I like it. Yes, it's going to be a challenge, but then, I'm supposed to be a modeller! :-D
One thing, though. This kit is 17 quid from Hannants (slightly cheaper elsewhere I believe). This is no doubt due to the resin. There are rumours that the forthcoming MPM FAW1 will be 20 quid! Does that mean that it will have resin missiles? Who can say? Nevertheless, given that the Xtrakit boxing can be built as an FAW1 I'm going to get another before they sell out to ensure that I can make my three choices from the Xtradecal sheet. I may even try one with extended flaps and folded wings.
--
Enzo

I wear the cheese. It does not wear me.
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so you like these just a bit, enzo?
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote:

Just a bit, yes! :-D Like I say, it's not Tamigawa standard, but then Tamigawa is never going to make a Sea Vixen. I've noticed that the kit has been slated on Britmodeller.com. In my opinion that's unduly harsh. It's a very acceptable but slightly flawed kit that is going to look superb when finished. I'm starting mine tomorrow! :-D
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Enzo

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why did they slag it? shake and bakes are ok, but fix and fiddles are the most satisfying.
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote

Umm, yes, well.... What you say is true, when applied to MODELLERS. Unfortunately, most 'modellers' have become kit assemblers, and as such, have become lazy, lazy, lazy. Hence, any kit that isn't already 85.3%* built when the box is opened has something wrong with it.
But you knew all that already.
RobG (the Aussie one)
* All statistics herein are the result of careful empirical observation and intense research. Honest.
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i build lindberg kits and like them. of course i know. it's like mechanics vs parts changers,rob.
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote:

Of course he does. He likes anything which ran on coal :o)
(kim)
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kim wrote:

LOL
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Enzo

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and leaks oil.... see above.
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snipped-for-privacy@some.domain wrote:

It was a reference to the access arrangements. There was no seat in the cockpit for the navigator so he was confined to a space in the fuselage under a hatch which became known irreverantly as the "coal hole".
(kim)
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i love obscure detail. thanks.
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kim wrote:

<pedant>
observer
</pedant>
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Enzo

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Enzo Matrix wrote:

Obviously the pilots were all male since they didn't need a navigator. They always knew where they were heading - "We don't need any directions." ;)
Seriously, why was the second crewman referred to as an observer and not a navigator? 'Observer' conjures up images of biplanes and open cockpits.
Bill Banaszak, MFE Sr.
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Same level of 'technology'...
(Sorry Enzo, couldn't resist)
RobG (the Aussie one)
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RobG wrote:

Being British it was the very latest technology when first conceived but by the time it got into service was hopelessly outdated. The Ministry of Defence plans to have eight Chinooks ready for service in Afghanistan by 2010 even though they were first purchased in 2001! http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4061330.ece
(kim)
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Hey! I resemble that remark!!:-)
As a civilian Air Force employee every flight that I took I was entered as "Observer".
On the other hand I don't remember being entered into civilian flight logs as an "Observer", not even in biplanes.
"Baggage", maybe, but never "Observer".
Tom
Mad-Modeller wrote:

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Mad-Modeller wrote:

Historically, the second crewman in a Royal Navy aircraft is an "Observer" - possibly from their early rle observing the fall of shot? Their job, though, was to do everything that wasn't the physical poling about of the aircraft, from telling the Boss where to go to managing all the radio communications to supervising the letting go of most of the weapons, the pilot being just some kind of three-dimensional chauffeur. Indeed, in the early days, I think Observers could have been superior in rank to pilots, and in charge of the aircraft.
However "everything-else-officer" sounds un-naval and "aircraft manager" is just a cop-out. More recently "Weapons System Operator" covers a lot of ground, but leaves out the Navigational aspects. The third crewamn in a Swordfish, for instance, was a Telegraphist/Air Gunner while the Observer is, yet again, the everything-else-officer.
The case for the RAF is just as bad, "Navigator" covering only a little of what the second man actually does.
This division of labour is emphasised by the fact that in aircraft such as Sea Vixen, TSR-2 or B-58 the second man *does not need to see out* and has only a porthole to let a bit of light in. His job is entirely involved with managing the aircraft.
The "coal-hole" reference comes from the provision in many British homes that were still heated by solid fuel of a "coal-hole" in front of the house down which coal was delivered into a pit in the cellar, without bringing it through the house, to keep the coal dust under control. Inside, coal would be shovelled out through a small hole in the bottom of the coal-hole pit, and brought up when needed.
In the Sea Vixen, the Observer got in through the top hatch into a small black hole with the occasional thing that glittered. I don't think it was an affectionate nickname.
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Alan Dicey wrote:

I know about coal holes as the first couple places I lived in as a child were heated by coal. The older houses in town still have vestiges of the doorways. Usually they've been converted to windows and barred over to keep out the unwanted.
Bill Banaszak, MFE Sr.
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Mad-Modeller wrote:

In London streets there is often a small cast-iron manhole cover in the middle of the pavement. The manhole cover was lifted so the coalmen could drop the coal down. They still exist but are seldom used today. You can walk over them as they are in a public area.
(kim)
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time for my fave english old joke. why don't the brits build pc's? they can't make them leak oil. as they owner on numberless brit motorcycles and sport cars, i can tell you the guy with one who has a clean garage floor parks his vehicle outside.
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