by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Vampire F-30 was the first jet powered aircraft built in Australia. It was powered by the more powerful Rolls Royce Nene, which replaced the de Havilland built Goblin that powered earlier variants of the Vampire. Although there was a slight weight penalty with the Nene it did offer significantly more thrust. One problem with the Nene engine in the Vampire was the existing air inlets could not provide enough air to feed the very hungry engine. The French with the Mistral, a licence built Vampire, enlarged the air inlets in the wing and also created many auxiliary air intakes in the fuselage. Rolls Royce employed a different approach and added the two distinctive large air intakes on top of the fuselage just aft of the canopy. Unfortunately these intakes led to elevator blanking on formation of shock waves, and three aircraft and pilots were lost in unrecoverable dives. All Nene-engined aircraft were later modified to have the auxiliary intakes beneath the fuselage, thus avoiding the problem. These were designated the Vampire FB.31. Other improvements to the FB.31s included strengthened and clipped wings with under wing hard points. The last FB.31 was delivered in August 1953, and 24 late-production F.30s were subsequently upgraded to FB.31 standard. Single seat Vampires were retired in the RAAF in 1954.
All the parts used in the construction of the Vampire FB.31 are very well packed in the stout top opening box. The resin parts are contained in a sealed eight pouch bag. Also there is a generous amount of bubble wrap to stop any excessive movement of parts in the box. Instructions, vac formed parts, photo etched parts and decals are separately packed in sealed bags. I do like the illustrations that Juanita Franzi is commissioned to do for the CMR kits, well worth cutting out and hanging in your workspace.
Included with this 1/72 multimedia kit is:
-approx 90 x green resin parts,
-5 x black resin parts,
-1 x pre-coloured PE fret from Eduaurd.
-2 x none coloured PE frets from Eduard
-2 x vac-form canopies,
-1 x set of Kabuki masks for the windscreen and canopy, from Eduard.
-3 x decal sheets with options for five aircraft.
-14 x pages of construction, colour and marking instructions.
-6 x A4 sides of black and white photographs
Cockpit is made up from some superbly detailed resin and pre coloured photo etched parts. With this release there are optional parts for the early or later FB.31. the main difference is the later models have ejector seats and the rear bulkhead has different equipment fitted to it. The cockpit floor and rear bulkhead are one piece, the rear bulkhead has some fine detailing including boxes and cabling. There is some excellent raised detail on the inside of the cockpit walls. The control stick also looks very good. The one piece seats looks splendid: the earlier seat includes such detail as cushioning and the seat height adjuster on the right hand side. The ejector seat has very thin walls so be very careful removing it from its casting block. There are pre coloured photo etched harnesses to fit to the seats. The style of the Eduard instrument panel should be the familiar to all. Instrument faces printed on one piece and the instrument panel itself on another. The resin gun sight mount needs the glass screen scratch building; there is plenty of excess clear plastic from the canopies to fabricate one. There are various non coloured PE parts to further detail the cockpit. Interior colour is mostly black. All in all the parts will recreate the busy and cramped cockpit of the Vampire very well.
The canopy CMR supply two vac formed canopies and they look some of the best I have ever seen. They are formed in one piece, the framing on the windscreen is delicately done and the slightly blown canopy is evident. In fact the canopy is so thin and clear you do not need to separate the windscreen from the canopy to see all that lovely cockpit detail.
The fuselage is very petite and is split vertically. The recessed panel lines and fasteners are very well done being light and very consistent. Joining the two halves the panel lines meet right where they should do. I do like the look of the recessed cannon troughs and the cartridge ejection chutes. There are a couple of small resin parts representing the nozzles of the rear most cannons. The canopy rail is shown as raised detail and will provide a useful point to attach the canopy. Where the jet pipe protrudes the wall of the fuselage is beautifully thin. The one piece jet pipe is superb, very thin and the rear spool of the engine has been nicely represented deep inside. The two large auxiliary air intakes for the engines below the fuselage are very nicely done. The void inside the inlets extends a fair way down and there are a couple of PE parts representing the inlet guards.
Part of the wing root is cast with the fuselage halves and there are a couple of locating holes on each side for location of the pins in the wing. The front undercarriage bay is a separate one piece part. There is a little low relief detail in there, but the real thing does not have a lot of detail anyway.
The casting block for the fuselage halves has been removed, but there is a slight amount of roughness where the separation was done. But it should be easy enough to quickly clean the surface up before joining the fuselage halves.
A distinctive feature of the FB.31 was the fiberglass fairing fitted to the nose. This housed the radio compass antennae and is an optional feature.
The wings each wing is one piece and quite breathtaking in their detail. The detail on the surface is a mixture of fine recessed lines and raised areas. The stunning detail extends to the rib detail in the undercarriage bays and the exposed areas that are seen when the flaps are dropped. The depth of the undercarriage bays is just right. The air intakes for the engine are separate one piece parts. There are two PE braces to attach to the inside of each intake. The intake ducts turn 90° into the fuselage so there is not much chance of seeing the forward part of the engine. The duct ends are flashed over preventing seeing into the fuselage. Both the intakes are attached to the same casting block via some very thin flash that should be no problem to remove. In fact they will easily detach with some light pressure using your fingers.
The six separate and highly detailed flaps and air brakes can be displayed retracted or extended. If you are displaying them down then there are numerous resin actuating arms to add.
There are some remaining parts of the casting block at the wing root that will need to be cleaned up to ensure a good join to the fuselage. CMR has captured the shape of the wing very well, particularly the wing tips.
The stabiliser slab is one piece and incredibly thin. It shares the same razor sharp trailing edges of the main wings. There are two separate resin horn balances to add to the lower surface.
The tail booms are both one piece with the rudders cast in situ in the neutral position. The attachment point is at the trailing edge of the wing. There is a small stub in the tail boom that fits into a hole in the fairing in the wing. The stub will need trimming down slightly to ensure a tight fit. There are locating holes in the bullet fairing where the pins on the horizontal stabiliser fit. The trailing edges of the rudders are incredibly thin. A little light cleaning up is required on the lower parts of the booms where the casting block was removed. The recessed detail is very good, I particularly like the series of inspection hatches running down the inside of the booms, there are even tiny holes where the screws where located.
The undercarriage legs are cast in the stronger black resin along with the retracting jacks for the main undercarriage. They look superb, but great care will be necessary removing the delicate parts from the casting block. The main legs have additional photo etched parts. The detailing on both sides of the gear doors is superb and they are very thin as well. CMR has captured the dimpled look of the inside of the nose wheel door extremely well. There are two sets of resin wheels with different tread patterns. The spoke detail of the main wheels is exquisite.
Ordinance there is quite a lot of stuff to hang under the wings.
-2 x 100 gallon fuel tanks.
-24 x shaped rocket projectiles. There are eight projectiles for each of the three types of shaped warheads: two types of practice and one type of live rounds.
-4 x rocket rails.
-2 x 1000lb HEMC bombs.
-2 x 5000lb HEMC bombs.
-2 x 250lb HEMC bombs.
The fuel tanks are one piece. The rocket projectiles have separate photo etched tail fins; there is a PE jig to help with alignment of the fins. The rocket rails are separate pieces and the racks onto which the rockets are mounted are PE parts. The rockets can be stacked in twos or singularly on the rocket rails. The bombs are one piece items.
Accuracy: This one looks spot on with the wing span and length and the outline shape looks very good indeed. Also looking at the many images this kit captures the look of the Mistral very well.
Markings five options are included with this release:
de Havilland Vampire FB.31 - A79-215 No.21 Squadron, RAAF, 1957
de Havilland Vampire FB.31 - A79-111 'Red Devils' Aerobatic Team, No.2 O.T.U., RAAF, Williamtown, N.S.W., circa 1958
de Havilland Vampire FB.31 - A79-915 No.21 Squadron, RAAF, Laverton, Victoria, September 1959
de Havilland Vampire FB.31 - A79-550 '50', RAAF (Squadron, date & place unknown)
de Havilland Vampire FB.31 - A79-422 No.21 Squadron, RAAF, Laverton, Victoria, 1961
All the aircraft are finished in overall high speed silver FS 17178
Decals are silk screen printed. The colour density and the definition look very good indeed. Many stencils are included on the sheet.
Masks the small Kubaki sheet has masks for the canopy and windscreen. The masks are produced by Eduard.
The instructions has some fine black line diagrams and the written instructions are in English. They certainly leave you in no doubt where things go or what colour they are painted. The painting instructions and decal guide provide multi view drawings of the aircraft. Federal Standard numbers are provided for the paint references. I do like the inclusion by CMR of the black and white photo references.
CMR has taken advantage of being able to produce high quality kits using multimedia parts. Were this kit excels is the use of resin for the major parts of the airframe. You will notice the traditional breakdown with the fuselage from plastic kits, but the big bonus with this release is the one piece wings and booms. The level of detail of the resin parts is superb and they are enhanced with the PE etched parts. Accuracy? I doubt we will see anything that rivals this release in accuracy in plastic soon. The F.31 is along with the F.30 are probably the most distinctive looking of the Vampire family.