by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Bristol's famous 2-seater first appeared in late 1916 as the F.2A. Early operations proved disastrous because the new aircraft was used according to existing 2-seater doctrine and the "Brisfit", as the aircraft was later fondly known, was hacked from the sky in alarming numbers.
Hasty modifications led to the F.2B - and with the new version came new tactics; henceforth RFC squadrons equipped with the aircraft adopted fighter tactics... with spectacular results! Initially a failure, the Bristol Fighter was soon recognised as the best 2-seater in service in France during 1917-18.
While the Armistice signalled the demise of many classic WW2 types, the F.2B continued to serve throughout the British Empire during the 1920s and into the '30s. The Brisfit combined both strength and speed - and established the concept of a "heavy fighter" with a gunner for defence, which persisted into the early years of WW2.
The KitRoden have released a brand new 1/48 scale kit of the Bristol F.2B Fighter, consiting of:
137 plastic parts (plus 1 spare)
1 sheet of clear film for the windscreens
Decals for 6 colour schemes
The parts are moulded in Roden's familiar beige plastic. The surface detail is excellent, and the main parts do not have the "textured" finish noted in earlier Roden release. There is a little flash evident, but cleanup will be quick and easy. The fuselage halves have some cockpit detail moulded internally and this results in a couple of sink-marks on the outer surface. Meanwhile, on the inside, there are a couple of ejector-pin marks in the cockpit area, but these are very shallow so, hopefully, they'll be easy to hide.
The wings are moulded full-span and are perfectly straight with beautifully thin trailing edges.The ailerons are deeply scored, so they'll be easy to position offset, but those on the upper wing will need a slight clean-up where the engraving is a little ragged. The fabric effect is subtly done - but no rib tapes are depicted - and, unusually, the ribs are slightly indented on the lower surfaces.
DetailThis kit allows for several different styles of propeller and exhaust configurations. Presumably to make assembly easier, Roden have chosen to mould the exhaust mounts on the outside of the fuselage as clumsy triangles. Before construction starts, the first step is to decide what style exhausts you want to fit and remove the remaining mounts, taking care not to damage the surrounding detail. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of the kit; the mounts are inaccurate and, whether you choose to use or replace them, you will face delicate cleanup work.
Otherwise, the detail throughout the kit is excellent. The show-stealer is undoubtedly the 22 piece engine, which should look superb with careful assembly and painting, but the cockpit is also very nicely detailed, with a neat instrument panel, seats and controls, plus plenty of spare ammunition drums for the gunner. The Lewis guns are supplied with and without cooling jackets and feature superbly fine sights. 3 styles of propeller are offered, plus neat underwing bomb racks.
Test FitThe fuselage halves don't have any location pins, but they fit together perfectly. Beyond that, the nature of the Brisfit's design makes a test fit impractical; the fuselage is "suspended" between the wings on struts. These are all separate items in the kit, as are the inter-plane struts, so using a jig during assembly will certainly help keep everything square and true.
Instructions & DecalsThe instructions are clearly illustrated, making it plain which parts go with which decal option. Humbrol paint references are given throughout assembly.
The one major omission from the instructions is a rigging diagram. The excellent box-top painting is certainly a help in deciding where single and double wires are needed, but a good set of references will really be essential.
Decals are provided for 6 aircraft in an interesting variety of colour schemes. The decals are thin and glossy but, as with the S.E.5a, those in my kit are printed out of register. The thin white outlines to the roundels make any error obvious, so it's a pity Roden didn't supply white disks with the roundel rings and centres as separate items and let modellers to align things themselves.
ConclusionRoden's Bristol Fighter probably isn't a suitable kit for beginners; the complex nature of the wing / fuselage assembly will make it quite a handful for anyone tackling a biplane for the first time. Experienced modellers, however, will have a field-day with it! A new mainstream kit of the Brisfit has long been overdue in 1/48 scale and Roden's model supplies every needed for a real show-stopper.