by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The Sea Venom was a navalised version of the Venom NF.2 two-seat night fighter, and was used as an all-weather fighter and strike aircraft by the Fleet Air Arm [FAA] and the Australian Navy. The French Navy also operated the Aquilon, a version of the Sea Venom FAW.20 licence-built by SNCASE [Sud-Est].
The necessary modifications for use on the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers included folding wings, a tail hook [which retracted into a characteristic "lip" over the jet pipe] and strengthened, long-stroke undercarriage. The canopy was modified to allow ejection from underwater. The first prototype made its first flight in 1951, and began carrier trials that same year. A further two prototypes were built. The first production Sea Venom took the designation FAW.20 [Fighter, All-Weather]. It was powered by a single de Havilland Ghost 103 turbojet engine and its armament was the same as the RAF version. The next variant was the FAW.21, which included the modifications introduced in the Venom NF.2A and NF.3. Some of these modifications included the Ghost 104 engine, a clear-view canopy and American radar. The final Royal Navy variant was theFAW.22 powered by the Ghost 105 engine. A total of 39 of this type were built in 1957Ė58. Some were later fitted out with the de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missile.
Seven FAW.21ís were modified in 1958 for Electronic Counter Measures [ECM] purposes, with the cannon replaced by the ECM equipment. These became the ECM.21. 831 Naval Air Squadron, the sole squadron to be equipped with it, was shore-based at RAF Witton RAF from 1963 and disbanded in 1966. Converted FAW.22s was similarly known as the ECM.22.
The Blue Jay Missile was born from the over ambitious objectives for the Firestreak project. At the time technology needed to catch up to the technical demands required for the Firestreak. A lower specification was released in 1951 resulting in de Havilland designing and building the experimental missile code named Blue Jay. The IR seeker was mounted under an eight-faceted conical nose. The unusual faceted nose was chosen when a more conventional hemispherical nose proved prone to ice accretion. There were two rows of triangular windows in bands around the forward fuselage; behind which sat the optical proximity fuses for the warhead. The warhead was at the rear of the missile, wrapped around the exhaust of the Magpie rocket. The first airborne launch of Blue Jay took place in 1955 from a de Havilland Venom. The target drone, a Fairey Firefly was destroyed. Blue Jay Mk.1 entered service in 1957 with the RAF and was known operationally as the Firestreak. Firestreak was deployed by the Royal Navy and the RAF in August 1958. It was fitted to a few Sea Venom FAW.22ís. It was the first effective British air-to-air missile.
The kit is contained in a top opening box; the lid has a very fine illustration of a Sea Venoms FAW.21 firing off a Blue Jay. The whole thing is a bit spurious as only the Sea Venom FAW.22 was equipped with Firestreak [Blue Jay Mk I]. Underneath the box are several CAD views of the kit. The plastic sprues are contained in two bags and the photo etched fret, decal sheet and canopy are wrapped separately. The box contains:
-4 x light grey plastic sprues.
-1 x small clear plastic sprue.
-1 x small photo etched fret.
-1 x decal sheet.
-1 x construction and painting guide.
Cockpit: is made up from five parts: a one piece floor and rear wall, two separate side panels, a one piece forward instrument panel and flight control stick for the pilot. The side instrument panel on the portside has a couple of low relief trim wheels moulded on the surface, but other than that both side instrument side panels are devoid of any detail. The forward instrument panel although it has some detail does look a little odd, particularly on the navigatorís side. To be fair to Dragon, it looks like they have lifted the detail from the FAW 21 displayed at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, in Yeovilton, UK. The instrument panel of the FAA museums Venom has a few instruments missing on the navigatorís side. The internal detail on top of the fuselage just behind the two seats is very simplified. The two basic looking one piece bang seats are significantly undersized in scale. Unfortunately swapping the kit seats for seats more suiting the scale is not the answer as they will not fit. Which suggests the size of the cockpit is not quite right. The sill that the canopy fits on is very wide so trimming this down may help with the fit of more scale sized seats. The two seater Venom cockpit was a particularly tight fit and the seats were built quite small, but not as small as the kit parts suggest. The fit of the completed cockpit fits positively into the top of the undercarriage in the lower fuselage half.
Canopy: is one piece and is nicely moulded, but the dimensions looks suspect. The windscreen on the kit looks too square in shape compared to photos. Also the length looks too short. Dragon has made an excellent attempt to replicate the complex double curved shape of the canopy.
Fuselage and inner wing: The fuselage halves, which are split vertically, incorporate the inner wing. I donít normally work out scale dimensions from aircraft specifications, but the length and wingspan is pretty spot on. The cross section of the fuselage looks a little odd particularly around the cockpit. The distinctive double vanes that are located in the engine air intakes are four individual parts. Oddly the fitting of the four parts donít get a mention in the instructions, the illustration of the lower wing suggest they are moulded with the wing. There are positive slots for the vanes that will allow the fitting of the after the upper and lower halves of the fuselage/wing is joined. The air intake ducts are two pieces; each part is spoiled by two recessed ejector pin marks on the inner surfaces. The shape of the ducts does prevent any view of the engine compressor blades. The engine access panel on top of the fuselage is a separate part and allows the chance to see the de Havilland Ghost engine that is included with this release. The separate air intake that is attached to the access panel is nicely done. The shape of the fuselage towards the rear looks good and captures the distinctive look of the real thing. The one piece arrestor hook can be displayed retracted or extended.
There should be gun cartridge ejection chutes for the underside of the fuselage, but none are included. The distinctive air intake on the access hatch just aft of the radome is a missing detail. I am not sure why Dragon has decided to have the two access hatches either side of the forward fuselage as separate parts, as there is no detail in the bay if you want them open. It does complicate the build a little for no reason.
The flaps on the inner wing are separate parts with commendably thin trailing edges. Dragon have not taken the opportunity to detail the inside of the wing that will show if you decide to drop the flaps, but there are a rather obvious raised ejection marks on the inside of the upper wing. The wing fold joint on the inner wing has separate detailed ribs to insert if you want to display the wings folded.
The front and part of the main undercarriage bays are very shallow in depth, but they do have some good low relief detail in them.
de Havilland Ghost engine : is beautifully replicated in eight parts. The 10 combustor chambers look resin like in their detail. The jet pipe is two pieces and sandwiches the separate low pressure turbine which has some very fine fan blades moulded on it. The lip of the jet pipe is nicely thin.
Tail boom: Each boom is one piece and very nicely moulded. Unlike many previous kits of the Vampire/Venom the tail booms are full length and extend across the upper wing. To help with a attachment there are a couple pins on each boom that fit into holes in the upper wing providing a very positive fit. Shape of the fin and rudder looks good; the pitot probe is moulded on top of the port tail fin. The horizontal stabiliser is one piece with separate and positionable one piece elevator.
The outer wings: are built from upper and lower halves. The wing tip fuel tanks are moulded onto the wings. The ailerons are separate and one piece and each has a locating tab for a positive fit. There is some rib detail at the fold joint incorporated in the upper wing. The wing fences are separate photo etched parts and fit into a groove moulded on the wing
Wingfold: Dragon have given the modeler the opportunity to display the Sea Venom with the wings folded or extended. If you go for the wings folded option, then there some good rib and hinge detail at the wing fold joint. I am a bit dubious with the supplied attachment parts if you want the wings extended. They are very small, it would be better to glue the outer and inner parts of the wing together before assembling the two halves of the aircraft.
Undercarriage the two piece nose wheel has some fine detail on the hubs, the oleo is also two piece with some excellent detail. The oleo is a bit short, because of the shallow bay. The detail is very good and looks accurate. There is the possibility that the wheel will rotate if you wish. The main wheels are two part split vertically. There is the option of being able to rotate the wheels if you add the separate spindle. The oleo legs and undercarriage doors are nicely detailed.
The Blue Jay missile looks a little odd. The main fins look too wide and not quite long enough. The seeker head on the real thing is a faceted glass; Dragon has gone for a sort of fluted grey plastic look and does not look very convincing.
Markings: there is just the one option with this release:
XG 607 No Squadron details or date.
Upper surfaces are painted extra dark sea grey and the under surface is sky.
Decals: are printed by Cartograf and they look superb you may not be to surprised to read. Colour density and definition is excellent and there is minimal carrier film. There are plenty of stencils included and they are all legible. The red wing walkways are also included.
Instructions: the black line illustration are very helpful and there are eight stages of construction. Ignore the first stage of the construction process. Dragon would have you gluing the undercarriage in first. The painting guide includes separate side profile views for stencil placement. To help with painting there are upper and lower plan as well as port and starboard side profile of both aircraft featured. Paint references are for Model Master, Aqueous Hobby Color and Mr Color, no Federal Standard references are provided.
Dry fit is generally very good. The two tail booms and horizontal stabiliser fit very positively. The only slight fit issue is the radome, although the shape matches the shape of the fuselage, the flange on the radome prevents a snug fit. So the best bet is to remove the flange. This could be a great weekend build for you speed builders out there.
Well despite the question about the look of the windscreen and those undersized seats this certainly looks a handsome looking 1/72 Sea Venom. The breakdown of the parts generally is very well thought out and to put the kit together you will not need anything more than liquid glue. Even dry fitting the components the kit is a joy to put together. There no hefty sprue attachment points to the parts and there are two excellent choices of markings. Nicely done Dragon, nicely done.