For many modellers, the sight of the magnificent box artwork which graces the packaging of our latest model releases has become almost as iconic as the model kits themselves and looking at the exclusive Beaufighter artwork reveal above, it is not difficult to see why. In many cases, the appeal of this artwork is the only encouragement we need in selecting our next build project and it certainly acts as inspiration throughout the process. Effectively bringing to life the stories and poor quality black and white pictures we all find in our reference books, modellers know that if we manage to make our models look something like the image on the front of the box, we will have another successful build under our belts.
The subject of this latest artwork reveal is one of the most successful twin engined strike aircraft of the Second World War and one which would excel in the role of long range maritime strike fighter, the magnificent Bristol Beaufighter. It is strange to think that an aircraft which possesses such WWII pedigree and is so familiar with aviation enthusiasts actually started its development as a private venture, with Britain’s Air Ministry not seeing a need for such an aircraft. The concept of a ‘Heavy Fighter’ was not seen as a priority for the Royal Air Force as the clouds of war gathered at the end of the 1930s, with the production of Spitfires and Hurricanes being their most pressing priority. Thankfully, designers at the Bristol Aeroplane Company had a little more foresight and pressed ahead with the development of a heavy fighter variant of the Beaufort torpedo bomber already in production for the RAF.
The prototype Beaufighter started life as a partially built Beaufort fuselage, which was taken straight from the production line, with the intention being that the new aircraft would utilise many of the same components produced for this existing design. As it was, it soon became apparent that the fuselage would have to be completely re-designed for the new fighter, something which inevitably caused delays – thankfully, these delays also brought about a change of heart in British military thinking. With war in Europe now looking increasingly certain, the Air Ministry placed an order for the new Beaufighter even before the prototype aircraft had flown, a decision which was fully vindicated in the years which followed.
Although the first Beaufighter’s would actually enter Royal Air Force service in the late summer of 1940, perhaps the most famous variant of this aircraft and certainly the most familiar to enthusiasts was the TF Mk.X, the final major production variant of this magnificent aeroplane. Armed with a combination of rockets, cannon and often an air launched torpedo, the Beaufighters TF Mk.X strike fighters of Coastal Command took a heavy toll of Axis shipping from the summer of 1943. Operating in large formations and developing aggressive tactics which proved so effective, that enemy shipping movements were restricted to night sailings only, as they hoped to avoid the attentions of the RAF’s Beaufighters.
An aircraft type which has always been popular with Airfix modellers, the current Beaufighter tooling was introduced back in 2015 and has proved to be a stunning success. With this latest release from the tooling due to arrive later this year and in celebration of the spectacular box artwork featured above, let’s take a closer look at the two scheme options which will be included with the kit.