airfix A02050V Brewster Buffalo 1/72 42Parts Included

If you were one of the first to buy this kit, it would have been in the early bagged kit presentation, with the parts on display beneath the header card, which featured artwork, potted history and assembly instructions. For most of us though, our first Buffalo experience will more likely have been with one of the later boxed incarnations of the kit, probably still featuring Roy Cross’ artwork, but maybe one of the later versions produced. Once completed, the model was a little cracker, so appealing due to the fact that it was just so different to something like a Spitfire or Messerschmitt Bf 109 we probably already had on display and as our minds were like little sponges back then, the unusual looking Buffalo really tempted us to find out more about it – why was the first US Navy monoplane in RAF markings? If ever a model addition to any built kit collection provided a greater visual representation of why aeroplanes are so captivating, then I would certainly like to see it.

In any case, we are delighted to confirm that this latest blog update marks the impending arrival of the Brewster Buffalo into the 2023 Airfix range and as a true Vintage Classic, it’s only fight that we take a closer look at the two scheme options which will accompany its triumphant return.

As the US Navy’s first monoplane fighter to enter service, operating this new type of fighter was not without its challenges. On 19 March 1940 U.S. Navy Lt. John Smith “Jimmy” Thach tipped this Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo (BuNo 1393) onto its nose on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga.

Despite the fate which ultimately awaited it, when the first Brewster F2A-1 fighters were delivered to the US Navy, it became the first monoplane fighter type to enter US Navy service and as such, occupies quite a significant position in aviation history. In fact, these and the subsequently modified F2A-2 variant were well liked by the Navy pilots who flew them and were even described by future ace pilot Pappy Boyington as a “Pretty sweet ship, fast and able to turn and roll in a phone booth”. In his memoirs, he would go on to describe how weighing the aircraft down with extra equipment and armour plate effectively took away all its fighting qualities and didn’t give the Buffalo a chance against the latest modern monoplane fighters of the day.

At the time of its initial introduction and if operating against contemporary designs of the mid 1930s period, the Buffalo was actually quite the potent performer, however, just as proved to be the case with many of the technologically advanced ‘first’ monoplane designs produced during the mid 1930s, the pace of aviation advancement at that time didn’t allow these aircraft to revel in their achievements for long and within just a matter of a few short months, were overtaken by superior designs.

The US Navy unit which took the honour of introducing the Brewster Buffalo F2A-1 into service was Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3) on 8th December 1939. Assigned to the USS Saratoga Air Group, VF-3 received ten of the eleven Buffalos delivered to the US Navy, however, as a sign of things to come, saw the outstanding 43 aircraft declared surplus and subsequently sold on to Finland. With war now raging in Europe, US officials visiting the UK reported back that the current crop of American fighters were no match for the latest European combat aircraft and how even the pilots of the American volunteer Eagle Squadrons were flying Hawker Hurricanes in combat and not the Buffalos supplied to Britain. These aircraft were shipped off to fight less capable types in the Far and Middle East, or were retained for secondary duties and training at home.

With the world now at war, there was an immediate requirement for Allied air forces to procure as many modern aircraft as they could lay their hands on and as a consequence, Brewster received export orders for hundreds of their fighters, mainly from Britain, but also from Finland, Belgium and the Dutch East Indies.

two scheme options

Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo, Third Section Leader, US Navy Fighter Squadron VF-2, USS Lexington, 1941.
Brewster B-339E Buffalo Mk.1, No.67 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Mingaladon, Rangun, Burma, early 1942.

With Belgium looking to quickly modernise its Air Force during increasingly volatile times in Europe, they approached the Brewster company to ask if they would be willing to develop a land based variant of their Buffalo naval fighter for them. With a positive outcome, they placed an order for 40 aircraft which carried the internal company designation B-339B (Belgium), aircraft which were basically de-navalised F2A-2 fighters, powered by a modified Wright R-1820 engine which had been cleared for export purposes.

Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating situation in Europe, only one fighter had arrived in France by the time Germany launched their Blitzkrieg attack and this aircraft was impounded. A further six machines were subsequently marooned on the island of Martinique, never to be flown, with the remainder of the fighters ordered by Belgium re-directed to Britain. These aircraft were tested and later supplied to the Fleet Air Arm.

In order to bolster the number of aircraft available to British forces at a time when they could barely make good the losses they were incurring, the British Purchasing Commission was established to procure as many US built aircraft as it could during the early stages of the war, one of which was the Brewster Buffalo. Aware of the aircraft ordered by Belgium, the British placed a large order for 170 of the fighters to be designated Buffalo Mk.I in British service, but referred to as the B-339E (England) by Brewster. These aircraft were certainly a welcome addition to the RAF’s inventory, however, on their arrival in the UK and after subsequent testing, they were found to be not exactly what the RAF had been hoping for. 

As far as Brewster Buffalo development is concerned, it’s widely accepted that the most capable variant of the fighter was the F2A-2, an impressive balance of power, weight and firepower, although the pilots of the Finnish Air Force might have something to say about that. An upgraded variant of the first Buffalos to enter US Navy service, the F2A-2 benefitted from a more powerful Wright R-1820-40 engine, featured a modified electrically operated propeller to utilise all that extra power and included a host of additional safety equipment to make its operation over water potentially more survivable for pilots.

At that time, these little fighters were well liked by the Naval and Marine Corps pilots who were flying them, with this upgraded variant boasting a quoted top speed of an impressive 340mph. The 43 aircraft produced and delivered were direct replacements for the cancelled F2A-1 aircraft from the original US Navy order, with those aircraft actually being the ones subsequently supplied to the Finnish Air Force – at the time, it was decided that the Navy required a more capable version of their first monoplane fighter and would wait for this new variant. It’s interesting to note that eight of the originally supplied F2A-1 aircraft would also later undergo upgrade works to bring them to F2A-2 standard.

The Buffalo’s coming – keep an eye out for this latest addition to the Vintage Classics range.

No matter what your opinion on the Buffalo, it really is an interesting little aeroplane and its welcome inclusion in the 2023 Vintage Classics range will hopefully bring this often overlooked, yet historically important aircraft to the attention of a new modelling audience

Expected Spring 2023