Blackburn Shark Mk.II by Modelcraft (Frog)

1/72 scale
Kit No. 72-004
Cost: $8.00
Decals: Three versions – Fleet Air Arm; Royal Canadian Air Force; and Portuguese Navy
Comments:  Re-issue of 1960’s Frog kit; raised panel lines; simple cockpit; option for conventional landing gear or floats; option for torpedo or external bomb and depth charge load; option for wings folded or deployed for flight

History

The Blackburn Shark was a pre-war carrier-borne torpedo-bomber and reconnaissance bi-plane, which also operated from coastal stations and as a seaplane. The Shark prototype was first flown on August 24, 1933 at Brough followed by Naval aviation tests on November 26, 1933 at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath. In 1934, deck landing trails aboard the HMS Courageous proved successful and won an order from the Fleet Air Arm in August 1934, followed by a second order in January 1937. The Shark prototype was also fitted with twin floats and test flown at Brough in April 1935. Successful sea trials followed at Felixstowe. More contracts followed, and during the three years of production, 238 Sharks were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm.

At the beginning of World War II, 165 Sharks were still operational with the Fleet Air Arm in second-line units such as 2AACU Gosport, 755 Squadron at Worthy Down and 758 Squadron. The Shark served with the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Air Force, Portuguese Navy, and the British Air Observers’ School, but was already becoming obsolete in 1937. In 1938 the British began replacing the Shark with the Fairey Swordfish. The Shark was officially relegated to target towing by 1939, but was brought out of semi-retirement to assist in the Dunkirk and Channel Islands evacuations, and during the Japanese invasion of Malaya. Two Blackburn Shark III’s (800 hp/600 kW Pegasus III) were supplied to the Royal Canadian Air Force by Blackburn in 1939 as forerunners of 17 similar aircraft built by Boeing Aircraft of Canada at Vancouver, with 840 hp (630 kW) Pegasus IX and used by Nos 6 and 4 (BR) Squadrons. The RCAF flew the Shark for coastal patrol duties until 1944. The last Sharks were finally retired with K8931 in July 1944 and P348 in March 1945.

Specifications

Length: 35.30 ft.
Wingspan: 46 ft.
Wing area: 489 sq. ft.
Powerplant: One 760-hp Armstrong Siddeley Tiger VI engine
Armament: One forward firing .303 Vickers gun; one Vickers .303 K gun or Lewis gun mounted on a Scarff ring in the rear cockpit; provision for one 1,500 lb. torpedo or equivalent bomb load
Maximum speed: 150 mph (242 km/h)
Cruising speed: 118 mph (1890 km/h)
Service ceiling: 16,500 ft.
Rate of climb: 895 ft/min.
Weights: 4,039 lbs. (1832kg) empty; 8050 lbs. (3651kg) fully loaded
Range: 543 nautical miles or 625 miles

The Kit

Initially released by Frog in 1968, Modelcraft’s Blackburn Shark is a re-issue physically identical to the original injection molding in white plastic and consists of 107 parts. The cockpit is basic with two aircrew figures, two seats, and a flight deck. The only other cockpit detail is a Scarff ring and what is supposed to be a Lewis gun, but the part for the gun looks nothing like a Lewis or a machine gun for that matter, and will require an aftermarket replacement if the modeler requires any degree of realism on this part of the aircraft. Although issued by Modelcraft with a copyright date of 1996, the box clearly indicates that the kit was molded in Russia and this is a re-box of the old Frog/AMT kit, with the same deficiencies in detail.

Having said that, there are plenty of small bits to keep the modeler busy and give the kit a fairly good finished look. The option for folded wings and the choice of ordnance are particular strong points. There are multiple struts for the wings and floats, so care will have to be taken in positioning them all, as the instructions provide only rudimentary guidance, that of the profile drawings of the completed aircraft to help with decal placement. Fortunately there are machined holes in the fuselage and wings for the fairly detailed two-piece exhaust manifold and the strut locator pins. The engine cowling is divided into halves and will require a little putty and sanding.

 

The original Frog kit, released in 1968.

Decals

The kit markings are high quality, thin and glossy with realistic color and nicely in register — there is no reason to expect difficulty in applying them.  Markings are provided for one of three versions, all Mk. II Sharks:

1) An aircraft of the Portuguese Navy, based at Bon Successo, Lisbon in 1936, with a gloss light grey fuselage and matt black upper fuselage decking, and silver wings, stabilizers and floats, with a tail painted silver and bright red, featuring a bright green rudder;

2) An aircraft with No. 3 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Station Trenton, 1937.  It has a nearly identical paint scheme as the Portuguese version, save for the tail section, of which the fin and rudder are to be painted gloss white.  RCAF aircraft were both land and floatplanes, and the kit contains parts to build it in either configuration.

3) An aircraft of No. 820 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, serving aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous in 1937; its paint scheme is identical to that of the RCAF version.  The interior surfaces of all three versions are interior green or zinc chromate, and all struts gloss light grey.

Conclusion

An interesting kit of the Fleet Air Arm’s mainstay observer/torpedo bomber of the pre-WWII era. This is the only kit of the Shark in 1/72 scale, since all other manufacturers offering this kit (Eastern Express, Chematic) appear to using either the original Frog mold or some variation on it.

 

A Blackburn Shark during Fleet Air Arm carrier operations, with what appears to be a Westland Wapiti off its starboard wing in the background.

References

  • Kit instruction sheet
  • Fleet Air Archive online (fleetairarmarchive.net)
  • wikipedia.org
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