Kit No. A04019
Decals: Two Versions – both RAF
Comments: NEW TOOLING; Engraved panel lines; detailed torpedo; option for full complement of eight 90 lb. rockets with separately mounted rails for each; optional position landing gear
The Beaufighter T.F.X was the final major production variant of Bristol’s twin-engine long range fighter which, in earlier versions, initially entered service just over a year after the outbreak of World War II, at a time when it was most sorely needed. The first Beaufighter took flight for the first time on July 17, 1939 and was meant to address Britain’s need for a long-range heavy fighter; when the war began the RAF’s two main front-line fighter aircraft, the single-engined Hurricanes and Spitfires, lacked the endurance for effective standing patrols.
The Beaufighter initially entered service as a nightfighter in October 1940, at a time when the Luftwaffe — whose punishing daylight attacks on Britain had already peaked — switched to night bombing, after several weeks of the RAF giving the Germans at least as good as they got during the summer and early fall, the period that became known as the Battle of Britain. Developed from the Bristol Beaufort, a twin-engine torpedo bomber, the first Beaufighters were equipped with the new AI, or airborne intercept radar, and became quite effective as nightfighters. Initially of limited value due to the ground echo that cut down on the effective range of the Beaufighter’s AI Mk. IV radar, nightfighter kills mounted after the January 1941 arrival of the first ground control interception sets. On the night of May 19-20, 1941, 24 enemy aircraft were downed by fighters, compared with two by anti-craft fire — this marked the beginining of the end of the “Night Blitz.”
In addition to improved range, the Beaufighter had one other advantage over its single-engined brethren in the RAF: firepower. Armed with four 20mm Hispano cannon and six .303 Browning machine guns, two in the port wing and four in the starboard, it was more heavily armed than both the Hurricane and the Spitfire. In fact, at the time of its introduction it was the most heavily armed fighter in the world, with the possible exception of Messerschmitt’s Bf 110 (two 30mm and two 20mm cannon as main armament). In terms of speed, it was capable of anywhere from 305 to 320 mph, nearly as fast as the Hurricane’s 334mph.
The fact that much of the Beaufighter’s airframe (wings, tail unit, and landing gear) was derived from the Beaufort made for a very short development time of less than a year from receipt of order to maiden flight. The stubby nose resulted from a need to shorten the fuselage and keep it away from the large propellers driving its Bristol Hercules engines.
The Mk. X entered service in 1943 and was a major variant designed with RAF Coastal Command in mind, with production totalling 2,205 units. Powered by Bristol Hercules Mk. XIV engines, it was capable of 320 mph (515 km/h) and in addition to its standard armament, it was equipped with an 18-inch (457mm) torpedo and was successfully employed against Axis shipping, particularly in the North Sea and the Meditteranean where it helped hasten the victories in North Africa and Sicily.
The Coastal Command variant was called “Torbeau,” and first deployed to the Mediterranean as a modified Beaufighter I with a 50-gallon fuel tank fitted between its cannon bays. These aircraft equipped No. 252 Squadron, sent to protect an important convoy bound for Egypt. Once deployed to the Med, No. 252 Squadron were so successful that they kept there for the remainder of the war. The Mk. X’s deployed by Fighter Command were identical, except that they were fitted with wing racks for eight 90 lb. rockets, making the Beaufighter equally deadly in the ground attack role.
Airfix’ Bristol Beaufighter TF.X is injection molded in grey and consists of 131 parts (12 of them clear plastic) on five sprues. The first thing that jumps out at the eye are the crisp, engraved panel lines. The kit features very nice stressed fabric effects for the separately mounted rudder and ailerons. This is equally true of the tail surfaces although the elevators are not separate parts. The cockpit is basic but features a modicum of detail in the form of crisp raised relief for the side instrument panels along with engraved detail replicating the rear cushion of the pilot’s seat, a control yoke, and two detailed aircrew figures.
Airfix appear to have taken a cue from Accurate Miniatures in that the cockpit assembly includes wing spars which are cemented to the cabin floor betwen the pilot and rear gunner’s position, and the spars fit into vertical slots in the completed wing assemblies. The ailerons and rudder can be positioned as the modeler desires, and the landing gear can be assembled deployed or up. The wheels come in two halves and are realistically flattened, however, they appear a bit donut-like as they bear no tread at all. Others more well versed in the Beaufighter’s landing gear will know whether this is accurate or not.
There is a large panel forming the bottom of the forward end of the fuselage which bears beautifully engraved detail for the main armament of four 20mm cannon, as well as cut-outs for the ammunition ejection chutes. Similar cut-outs can be seen in the wings corresponding the the wing-mounted machine guns. As for the remaining armament, there is a choice between the Fighter Command version which carried eight 90 lb. rockets (each of which must be individually mounted on its own launching rail) or an 18-inch torpedo carried by the Coastal Command version.
The kit’s one significant drawback is its radial engines, which are rather lackluster considering the extent of the engraved detail seen in the rest of the airframe, which is equally present in the cowlings, with their flared gills and nicely molded porcupine exhausts. Some may want to shell out a bit more money for aftermarket resin Hercules engines, but since the engines are located fairly deep in the cowling, and are partially obscured by what appears to be a brace in front of each powerplant, it may be worth some deliberation.
There are markings for two different RAF machines. They are fully in register with excellent color, have a semi-matt finish and include stencils as well as a decal for the main instrument panel featuring a few color dials. The first version is for an aircraft of No. 27 Squadron of the Southeast Asia Command based in Burma, Summer 1945. This aircraft has a paint scheme of dark earth and dark green over medium sea grey and features the appropriate theatre roundels with a light blue circle centered on a dark blue one. The second is for an aircraft of No. 144 Squadron based in Aberdeen, Scotland in October 1944. It bears a paint scheme of overall matt sea grey over beige green (or duck egg green) and features black and white invasion stripes on the rear fuselage.
Airfix have outdone themselves with this updated Beaufighter TF.X. Very highly recommended.
- Fighter by Ralf Leinburger; Parragon Press, Bath (UK), Copyright 2008
- The Bristol Beaufighter I and II: Profile Books No. 137; Berkshire, England, Copyright 1971