Kit No. PK-36
Decals: Two British Royal Navy versions – 173 Catapult Flight, Kalafrana, Malta, aboard HMS Arethusa, 1939; and 702 Squadron Fleet Air Arm, detached to HMS Asturias, 1942
Comments: Interesting kit of a British WWII seaplane, less well known than the famed Fairey Swordfish; old mold (1981 date on box), raised panel lines
In the mid-1930’s the bi-plane was still considered suitable for a Fleet Air Arm, 2-seat light reconnaisance seaplane. The Royal Navy’s FAA issued specification S11/32 to Fairey Aircraft, who in turn built an elegant two-bay bi-plane of all metal construction but with fabric covered flying surfaces and folding wings. The machine had flaps on all main planes and upper wing slots to assist low speed handling.
The power was supplied by a Napier “Rapier” IV 16-cylinder engine of 395 horsepower. Named “Seafox,” the prototype first flew on May 27, 1936. 64 examples were ordered by the Royal Navy, the first production machine (K8569) being delivered in April 1937 with production ceasing in 1938.
Apart from being the only aircraft to use the “Rapier” in service the Seafox’ main distinction was the part played by a machine launched by HMS Ajax during the Battle of the River Plate which spotted for the guns of HMS Achilles, Ajax and Exeter during the action which resulted in the scuttling of the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee. Seafox aircraft were also used on a number of armed merchant cruisers, which were equipped with catapults, one such ship being the HMS Asturias, for which markings are provided among the kit decals.
Matchbox’ Fairey Seafox consists of 36 parts injection molded in grey and green plastic, with 3 additional clear plastic parts for the canopy. The kit includes two fairly realistic aircrew figures, in addition to a stand for display purposes. This is an interesting kit in that it is a slightly older contemporary of the Fairey Swordfish torpedo bomber, and like the Swordfish served long after its supposed period of usefulness. But unlike the Swordfish, the Seafox was a pure seaplane and appears to have been employed solely as a spotter.
The one drawback to this kit is that the illustrations to assist decal placement on the instruction sheet are a bit small (offset by the color illustration on the rear of the box), as is the section detailing the Seafox’s history, which appears to be in 1-point font, so small that it cannot be read by anyone old enough to care without the aid of a magnifying glass.