Gloster Gauntlet Mk. II by AZ Models
Kit No. AZ 7221
Decals: Two versions – 32 Squadron RAF, Biggin Hill, September 1938; and 17 Squadron RAF, September 1938 (nightfighter)
Comments: Engraved panel lines, stressed fabric effect on wings, photo etch details with film insert for cockpit, resin cowling and engine
The Gloster Gauntlet was the mainstay of the RAF’s fighter strength during the critical years 1936-1939. It entered service at a time when the performance of biplane fighters was developing rapidly, even as biplanes began to give way to progress in the form of the monoplane. The Gauntlet replaced the Bristol Bulldog, and within two years of entering service, was itself replaced by the Gloster Gladiator, the RAF’s last biplane fighter, which was quickly supplanted by the Hawker Hurricane as Europe plunged toward war.
The Gloster Gauntlet made a critical contribution to aviation history which is not well known because it was shrouded in secrecy at the time. In November 1936, three aircraft forming a section of No. 32 Squadron were directed by an experimental radar station at Bawdsey Manor to intercept an in-bound airliner in what was the first successful radar-controlled fighter interception. The British government kept this impressive achievement secret for many years.
The Gauntlet prototype, dubbed S.S.19B, flew for the first time in the Spring of 1933, and was capable of a maximum speed of 212 mph at 14,500 feet, achieving 20,000 feet in 12 minutes, 15 seconds. S.S.19B had survived a tortuous development, including two design specifications dating back to 1926, and a succession of powerplant changes in pursuit of better performance. Experimentation with powerplants continued, until the first production Gauntlet Mk. I, K4081, flew in December 1934 with a Mercury VIS2 achieving a top speed of 230 mph at 15,800 feet, and reaching 20,000 feet in 9 minutes 28 seconds.
RAF No. 19 Squadron took delivery of the first Gauntlet Mk. I’s in May 1935. This squadron would fly Gauntlets until after the Munich crisis of October 1938. No. 19 would also be the first to take delivery of the Supermarine Spitfire, but would not phase out the last of its Gauntlets until January 1939. As Britain’s national military expansion program got underway, the Air Ministry augmented its initial order of 24 aircraft with a follow-on order for 104 more in April 1935, and a third order for 100 more in September. May 1936 saw the first Gauntlet Mk. II delivered to Nos. 56 and 111 Squadrons, replacing Bristol Bulldogs in both units.
Gauntlets were the main RAF fighter at the time of the October 1938 Munich Crisis, a moment when, until Britain and France capitulated to Hitler and bargained away Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland in a last-ditch quest for peace, war seemed very likely indeed. Had war broken out at that time, Britain would have been caught unprepared. At the time of Munich, not one Gauntlet or Gladiator squadron was available at combat readiness, and all Gauntlet squadrons were on leave.
Within four days they had all been recalled, some being placed on alert. Most RAF fighter aircraft at the time sported paint schemes of silver dope with flashes of color, reds, blues and yellows; as Munich Agreement unfolded, they were hastily painted in a variety of camouflage schemes, some with what became a common scheme of dark earth and dark green, others being painted black in preparation for use as night fighters. While the Gauntlet was a forgiving, aerobatic aircraft and popular with pilots, it had its share of teething problems; Gauntlet-equipped squadrons experienced a series of accidents due to engine failures and fires.
The flaws were traced to a breakdown of the valve gear lubrication, a weakness that would plague the Gauntlets through 1940. But its virtues outweighed its faults — it could get airborne in under 100 yards with a full combat load with a light headwind of a least 5 knots, and climb to 20,000 feet in under ten minutes. Unlike some contemporary aircraft, it could complete a loop without risk of a stall, and had a gentle landing speed of about 50 mph. While the RAF began to phase its Gauntlets out of service beginning in 1940, the last known use of the type was in 1943 for meteorological flights.
Powerplant: One 640 h.p. Bristol Mercury 9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, driving a 3-bladed Fairey propeller
Wingspan: 32 ft. 9.5 in.
Length: 26 ft. 5 in.
Height: 10 ft. 3 in.
Weights: 2,775 lbs. empty; 3,970 lbs. loaded
Maximum speed: 230 mph at 15, 800 ft.
Initial climb: 2,300 ft./minute; 9 minutes to 20,000 ft.
Range: 455 miles
Service Ceiling: 33,500 ft.
Armament: Two Vickers Mk. V synchronized .303 machine guns, 600 rounds per gun
The Gloster Gauntlet is injection molded in khaki plastic and is composed of 34 plastic parts and two resin parts, for the cowling and radial engine. The kit features engraved panel lines and stressed fabric effect on the rear fuselage and wings, and the fuselage interior contains raised framing detail in the cockpit area. There is a choice between two-bladed (Mk. I) and three-bladed (Mk. II) propellers, as well as a small photo-etch fret providing the instrument panel, windscreen, seat straps and other detail parts.
AZ Models provides a film insert for the instrument panel, and a pilot’s seat, control yoke, and cockpit floor with raised detail round out the Gauntlet’s “office.” The instruction sheet calls out basic colors (black, sea grey, etc.) without reference to any paint manufacturer, and provides a series of schematics giving modelers guidance for the rigging lines. The decals are in-house by AZ Models and appear to be of very good quality.
This is a detailed kit of a important fighter forming a key part of Britain’s air defense – inadequate though it was – during the troubled years of the mid- to late-1930’s. Highly recommended.
Profile Publications No. 10: The Gloster Gauntlet; Copyright 1965 Francis K. Mason and Profile Publications, Ltd., Leatherhead, Surrey, England.