What-If Tamiya 1/48th Beaufighter Mk VI with CMK Mk.IIf Conversion Set
This replica was built in accordance with Ministry of Silly Models Permit No. 001-13. Here’s the short version of the back story on this Beaufighter that I call “The Manta”:
In late 1942, when the Polish nightfighter squadrons based in the United Kingdom traded in their Beaufighter Mk.IIf’s, the air war in the Southwest Pacific was fierce as ever. MacArthur failed to recruit Kinney as his senior air officer- Marshall sending the latter to build the Ninth AAF in Europe- and got instead a much less aggressive former non-flier whose approach to combating Japanese aerial incursions was simply to hold the line. Nimitz decided to take the Army-Navy operations area plan more literally and concentrated fully on the upper Solomons and other island groups to their north and east. Further, after the Battle of Santa Cruz, President Roosevelt responded to increasing pressures of the North Atlantic Campaign by requiring that the Enterprise and two other carriers shift to the Atlantic by December 1942 in order to fill the central North Atlantic air reconnaissance gap. It was all Nimitz could do to keep up the pressure on the upper Solomons and outer island groups and as yet there was really no question of MacArthur leapfrogging northward. Navy Department bureaucrats in Washington buried the controversy surrounding faulty detonators on American torpedoes until mid-1943 and as a result Japanese supply shipping to the west of the Phillipines and into the Bismarck Archipelago suffered little if any interference from US subs or aircraft.
Without the benefit of a strong showing from the submarine service, allied efforts to choke and destroy Rabaul and Buin were inconsistent so they remained robust Japanese strongholds and safe bases for launching bombing operations well into late 1943. Although by then allied fighters ruled the daytime skies over Darwin, New Guinea, and the lower Solomons, the night was up for grabs everywhere in the theatre. Whoever showed up in the night sky in greater force was liable to achieve their tactical aims. So rather than sending individual washing machine charlies, the IJNAF was employing squadron-strength streams of Betties to strike allied positions by night on the Owen Stanley Range, the airfields around Port Moresby and Darwin, and key allied holdings in the lower Solomons. Alarmed by the small number of fledgling American nightfighters available, the RAAF made a successful plea to RAF fighter command to give it the aging Mk.IIf Beaufighters formerly owned by the Polish Squadrons. These aircraft were to be scattered all over the UK working as test beds, hacks, and target tugs, but the Air Ministry honored the request for support. The Brits even retrofitted the old Beaus with dihedral tail planes prior to shipping them out. The Aussies employed them on intruder operations to intercept Japanese bombers as they assembled over Rabaul and along the route to New Guinea and Darwin.
This aircraft features a blending camoflage for twilight wave-top climbouts over the ocean, an oblique-firing captured Japanese 20mm Oerlikon-style AA gun, and a supplemental US wingtip radar pod won from a USMC supply clerk in a poker game. Squadron codes commemorate the original Victoria Bitter, one of my favorites, and the tail art and kill markings were the product of pure whimsy.
8 additional images. Click to enlarge.