Failed Concept…BP Defiant Airfix 1/48
It seemed like a good idea at the time. An interceptor fighter with all it’s armament concentrated in a rear-mounted turret, whereby the pilot could concentrate on the maneuvering and the gunner on gunning. The Brits were always concerned with intercepting enemy bombers bent on another new concept, strategic bombing. All their new generation fighters were rather short ranged interceptors, heavy armament seen as a more important feature. The turret gun concentration idea seemed sound, such a machine could sit underneath a bomber and put fire into it from it’s most vulnerable area. (See the later usage of oblique cannon).
However a concept counts on certain conditions being met. This one was defeated by the German conquest of France, which of course NOBODY expected to happen in a month and a half. This gave the Germans airbases right on Britain’s doorstep and the ability to accompany said bombers with high performance single seat fighters, something the turret fighter was ill-equipped to face. It was not going to work.
Even so the Defiants of No. 264 squadron put up a hell of a row. The first to receive Defiants, 264 had time to work out some tactics and learn co-operation before being committed to heavy combat. Under Squadron Leader Philip Hunter, they were a well knit team. When they could get alone among bombers, as they often did while covering the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940, they did some serious execution. No less than 37 claims were made on May 29th during several patrols, victories being claimed over Me110’s and 109’s as well as many Stukas and JU88’s. Even if there was some overclaiming, cut in half the total is still over 18, not bad for a flying concept. Legend has it the Messerchmitts dived on the turret fighters’ tails thinking them Hurricanes, only to be met by a blast from four Brownings. It was probably due more to the high level of training of the Defiant crews that did the trick.
But the success was not to last. The skies above Kentish England were a deadly place in summer 1940 and the opportunities for the Defiants to get alone among the bombers were becoming rare, with swarms of 109’s making things much too hot. A week of intensive combat at Hornchurch in September led to the loss of half the squadron, including the irreplaceable Philip Hunter. The Turret fighters were withdrawn, not to return. A more successful career in night-fighting awaited them, where their configuration could be used again to take down the bombers.
I have always liked the Defiant, I think it is a cool looking bird, Leave it to Airfix to finally give us a decent 1/48 scale kit. (Yeah I know, Classic Airframes’ was OK). It’s a sweet kit with no glitches. One thing that annoys me with Airfix is, please tell us what color is what. They only reference Humbrol numbers, and the color callouts are not very detailed. I do like the positionable control surfaces, the clear part options for open or closed, turret open or closed, and turret fairings up or down. Nice. I used Model Master enamels and Floquil glosscoat under the kit decals, which went on after cutting away some excessive carrier film, and some prodding from Solvaset. The aftermarket added an Eduard “fabric” seat harness and Master Model Browning gun barrels.
Love it, Airfix! I Know it’s too much to ask for a 1/48 Hampden? Oh well i can dream.
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