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1:72 Westland Whirlwind Mk. Ic, “TP-Q”/AS648 of Royal Air Force (RAF) No. 73 Squadron, El-Alamein area/Northern Africa, summer 1942 (Whif/modified Airfix kit)

(PID:35464092081) Source
posted by alias Dizzyfugu on Wednesday 28th of June 2017 07:09:33 PM

+++ DISCLAIMER +++ Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE! Some background: The Westland Whirlwind was a British heavy fighter developed by Westland Aircraft. It was the Royal Air Force's first single-seat, twin-engine, cannon-armed fighter, and a contemporary of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane. A problem for designers in the 1930s was that most agile combat aircraft were generally small. These aircraft had limited fuel storage and only enough flying range for defensive operations, and their armament was relatively light, too. A multi-engine fighter appeared to be the best solution to the problem of range, but a fighter large enough to carry an increased fuel load might be too unwieldy to engage successfully in close combat. Germany and the United States pressed ahead with their design programs, resulting in the Messerschmitt Bf 110 and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. The Westland Whirlwind was one of the British answers to more range and firepower, and the first Whirlwind prototype (L6844) flew on 11 October 1938. Construction had been delayed chiefly due to some new features and also to the late delivery of the original Peregrine engines. The Whirlwind was of all-metal construction, with flush riveting, and featuring magnesium skinning on the rear fuselage. The control surface arrangement was conventional, with large one-piece Fowler flaps inboard and an aileron outboard on each wing, with the rear end of the engine nacelles hinging with the flaps; elevators; and a two-piece rudder, split to permit movement above and below the tail plane. Slats had been fitted on the outer wings at the outset as a stall protection measure, but they were soon locked down, having been implicated in an accident. Service trials were carried out at Martlesham Heath, where the new type exhibited excellent handling and was very easy to fly at all speeds. It was one of the fastest aircraft in service when it flew in the late 1930s, and was much more heavily armed than any other fighter, toting four 20mm cannons. However, protracted development problems with its Rolls-Royce Peregrine engines delayed the entire project. The combat radius also turned out to be rather short (only 300 miles), and the landing speed was relatively high, which hampered the type's utility. The major role for the Whirlwinds, however, became low-level attack, flying cross-channel "Rhubarb" sweeps against ground targets and "Roadstead" attacks against shipping. Time went by and worked against the Whirlwind, though: By 1940, the Supermarine Spitfire was mounting 20 mm cannons as well, so the "cannon-armed" requirement was already met by lighter and simpler aircraft. Furthermore, the role of an escort fighter was becoming less important by this time, as RAF Bomber Command turned to night bomber missions. The main qualities the RAF was looking for now in a twin-engine fighter were range and carrying capacity, e .g. to allow the large radar apparatus of the time to be carried as a night fighter. Concerning these requirements, the bigger Bristol Beaufighter and the fast De Havilland Mosquito could perform just as well as or even better than the Whirlwind. Anyway, the Whirlwind's potential had not been fully exploited yet, and it was decided to adapt it to new roles and specialized duties, which would exploit its good low altitude handling. Such an opportunity arose when Allied Forces prepared for Operation Torch (initially called Operation Gymnast) in 1942, the British-United States invasion of French North Africa: the somewhat outdated aircraft was retrofitted for a new task as a dedicated tank hunter. Background was the experience with the Hawker Hurricane Mk. IID, which had become operational at that time. The Mk IIDs were dedicated to ground support, where it was quickly learned that destroying German tanks was difficult; the Hurricanes’ standard 20mm cannons (the same the Whirlwind fighter originally carried) did not have the performance to punch through Gerrnan tanks’ armor, and bombing small tank target successfully was almost impossible. The solution was to equip aircraft with 2 pounder (40 mm) cannon in a pod under each wing, reducing the other armament to a single Browning in each wing loaded with tracers for aiming purposes. This equipment was originally tested on a converted Mk IIB in late 1941, and proved to be successful. A new-build Hurricane version of what was known as the Mk IID started in 1942, which, beyond the modified armament, also included additional armor for the pilot, radiator and engine. The aircraft were initially supplied with a pair of Rolls-Royce 'BF' ('Belt-Fed') guns and carried 12 rounds, but this was soon changed to the 40 mm (1.57 in) Vickers S gun with 15 rounds. The weight of the guns and armor protection had a detrimental effect on the aircraft's performance, though, and for the African environment it was feared that the liquid-cooled Merlin engine was too complicated and would hardly cope with the higher ambient temperatures. A fallback option was needed, and the Whirlwind appeared to be a sound basis – even though the troublesome Peregrine engines were rejected. In a hurry, a Whirlwind Mk. I (P7102) was modified to carry a pair of 40 mm guns, but this time in the lower nose. Compared with the Hurricane’s wing-mounted pods the Whirlwind could carry a slightly bigger load of ammunition (20 RPG). For aiming purposes and against soft targets, a pair of 0.303" (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns with tracer ammunition was mounted above them. In order to make the aircraft more resilient to the North-African temperatures and against damage, the Whirlwind's touchy Peregrines were replaced by a pair of Bristol Taurus radial engines under relatively narrow cowlings. The engine nacelles had to be widened accordingly, and the Peregrines’ former radiator intakes and installations in the wing roots were removed and simply faired over. Similar to the Hurricane Mk. IID, additional armor plating was added around the cockpit and the engines, raising overall weight. Flight and weapon tests were conducted in early 1942. While the radial-powered Whirlwind was not as nimble and fast as the original, Peregrine-powered fighter anymore, the aircraft proved to be a stable weapon platform and fully suitable for the ground attack role. Due to its characteristic new nose with the two protruding gun barrels and their separate fairings, the machine was quickly nicknamed “Walrus” and “Buck teeth Whirlwind”. For operation Torch and as a field test, a total of eleven Whirlwind Mk. Is were converted to Mk. Ic standard. The machines received new serials and were allocated to RAF No. 73 Squadron, which was preparing for deployment to Northern Africa and the Middle East after having been engaged in the Battle of Britain. The squadron's Whirlwinds and Hurricanes (including some cannon-armed Mk. IIDs, too) were shipped to Takoradi on the Gold Coast onboard HMS Furious, and were then flown in stages across Africa to Egypt. No. 73 Squadron took part in the series of campaigns in the Western Desert and Tunisia, helping cover the supply routes to Tobruk and taking part in various ground-attack operations. Both types undertook an anti-tank role in limited numbers during the North African campaign where, provided enemy flak and fighters were absent, they proved accurate and highly effective, not only against armored vehicles but all kinds of motorized transport. The converted Whirlwinds proved, thanks to their robust engines, to be very reliable and had a better operational status than the Hurricanes. The second engine boosted the pilots' confidence. In direct comparison, the cannon-armed Whirlwind proved to be a better weapon platform than the Hurricane – mainly because the heavy guns were mounted closer to the aircraft’s longitudinal axis. Both aiming and accuracy were better than the Hurricanes’ wing-mounted weapons. Nevertheless, there were several drawbacks: the Whirlwind’s two engines meant that more service hours had to be spent on them for maintenance, binding ground crew capacities. This was very inconvenient during the highly mobile Northern Africa campaign. Additionally, the Whirlwind's higher fuel consumption and the limited fuel provisions in the Northern African theatre of operations with dispersed and improvised airfields eventually meant that, despite positive results, no further machines were converted. The high landing speed also persisted, so that operations were hazardous. Eventually the Hurricane Mk IID was adopted for the tank hunter role, with ensuing series production, since it was regarded as the more versatile and also more common type. The radial-powered Whirlwind Mk. Ic remained operational with No. 73 Squadron until June 1943, when the squadron converted to the Spitfire and moved from Northern Africa to Italy in October. Until then, only six Whirlwinds had remained airworthy. General characteristics: Crew: One pilot Length: 31 ft 7 1/4 in (9,65 m) Wingspan: 45 ft 0 in (13.72 m) Height: 11 ft 0 in (3.35 m) Wing area: 250 ft² (23.2 m²) Airfoil: NACA 23017-08 Empty weight: 9,400 lb (4,267 kg) Loaded weight: 12,158 lb (5,520 kg) Max. take-off weight: 13,120 lb (5,946 kg) Powerplant: 2× Bristol Taurus II 14-Cylinder sleeve valve radial engines, 1,015 hp (760 kW) each Performance: Maximum speed: 400 mph (644 km/h) at 15.000 ft (4.570 m) Stall speed: 95 mph (83 knots, 153 km/h) with flaps down Range: 800 mi (696 nmi, 1.288 km) Service ceiling: 33.500 ft (10.970 m) Armament: 2x belt-fed two pounder (1.57 in/40 mm) Vickers S cannon, 20 RPG each 2x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns, 500 RPG (typically armed with tracer rounds) Option for 2x 250 lbs (115 kg) or 500 lbs (230 kg) bombs under the outer wings The kit and its assembly My third whiffed Westland Whirlwind - I must say that this rather obscure aircraft type has some serious potential for mods and fictional uses. The inspiration for this radial-powered variant originally came from a profile drawing of fellow modeler and illustrator FrancLab at, who had drawn more than twenty(!) fictional Whirlwinds (check this:, including one with radial engines and in RAF Tropical Scheme colors. The kit is, again, the vintage Airfix offering. Modifications center around the engines and the nose section, the rest remained basically OOB. I already had to learn with my first Whirlwind conversion that mounting bigger engines on this compact aircraft is not easy, and radials, with their bigger diameter and consequentially more voluminous nacelles, would be a challenge from the design perspective. Figuring out a solution that would be feasible and not make the sleek Whirlwind look like Popeye was not easy. I considered the transplantation of complete engine nacelles from a Matchbox Bristol Beaufighter, but eventually refrained from this idea because everything would be at least one size too big... a mistake I had done before, with very mixed results. After several trials, I settled on a compromise, because I could not find a satisfactory 'British' solution, at least in my spares vault: the implantation of "foreign" material in the form of cowlings and nacelles from an Airfix Mitsubishi Ki-46. The transplantation started with the removal of the original Peregrine engine nacelles from the lower wing section and gluing these to the upper half, which remained intact. Then the Ki-46’s lower nacelle half, cut away from the model’s wing in a similar fashion, was grafted onto the Whirlwind’s lower wing, ensuring that the landing gear attachment points would match with the new openings. This stunt worked very well! As a final step, the upper Ki-46 engine nacelle half was placed on top of the Whirlwind wings’ upper side, and the radial engines were used as a ruler for the overall fit. In the end, the modified nacelles sit perfectly in place, and the original distance between the propellers as well as the landing gear’s track width could be maintained, so that the change is rather subtle. Propellers and spinners were taken from the Airfix Whirlwind, and in order to mount them into the deep and "hollow" Ki-46 cowlings I inserted a styrene tube as a simple adapter, which would also hold the added metal axis' behind the propellers. The parts fit snuggly together. Details like the exhaust pipes and the carburetor intakes were scratched from sprue material. The landing gear is OOB, but I had to re-create the covers from sheet material since I could only find a single pair of doors from the Ki-46 kit. On the other side, this had the benefit that the material is much thinner. The original radiator intake slits were closed with putty and blended into the wing’s leading edge.The respective outlets on the trailing edge were sanded away. For the guns in the nose I added two long, shallow fairings (actually drop tank halves from an Airfix G.91) and re-located the original oils cooler and gun camera fairings under the wing roots. The original gun mounts were covered with putty, and new openings for the modified armament drilled into the re-sculpted nose section. The 2-pounders' and machine gun barrels are hollow steel needles of different diameters. Painting and markings: Staying somewhat true to FrancLab's profile and the North Africa theatre of operations, the paint scheme was more or less pre-defined. The Tropical scheme is a rather unusual look on this sleek aircraft, but works very well! The standard RAF camouflage pattern for the Whirlwind was retained, but the European colors replaced with Dark Earth (Humbrol 29) and Middle Stone (ModelMaster 2052, the best representation of the tone I could find so far). The undersides were painted with ModelMaster 2055 (US Navy Blue Grey) as an alternative to RAF Azure and Mediterranean Blue. Interior surfaces were painted with Cockpit Green (Humbrol 78) and slightly dry-brushed with light grey. The red spinners are typical Desert Force markings, and I added yellow ID markings to the outer wings’ leading edges (created from generic decal sheet). Not certain how authentic this is for Northern Africa, since the Hurricanes did not carry these markings – but the Spitfires did, as well as the few leftover Whirlwinds over Continental Europe? At least, it’s a colorful detail. Even though many Hurricanes of 73 Squadron in Northern Africa carried the squadron’s colorful pre-war marking on the flanks instead of a two-letter code, I eventually rejected this option. IMHO it might have been simply too much for this whiffy aircraft? Roundels and markings were puzzled together from the scrap box, the code letters are single digits from Xtradecal aftermarket sheets. I mixed medium sea grey and dull red letters – a practice frequently seen on Northern Africa aircraft (which also frequently did not carry squadron codes at all) in order to improve readability. The serial was puzzled together, too, using a free serial slot according to As another individual touch I added a small nose art motif under the cockpit: a Bugs Bunny cartoon toting a shotgun (actually from a P-51 from the late war Pacific TO), as an interpretation of the “Buck teeth” nickname for the aircraft. Finally, the model was weathered, esp. on the upper surfaces in order to mimic sun bleaching, and some soot stains were added around the guns and the exhaust outlets. The cooling flaps were emphasized through a treatment with Tamiya “Smoke”, which is perfect for oil stains. Finally, the kit was sealed with matt acrylic varnish and finishing touches like the wire antenna and position lights applied. Another subtle whif, the desert paint scheme is probably distracting enough that, at a casual glance, the radials and the modified nose are not obvious at all. Actually, the Japanese engines look pretty British after some cosmetics, and they are small enough to keep overall proportions in reasonable limits – the sleek Whirlwind quickly turns head-heavy and unbalanced with bigger engines grafted to the airframe! Actually, the converted aircraft looks now, when looked at it head-on, almost like a baby Beaufighter!

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  • Published 02.08.23
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