by: Is a secret [ ]
Originally published on:
The Vickers Type 667 bomber was developed in response to the Air Ministry's Operational Requirement OR229 which was issued in January 1947. The Valiant was seen as a stopgap between the Boeing Washington and Avro's Vulcan and Handley Page's Victor which were taking longer to develop than had been anticipated. The Valiant with its less “adventurous” design was able to enter service at least a year before its stablemates did. Valiants and their crews faced and solved all the problems needed to bring the “V Force” into service, leaving Vulcans and Victors to follow their lead. As the Vulcans and Victors entered service, the Valiant found its mission changed to aerial tanker and photographic reconnaissance, roles it fulfilled very well, once again developing procedures for Victor and Vulcan crews to follow later on. In the early 1960s, the development of reliable and accurate Soviet surface to air missiles forced a change of mission on the V Bomber force. No longer would they fly safely to their targets at altitude. Now they would have to fly at treetop level, attempting to sneak under the Soviets' search radars. A few years' hard flying in this new tactical environment revealed a serious design shortcoming; the large landing gear wells weakened the wings just where they needed to be strongest, and so the Valiant fleet was grounded and quickly broken up. XD818 is the last remaining Valiant and may be seen in the collection of the RAF Museum at RAF Cosford. Several nose sections of other Valiants may be seen in museums throughout the UK but only XD818 remains intact.
Holy cow this thing is big! The box is larger than the Vulcan's box, and the kit fills it completely. Airfix has improved on its engineering over the years, and this kit shows it. There is no flash, ejection pin marks are shallow and confined for the most part to areas that won't be seen. The engraved detail may be a bit heavy, but that is easier to deal with than if it's too light. It will look good under the proverbial coat of paint. The surfaces are slightly matte, which is no problem given that the Valiant wore gloss paint during its lifetime so the primer coat will take care of it. As a nice little bonus, Airfix have printed some basic modelling tips along the long edges of the box bottom. The kit is marked BK.Mk.1, yet there are no tanker pieces in the box. The clear parts have what appears to be reconnaissance camera ports for the bomb bay doors, yet the kit doors do not show flashed-over openings. This leaves open the question of a future release with these options in the box.
It wouldn't be an Airfix kit without pieces rattling around inside the box and this one is no exception. Two aileron halves, the Operation Grapple tail cone, nose, rear bulkhead, lower fuselage insert piece and half the refuelling pipe have broken away from the sprues to float freely inside the bag. The bag was well sealed so the parts did not escape into the wild. Actually to be fair to Airfix, they likely broke away when the sprues were dropped. My kit must have been used as a demonstrator; there is some damage done to the trailing edges of the lower wing halves where it must have been dropped. The plastic is bent and slightly distorted but not torn so I believe that I will be able to coax it back into shape.
The fuselage is two halves from nose to tail. The tail cone of Operation Grapple aircraft was equipped with test sensors, and is a separate piece. The instructions detail where the standard tail cone must be cut off in order to fit this part. This is almost the first construction step, so the choice of colour scheme must be made right at the beginning. The interior of the fuselage shows the attention Airfix paid to the engineering of the kit. The locator pins and tabs are very substantial yet there are no sink marks on the outside surfaces. Cockpit detail consists of 5 seats, a ladder, yokes, a convoluted floor and a rear bulkhead. It's pretty basic, but it's going to be mostly black and the windows are small. I don't really see any reason to go all AMS in there. A set of seat belts for the pilots' seats is pretty much all that will be needed. Instrument panel detail is nonexistent and left to the decal sheet. The rear instruments are printed on a strange green background, something I've never associated with V-bombers but then I've never had the opportunity to look inside a Valiant and they may very well have been green back there. The instructions would have you paint the rear seats and bulkhead Humbrol #88, Deck Green, with #118 US Vietnam Tan seat back pads and #62 Leather seat cushions. Everything else is #33 Matte Black. I think that I'd use a very dark grey instead, just to ease the black hole appearance. Optional tail cone tips are given for the regular operational aircraft, or the prototype which is much blunter. Two bomb bay roofs are provided, for either the Blue Danube nuclear shape or conventional bomb loads. The bomb carrying brackets are fairly substantial and are designed to be shown with the bombs in place. They're not well detailed if you wish to show an unloaded aircraft. The bombs themselves are also not too well detailed. There's an opportunity for the aftermarket companies. Separate bomb bay doors are offered to portray the bay open or closed. The closed doors are in one piece which will eliminate any gaps. There are 3 partial bulkheads to support the closed door piece which will of course not be needed if the doors are left open. Airfix calls for 22g nose weight. The upper nose piece is separate because the prototypes and early operational aircraft were not fitted with the nose mounted refuelling probe. The probe tip, and fuel pipe that wraps around the port side of the crew compartment are separate pieces. The pipe in my kit was broken in half, but should not be difficult to repair. The prototype had different cockpit canopy and bomb aiming position glazing, which are provided for on the clear sprue.
The wings are offered in 3 pieces: a one piece upper wing which includes a portion of the upper fuselage and one piece for each lower wing. Landing gear wells are separate, as are the ailerons, each of which is made up of 2 halves. The ailerons have ejector pin marks on their inner surfaces which need to be sanded off before they will fit together cleanly. If you wish to use the wing tanks, their mounting pin locations must be opened. Operation Grapple aircraft were not fitted with wing tanks during live drops so if you choose that option, do not open the holes. The upper wing piece has an integral spar moulded in place that will help to keep the wing very stiff. This too does not show its presence on the outside surface. Well done, Airfix!
The tailplanes are two piece mouldings with separate two piece elevators. The ejector pin marks are not severe, but they will have to be eliminated for best fit. There are very nice vortex generators moulded onto the tailplanes and vertical stabiliser. They're not as thin as photo-etch would make them, but for injection plastic, they're quite nice. The Airfix of yesteryear would have done them at least twice as thick, if they'd been done at all. The tailplane slots into the front of the fin. It should be a nice strong assembly. I have never seen a photo of a parked Valiant with deflected control surfaces so I'm not sure why Airfix moulded them separately.
Since the engines are buried in the wing roots, the only parts to do are the intake trunks and the exhausts. The intakes are made up of an upper and lower half, plus engine faces which will be applied to the rear. I don't know whether the fit will be comparable to the infamous Vulcan intakes, but there should be enough room inside to deal with the seams and paint before gluing the engine faces. The splitter fence in the outboard intake is moulded as part of the lower half. It will make cleaning up the joint between the intake trunks just a bit tricky. There are small ejector pin marks inside the intakes that should be removed before gluing them together. The exhausts are separate tubes which must be fitted into a portion of the trailing edge and then glued into place as an assembly. There is no detail inside the exhaust tubes, since the engines were fairly near the centre of the wing and little could be seen even in the actual aircraft. They're nicely deep and will give a good impression.
There are very small ejector pin marks inside the wheel wells that will be difficult to eliminate without destroying the surrounding detail. At least they don't overlap the details. The struts are fairly substantial, and look like cast metal rather than simply tubes with rings moulded on. They could use some brake lines. The main wheels are cast with separate hubs making painting a breeze. The nose wheels in contrast, have their hubs and mudguards moulded in one piece. They will need careful painting and then all that careful work will be almost hidden by the nose wheel doors given the Valiant's crouching stance on the ground.
I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like a Valiant.
Decals and markings
4 different colour schemes are offered in the box:
1. XD823 from No. 49 Sqn during Operation Grapple in 1957. This aircraft is in overall anti-flash white with full colour roundels.
2. XD857 from No. 49 Sqn in 1963 in operational anti-flash white with pale blue/pink markings. There is an option of full colour or pale roundels for the wings
3. WZ404 from No. 207 Sqn in 1964. This aircraft is in the low-level disruptive camouflage with white undersides.
4. WB215, the No.2 prototype in overall high speed silver finish.
The decal sheet offers 3 complete sets of stencils; light blue for the white aircraft, yellow for the camouflage and black for the high speed silver. The stencil application drawings are even larger than the basic colour scheme drawings. Mine got a bit mangled in the box but they're still readable. They will need careful study to ensure that the proper stencils are applied. The decals were printed by Cartograf. They're in a semi-gloss finish which will require the finished kit to be given an overall gloss coat. I don't know why Cartograf didn't do their usual very nice high gloss finish unless perhaps traditionalists at Airfix insisted that the decals be the usual Airfix Matte. The roundels and other multi colour decals are in perfect register. Since Hornby took over, Airfix have been printing their painting instructions in colour. Gone are the days of trying to decide which pattern of monochrome grey dots is supposed to be what colour!
I did a test fit of the fuselage halves and wing upper half. The fuselage is very slightly twisted, but the large locator pins easily overcame that, and the upper wing fits into place with an audible click. The completed model will be very strong. When compared to my long-suffering Vulcan, it's clear that the Valiant was quite a large aircraft, contrary to all my previous impressions that it was the smallest of the V-Bombers.