A brief rundown of the various model kits available of the Buccaneer.
Pretty crude pre-painted "gashapon" (capsule toys / trading figures). Several variations available, but all the same plastic. Needs minor assembly (landing gear etc.) but basically pre-built for you. The nose radome, landing gear, tailplane and fin in particular are all poorly done, but other than that these are a passable attempt at the shape of the real thing, and with work can be dismantled, re-assembled with more care, filled and painted in whatever scheme you fancy - though good luck finding decals.
Another pretty crude effort in vacform plastic with white metal undercarriage. The nose shape is pretty bad, and there is no detail to speak of.
You can basically stop reading here. This is the kit of this aircraft. Based on laser scanning of a real airframe (XV361 in Belfast), the overall shape is absolutely spot-on. Superb decals - enough stencils to make you go blind. Open airbrake, bomb bay, and folded wing options (though the latter needs some careful cutting of the wing parts). Sadly no folded nose or radar detail. The cockpit is passable, using decals for detail, with a pair of pretty decent ejector seats (and they're even offset slightly left/right as the real things are).
The engineering of the kit is, like the Airfix Phantom, a little complex - particularly things like the main undercarriage bays. These incorporate - as on the real thing - the jet pipe tunnels, and blindly painting everything can result in you painting over surfaces that need to be glued together. Lots of test fitting advised. Watching it all come together, however, reveals the genius of the design. I was particularly impressed by the rear faces of the engines, jet pipes and even a part that nicely represents the jet pipe temperature probes - which you can't even see afterwards without the aid of a torch!
The initial release offers two RN aircraft in overall EDSG, with flat bomb bay, slipper tanks, wing pylons with bombs or rocket pods. A future RAF variant is due out in 2020, and will no doubt cater for the bulged bomb bay, different pylons and possibly different weapon fit. True Buccanneer experts will spot a few items on the plastic that are not representative of a 1970s RN aircraft (such as chaff/flare dispenser mounting plates under the rear jetpipe fairings) but if you know of that level of detail you shouldn't have a problem sanding it away. Surface detail is in keeping with most modern Airfix releases, in that it covers all the detail you could possibly want but is just a little too pronounced. The complexity of the engineering does result in some small fit issues - particular around the intakes and rear jet pipe fairings - but nothing that would bother any modeller with some filler to hand. Other than that, this is absolutely fantastic work from Airfix - highly recommended.
Beware, as attractive as that Gulf War box art is, this is a pretty ancient collection of plastic. Dating back to a 1989 reworking of Airfix's previous Buccaneer kit, this kit really shows its age. Bare cockpit, awful intakes, mis-shaped nose and sod all surface detail to speak of, about the only use this kit has these days is in possibly providing some underwing stores to cross-kit with the 2019 kit issued by the Airfix (but only if you get the red box version - that's when it gained a couple of new sprues providing SAAF slipper tanks, LGBs, AN/ALQ-101 ECM pod, Pave Spike pod, new rocket pods and pylons, etc. If you absolutely cannot wait for the 2020 re-release of the new kit in RAF guise, you can also find a bulged bomb bay door in this kit which could be made to fit the new kit with some work. Decals aren't too bad either but don't compare to the newer kit. Basically, though - avoid this one.
I have fond memories of this old beastie. Famously reboxed by Airfix USA featuring box art with an NA.39 being waved off amidst scenes of kamikaze attacks on a WW2 carrier, this is a lovely old bit of plastic history that was a challenge to produce back in 1960, given the efforts that Blackburns went to conceal the true shape and size of the actual aircraft.
Blessed with working features - folding nose, folding wings, retractable nose gear, rotating bomb bay - this is now a pretty basic effort. You can see right through the intakes to the jet pipe exits, for instance, and the cockpit is just a floor with two crude L-shaped bits of plastic for seats on it. It could provide the plastic for an S.1 conversion of the new kit I guess, but basically this is one is just now a historical curio. Lovely all the same!
Another historical curio, this one. Not one of Matchbox's better efforts, but at least the overall shape wasn't too bad - so much so that some people cross-kitted this with the earlier Airfix effort because the intakes and nose on the Matchbox kit are superior to those on the Airfix kit. However, surface detail is nearly non-existent apart from the usual Matchbox extra-deep and wide panel lines; no underwing pylons or stores are provided, the landing gear is so poor as to be nearly fictional and the same goes for the cockpit. No folded nose, wing or airbrake options. Well worth avoiding these days.
A reboxing of the Matchbox kit with new decals. As the box art hints at, absolutely no effort to try and actually represent the Gulf War jets at all - e.g. no underwing stores or chaff/flare dispensers. Avoid.
Yep, another historical curio! This one sits nicely between the original Airfix NA.39 kit and their later S.2 kit - very similar to the NA.39 in its 'empty see through fuselage' style, but at least it has some underwing pylons and weapons (Martel missiles). Bizarrely, Frog managed to include wing pods and vortex generators when neither Airfix nor Matchbox did. Anyway, not worth bothering with these days.
Czech Master Resin did a range of Buccaneer kits in resin - these will be covered in the future.
Back in the 1990s Airfix pumped out a couple of surprisingly good 1/48 cold war jet kits - the Buccaneer and Lightning. Whilst the Lightning was a stellar effort and retains a lot of respect, the Buccaneer kit seems to have picked up a reputation I feel it does not deserve.
So what do you get? What you get is a big box stuffed full of plastic (over-stuffed if you are lucky to find one of those that was packed with two complete kits in it!). Surface detail is pretty decent, a little soft but lots of recessed rivet and mostly accurate panel line detail. Some of the subtle differences between marks is glossed over a bit. Undercarriage bays are pretty basic compared to the recent 1/72 kit but the cockpit isn't too bad an effort, with nicely shaped panels to which decals are applied (sufficient for canopy closed), along with a fairly good stab at the ejection seats.
I found the fit of the kit was no worse than any other manufacturer of the time, the only noticeable filler on my built example being around the slipper tanks and jet pipe rear fairings. However, there have been lots of reports of badly warped fuselage halves which prove to be a challenge to correctly glue together. It looks like this was something that happened later in the production run, as my as-yet unstarted S.2D/S.50 boxing does indeed exhibit warped fuselage halves. However, mine at least could be easily stuck together by the simple application of a clamp on each wing root so I'm sure that all the online hysteria is unjustified.
The undercarriage is particularly nicely done, though the main gear bays are pretty basic. Open airbrake detail is good, and wings can be posed folded though the wingfold details are pretty bare. Sadly the nose, whilst correctly shaped, cannot be modelled folded and there is no radar provided. Decals are pretty good though given the kit's age they probably have to be treated with care now. The later S.2D/S.50 kit has extra parts to cater for the larger slipper tanks of the S.50 and also includes different pylons, bombs and rocket pods but omits the Sea Eagles from the S.2B release. Overall, I think this is a great kit, accurately shaped and much better than many online reviews would have you believe. However it is ripe for a modern retool, Airfix!
Reviews of the Aerodynamix and Icelandic Fine Arts kits would be welcome if anybody fancies writing them up...