de Havilland Sea Vixen - Model Kits
A brief rundown of most of the various model kits available of the Sea Vixen - unfortunately at the time of writing there is only one really good kit (in 1/48) and the type hasn't been very well served in plastic.
Tokiwa Aircraft Create Sea Vixen FAW.2
Price ~£34 (imported from Japan)
The only option that I know of in this scale is from Tokiwa Aircraft Create (TAC) of Japan. It's an FAW.2 only, resin, very expensive, hard to find... and looks to have some serious shape issues judging by photos of built-up kits, looking more like a caricature of the real thing than an accurate model. Decals are provided for XN649 of 899 NAS.
High Planes 7236 1/72 FAW.1/FAW.2/D.3
Injection moulded plastic
Price ~£15 (second hand) to 24 (imported from Australia)
A limited run injection moulded kit, still available from Australian retailers, a little more tricky to get hold of in the UK, and rather pricey as a result. For accuracy of shape, this is the current leader of the field, with the fuselage, nose and canopy all looking much more accurate than the Frog, Xtrakit/MPM or Dragon kits. The tail booms are the correct length unlike the other 1/72 kits. It also has generally more accurate surface detailing and a good ejector seat. On the negative side the pinion tanks are way too fat, the top of the fins need the same work as the Xtrakit one, and it looks like it'll be a challenge to get everything to fit with much filler needed (mind you, same can be said for the Xtrakit). Cockpit is basic but a fairly decent basis for further detailing (though there is nothing - not even a seat - for the observer). No engine detail; no option for flaps, arrestor hook or airbrake to be down, and no folded wing option either. Altogether considerably more basic in feel than the Xtrakit or Dragon, but far more accurate in overall shape and streets ahead of the Frog kit. In general this is the most accurate 1/72 Sea Vixen available. It will be a challenge to build and really is for the experienced modeller but this gets my thumbs up - recommended. Production has basically ceased on this kit, and at the time of writing (Jan 2016) it is only available new without decals, which has reduced the price a little.
Dragon/Cyberhobby Sea Vixen FAW.1
Injection moulded plastic
Price £36.99 (RRP)
Everybody was looking forward to this one, with Dragon's reputation for quality. However, pictures of the sprues indicate there are some serious shape problems with the kit. First of all, and it kills it for me, the nose and belly is the same wrong shape as seen on the pregnant looking Xtrakit/MPM effort (see below). The windscreen and canopy are a total mess. The ejector seats are far too small. The aircon/demist piping on the port side running alongside the canopy is far too big but doesn't run far enough backwards. The boundary layer vents that it runs over are in the wrong place. Upper fuselage contours around the engines are wrong. Wing fences are the wrong shape. Fuel jettison pipe should not be present on an FAW.1. Tops of tails wrong shape. Sides of tail booms are flat and shouldn't be (this might be fixable with some judicious sanding). The NACA intakes on the tailbooms are depicted backwards. Intake splitter plates, if glued as per instructions, will leave a big lip around their edges which isn't there on the real thing - pack them out from behind to keep them flush with the surrounds. Wingfold fairings too flat and entirely missing from the outboard folding section. Scissor links on undercarriage legs are moulded solid. Radome opening handle is incorrectly moulded as a raised panel, while the genuinely raised panels covering the radome hinge points aren't depicted at all, nor are the raised reinforcing plates you find in various places on the airframe.
The pop-out ram air turbine is a funny thing to include, and is both too short and too wide anyway. Why was that included but no roof for the air brake bay? On the missed opportunity front there's also the question of why no radar detail, why no arrestor hook bay roof, and why supply Red Tops but not Firestreaks (the Mk.1 didn't carry the former).
The little underwing camera pods are also specific to a very few development aircraft (XJ476 is the best known), none of which are covered by the kit decal sheet. This, some of the shape errors and parts breakdown would tend to indicate they've based their efforts on the Xtrakit/MPM kit rather than the real thing. What a waste. Oh yes, and the price!! It'd be overpriced if it were perfect, and it's far from it. Spend much the same and get the fabulous 1/48 Airfix kit instead! About all you can say in this kit's favour is that it fits together without all the fuss the Xtrakit/MPM kit would put you through. Build thread here (I'm not sure if the builder has put the tailplane on upside-down or if the kit incorrectly moulds the upper and lower surfaces identically)
Dragon/Cyberhobby Sea Vixen FAW.2
Injection moulded plastic
Price £34.99 (RRP)
All the comments that apply to the Dragon/Cyber Hobby FAW.1 sadly apply to this one too. Differences are the provision of pinion tank overlays for the tail booms (sadly once again too fat), a reshaped upper fuselage with bulged hatch area for the observer and a new decal sheet (which is pretty decent and offers six options). While it has all the same faults as the FAW.1 it can be found cheaper than that release at the moment (as low as £14.99). At that price point it suddenly becomes a bit more attractive as an option - it still needs a similar amount of error-correcting as the Xtrakit/MPM kits, but doesn't have all the basic fit issues, so is far less grief to deal with.
Xtrakit Sea Vixen FAW.2/D.3
Injection moulded plastic & some resin
Price ~£18.50 (RRP, similar second hand)
This kit looks like it was rushed out, and suffers from various flaws. While initial impressions are good, some of the finely recessed surface detailing is fictional, there are various moulding flaws evident (in particular the tip of the radome is blunt or holed in every single kit) and almost all of the resin parts (ejector seats, radar boot, refuelling probe mount etc.) are either massively underscale or overscale and utterly useless as a result. Actually trying to put the kit together you will find very few parts actually fit without a struggle; the engine faces are entirely fictional, the jet pipes far too shallow (though the resin rear faces of the engine turbines are nicely done), the windscreen and canopy shape is all wrong, the nose is off (too thin and pointy, rocket pod/pure air storage bulges too large, and the belly far too bulged), boxy aerial fairings under the fuselage are missing, bulges on the large main gear doors are missing, wingfold hinge fairings are the wrong shape and length, intakes aren't wide enough and have a somewhat guppy like aspect compared to the real thing, the instructions would have you put the fuel dump pipe on the wrong wing, the arrestor hook bay is the wrong shape, tailfin tops are too high and curved, wingtips similarly off in shape, intake guide vanes missing, cockpit looks like a good effort but apart from the two instrument panels is a bit of a waste of space - much correction and scratch building needed. The FAW.2 is made by adding tail boom extensions on top of the basic FAW.1 layout, and these extensions simply do not fit, and are too fat and rounded. The only underwing stores provided are drop tanks - no missiles or rocket pods. No option for flaps, arrestor hook or airbrake to be down. Wings could be posed folded if you scratch built the entire hinge area, as the outer wings are separate, but there is basically nothing in the kit that helps you position them in anything other than the spread position. To make an accurate Sea Vixen from this kit you need to put in quite a lot of work - but then, to put it together out of the box you need to put in quite a lot of work too! On the plus side, the decals are excellent, though the D.3 option needs you to scratch build the fairings on the wing tips. This kit is basically a missed opportunity - Xtrakit/MPM could have made every other kit obsolete if they'd just made more of an effort. My experience was also that Hannants (the people behind Xtrakit) refused to provide a parts replacement service with this kit (unlike any other manufacturer); no doubt as they knew full well every single box had a damaged nose cone. Modelling should be fun, and this kit is no fun. Build thread here.
MPM Sea Vixen FAW.1
Injection moulded plastic & some resin
Price ~£21.50 (RRP, similar second hand)
This contains exactly the same plastic and resin as in the Xtrakit FAW.2 box. It is around £3 more expensive, however, for which you get 4 decal options instead of 2, and some extra resin bits - 4 pylons and a camera pod to use on the option for XJ476 (missile development aircraft that had different pylons and aforementioned pod). Unfortunately the pylons are the wrong shape still, and the pod is way too small. Thus you're paying for more bits of resin only fit for the bin. The early style FAW.1 canopy is not supplied in the kit so you'll need to add the extra frames to the supplied item (or to a vacform replacement), and XJ476 didn't have the rocket pack bulges so you need to get rid of those if choosing that option. Every comment on the FAW.2 release applies to this one too. The instructions wrongly tell you to paint the tailplane underside grey, it should be white with a grey leading edge.
Frog F409 Sea Vixen F.A.W.2. Strike Fighter
Injection moulded plastic
Price ~£9 (second hand/new)
A much-reboxed kit, this one, originally from Frog. Also marketed by Novo, Modelcraft, Eastern Express and (to their eternal shame), Revell (quite recently, so still readily available). This is a pretty basic kit (very much of its time), though it has fairly well done raised detail. Unfortunately it suffers from a variety of flaws, the major ones being that the shape of the fuselage is distinctly 'off' (too fat, nose looks too short, canopy sits too high) and everything else just looks rather too chunky. Some people 'correct' the major flaw by adding a small extension between the radome and fuselage, making it longer (too long in fact), but it does improve the look. The canopy really does sit too proud though, and that is the major appearance problem, so I suspect fixing that would make the rest of the problems stand out less. The fit of the parts varies with the moulding you buy, and in general this is an old and tired kit that is way past it's sell by date. Unlike most Sea Vixen kits in this scale it does offer a folded wing option - and strangely comes with extra outer wing sections to cater for this, when it would have been easy enough not to bother with different ones for the different position. It is substantially cheaper than any other 1/72 option but needs a lot of correctional work to produce an accurate model.
Gerald J. Elliott H.S. Sea Vixen FAW-2
Price ~£5 (second hand)
An ancient and crude vacform with white metal ejector seat, joystick, undercarriage, refuelling probe, arrestor hook and jet pipes. Little more than a curio these days with a variety of shape problems evident and very basic surface detailing. For masochists only.
Sky Guardians SGE72-003-01 Sea Vixen FAW.2
Price £51 (RRP)
A diecast model betraying lazy research and lack of attention to detail. This is basically a mostly metal copy of the ancient and inaccurate Frog kit, albeit with fine recessed panel lines rather than raised ones. The only major difference is that the canopy has been modified to better represent the real thing - even so they've totally mucked up the angle of the windscreen where it meets the sliding portion so it looks very odd from the side. This is not helped by the ejection seat and pilot sitting too far aft and far too low in the cockpit. It shares all of the shape errors of the Frog original, with everything being too chunky, tail booms lacking depth, nose too short and fat, intakes too large, upper fuselage contours a parody of the real thing, etc. In addition, the undercarriage legs are too big and painted the wrong colour. Their size makes the model sit at entirely the wrong angle. The aircraft presumably represents the preserved XP924 rather than the XP924 of the 1970s, in that there is no refuelling probe - however the paint job doesn't match up with either 1970s or current day versions with all of the red stencilling missing from the top surface engine access hatches, '134' codes on the nose being too big and ROYAL NAVY titles mis-positioned. The observers hatch is painted black, which is accurate for when in-service, but not for the current day aircraft. There is no representation at all of the observers window. Finishing off this lack of attention to detail are the underwing stores - plain white Red Top missiles (they were never this colour), a bizarre all-white 'pointy thing' (possibly the worst representation of a rocket pod in history?) and drop tanks that are too fat. For the price, it's a pretty laughable effort.
Frog F325 DH110
Injection moulded plastic
Price ~£20-50 (second hand)
A real rarity these days, and very much a collectors' item, fetching extremely high prices when it does pop up from time to time on eBay. It a bit of an oddity, with the kit providing decals for a non-existent aircraft ('XF830'). The blunt nose and FAW.1 style canopy would indicate it was intended to be a model of the third DH-110, XF828; however, there is no arrestor hook, and the earlier airbrakes of WG236/WG240 are depicted along with their longer rear fuselage area. Wings outboard of the fence have slightly increased chord (like XF828) but no leading edge droop (back to being a model of WG236/WG240). Tailboom shape is definitely that of WG240. Undercarriage is basic and largely fictional, with no gear bays at all. No cockpit to speak of. Surface detail is all raised lines and loads of rivets (not present on the real thing). The tailboom fairings do not go far forward enough on the top surfaces of the wing. No intake tunnels or jet pipes so there is a distinctly see-through look to the fuselage if built out of the box. Four cannon troughs are present on the underside of the nose, as per XF828.
Being a strange mix of the three prototypes, it does make a good basis for modelling one of them but you need to be aware of the many differences between each aircraft in order to make the required changes. The easiest one to make from the kit would be WG240 - fill the cannon troughs, cut back the outer wing leading edge a bit and modify the shape of the intake splitter plates. WG236 would require that work plus some reshaping of the lower tailbooms. For XF828 you'd be better off starting from a Sea Vixen kit rather than this one as the fuselage of XF828 appeared to be very close to the production examples (with the exception of the cannons).
Magna Models FAW.1 / FAW.2
Resin and white metal
Price ~£20 (second hand) to £30 (new)
From inspection of the FAW.2 it looks a lot like the Frog kit overall - I wouldn't be surprised if the master was basically a rescribed Frog kit. Engraved detail overall but it wobbles a bit in places and isn't square on where it should be in others. The pilot's canopy area is moulded as part of the top fuselage half and is very much like the inaccurate Frog representation of this area, and the aircon/rain clearance tube doesn't go back far enough. No cockpit detail at all - just a white metal ejector seat (and none for the observer). Late style observer canopy is provided as a vacform transparency, you need to hack out a big hole in the top fuselage half and build the observer's cockpit from scratch if you want to use it. Jetpipes basic and far too shallow; arrestor hook moulded closed (and poorly done), nose gear bay shallow and mostly closed off, with a hole for the nose gear leg that is in entirely the wrong place (middle of the bay instead of forward edge). Main gear bays deeper but no detail and again locating holes for legs in the wrong place. Intake tunnels present but no compressor faces. Vertical tails correctly shaped but as with Xtrakit, they have moulded the large half-cone bits at the rear of the horizontal stabiliser as part of the tail rather than part of the stabiliser. Wings are basic; fuel dump pipe poorly done, no wing fold detail. Lots of thin flat parts (missile fins, wing fences, airbrake strakes, some gear doors, intake splitter plate) are supplied on a single wafer of resin and mine has warped badly. Even if it hadn't, sanding the other side to free them would be a hell of a job and it'd be much easier to replace these parts with plastic card. White metal is used for gear legs, Red Top missiles, pylons. Lots of flash but the legs and missiles look good. No decals. For the high price and limited improvements over the Frog kit (it has all the same shape errors), it makes very little sense to buy this kit.
Magna also produce an FAW.1 conversion set in resin to enable you to convert the Frog kit into a Mk.1, with replacement tail booms and wing inserts. This is reportedly similar quality to Magna's complete kits, and hard work to marry up to the Frog kit successfully.
Airfix Sea Vixen FAW.2
Injection moulded plastic
Price ~£30 to £39.99 (RRP)
Simply the best Sea Vixen kit in any scale, bar none. Lots of beautifully moulded parts with crisp detail, capturing many subtleties missed on other kits of all scales. The attention to detail really is impressive, with optional parts to enable the airbrake and arrestor hook to be positioned closed, fully down or at an intermediate position which enables the aircraft to sit on its landing gear (fully down the airbrake and hook extend so low the wheels wouldn't touch the ground). The wings can be built folded or spread; the control surfaces - including flaps - are all separate (and all but the flaps can move); there are even optional flattened wheels. The cockpit is a pretty good effort, and the wheel, airbrake and flap bays all have basic detail too.
A superbly comprehensive decal sheet covers a selection of FAW.2 airframes - sadly no colourful D.3 - and no FAW.1s, because the kit only includes parts to build an FAW.2. Just about every single stencil applied to the real thing is included, so it'll take several sessions just to apply all the decals! Unfortunately one decal option is for an aircraft without the later bulged observer hatch, and the kit does not cater for the earlier flat hatch. This kit is well up to the standard of Airfix's excellent 1/48 Lightnings (which have now been re-released).
I have begun to build an example of the kit and it is going together very nicely - the parts are beautifully engineered and almost 'snap together' with very little fettling needed so far. Close examination shows a few small errors in panel line locations etc. but nothing serious so far. You can follow my build on various forums:
Alley Cat Sea Vixen FAW.1 conversion
Price £25 (RRP)
This resin set enables you to build an FAW.1 using the 1/48 Airfix FAW.2 kit. Now I'll admit right out I helped with research on this set so may accuse me of bias if you like but this is an excellent conversion set. Supplied are replacement tail booms and nose (nose required as it is modified to remove the raised observer hatch and introduce the depressions aft of the rocket packs - though these are a little too deep so some filler would be an idea) and bulged outer main gear doors. FAW.1 style windscreen, canopy and observer's hatch are all supplied in clear resin. On top of that, to improve on the basic kit parts, you also get nicely detailed ejector seats and a small insert for the upper fuselage to enable you to reposition one of the vents that the kit has in the wrong place.
Decals are included covering no fewer than six different aircraft - XN696/488 of 899 NAS, XJ611/706 of 766 NAS, XJ584/249 of 890 NAS, XN654/464 of 893 NAS, XN691/219 of 892 NAS and XN694/463 of 893 NAS. Two of these can also be represented in differing schemes by mixing and matching codes from the kit sheet. The kit stencilling is used for the most part but several FAW.1-specific items are included on the conversion set decal sheet and a sheet is included showing which stencils to use and which not to use from the kit. Finally a set of canopy masks are included to make the job of painting the windscreen and canopy as easy as possible.
The decals are beautifully printed and the resin parts are crisply detailed and cleanly cast with no air bubbles etc. - a quality package all round really and recommended if you want to build an FAW.1. Alley Cat also provide a set that contains just the upper nose part of this set and flat observer hatch if you want to build an FAW.2 with the early style of hatch (as mentioned above, one of the kit decal options actually requires the early hatch).
Dynavector #4803 Sea Vixen FAW.2
Vacuum formed plastic and white metal
Price £85 (imported from Japan)
For a long time this was the only option in this scale and it used to be pretty good value (available direct from Dynavector in Japan), but the exchange rate collapse has turned it into a wildly expensive proposition. Well detailed, it requires a certain amount of modelling skill to get the best out of it and I have my doubts about the shape of the radome and the rear fuselage. There are also quite a few errors in panel lines (e.g. tailplane mirrored top/bottom - it isn't on the real thing). It certainly builds up into an impressive looking model but at more than twice the price of the Airfix kit with not a single improvement over it, this kit has been well and truly superseded.
Panther Productions 2000 Sea Vixen
Vacuum formed plastic and resin
Just one option here - Panther Productions 2000 (later Panther Model Club) produced a limited run vacform/resin kit. It is now hard to find, popping up occasionally on eBay and other second-hand sales venues. It has some serious shape issues, mainly in the fuselage area - the upper fuselage contours are particularly poor, and the nose shape is not good either. The canopy is not high enough, while the fuselage is too high and the nose leg must too large. Reports are that the optional resin cockpit is somewhat overscale and requires a great deal of work to fit it into the fuselage. Surface detail appears to be non-existent.