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KIT REVIEW


Airfix Avro Shackleton AEW.2 -- 1:72 Scale

The Avro Shackleton was a British long-range maritime patrol aircraft used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the South African Air Force (SAAF).  The Shackleton had a long career as sub-hunter first developed during the late 1940s as part of the U.K.’s response to the rapid expansion of the Soviet submarine fleet.  In 2015, Airfix released the first of their new-tool injection-molded Shackleton kits in 1:72 scale.  This was followed up with the AEW.2 variant in 2017.  The latter kit just arrived on our review bench.  Let’s see what we’ve got.  

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As the Cold War burgeoned in the late 1940s, it was clear that the growing Soviet submarine force posed a major threat to the West and to the British Isles specifically.  Avro drew upon their Lincoln bomber design (itself a derivation from the Avro Lancaster) to produce the Shackleton for the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission.  In April 1951, the Shackleton entered service with the RAF in ASW and maritime patrol roles, though sometimes also employed in search-and-rescue (SAR) and other duties.

Indeed, the Shackleton was a purpose-built aircraft.  It was built around, in many respects, the ASV Mk 13 radar that could detect a destroyer at a range of 40 miles, a surfaced submarine at 20 miles, and a submarine's conning tower at eight miles.  The airplane also employed electronic warfare systems and a diesel fume detection system (though famously prone to false alarms).  A camera bay housed several cameras used for low/medium altitude and nighttime photography.  Stores carried included up to nine unguided bombs, three homing torpedoes or depth-charges, sonobuoys, and for self-defense, two 20 mm cannons in a dorsal turret.

The Shackleton was a long-duration aircraft and could stay aloft unrefueled for more than 14 hours.  Its Rolls-Royce Griffons had contra-rotating propellers and produced a distinctive noise that famously produced deafness among crew members.  The typical Shackleton crew comprised two pilots, two navigators, a flight engineer, an air electronics officer, and four systems operators.  By the 1960s, the Shackletons were progressively upgraded with new avionics, structural enhancements, and nuclear depth charges.  When the Hawker Siddeley Nimrod came on the scene in the 1970s, the Shackleton was progressively phased out.

Still, there was life left in the airplane, and 12 RAF Shackleton Mk. 2s received additional extensive modifications to perform the airborne early warning (AEW) role.  They served in this role until replaced by the E-3 Sentry AWACS in 1991 when the sun finally set on the Shackleton’s 40 year-long career.

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The Airfix 1:72 scale Shackleton AEW.2 kit comes on eight grey injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 215 parts and one clear sprue with 26 parts.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over 108 steps.  Markings for two color schemes are included:

Strengths:  The Shackleton has long been a neglected subject in all scales, and the Airfix kit of the AEW.2 is a welcome addition to the scale modeling world.  This version that served in the AWACS role is indeed quite distinctive with its large “guppy” ventral radome and arrays of other antennas.

The quality of the kit is quite high overall.  The molding looks great, and all the panel lines are rather delicately recessed (but see below).  I test fit the wings and fuselage and found an excellent, airtight fit.

The kit features a rather complete and busy-looking interior, from the flight deck to the radar operator stations.  The cockpit is overall nicely done for 1:72 scale, and the instrument panel is represented by a decal.  Even though very little of the radar operator stations will be visible in the completed model, it is rather well done as injection molded parts.

The flaps, rudders, and elevators are all separate parts and can be positioned as neutral or dropped.  There are two big spars extending from the fuselage sides to mount the wings and provide strong connection points and they make it easy to get the right dihedral.  The bomb bay is present in this kit just as the ASW version of the Shackleton, and you can open the bomb bays doors.  While they could be cycled open, at least to my understanding, the AEW variant never carried any ordnance in the bomb bay.

The props, engines, and engine cowlings look good, and the main gear wells and main gear are very well done.  The major details are all there, and the builder certainly can add any plumbing and wiring if they wish.

The 12 Shackleton AEW.2s never carried particularly high-visibility colors, and both markings options feature an overall dark sea gray scheme.  Still, the decals provide some nice colors to contrast with that canvass, from roundels to underwing ID numbers and the very complete and colorful airframe stencils.  While the white and red prop tips are provided as decals, I would think that painting and masking those warning markings might be less problematic in the long run.  The decals themselves look to be just about perfectly printed and the carrier film is quite thin.      

Weaknesses:  I would argue that the surface features of the Airfix Shackleton are simplified.  While this is 1:72 scale, I would think that there should be at least some rivet detail that could have been represented.  All the recessed details here are panel lines only. The pilot figures are poor as they are carbon copies of each other and look like they are wearing WWII bomber pilot gear.  There are no seatbelt details on any of the seats.  Also be careful to make sure that you eliminate any of the many little ejection pins marks that might be visible across many different parts.   

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Airfix has another really strong Shackleton kit here.  It is a very well done kit of a historically underrepresented subject – two strengths among its many high points.  And if you’re interested in more detail, you might want to track down several of the Eduard detail sets for the AEW.2.   

Sincere thanks are owed to Dave Kennedy and everyone at Hornby America, Inc., for the review sample.  You can find this kit set and all of Airfix’s other products for sale on the web at https://www.airfix.com/us-en/ and at your favorite hobby retailer.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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