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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby Blackburn Roc Mk. 1 -- 1:72 Scale



One of the less auspicious (but still, quite interesting) aircraft that served during the early days of the Second World War was the Blackburn Roc.  Itself a derivative of the Blackburn Skua dive bomber, and was envisioned as a turreted fighter.  Its performance was unexceptional compared to other British and German aircraft, and not long after WWII began, it was relegated to duties well behind the front lines.  It also has not seen a lot of attention in the scale modeling world.  Here, Special Hobby has re-released their 2009 issue of the Roc and included lots of photoetched metal and resin detail parts.  Let’s have a look.

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On 31 December 1935, the British Air Ministry issued a request for proposal for a carrier-based turret-armed fighter.  Instead of guns in the wings, they would be in a powered turret behind the pilot.  Blackburn proposed a derivative of their Skua dive-bomber, and this design beat out the Boulton Paul proposal based on their Defiant.

The Blackburn B-25 was named the Roc, after the legendary bird in Arabian Nights.  As with the Skua, it was a two-seat, low-wing, all-metal monoplane with retractable gear and wingfolds.  It was powered by the Bristol Perseus radial engine.  Its turret was the same as that in the Boulton Paul Defiant, and was outfitted with four .303 caliber Browning machine guns.  It also retained bomb racks for a secondary ground attack role.  The first Roc flew just before Christmas 1938.  It was soon realized that its handling was adequate for the day but it could only reach a maximum airspeed of less than 230 MPH.  Plans to form Roc fighter squadrons were abandoned, but cancelling the initial order of 133 production airplanes would have been too disruptive to the Blackburn and Boulton production lines.  In fact, the assembly of the Roc was taken over by Boulton.

As an airplane without a well-defined purpose, the Blackburn Roc was shifted to supplement Blackburn Skuas as fighter escorts.  The Rocs proved ineffective in that role.  Aboard the HMS ARK ROYAL, Rocs were tasked with combat air patrol but could not intercept German aircraft.  Their only kill of the war occurred during the evacuation of Dunkirk when a Blackburn managed to get underneath a Ju 88 with the help of a pair of Skuas.  Soon after, Rocs were shifted to search-and-rescue and target towing duties.  Finland was to receive 30 Rocs following the Soviet invasion in 1940, but delays in delivery eventually superseded their need.  Pre-delivery Finnish-marked Rocs all eventually were reabsorbed back into the Fleet Air Arm.  While the last Rocs were withdrawn from flying duties in 1943, the last four operational Rocs were stationed at HMS Daedalus.  While thoroughly unairworthy, their turrets still worked.  Parked on the ground, their guns supplemented the other anti-aircraft guns at the base until the end of 1944.

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Special Hobby’s Blackburn Roc Mk. 1 kit contains three light gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing 48 parts by my count.  There’s also 30 cast resin parts and one photoetched metal fret containing 26 parts.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by finely engraved, recessed details.  Seven clear parts are present on a single sprue.  The full color instruction booklet guides the build over 13 steps.  Decals and the markings guide cover four Blackburn Rocs:

Strengths:  This is neat and rather appealing little kit, far more so than what I held as my initial opinion before opening the box.  Shape, size, and configuration details appear to be accurate.  The engineering and parts breakdown in the kit are relatively simple and conventional.  The engraved surface details are smooth, clean, and delicately engraved.  The interior is rather basic, but the major components are there, from the seat, control column, bulkheads, cabin fire extinguisher, and fuel tanks behind the pilot.  What really elevates the level of detail, which is arguably pretty basic just using the plastic alone, are the really great photoetched metal parts, from the instrument panel to the pilot’s harnesses to the really fine and small parts for the rudder pedal stirrups.  The Perseus engine is also represented in really great detail, especially for a 1:72 scale kit.  The markings options are also quite well chosen.

Each of the paint scheme options are interesting and eye-catching in their own ways.  I really like the metal dope scheme, personally.  The markings also feature that fourth option that could be called the Finland delivery scheme.  Before their planned delivery, those Rocs naturally carried Finnish national markings (a blue swastika on a white background) while still flying over Great Britain.  That insignia could get them killed by British anti-aircraft gunners, so a linen cover was fitted over those markings. The decals were printed by Aviprint and everything appears mostly in register (but see below).  

Weaknesses: As a late 2000s Special Hobby kit, their molds were not up to the standards of their kits today.  That means there are no locating pins or tabs.  The pour gates connecting the parts to the sprues are large and thick in most instances, so some cleanup will be necessary, especially for the fine parts such as .303 machine gun barrels.  I also would say the turret gunner’s position is characterized by basic detail.  If you want an open cockpit, you’ll have to separate the canopy from the windscreen and rear decking.  It’s all a single piece.  The decals overall look great, but I am a little nervous looking at white circle backgrounds on the Finnish scheme as those decals look at little translucent to me.  But what I can say for sure is that in the two large blue and red British roundels, the transition from red to blue has a slightly blurred edge because it’s just a little out of register, though you can only see that upon very close inspection. 

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Special Hobby did a good job with their 1:72 scale Blackburn Roc back in 2009, and still it stands the test of time.  Overall, the level of detail is good, and the resin and PE metal parts here make it even better.  That, combined with the very interesting markings options and interesting subject matter (as one of the lesser-known and successful aircraft of the WWII) make this an appealing project for those who like unique models and have a little experience with limited run multimedia aircraft kits.

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample. You visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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