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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH72306
Barracuda Mk. II "Home Fleet" -- 1:72 Scale



Billy Mitchell was able to demonstrate the offensive potential of airpower against surface ships in the early 1920s.  Yet, nearly two decades had to pass until the full potential of this kind of air warfare was to mature in the form of tactics and airplanes seen in the Dauntless, Avenger, and Helldiver.  In the European theater of operations, the German navy posed a great threat to the Allies, and the British developed their own torpedo bombers.  One of these aircraft was the Fairey Barracuda.  In this review, we take a look at Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale injection molded kit of the Barracuda Mk. II.

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The Barracuda’s origins began with a 1937 Air Ministry request for a carrier-based monoplane torpedo bomber to replace the Fairey Swordfish and Albacore biplanes.  From a pool of several contenders including Supermarine, the Fairey Aviation design was selected and the first prototype flew on 7 December 1940.  The airplane was a shoulder-wing monoplane with horizontal stabilizers mounted high on the vertical tail.  It was the first Royal Navy aircraft with an all-metal fuselage.  The Barracuda had a retractable landing gear and non-retracting tailwheel.  An arresting hook was fitted ahead of the tail wheel and the wings folded back horizontally.  The crew of three had a good view with a long glazed canopy and four mid-fuselage bay windows. The wings were fitted with Fairey-Youngman flaps that also functioned as dive brakes.  Armament was typically either an 18-inch aerial torpedo, a 1,600 or 2,000-pound bomb, or multiple 500 pound bombs mounted on underwing pylons.

The prototypes and the 30 Mk. I variants that were built were powered by a single 12-cylinder Vee type Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine but the airplane was underpowered as it had gained a good deal of weight.  The Mk. II was the definitive Barracuda and it was fitted with the more powerful Merlin 32 powerplant.  A total of 1,688 were manufactured by Fairey, Blackburn, Boulton Paul, and Westland.  The Mk II also carried metric wavelength ASV II (Air to Surface Vessel) radar with Yagi-Uda antennae mountain atop the wings.

The first Barracudas entered service in January 1943 in the North Atlantic.  A total of 24 front-line squadrons eventually operated Barracudas.  They also saw action over the Mediterranean and in 1944, began to participate with the Fleet Air Arm in the Pacific theater.  The Barracuda gained particular notoriety for its role in the attack against the German battleship TIRPITZ in April 1944.  At the same time, the relatively slow speed of the Barracuda played to the advantage of the TIRPITZ in the following July and August in the failed British attempts to finish her off.  In the Pacific, Barracudas participated in raids in Sumatra, the Andaman Islands, and elsewhere.  Yet, in the tropical temperatures, performance suffered, with combat radius reduced by as much as 30%.  Eventually, the Barracuda was replaced in the British Pacific Fleet by Grumman Avengers.  The Barracuda continued in Fleet Air Arm service until the mid-1950s, by which time Avengers replaced the remainder.  The Royal Canadian Navy and the Dutch operated small numbers of Barracudas beginning in 1946.  Unfortunately, all the Barracudas were destined to be come scrap and no complete Barracuda exists today, but efforts to assemble one from existing sources has been underway.

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Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Barracuda Mk. II represents the definitive production variant of the torpedo bomber.  The kit contains three light gray injection molded polystyrene sprues containing a total of 139 parts.  An additional 14 clear parts are found on one clear sprue.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all represented by engraved, recessed details.  The full color instruction booklet details the build over 25 steps.  Decals and the markings guide cover two Barracuda Mk. IIs:

Strengths:  I’ve always considered the Barracuda as a very interesting and historically significant airplane with its somewhat ungainly appearance adding to its allure.  Special Hobby appears to do a very good job with their 1:72 scale Barracuda.  This is a new tool kit and is not a reboxing of MPM’s 1999 kit of the Mk. II.  The airframe shape, size, and proportions all appear to be correct to my eye (but for one exception, see below).  Overall, the kit receives strong marks in terms of detail and overall quality.  The engineering and parts breakdown are straightforward.  I test fit the fuselage halves and wings and found no alignment issues.  Other thoughtful features include the fuselage side windows being fitted from the outside that makes assembly, handling, and painting a lot easier and safer.

The interior is relatively well done for an injection-molded kit.  Other smaller parts, from the YAGI antennas to the bomb racks and torpedo shackle, are also very nicely executed with crisp details.  The kit comes with one aerial torpedo and one bomb (a 1,600-pounder as used against the TIRPITZ).  The two sets of markings in the kit cover two airplanes involved in the TIRPITZ attack in Operation TUNGSTEN that arguably represented the Barracuda’s finest hour.  The Barracuda attacks crippled the feared battleship and put her out of action for nearly two months.  The decals were printed by Eduard and are of excellent quality.  Everything is in register, carrier film is highly restrained, and colors look great.  There are also lots of maintenance stencils for the airframe.  
 
Weaknesses:  Only a few critiques can be considered for this kit.  First, the surface of a few parts could use a little cleanup, whether it's the edge of a part that is a little rough (such as on the propeller blades) or where an errant bit of plastic seems to have worked its way onto the surface (such as the tiny bubble of extra material on one of the wing halves).  As is often characteristic of Special Hobby kits, some of the pour gates are rather large relative to some of the smaller plastic parts, so removal and cleanup will take a little extra care.  The very fine framing on the canopy will also take a little extra deliberate effort to mask off properly (again, nothing too hard to accomplish).  The mounting tabs for the wings are not particularly large, so take your time and test fit the wing-to-fuselage fit. 

Roy Sutherland, the resin detail part manufacturer from Barracuda Studios, noted that compared to his measurements of surviving Barracuda main wheels, the kit’s wheels are notably undersized.  He offers an accurate resin replacement set HERE.   Also, the canopy is one single clear piece and there is no provision to have the pilot or crew canopy sections slid back and opened.  And maybe for a few scale modelers, the width of the some of the recessed panel lines on the aft fuselage might be a bit too wide, and to my eyes at least, line width does push the envelope of acceptability there.  Panel lines on the wings, tail, and stabilizer, however, are more slightly more restrained.       

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Overall, Special Hobby’s 1:72 scale Barracuda Mk. II is a very inviting kit.  It has a lot of strengths to be sure.  The interior begs for a photoetched metal and/or resin detail, but to my knowledge, nothing has been released yet.  This is still a relatively new kit, so we probably just a have to wait a few months.  However, if you want to bomb-up your Barracuda, CMK already produces resin antisubmarine bombs that can be fitted to the Barracuda along with a set of three resin crew members (standing position).  Other decals can be sourced from Xtradecal, Kanga, and Print Scale, and canopy masking will be a breeze if one uses the Montex pre-cut vinyl masks. 

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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