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In-Box Review
de Havilland Sea Vixen FAW.2
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Originally published on:

"The de Havilland Sea Vixen represents the zenith of British twin boom jet fighter design. This all-weather carrier borne aircraft was the first British fighter to be designed without guns. Armed with rockets and missiles, the Sea Vixen, with its integrated weapons systems, transitioned the Royal Navy into the era of modern fighter aircraft.": Roy Sutherland

The kit
The first thing that strikes you about Airfix's Sea Vixen is the BIG box - ironically so big, I almost missed the beast at my local model shop because the staff couldn't fit it onto the section of shelves where I'd normally look! Excitingly, when you open the box, there's not a lot of wasted space, with three large main sprues taking up most of the room, along with a whopping great decal sheet that proved too big to fit on my scanner. The kit comprises:

215 x very pale grey styrene parts
12 x clear styrene parts
Decals for 4 x colour schemes

I have to admit that my first impression was a little mixed, because there's something about the plastic used that makes details seem a little soft. Maybe it's the colour? Whatever, looks can be deceptive, and closer inspection reveals an excellent overall finish. There's no flash, but there are a few irritating light ejector pin marks in areas such as the cockpit. A slight fly in the ointment is some shallow sink marks on the wings where the styrene is thinner for the locations supports for the extended-wing option.

Surface detail comprises very precise engraved panel lines and a few raised panels. Overall, the model captures the sleek but hefty look of the original very well.

Test Fit
There's nothing quite like that Wow-factor when you you dry fit a pretty big kit with quite a few complex joints, and precise engineering ensures everything clips together very neatly! Airfix have done a great job. The fuselage/inner wings are split horizontally and line up perfectly with a clean seam along the circular cross-section nose (the only awkward thing is that the seam crosses a pair of access panels - but that's arguably de Havilland's fault!). The outer wings panels clip together cleanly and are a good tight fit to the centre section, even without their support "spars". Make or break on any twin boom aircraft is how well the booms themselves fit and line up, and Airfix have done a lovely job on the Sea Vixen, promising a very straightforward assembly.

A few details
The cockpit is reasonably detailed, built up from 15 parts, into which slot a pair of identical 6-part ejector seats. Panels consoles have quite delicate raised switches, but the pilot's main instrument panel has clumsy raised bezels and dial details which do look a bit crude compared with the recessed instruments visible in photos. A pair of crew figures is included, but there are no seat harnesses provided should you chose to omit them. Bearing in mind that the predominant colour for both the pilot's and radar operator's cockpit is black, the overall detail is adequate, although superdetailers have plenty of scope to add more, and I can imagine the aftermarket producers already getting set to really go to town.

The same applies for the belly air-brake and wheel wells. The former can be posed open (not fully open if you want the model to stand on its undercarriage), and the kit parts provide a fine basis to work on but, once again, photos of the real thing show just how much extra detail you can pile in if you desire. The wheel wells are boxed in and show some internal detail, but there's plenty of pipework and wiring that can be added to good effect. A nice point is that the designers have avoided placing any ejector pins in the wells (where they are notoriously difficult to tackle). The main undercarriage is suitably beefy to support the model, while the nose gear leg is built from three parts, so you could offset the castoring fork. There's a choice of weighted on un-weighted tyres, with separate hubs for the mainwheels.

For anyone looking to add extra detail to their Sea Vixen, I can recommend two fine references: our own Walkaround by Luciano Sartonetti, and Barracuda Studios' superb Flightline Book by Roy Sutherland reviewed HERE. The latter covers the Sea Vixen in unparellelled detail, inside and out.

The bicurcated intakes are capped with a nicely detailed blanking plate with the engine-fronts, while the separate tailpipes are similarly blanked off to provide a deep, but not "see-through" look to the fuselage.

The outer wing panels are separate and can be modelled folded or extended. For the former, there are well detailed fold-inserts, while very solid A-frame "spars" support the wings when extended (the locations for these are the culprits for the sink-marks mentioned earlier). All the control surfaces are separate, and the landing flap bays have internal structural detail.

There's a good supply of underwing stores provided, with a pair of drop tanks, and a quartet each of Red Top air-to-air missiles and Matra rocket pods. The fins of the Red Tops are arguably a bit thick, but the nose cones of the Matras are nicely moulded and will look very effective with a light wash to pick out the details.

Modellers may be disappointed that there's no radar provided to fit inside the separate nose-cone. One reason soon becomes clear - according to the instructions, the kit needs 35g of nose-weight to prevent it being a tail-sitter, and there's not a great deal of room ahead of the cockpit tub in which to fit it into the fuselage, so it'll mostly end up in nose cone. You could lower the arrestor hook to act as a prop, but a better answer may lie with aftermarket accessories; I'm sure radar equipment will be produced, and a chunky resin (or white metal?) cockpit tub could provide the necessary weight to allow it all to be squeezed in.

The transparencies are unfortunately something of a curate's egg. On the positive side, they are thin and beautifully clear - but on the down side, the pilot's canopy is moulded with a separate frame, something I'm no great fan of because it almost always means a joint that's tricky to conceal. Worse, its sprue attachments are on the visible part of the canopy. Photos of the full size canopy show quite a wide sealing strip that might just hide the attachment points, but it still means some very delicate sanding and polishing to remove them. Why Airfix didn't mould the canopy conventionally (or at least position the attachments on the mating-surface of the clear section) is beyond me...

Instructions and decals
The instructions are printed as a 22-page A-4 booklet. The assembly illustrations are very clear, and construction is broken down into no less than 84 stages! This is rather overkill (e.g. the identical ejector seats each have 4 stages devoted to them), but I'd far rather have a lot of simple stages than try to fit too much into too few over-cluttered diagrams.

The kit is accompanied by a huge decal sheet, half of which is devoted to a comprehensive set of stencil markings, and there are 3 full pages of placement diagrams to deal with them all.

Four colour schemes are provided:

A. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XS577, No. 899 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Eagle, 1975
B. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XN650, No. 892 Naval Air Squadron, Yeovilton, 1968
C. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XP954, No. 893 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Victorious, 1966
D. Sea Vixen FAW.2, s/n XP924, (registration G-CVIX), 2010

The decals are printed by Cartograf and look very good quality as usual, with precise registration on my sheet. Unusually, they are printed with rather matt finish, which makes the carrier film show up on the sheet from some angles, but (hopefully) they should look fine when applied and sealed with a gloss coat.

Airfix's new Sea Vixen looks set to build into a real stunner straight from the box! It's something of a dream come true for fans of British aircraft and deserves a place in any collection of classic jets. Airfix have called this a "limited edition", but it's certainly not limited-run in the conventional sense and the quality of moulding and easy construction makes it suitable for modellers of all abilities. Highly recommended.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Great fit of the main parts. Good details. Very good decals.
Lows: A few sink marks. Sprue attachments on the clear section of the pilot's canopy.
Verdict: With its overall good design (barring the canopy) and excellent fit, Airfix's Sea Vixen is suitable for modellers of pretty much all abilities - and pretty much bags an undisputed place in the Must-Have stakes for all fans of British and classic jets.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: A11002
  Suggested Retail: 34.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Dec 28, 2010
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright 2020 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of KitMaker Network or the British Bulldogs IPMS-UK group. All rights reserved.


Nice one Rowan and nice one Airfix. All the best. tim
DEC 28, 2010 - 08:38 PM
Looks nice Rowan, thanks for the review. When I get the urge for another 'plane this one will be top of the list. I wonder how long before we see one in the Red Bull colours?
DEC 28, 2010 - 11:13 PM
As someone coming back to modelling after many years I found Rowan Bayliss' review of the Airfix Sea Vixen helpful. However not all is sweetness and light. This kit requires quite a lot of skill. There are a few snags with the mouldings; the one that surprised me, which was not mentioned by Rowan, was that the receptor slots for the underwing pods do not exist. This is serious stuff for a modeller who is a little rusty. What to do to ensure correct location and firm anchoring---I'm working on that. Advice would be appreciated. I do not entirely agree that the instructions are clear. Quite confusing in places as two versions can be built. Bill Duff
JAN 01, 2011 - 07:26 AM
William, the box does indicate that this is the highest skill level (4). The pylon slots are present on the lower wing surfaces, flashed over in case you want a 'clean' aircraft and the instructions are quite clear about the need to open the slots up if you are intending to mount pylons on your model. I also found them quite clear as to the various alternative options (wing folded/spread, arrestor hook up/down, gear up/down, brake extended/retracted etc.). The only snags I have found so far are the intakes give too wide a boundary layer slot and if you are choosing flaps down, the gap filling parts that join the boom assembly to the fuselage need some fettling to get them to fit, and then leave gaps that need filler. Everything else so far has been an excellent fit.
JAN 02, 2011 - 06:32 AM
bit wary about posting this with an expert like Damien lurking, but here's my Vixen cockpit, about 20 of the kit's 84 stages - so I'm a 1/4 of the way through the build ... Added some foil belts and a couple of buckles, Lucky's walkaround elsewhere here was invaluable...can't see myself doing a WIP as I shall probably have put this to one side soon and get on with something I can actually finish...biggest kit I've tackled since the Airfix 24 scale Harrier (back when I was 12 ..) ]
JAN 21, 2011 - 12:54 AM
More progress on the Sea Vixen. Cockpit inserted into upper fuselage half and intake trunking, airbrake bay, wheel wells, jet pipes and arrestor hook located in lower fuselage part - couldn't be more straight forward. As pointed out above, the instructions recommend cutting out the locating holes for the underwing stores racks in the lower wing at this stage, although this is hard to do accurately given the location of some of these right at the edge of the thin plastic on the outer wing join - made a mess of mine. At least that faux pas has helped me come to a decision about what configuration to finish this in - one wing folded and one wing down. Fuselage booms required a smidgen of filler on the upper join. Joining the two fuselage halves is a relatively painless experience although a second pair of hands would have been handy for securing the booms while aligning the horizontal stabiliser. General fit is first class. Got this far without making too many cock-ups.. colour question if anyone can help please..cockpit is black but how much of the area under the canopy -outside of the cockpit - is black, if at all or is it all EDSG?..
JAN 25, 2011 - 12:48 AM

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