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Build Report: Airfix’s 1/48 Boulton Paul Defiant Mk. I


The Boulton Paul Defiant was one of those ideas that seemed good in theory. Put a power turret with four machine guns in the back of a fighter, and send it among the hordes of bombers promised by Giulio Douhet to one day stream overhead.

The trouble was, escorting fighters weren’t factored into the equation.

And while the pilots and gunners who flew the Defiant threw themselves fully into battle when called on, the airframe they were in was not up to the challenge. Once Luftwaffe fighters discovered how to properly attack a Defiant, its days were fairly well numbered.

From a modeling standpoint, it is an interesting footnote in history. And thankfully Airfix has provided an outstanding kit.

The kit itself is in line with Airfix’s other recent releases. Very good shape, nice detail, plastic a bit too soft, good fit and a great price. If you’ve built their recent Spitfire Mk. V or Mk. I, or their Hurricane, this kit is basically like those.

The kit has quite a number of parts- 113- and most of them are used. There are a few parts leftover, and they point to a future night fighter release.

The cockpit itself is nicely detailed, though not quite as extensive as the recent Spitfire releases. Once painted up it all looks good, though it could certainly use some dressing up if the modeler preferred. I did add a set of Eduard seat belts, but apart from that, the interior is out of the box.

The other “half’ of the interior- the gunners area- consists of a very nicely detailed gun turret. It is a bit of a puzzle to assemble, but if you follow the well illustrated instructions and are careful to orient all the parts as shown, it actually goes together quite well. Research indicated that the turret was essentially black, with only a few color highlights here and there, and a leather seat pad. I fully assembled the turret before painting, then airbrushed it black. I drybrushed some highlights, added a few drops of white and red paint for the various knobs and dials, and painted the seat. It all looked very nice, but if you choose to display it closed up, little will be seen without shoving your face right up to it and using a pen light. Still- it’s a nice assembly.

The decking between the front and rear crew areas uses a unique method to facilitate assembly. The two parts are joined by thin strips of plastic, thus making installation and alignment simple when closing the fuselage. Once the fuselage is assembled, simply snip those out and clean up the edges. Very ingenious and modeler friendly. The turret itself is installed later, at least according to the instructions. (More on that….)

The fit of the fuselage is good. There was some edge “beveling” here and there that required some filler to fully fill in. The edges mated together just fine, but there was quite a prominent indent. Some filler and a sanding stick took care of that.

At this point, I added the forward windscreen, and the canopy part that sits just aft of the pilot. Pay close attention here, as different parts may be used depending on the canopy and turret configuration. As I planned to show the canopy open with the gun turret facing aft, I used the appropriate piece to allow the canopy to sit over the top of it.

At first I was alarmed- the piece was quite a bit undersized, and just barely fit the fuselage edges where it was supposed to join. Then I realized this was done purposefully, as it allowed the sliding canopy portion to fit perfectly over the top, and not “ride high” as often happens. Once the sliding canopy portion is added, the sizing of the aft portion no longer stands out. It looks “all the part”.

The wings are a bit different that most kits. A nicely detailed gear bay fits in a lower central wing portion, and then there are two lower outer sections and two upper sections. It appears this was done to set the outer wing dihedral, and it works rather nicely. I did find that the outer portions of the lower wings projected out slightly from the upper parts. All else was in alignment nicely, so after gluing it all together, I simply sanded away the excess.

The wing to fuselage join is quite good, with only a little Mr. Surfacer here and there to reduce the join lines a bit. The tail planes fit well also.

I’d read in another build report of this kit how the modeler added in the movable decking just aft of the turret temporarily to allow for painting, and then it could be removed when the turret was added at the end. I decided to follow the same course of action.

On a side note- you may want to research that decking a bit. Conventional wisdom said that when the gun turret was in use, the decking dropped down. The up position was simply there for travel when the turret was “stowed”. However, after watching a video on Youtube, I found that may not be the case. At the 2:15 mark, the turret is pointed starboard, with the decking fully up, then as it rotates aft, the decking drops down, allowing the guns to pass, and then once clear, it appears to pop back up again. You decide for your build… but conventional wisdom may be wrong.

Paint was all Tamiya- XF-21 Sky for the undersides, XF-81 for the Dark Green, and XF-72 JGSDF Brown as a passable Dark Earth. Airfix provides two marking options- not very dramatic, really, but Defiants were not really dramatic either, so I suppose that fits. The decals are of excellent quality, though, and represent two Battle of Britain aircraft.

With the decals on, some post fading and shading was added, as well as an oil wash for the panel lines.

With all of that done, it was time to add the turret.

Airfix’s instructions would have you fully assemble the turret, and install it at the end. I decided to try that method, even though I’d read of a few folks who had difficulty with that. I figured it would be better to see for myself, and then if needed, figure out an alternative for a later build. (Of which there will most definitely be one.)

I first removed the rear decking, having tacked it in place with Future. I had decided to break with Airfix’s instructions a bit, and insert the turret without the clear dome, which I’d painted separate from the turret assembly. (Don’t fear masking it- the edges are nicely raised and it works well with Parafilm and masking fluid, both of which I tried.) I slipped the turret portion in the fuselage- carefully- making sure to rotate the guns upward  first. At first it seemed as if it would not fit, but then I tilted the assembly down and aft, and it snapped right in place there, and then click- it popped in. I simply slid the clear part of the turret over the guns, added a touch of glue, and rotated the guns down.

Though I had no problem this time, I do think on the next build I will try and add the lower part of the turret in the fuselage before adding the central canopy part, painting, etc. That way I can simply add the upper turret parts later, and then the glazing. We’ll see how that goes.

In any event- examine the kit as you build it, and test some ideas, and see what works for you. I can attest to the fact that it will go in. Just be patient.

With that on, I added the landing gear- quite nice looking and solid- the prop and the exhausts, and the two antenna under the fuselage. The forward antenna was stationary, but the aft antenna partially retracted when the gear were lowered. Airfix notes this in the instructions, showing how much to trim for a gear down build.

This kit really is a joy to build. It has no real vices, just a few areas that require some patience, and is an enjoyable experience. Hopefully a nicer aftermarket resin seat will appear, and perhaps a few other interior goodies, but this kit is still quite nice out of the box. I look forward to building another!