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ipms logo Founded 1964 amps logo Founded 1993
Last Update: 9 Sep 2007

Classic Airframes 1/48 Defiant TT.I
by
John Ratzenberger


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Classic Airframes
Kit #482
1/48 Boulton Paul Defiant Target Tug TT.I and TT.III
MSRP: $50.00


I am a member of the IPMS Reviewer Corps and built this as an IPMS Review. I would like to thank Classic Airframes and IPMS for providing the review kit and allowing me to review it.

Bottom Line Up Front ...
Despite what I've done to it, this is a good kit. It could have been a very good kit. If it is re-released, I have some suggestions that would make it close to a great kit. I'll cover this in the summary at the end of this review.

Background
The turreted Defiant didn't make the grade as the 1940's version of the Bristol Fighter, but found new, and definitely longer, life as a high-speed target tug, which CA presents as the third kit in their Defiant family series.

A quick burst of Defiant factoids relevant to this kit:
  • The external visual differences between the Defiant Mk.I and Mk.II included the nose, prop, exhaust stacks, oil cooler, radiator, and rudder.
  • The TT.I derived from the Mk.II, first converted on the production line, then new production, and finally conversions of existing Mk.II.
  • The TT.III was a conversion of existing Mk.I, however, some TT.III(Mk.I) were upgraded to TT.I(Mk.II) standards, particularly the larger radiator.
Regardless of TT.I and TT.III designation, there were two equipment variations:
  • A storage box under the rear fuselage for larger and/or multiple targets. If no storage box, then the observer just pitched (smaller) targets over the side.
  • A windmill-driven winch usually used for the larger ground/sea-to-air targets or a faster electric winch usually used for smaller air-to-air targets.
I have no idea if the storage box could be installed/removed in the field, but suspect not. I have no idea if one could mix and match winch-type and storage box/none, although I suspect windmill-box and electric-none are the most common configurations. Unfortunately, those darn photographers of the WW2 period had absolutely no clue about AMS in the 21st Century and took all those useless pictures of the left side of the target tugs so we cannot clearly see the winch or absence thereof.

In short, check your references very carefully -- something, we will see, that CA failed to do. Be very careful of TT.I versus TT.III designations in photo captions and color drawings.

The Kit
Popping open the usual CA top-opening box yields a bag of styrene parts, a bag of resin parts, decals, an instruction sheet, and a painting and marking guide.

I counted 67 styrene parts in a hard glossy blue-grey color. The neat part is that CA has included all the parts for the Defiant Mk.I and Mk.II, to include both noses !!!! This is great for me as I'll build a TT.I and use the other parts to convert my NF Mk.II to a DF Mk.I - if all that confused you re-read the factoids...

The parts look pretty good -- the panel lines are finely scribed. Some sprue gates are really thick and flow onto the parts so both force and care is needed taking parts off and some extra clean up needed. With the exception of the bottom-part of the rudder there are no sink marks, pin marks, etc, although I did have a little scratching on a few parts. The ejector pins are on inside surfaces and as usual there are some long ones that must be removed. Oh yes, you do not get two complete fuselages - I goofed when photographing things.

There are 21 resin parts and they are wonderful. You get both winches and they are really detailed. Cockpit is great. The pour plugs are hefty but that is the only thing to clean up -- the rest of the parts are ready to go. There are also 4 clear parts, all a bit thick. There is no photo-etch and thus no seatbelts.

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Looking at all the parts, one can build any variant of target tug you want, except that with no storage box.

The Instruction sheet is 4 pages - cover/history, parts diagram, and two pages containing 10 construction steps. The parts diagram marks all the TT.III (Mk.II) parts as "not used in this kit", so despite the fact that the kit is labeled as a TT.I and TT.III, the instruction sheet "forces" you to build a TT.I.

There are only two build options in the instructions -- electric or windmill winch, and whether to install a Vokes air filter (used on 2 of the 3 kit aircraft). Many target tugs went to the Med and Asia, so this was a common variation. Actually, regardless of the winch you select, you are still told to put the windmill on in the last step, which isn't right.

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There are decals, with the usual Painting & Marking guide, for 3 aircraft. The decals are the usual high-quality MicroScale decals CA is noted for and contain stencils, etc. They are on-color and on-registration and on an initial inspection, I see no issues.
  1. TT.I, DR945, JW-U, one of two targets tugs assigned to the 8AF Combat Crew Replacement Center, and definitely the most interesting markings of the three. This option is the subject of the box art. Unfortunately the box art shows this aircraft with storage box when it had none. The Painting & Marking Guide correctly shows it without storage box -- but as noted above, that is not a build option in the kit. Anyway, the aircraft is finished in Dark Green/Earth upper and Yellow with Black stripes under. The US markings overlay the RAF markings, so both appear. Oh, yes, photos show this aircraft did not have the windmill on the right side.
  2. TT.III, DS121, 733 NAS, RN, 1945. This is an aluminum finish upper with Yellow and Black under and SEAC markings. It has the Vokes filter. The 4-view drawing is slightly different than the other two, implying it is a TT.III. There are two problems here - if it is a TT.III the instructions do not select the right parts to build it (see note above) -- and DS121 is, I believe, a production TT.I, not a TT.III. I have not found a photo of this aircraft yet.
  3. TT.I, AA507, 26 AACU, Egypt, 1945. This is a non-standard scheme of all Yellow with wrap-around black stripes. It also has the Vokes filter. The interesting thing is that an existing photo confirms the markings, Vokes filter, and storage box, but does not show the windmill on the right side.
At this point, I was going to have a minor "vent" about all the research and effort put into the kit, only to drop the ball with errors in the instructions, options, and markings over the storage box, the winch, and the version differences. But I stepped away from the keyboard, took a deep breath (or two), and got over it. Almost everything one needs to build any target tug is here, except the no-storage-box option. That could have been fixed with optional resin pieces. So, other than that, everything else can be worked through with a little research and what is in the box.

AMS Kicks In ...
One would think that with my time issues, I wouldn't go off half-cocked into the AMS world, but I did in two areas - the target storage/deployment setup and the cable deflectors/cutters. I'll talk about the latter later on, but here's the target storage one.

If you look back above, I discussed two different winches and two different methods of storing and deploying targets. While studying the cockpit parts, and the markings, and thinking about what I was going to build, I realized that I didn't really understand how the external storage bay worked. I also noted that CA gave me just an empty storage bay - there were no targets.

Guess what is hard to find -- a good clear picture of the underside of a Defiant TT with the external storage bay !! My research lead me to The Long Drag, A Short History of British Target Towing, by Donald Evans, Flight Recorder Publications an excellent book on the subject, but even it did not answer my questions fully. The problem is that if the storage is external then how are targets hooked on -- not inside as the sheave (part R12) is outside. One photo and only one, showed what appeared to be cables from the targets stowed in the bay running back up into the hole in the fuselage where part R16 goes. That means to put on a new target, the operator just has to fish for the winch cable, bring it in and clip to a target cable fastened inside the aircraft.

Oh, after all this study, I decided to do a TT.I with external bay and windlass-winch in non-kit RAF markings. That took care of the kit errors in config & markings.

Starting the Build
I wanted to do a quick test fit of the major parts, so got the two fuselage halves, the two nose halves and three wing pieces off their sprue and taped together.

[article image] The fuselage halves fit together nicely, as do the nose halves, and the wing pieces. But when I tried to fit the wing to the fuselage, I found the wing assembly mis-matched the front of the fuselage about 3/32 inch. I got half that out by cleaning up the rear of the wing root on the left fuselage side -- it didn't seem cleanly molded. Anyway once I got the left root to look like the right one, I then took a couple swipes with a sanding stick on the wing center-section trailing edge. That took at least half the mismatch out - the rest I left for later. To just trim down the front of the wing assembly will take some detail off, so I'm not sure how I'll handle it yet.

I test fit the nose to the fuselage and the nose seemed a tiny bit narrow. I then took the tape off and laid each side fuselage and nose flat together and didn't see the issue. The right side parts lined up just fine, but I had to do a little cleaning on the left side fuselage and nose to get them to line up horizontally - not more than a half-dozen swipes of a sanding stick.

Meanwhile, even though I didn't start with the cockpit, we'll pretend I did.

[article image] Cockpit
It's really nice and goes together well. There is an error in the front office - the instructions tell you to put the stick (R10) into a block on the floorboards - wrong, it goes into the loop on the front of the seat. Bet you thought the Defiant came with a front-seat cup holder ?!? Anyway, it's pretty obvious as the block on the floorboard is behind the instrument panel.

In the rear cockpit, the instructions show the rear bulkhead (R7) sitting on the floor (R17) -- but that wouldn't allow the bulkheads and floors to line up neatly with the formers and stringers. I cut a bit less than 1/16" off the rear of the floorboard and mounted the rear bulkhead against the floorboard -- then everything aligned perfectly.

[article image] The windlass winch option (part R11), unlike the beautiful electric winch (R9), comes with no cable. So I wrapped some 2-lb fishing line around it, built a tiny follower, and then fleshed out the "panel" with a small piece of plastic and a gage to look like a similar installation on a Skua.

The rear seat is a gem -- it is well worth your time to break out a new blade and tiny file to carefully cut away the flash between the seat supports.

No seatbelts are supplied -- I dipped into my Eduard stash. Unfortunately the canopies are so thick that most the cockpit detail is wasted.

Fuselage
Test fit the cockpit into the fuselage -- if I remember right, it went in with virtually no problem, maybe a few swipes of a sanding stick on the edges of the front cockpit bulkhead (R1).

There is an inspection window above the winch -- CA gives this to you as a solid piece (R15), when it should be clear. I tried making my own clear version but broke it at the end, so you'll see a hole instead.

Given my discussion of the target stowage bay, I left off part R16 completely (it didn't look present on the one good photo I had), and left the storage bay (R19) out until later so I could make the targets. There is no hole drilled for the tail wheel so plan for that before you go too far. I also recommend you drill it for a brass wire to stiffen it, it breaks easily.

I had almost no problem joining the fuselage together and had very little clean up of seams to do.

The tail surfaces mounted cleanly to the fuselage without much work. I added a couple short sections of brass rod to represent the trim tab pushrods, as per 3-view drawings. They are fairly obvious & I'm surprised CA didn't mold them in.

Step 5 shows the placement of wire around the tail to protect against cables, but CA just has you run it right into the elevators. 3-view drawings indicate a cable cutter is mounted on the hinge line that rides free when the elevators move. AMS kicked in and I genned up something out of brass tube and rod, then ran wires to/from that. I also added some little mount under the fuselage.

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Wings and Wheel Wells -- Right Church, Wrong Pew ...
[Note: I lost a half-dozen in-progress pix that would have illustrated this section better ... sorry.]

The two resin wheel wells don't allow the wing halves to close completely. There are 4 options -- trim down the wheel wells, gouge out the upper surface, gouge out the lower surface, and, of course, any combo of the above.

I said "Eureka!", grabbed my Dremel and just whaled away at the upper wing surface to make the wheel wells fit - and I did. Then I found out that I had to Dremel some of the fuselage root to clear the wheel wells, then some of the underside of the cockpit, etc. And I later found out that the gear (parts 16 & 17) would not seat in the mounting holes and had to extend them with brass rod.

The right pew/answer is to Dremel out the lower wing half of each wing, carefully around the edges -- it's awful thick anyway and would look better thinned out. The instructions mention none of this.

Work with the two landing lights before you close up the wing. The resin lamps (R14) and the clear covers (C2,C3) don't fit in the wing for a number of reasons, not the least being the clear parts are way too thick. I made the mistake of gluing the wing together then having to cut & fit the other parts and trying to glue in the lamps without dropping them into the wing, never to return.

Fit the wing & fuselage. If you remember earlier, the test fit showed a mismatch and I cleaned some of it up by cleaning out at the rear of the root. I had to do a bit more of that, not very much, then I got them to fit pretty well. There is no problem at the top -- the fillet is great, but I had a tiny mismatch at the leading edge to be sanded out and the join at the rear underside needed some filler. Fortunately the radiator sits on a lot of this and it isn't noticeable. Really it isn't as much work as it sounds and like I say, the upper wing/fuselage joint is exceptionally clean.

My test fits also showed a slight mismatch between the nose and the fuselage. I ran a piece of .010" strip between the top of the nose pieces (2,3) and that took most of it out. Then a slight amount of filler and touch-up along the sides was all that was necessary after the nose was glued on.

[article image] External Target Stowage
As I said earlier, CA gives you an empty stowage bay. I didn't want to waste all my AMS, so I made some targets out of Milliput, ran a cable from one back up through the sheave to the winch and ran the other 3 into the fuselage. When all done, I realized the 3 cables into the fuselage should have gone to the front of the opening, not the back -- oh, well, close enough. As I said before, I left off R16 -- I wasn't sure if it was cut for cables to run through it and/or hinged to swing up into the fuselage -- besides my reference photo indicated it wasn't present.

[article image] Landing Gear & Doors
Too many parts are heavy and crude, attached to sprue by gates inversely proportional in size to the delicacy of the parts. The instructions are too cramped to see clearly where things attach to what and in what relationship, so references are helpful.

I had, as mentioned before, a problem with the main gear and had to lengthen it with brass rod to mount properly -- a good reason to Dremel out the lower surface to fit the wheel wells. This also avoids problems with attaching the various struts, some of which I had to lengthen.

Paint and Markings
Nothing here is CA's fault except of course the gross mismatch between aircraft version, model parts, and decals supplied on the boxart version. As I had decided to keep the external bay and didn't want to do the Vokes filter versions, I found a British TT of the right configuration and did it up in Ocean-Grey/Dark-Green over Trainer-Yellow/Night-Black.

I used Mister Kit acrylics with which I have a love-hate relationship. The interior went fine, then somehow I contaminated the Night-Black - it not only sprayed poorly, it kept clogging my brush. Trying to fix that, I broke the brush and had to get a new one and of course I chose to change horses in midstream and get a better one which I then had to learn to use. About the same time, my compressor quit compressing and had to be replaced. Then the paint didn't lay down right and lifted off when I masked stripes and so on ... I have tried to take Elizabeth Taylor style glamour shots here to avoid too much embarrassment ... I was too far behind to strip it all down and start over .... Several heavy coats of Testor's Dull-Cote have done wonders to hide this ...

I used the CA decals for the national markings and they went on wonderfully, but I didn't bother to apply the couple dozen stencils that CA supplies to go on the aircraft. I made the NW-Q from my decal stash. My sole reference photo of this aircraft does not show a serial number so I took the easy way out.

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Summary
I said at the beginning, this is a good kit and despite some of my comments, it is. The Defiant is a good looking aircraft, the target tugs have an interesting configuration with colorful and complex markings, and the CA kit will make into an excellent representation of it. To that add the fact that CA included all the parts necessary to make either a TT.I or a TT.III.

But, it could have been a much better kit without changing any of the plastic. If you look back, you'll see many errors in research reflected in the box-art, the kit configurations, and the supplied markings -- didn't need to be. The instructions themselves have errors in a few places, aren't sufficiently clear in others, and lack useful data and tips.

Now, if Classic Airframes decides to re-release this kit, in addition to fixing the discrepancies noted above, I have two other recommendations. First, replace all the clear parts with decent quality clear, thin parts to include an open front cockpit. Second, supply a resin part to replace the external stowage bay and a picture to show the cut lines in the lower fuselage.

I highly recommend this kit -- with some research and a little effort, you'll have a great model. I enjoyed this build -- despite my gripes, the corrections took very little effort.

Again, I would like to thank Classic Airframes and IPMS for providing the review kit and allowing me to review it.

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