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  1. 1:32 J-8 Gladiator ICM Catalogue # 32044 The Gloster Gladiator was a British-built biplane fighter. It was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) (as the Sea Gladiator variant) and was exported to several other air forces during the late 1930s. Developed privately as the Gloster SS.37, it was the RAF's last biplane fighter aircraft and was rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced. Though often pitted against more formidable foes during the early days of the Second World War, it acquitted itself reasonably well in combat. The Gladiator saw action in almost all theatres during the Second World War, with many air forces, some of them on the Axis side. The RAF used it in France, Norway, Greece, the defence of Malta, the Middle East, and the brief Anglo-Iraqi War (during which the Royal Iraqi Air Force was similarly equipped). Other countries deploying the Gladiator included China against Japan, beginning in 1938; Finland (along with Swedish volunteers) against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War; Sweden as a neutral non-combatant (although Swedish volunteers fought for Finland against USSR as stated above); and Norway, Belgium, and Greece resisting Axis invasion of their respective lands. The Gladiator II, the type depicted in this kit, was the version that was powered by a single Bristol Mercury VIIIA air-cooled radial piston engine. In the Swedish air force, the Gladiator was given the designation, J-8, which is the subject of this kit. The kit ICM’s original Gladiator was the first injection moulded kit of its type in 1:32, giving those who don’t fancy a vac or resin kit, a real chance to create this iconic bird in their favoured large scale. This kit depicts the Swedish J-8 machine, offering the builder the chance of building this beautiful bird on skis as well as the regular wheels. ICM’s Gladiator is packed into a typical and reasonably large box with a folding lid, then covered with the glossy box artwork lid. I quite like this approach as the package is far sturdier and more protective than usual kit boxes from other manufacturers. All sprues inside are bagged into a single sleeve, except for the clear parts that are further bagged to prevent any scuffing etc. There are a total of FIVE light grey sprues, and ONE clear set of parts. A single decal sheet contains the markings for THREE subjects (2 Finnish and 1 Swedish). Sprue A Just the two fuselage halves on this sprue. These are moulded with separate engine cowls (obviously) and a separate rudder. Surface detail is very good with some subtle fabric/structure rendering, and the heavy metal panel fasteners. Side cockpit doors are also separate parts, allowing the modeller to pose these in the open position. There isn’t any riveting on any of the panels, but there wouldn’t have been too much anyway, and you could also get Rosie out if you wanted to fix that. Internally, detailing is very minimal, with most of that coming from the cockpit tub and other associated parts. ICM supply some paper templates for this J-8 version. These need to be laid on specific fuselage areas and points drilled to incorporate some external details from Sprue B The upper wing is provided here in full-span upper and lower panels. The ailerons are also separate parts, so you can pose those too. Rib and fabric detail really is beautifully represented, as are the various stiffening strips, strut locations for the cabane, and control cable access panels. With similar external details are also found the rudder, stabiliser, and separate elevator parts, moulded as traditional halves. Other parts seen here are the blistered engine cowl sections and lower wing gun pod fairings. With the J-8, however, neither of the sets of blister cowl sections are to be used. As the fuselage of this kit is common to all the current Gladiator variants, a panel is included for the lower, rear fuselage. The Sea Gladiator variant will have the arrestor hook in this position, but we blank that off, of course. Sprue C As with the upper wing, the lower wing is also full span for the lower panel, with the port and starboard upper panels being separate, and with separate ailerons also. Those ailerons are provided as whole units, thus maintaining their fine trailing edge. The wings are also moulded with the recesses to mount the gun pods. Also on this sprue are the main gear struts and wheels, as well as the engine hub, various key cockpit elements (floor, bulkheads), etc. Note two instrument panel sections. Unlike with the Mk.II kit we reviewed, these parts will be used for the J-8. Sprue D This is our main details sprue, containing all of the parts for the Bristol Mercury engine, cowl parts and main cowl ring, struts, main wheel mounting lugs, cockpit parts, guns, and the optional (and much nicer) two-blade propeller option. A small number of parts on this sprue aren’t to be used on the J-8, such as some strut and gun options. Sprue E All parts are to be used here except for one windscreen option. The canopy can of course be posed in an open position. Clarity is excellent and the framing is very well defined, so it should be very easy to mask these parts for painting. Sprue G There is no Sprue F in this kit, with that being relevant to non-J-8 versions. Sprue G though contains the real differences you will see for the J-8. Here you find the blister cowls pertaining to all three supplied schemes, plus the parts to make the gear struts and skis for the two Finnish machines. Also here are the J-8 gun options and some fuselage external details that attach to the holes you drill via the paper template. Decals A single decal sheet contains the markings for all three schemes. I don’t know who prints these, but the printing is superbly thin, with minimal carrier film, good colour density and excellent register. Decals are supplied for the instrument dials, but I would suggest punching these from the sheet for a perfect fit the various cockpit gauges. The Finnish swastikas are supplied as sections so they don’t fall foul of certain countries draconian laws on such things. Instructions A 24-page A4 manual is included which starts with a very brief history of the type, along with paint codes for both Revell and Tamiya paints. After two pages which offer a parts map, the construction of the Gladiator is then broken down into 73 stages, including the latter rigging stages. All illustration is in line drawing format which is clear and easy to follow, with very good annotation for paint, parts options and decals (where applicable). Also included is a cut-out mask template for the canopy masks, but to be fair, you’re better off doing this yourself or availing yourself of the Eduard masking set. The last pages of the manual are taken over with colour profiles of the THREE schemes provided. All are very similar in paint application, with the decals presenting the variation. The three schemes are: J-8A, No.284 Yellow ‘F’, Swedish Voluntary Wing F19, pilot I. Iacobi, Finland 1940 J-8A, No.278 Yellow ‘H’, Swedish Voluntary Wing F19, pilot M. Wennerstrom, Finland 1940 J-8A, No.278/48, Fighter Wing F8, Barkarby 1939 Conclusion ICM have been releasing numerous versions of the Gladiator, and they really are excellent kits, bursting with detail, and it’s also nice to be able to model these without resorting to expensive and tricky resin kits. Very pleased to see the winter skis version at last. Alongside the Sea Gladiator and a Mk.I, these are definitely the holy trinity of this type. Not too expensive either at around £45, at time of writing. My sincere thanks to ICM for the review sample seen in this review.
  2. 1:32 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II ICM Catalogue # 32041 The Gloster Gladiator was a British-built biplane fighter. It was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) (as the Sea Gladiator variant) and was exported to a number of other air forces during the late 1930s. Developed privately as the Gloster SS.37, it was the RAF's last biplane fighter aircraft and was rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced. Though often pitted against more formidable foes during the early days of the Second World War, it acquitted itself reasonably well in combat. The Gladiator saw action in almost all theatres during the Second World War, with a large number of air forces, some of them on the Axis side. The RAF used it in France, Norway, Greece, the defence of Malta, the Middle East, and the brief Anglo-Iraqi War (during which the Royal Iraqi Air Force was similarly equipped). Other countries deploying the Gladiator included China against Japan, beginning in 1938; Finland (along with Swedish volunteers) against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War; Sweden as a neutral non-combatant (although Swedish volunteers fought for Finland against USSR as stated above); and Norway, Belgium, and Greece resisting Axis invasion of their respective lands. The Gladiator II, the type depicted in this kit, was the version that was powered by a single Bristol Mercury VIIIA air-cooled radial piston engine. The kit As far as I’m aware, ICM’s Gladiator is the first injection moulded kit of its type in 1:32, giving those who don’t fancy a vac or resin kit, a real chance to create this iconic bird in their favoured large scale. This specific kit, released early in 2020, is one of three Gladiator kits from ICM, with the Mk.I being released only last year, and the Sea Gladiator following the current release by a couple of months. ICM’s Gladiator is packed into a fairly typical and reasonably large box with a folding lid, then covered with the glossy box artwork lid. I quite like this approach as the package is far sturdier and more protective than usual kit boxes from other manufacturers. All sprues inside are bagged into a single sleeve, except for the clear parts that are further bagged to prevent any scuffing etc. There are a total of FIVE light grey sprues, and ONE clear set of parts. A single decal sheet contains the markings for four subjects. Sprue A Just the two fuselage halves on this sprue. These are moulded with separate engine cowls (obviously) and also a separate rudder. Surface detail is very good with some subtle fabric/structure rendering, and also the heavy metal panel fasteners. Side cockpit doors are also separate parts, allowing the modeller to pose these in the open position. There isn’t any riveting on any of the panels, but there wouldn’t have been too much anyway, and you could also get Rosie out if you wanted to fix that. Internally, detailing is very minimal, with most of that coming from the cockpit tub and other associated parts. Sprue B The upper wing is provided here in full-span upper and lower panels. The ailerons are also separate parts, so you can pose those too. Rib and fabric detail really is beautifully represented, as are the various stiffening strips, strut locations for the cabane, and control cable access panels. With similar external details are also found the rudder, stabiliser and separate elevator parts, moulded as traditional halves. Other parts seen here are the blistered engine cowl sections and lower wing gun pod fairings. As the fuselage of this kit is common to all the current Gladiator variants, a panel is included for the lower, rear fuselage. The Sea Gladiator variant will have the arrestor hook in this position, but we blank that off, of course. Sprue C As with the upper wing, the lower wing is also full span for the lower panel, with the port and starboard upper panels being separate, and with separate ailerons also. Those ailerons are provided as whole units, thus maintaining their fine trailing edge. The wings are also moulded with the recesses to mount the gun pods. Also on this sprue are the main gear struts and wheels, as well as the engine hub, various key cockpit elements (floor, bulkheads), etc. Note two instrument panel sections. These won’t be used for the Mk.II, however. Sprue D This is our main details sprue, containing all of the parts for the Bristol Mercury engine, cowl parts and main cowl ring, struts, main wheel mounting lugs, cockpit parts, guns, and the optional (and much nicer) two-blade propeller option. Sprue E All parts are to be used here except for one windscreen option. The canopy can of course be posed in an open position. Clarity is excellent and the framing is very well defined, so it should be very easy to mask these parts for painting. Sprue F The last sprue contains the odd (but correct!) looking three-blade prop option, and also the new instrument panel and strut with pitot. Decals A single decal sheet contains the markings for all four schemes. I don’t know who prints these, but the printing is superbly thin, with minimal carrier film, good colour density and excellent register. Decals are supplied for the instrument dials, but I would suggest punching these from the sheet for a perfect fit the various cockpit gauges. Instructions A 20-page A4 manual is included which starts with a very brief history of the type, along with paint codes for both Revell and Tamiya paints. After two pages which offer a parts map, the construction of the Gladiator is then broken down into 66 stages, including the latter rigging stages. All illustration is in line drawing format which is clear and easy to follow, with very good annotation for paint, parts options and decals (where applicable). Also included is a cut-out mask template for the canopy masks, but to be fair, you’re better off doing this yourself or availing yourself of the Eduard masking set. The last pages of the manual are taken over with colour profiles of the FOUR schemes provided. All are very similar in paint application, with the decals presenting the variation. The four schemes are: Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, No. 247 Squadron RAF, Roborough, August 1940 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, flown by Flt. Lt. M.T.St.J. Pattle, No. 80 Squadron RAF, Greece, December 1940 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, No.1 Squadron SAAF, East Africa, 1940 Gloster Gladiator Mk.II, No.615 (County of Surrey) Squadron RAF, St. Inglevert (Northern France), April 1940 Conclusion This is my first time seeing any of the new ICM releases and I’m very taken with how they’ve recreated this subject. The model itself is fairly easy to build yet displays some wonderful details both internally and externally. A really lovely and well-engineered model that can be taken to yet another stage with Eduard’s suite of aftermarket goodies. So, it’s now time to have a go at building the very last biplane to enter RAF service. My sincere thanks to ICM for the review sample seen in this review.
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