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1:32 de Havilland Sea Hornet NF.21

James H

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1:32 de Havilland Sea Hornet NF.21
Catalogue # HPH32024R
Available from HpH for €184,00







When we think of de Havilland, perhaps the type which most comes to mind is the Mosquito. The versatile 'Wooden Wonder', whilst being used for just about every conceivable type of mission, also provided the de Havilland team with a wealth of technical information which would later be used to develop their next fighter design; the Hornet. This aircraft took the wooden fighter concept to the very stage, incorporating split landing flaps, laminar flow wing, and a lower wing surface and ailerons which were bonded with an aluminium skin, allowing for greater airframe stresses. The Hornet also had slimline Merlin engines whose propellers rotated in opposite directions, reducing torque, and the need to lean on the stick whilst taking off. A great field of view was afforded to the pilot, due to the cockpit being placed right at the front of the nose.


It was envisage from an early stage that the Hornet could be adapted for aircraft carrier use, and as a result, the F.20, NF21 and Pr22 were developed. The types naturally low landing speed made it ideal for carrier-based operations, and the design modifications included folding wings, cropped wing tips, fuselage reinforcement related to the arrestor hook, and hydraulic oleo legs instead of the rubber compression system of the regular Hornet. The night fighter derivative (the subject of the kit) was also fitted with a second cockpit in the mid-rear fuselage, incorporating the tell-tale glass dome on the aircraft's spine. The NF21 also has exhaust dampers and radar equipment.


de Havilland Hornet, giving an overall impression of the Naval variant.


First flown in 1944, the type entered service in 1946, and continued to serve until 1956, by which time, the jet-age was beginning to pretty much outclass even the fastest piston engine fighters that were available. Eric 'Winkle' Brown conducted the carrier landing tests for the Sea Hornet, and described the type as being one which made the 'deepest impression' on him during his long and illustrious career. A testament to the de Havilland design team, and what was essentially an excellent, robust and even aerobatic fighter aircraft.


As modellers, we really are truly spoilt these days. I still have to pinch myself to believe that we are seeing subjects that we never thought would ever emerge in 1/32, such as the B-25, P-61, Me 410, Catalina etc. Along with those subjects that we thought unlikely due to sheer scale, are those which we simply never thought would ever hit the radar of any manufacturer. One of those is the remarkable de Havilland Sea Hornet. Being no regular injection-moulded kit, this isn't one which your average modeller should consider tackling unless that have had experience on a simpler full resin kit before, but what HpH offers here is a unique chance to build this unusual type in large scale, and with detail that is just jaw dropping.




I picked up our review sample which at Scale Model World, Telford, back in early November, and managed to take time out with the guys to discuss their work, including the forthcoming 1:32 Focke-Wulf Fw 189 which we will also review here. I also saw their 1:48 Concorde release. Exciting times for us modellers, indeed. Whilst the box for this release takes up quite a reasonable piece of work bench real estate, it's actually quite shallow, being only around a couple of inches in height. Don't let that fool you though. That box is extremely sturdy, and sports an attractive lid label which shows both marking schemes in profile. In order to protect the parts inside the box, compartments have been created which are tailored to fit the fuselage halves and the wing panels. Other compartments contain zip lock bags which are carefully filled with the remainder of the parts. Some bags contain flat sheets of resin parts, whilst others contain the more substantial pieces. One bag contains the clear resin parts.


On top of the compartments is a large wallet which holds an instruction manual on CD, some HpH promotional material, THREE frets of photo-etch parts (one colour printed), a sleeve of wire, and also some turned metal parts. There is also a set of laser cut HGW seatbelts included, as well as a single decal sheet and a set of pre-cut masks for the canopies. In all, a very complete package. I do admit that I quite like the CD format for the instructions, but as my MacBook has no optical drive, I have to port the data over to a pen drive, using my wife's laptop. No big deal though....


Oh, did I mention the chocolate?






Firstly, those fuselage halves. These are further protected with a piece of bubble-wrap, and the parts are simply one of the many highlights in this kit. Cast as full length pieces, with a separate fin, the exterior is necessarily spare in detail, with just a few panel lines and port detail present, as well as the belly gun troughs and shell ejection chute holes. This is of course due to the fact the Sea Hornet had a laminated and moulded wooden fuselage. You will need to remove a small number of areas that are webbed over with thin resin. These include the cockpit and wind entry point. There is also a very thin casting block which runs the length of the fuselage. This can actually be removed with a few cuts from a sharp knife, before being sanded back to profile. Clean up time should be minimal.










Now, internally is where the fun really is. Whilst the pilot's cockpit is built up entirely from separate parts, the rear cockpit has much of its detail cast into the walls, including avionics units, wiring and structural elements. See for yourself just how great this looks. The avionics units are designed to be fitted with colour photo-etch parts for detail, and of course there is a whole other raft of other internal detail which supplements what you already see. This area is better catered for than most kit small, you can still see this area by looking through the lower entry hatch, which can of course be posed in an open position.






There are positions running down the length of the interior into which you can place an alignment pin, meaning that bringing the halves together should be relatively easy, assuming that prepared the facing edges first.




Lower wing panels


These are cast as traditional upper and lower plates, with a narrow casting block which runs down the leading edge of each part. This might sound onerous when it comes to removal, but it really isn't. The position and contact area of the block means that removal should actually be quite a quick affair, and final sanding can be completed when the upper and lower panels are joined together.








Upper wing panels incorporate the rear section of the engine nacelle fairing, and the leading edge intake channels are also neatly cast. Again, through necessity, upper wing surface detail is very restrained, being composed of wood on the original aircraft. Panel lines are finely scribed, and some rivet/fastener detail is present, especially around the leading edge. Flip the panel over and you will see a partial rendering of the inner landing flap area. This will be further enhanced by the addition of rib detail parts. Wheel bay roof detail is also finely cast, and together with the separate walls and ancillary parts, these will be extremely detailed once built up. Maybe just a little extra wiring in there, but even that isn't really needed.


Upper wing panels


The wing undersides are a little more detailed due to the aluminium that was used to clad the timber. You'll see more in the way of rivets and panel lines. Notice the resin webs which fair over the nacelle/wheel bay openings. Of course, these will need to be trimmed away, and are only here as an aid to casting, and to supply a little extra strength whilst in the box. Each wing panel also has a series of positions within, into which the wing spar will fit. This provides necessary wing strength, and a means to align the wings when assembled to the model.








Now, onto the zip-lock wallets of resin parts. These seem to have been packed so that specific areas of the model are kept together, making them generally easier to find. Remember that this is a model which contains several hundred parts, so anything HpH can do to assist the modeller in finding the part they want, is most definitely welcome.






A number of resin parts are cast onto thin wafers, and these will simply need cutting from the wafer, and the rear of the part grinding away by a tiny fraction of a millimetre. In most cases, I suspect you won't need to bother, and you can make the junction as which the part needs to fit, a little wider. This wallet holds a total of EIGHT delicate wafers, between them containing over EIGHTY parts. Generally, it looks like all parts included here are for both cockpits, including multi-part instrument panel, consoles, avionics, detailed bulkheads, pilot seat parts etc. Detail is quite remarkable, and you very much feel that there really isn't anything to add.














Now, I did say that most parts here were generally for the cockpit. There are in fact three wafers with a low parts count that are for internal wing radiators, exhaust stub bases and the split landing flaps. You might have thought that these would have been PE creations, but no. These parts are actually extremely fine and I consider a better alternative.






Quite a large bag, and a heavy one too. There are two other wafers in here, and these contain the spinners, spinner mounting blocks, bulb nose, centrally mounted wing spar and also wonderfully detailed wheel hubs. You will have to drill the central shaft-mounting hole into the rear of the spinner though. I'm afraid that's a quirk of design, but the plus side is that there's no real casting block to remove. Propeller blades are cast onto their own individual blocks, but be careful, as these are handed, depending on whether they are to fit to the port or starboard engine. There is no tool provided which allows you to set the same pitch per blade. You will need to come up with your only solution for this.














If the weight of a resin model causes concern, then don't worry about it. Here, you will find the sharply detailed main gear struts, complete with their locking lugs. You'll just need to drill these out. The strength of the undercarriage legs comes from a steel rod inserted into them during the casting process. Thin resin walls connect these to the casting blocks, as with the main wheels themselves. I don't know how HpH produce their masters (hi-res 3D printing?), but the tread on the wheels is probably the very best I've seen on resin wheels. They also have a flat on them that connects them to the block, proper. A steel wire also reinforces the tail wheel strut and an anti-skid tail wheel will just need a little more work to remove it from its block.


Other parts in this bag include detailed main gear doors, instrument panel shroud, undercarriage actuator struts, fuel tanks, super-detailed cockpit floor, and bomb mounting pylons. It's very obvious that HpH have done their very best to make sure that there is as little resin to cut through and clean up as possible, when it comes to utilising each part.






All control surfaces are cast as separate entities here, with only a thin resin wall holding them to their respective casting blocks. All end facing connecting points are cast with 'drilled' ends, allowing the modeller to easily pin these to the models. All flying and control surfaces here have finely engraved panel lines and riveting. External fuel tank mounting pylons, found here also, exhibit the same refined levels of detail. My fin has a couple of small holes that need fixing. They look like there is a hollow space within the rear of the fin, but can't see a reason for it.












There are two identical casting blocks here which contain the detailed inner walls for the wheel well bays, and also a single one containing the forward gear mounding wheel well bulkheads, rear cockpit bulkheads and also the rear crew access door. A little resin will need to be removed from flashed over areas. Two smaller casting blocks contain some rear cockpit parts, as well as the arrestor hook assembly. Lastly, the exhaust flame damping shrouds are included here. These last parts are very thin, and you will need to open up the gas ejector ports.


















Only four pieces here, but pretty important; the engine/gear nacelles. There is the smallest hint of a warp on one of mine, but these are so thinly cast that it will be so easy to pull everything back into alignment. The solid, inner rear of the nacelle incorporates a pin and socket that provides initial alignment. From here, everything should be easy to pull into place. Again, some resin webs to remove; namely for the exhaust and the bay opening. As will most large parts here, there is a little minor flash to remove. A minor casting block exists around the spinner area, connected via a thin resin wall. Detail both internally and externally is very good, being both subtle and attractive.










If you thought the resin parts were petering out at this point, then think again. This smaller bag is just jammed with the stuff. In here we have the majority of the smaller detail parts, such as landing flap inner ribs, resin connecting pins for main assemblies, fishtail exhausts with the most amazingly thin walls and deep openings, to name but a few. You can see from the photo just exactly what's in here.








Hollow exhaust manifold


Bombs are included, with a fin section that is separate (and very thin), as well as other small cockpit detail. If you can think of any small parts, the chances are they will be included here. Casting is great.






A small packet containing two identical casting blocks that hold some of the longer and thinner parts of the Sea Hornet. Protective walls have been added to the ends of the block to help prevent any breakage to the thin, vulnerable parts.








If there is just one thing I don't like in HpH kits, it the packing of multiple clear resin parts into a single bag. I don't suppose it really causes an issue, but I'm quite funny about it, in case of any damage that could be caused. HpH are the kings of crystal clear resin casting, and these parts are virtually optically perfect. They look as good as some of the best injection parts you'll see. There are some incredibly minor imperfections in places, but you need to look for them. Even those will disappear in a quick bath of Klear. Quite remarkable. Parts exist for the canopies, of course, as well as gun sight, wing lights and crew entry window on rear access door. Casting blocks tend to be large, but connected via thin walls. Be very careful with these parts....




The first thing I'll do here is to pack these parts into separate bags!


I don't think I've noticed any more than a dozen bubbles in the whole kit. And those are below the surface, with no breakthrough. There are those couple of unexplained holes on the fin, but they will be easy to fill. HpH casting really is excellent, and the thoughtful placement of casting blocks will mean a pleasurable build. Some resin exhibits a little mould release agent, so ensure you wash everything with mild detergent before you start to work.





There are THREE frets supplied in this release, with one of them being printed in colour. All are made by Eduard, so you know that these are about as good as you are likely to find when it comes to production standards and fit. That colour fret contains all of the instrument panel sections that are printed with the instruments. It's not too obvious with the instructions, but you actually have a choice with the instrument panel. You can either use the resin rear parts and add the colour printed, laminate fascia/instrument ensemble, or you can use the colour instruments with the resin fascia and mix things up yourself. There are also other colour printed avionics units to be found here, as well as various levers and switches, plus the seatbelt buckles for the HGW seatbelts.




The other two bare brass frets are sure designed for those who like to work with PE. There's no shortage here whatsoever. You will find numerous cockpit parts here, such as various avionics frames, rudder pedal swing brackets, and details for ammunition drums, to name but a few, but the majority of parts aren't connected with the crew positions.


Instead, you'll find such parts as flanges, optional wing radiator meshes (if the moulded detail doesn't cut it for you), radiator vents, gear door actuators, landing flap parts, bomb sway shackles, rocket clasps etc.




Production is by Eduard, and there is nothing at all to criticise here.





If you've never seen or heard of HGW's amazing textile seatbelts, you really ought to read some of the reviews we have on this website. They are printed onto a textile sheet, and are laser cut. They are about as photo-realistic as you can hope to get, and they can also be weathered with oils and enamels. This set is specifically designed for this kit, and they are simplicity itself to assemble. I consider the inclusion of to be a real bonus.





A small sheet of sharply cut vinyl masks will provide all you need to mask off the main canopy and the edge of the rear glass dome. You will need to fill in any open spaces for the main hood and dome with pieces of masking tape, or scrap material from the included mask sheet.





Have you seen those amazing rocket sets for the 1:24 Hawker Typhoon, from Master Model? Well, these are the equivalent in 1:32! A small wallet contains some beautifully turned and smooth rocket heads, separate rocket bodies with a cross machined into the base (for fin insertion), turned and hollow pitot, and some (as yet) unidentified shorter lengths of brass tube.








A single, large decal sheet is included, containing markings for TWO schemes. I think the sheet is locally made, but looks excellent. Decals are thin, have minimal carrier film, solid and authentic colour, and are in perfect register. They feel of them is very reminiscent of the best Cartograf that I am used to seeing. A full set of stencils is also included.






The two schemes are:

  • DH Sea Hornet NF.21, second prototype, PX239, Farnborough, 1947 – 1948
  • DH Sea Hornet NF.21, VZ672, 809 Squadron FAA, HMS Vengeance, 1951







As I have already said, these are CD-based, and you'll need to dump the images (JPG) to your computer. There is no Acrobat version this time, which is a shame. Instructions are clear, and look simple to follow for the most part. I found that actually looking at the parts in conjunction with the images does tend to help with any ambiguity, so if in doubt....don't just try to understand the images! Colour call outs are given throughout for regular paint colours. You'll need to do a little referencing in order to ascertain exact interior colours, but as no machines exist any longer, who's going to argue with your choice?







Both colour schemes are presented here, showing each machine in various profile forms. Decal placement and colour scheme are easy to follow.


This kit just screams out to be built, and I will do just that as soon as current magazine commitments are completed. HpH design their kits with maximum buildability and maximum detail, and make the whole process look very simple. However, this is no kit for a beginner. You really need to be au fait with resin and have some experience of whole-resin kits under your belt before you attempt anything like this. I adore the de Havilland wooden fighters, and to see this kitted in my preferred scale is a dream come true. These kits, for me, are an event, and no just another project. All I can say about this is that it's......


EXTREMELY highly recommended!


My sincere thanks to HpH for the review sample. To purchase directly, please click THIS link.

James H




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Wow! What a great looking kit of a fascinating subject. Top review too. I'm surprised that there are no examples of the type still in existence.

Never done a resin kit, but looking at this tells me that I might have to give one a go. Soon.

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