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1/32 Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin


Jim H
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1/32 Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin
Wingnut Wings
Catalogue # 32073
Available from Wingnut Wings for $79 plus shipping

 

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The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It was used by the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, during the First World War. In early 1917, the Sopwith chief engineer, Herbert Smith, began designing a new fighter (internal Sopwith designation 5F.1) powered by the geared200hp Hispano-Suiza 8B. The resulting Dolphin was a two-bay, single-seat biplane, with the upper wings attached to an open steel cabane frame above the cockpit. To maintain the correct centre of gravity, the lower wings were positioned 13” forward of the upper wings, creating the Dolphin’s distinctive negative wing stagger. The pilot sat with his head through the frame, where he had an excellent view. This configuration sometimes caused difficulty for novices, who found it difficult to keep the aircraft pointed at the horizon because the nose was not visible from the cockpit. The cockpit was nevertheless warm and comfortable, in part because pipes ran alongside the cockpit walls to the two side-mounted radiator blocks. Shutters in front of each radiator core allowed the engine temperature to be controlled.

The Dolphin Mk I became operational with 19 and 79 Squadrons in February 1918 and 87 and 23 Squadrons in March. The Dolphin’s debut was marred by several incidents in which British and Belgian pilots attacked the new aircraft, mistaking it for a German type. New pilots also voiced concern over the Dolphin’s wing arrangement, fearing serious injury to the head and neck in the event of a crash. Despite early problems, the Dolphin proved successful and generally popular with pilots. The aircraft was fast, manoeuvrable, and easy to fly, though a sharp stall was noted. When functioning properly, the Hispano-Suiza afforded the Dolphin excellent performance at high altitude. Accordingly, the Dolphin was often sent against German reconnaissance aircraft such as the Rumpler C.VII, which routinely operated at altitudes above 20,000ft. The Dolphin entered service on the Western Front in early1918 and proved to be a formidable fighter. The aircraft was not retained in the post-war inventory and was retired shortly after the war

The kit
Yes, the Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin is the surprise Christmas kit for 2017, from Wingnut Wings, and its announce was certainly welcomed, especially for what many would consider to be a rather leftfield subject. Whilst I have had an interest in Great War aviation since I was a kid, the Dolphin has always been one of those subjects that has sat on the periphery of my knowledge of this era, perhaps overshadowed by other famous Sopwith types, such as the Pup, Camel and Triplane. However, for a company such as WNW to bring this oft-forgotten fighter back to our attention is certainly a wonderful Christmas surprise. Wingnut Wings’ new Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin falls amongst the company’s lower priced kit releases, and occupies a box that is the same size as their Eindeckers etc. The box lid teasingly shows us an artwork of a Dolphin in combat with a Fokker Dr.I, leading me to yet again hope they release this kit too. Steve Anderson’s work has adorned the lid of each WNW kit since their very first four releases, back in 2009. Ronny Bar provides us with the scheme profiles that are shown on the box sides.

Wingnut Wings press release for this kit has the following data:

  • High quality Cartograf decals for 5 aircraft
  • 144 high quality injection moulded plastic parts
  • Optional propellers, 20lb Cooper bombs & carrier, Holt flares & lights and Lewis gun armament
  • Optional early and late production radiators, centre sections, tail skids and front cowls
  • Highly detailed 18-part 200hp Hispano-Suiza engine (originally available in 32003 1/32 SE.5a “Hisso”)
  • 12 photo-etched detail parts
  • Fine in scale rib tape detail
  • Full rigging diagram.

Inside the box, there are FOUR frames of light grey styrene, and a single clear frame, all individually bagged so as to protect those delicate parts. A small PE fret is included, as is one large sheet of decals that covers all FIVE schemes. Wingnut Wing’s now familiar and high quality instruction manual completes the kit contents.

Frame A

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It’s always the first frame of any Wingnut release that is the one packed with the majority of the small and detail parts, and this kit is no exception. Here you will find many cockpit parts, such as the optional Lewis Gun magazine rack, pilot’s wicker seat, main petrol tank and reserve tank, synchronising system hydraulic pump, engine bearers, instrument panel with separate compass and air pressure/oil pressure gauges, control stick, machine guns and installation assemblies, and throttle etc.

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Two types of propeller are supplied with this kit, as well as optional Cooper bombs and their rack for the centreline fuselage position. Another option are the wing mounted guns that sit atop the lower wings of C8163. Other parts to be found here include the wheels with their separate outer hub, undercarriage V struts and spreader bar, wing struts, control horns etc.

Frame B

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The frame purely concerns the wings, with the lower wing presented as a full-span part, incorporating the cockpit floor. Of course, the upper wing panels are separate parts due to the Dolphin’s layout. Surface textures are very fine and incredibly realistic, with a convincing representation of the rib and fabric construction of the real thing. Look closely along the leading edge and you will notice the positions of the shorter leading-edge ribs themselves, sat two in between the main, full chord ribs. The main ribs also have superb and finely rendered details. Ailerons are moulded separately to the ribs, and these exhibit the same finesse of detail.

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One thing that can put folk off biplanes are fitting the fiddly struts, but here we see that the locating holes for the struts are keyed to accept the specific part that is required, and the holes themselves are clean, making for easy and trouble-free assembly. I usually place a dot of Blue-Tack in these holes when painting, so as not to make things harder for myself when it comes to things fitting together.  

Frame C

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This single, clear frame holds nine parts, and unusually, is packed into a stiff cellophane sleeve and also protected with a protective foil. A single windshield is included which has a hole to accommodate the Aldis sight, and the remainder of the parts are for the pulley inspection doors, rudder light and wing-mounted Holt lights. All parts are superbly clear, and the mouldings are perfect.

Frame D

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Notice here how this frame has two small frames attached to a larger one? I’m perhaps thinking here that one or both of these would be snipped off for a future release of this kit. After all, there are parts already in this specific kit that aren’t for use. However, I digress. Looking at the largest of the three frames, it’s not hard to miss the distinctive lines of the Dolphin’s stubby-looking fuselage. Detail is very fine, with nicely rendered lacing/stitching, rivet/fastener, and panel details. Some details will need to be removed or filled in, depending on which machine you will build. It’s pretty important from the outset that you make that particular choice. The foot step hole has two different positions, one of which will need to be opened up to represent your given scheme. Interior detail is limited due this being presented with the cockpit tub that installs into here via a circular locator at the rear of the cockpit, presenting another nice, positive key that ensures a trouble-free build.

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As with a number of other WNW kits (Pup, Triplane etc.), the detailed side frames are moulded with integral cabane struts, onto which the centre section wing mount frame is attached. For four of the five machines, a little surgery will be needed to remove some side wall detail. Included detail on the side walls is for the plumbing and various brackets, fuel pump, and pipe connectors. Engine bearers are separately moulded and will be fitted to the tub during main assembly.

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Both the tailplane and fin are moulded with their control surfaces (elevators, rudder) in situ, so if you wish to pose these, then you’ll have a little extra work to do. As with the wings, the rib and fabric textures are totally convincing, with the taughtness and sag of the fabric looking correct and not exaggerated. A single upper engine top shield is included, with cut-outs for the Vickers MGs, plus two forward engine cowls. Only one of the latter is to be used, indicating a future other release of the Dolphin.

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Looking at the smaller attached frames, it is clear that these are for early and late parts options, such as the upper wing mounting frame, tail skid (early wood and late metal), 4” and 8” radiators, and two Aldis sight options.

Frame E

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As you will have noted from the introduction text, this isn’t a new frame, but it was one that released with the SE.5a ‘Hisso’ kit, that formed one of this companies four initial releases back in 2009. It’s sure good to see this one again, and I hope it makes another appearance in a possible SPAD (hint hint). Most parts on this this frame are to be utilised with the Dolphin, with the exception of a part that is only applicable to the SE.5a kit. A total of fifteen parts go to make up this beautiful little representation of the 200hp geared V8 Hispano-Suiza engine, with superbly detailed sump/crankcase, cylinder blocks, as well as ancillary items such as the carburettor and magnetos. A little surgery will be needed in cutting down the water pipes so as to suit the Dophin’s configuration There are a small number of other parts that will need to be used from Frame A. These include the intake manifold and water tank, oil breather pipe and cap, and the carburettor air intake.

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Photo Etch

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One small PE fret is included, containing thirteen parts, in bare, bright brass. These parts include the pilot’s lap-belts, foot hold plate, MG cocking levers, and reticules etc. All parts are cleanly etched and are held in place with tiny gates that need to be clipped through. As with many WNW releases, and certainly those for a good long while, a nameplate is also included, should you wish to use it with your display.

Decals

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A single, large Cartograf-printed decal sheet is supplied, with the specific decals for individual machines being printed together and with a dashed line to help you identify the portion of the sheet you will need. Of course, there are also come common decals, such as instruments and stencils. Printing is thin, with solid and authentic colour, as well as having minimal carrier film and having perfect register. The finish is gloss.

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There are FIVE schemes in this release, and these are:

  • Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin, C3785, RNAS Dover, early 1918
  • Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin, C3803, “Red Star”, SARD, March 1918
  • Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin, C3824, “U”, J.W. Pearson (12 victories) & C.E. Walton (possible 1 victory), C Flight, 23 Sqn RAF, May to July 1918
  • Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin, C3879, “Q”, R.B. Bannermann, C Flight 79Sqn RAF, August to November 1918 (12 victories)
  • Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin, C8163, “A”, H.J. Larkin, A Flight 87Sqn RAF, August to November 1918 (11 victories)

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Instruction manual

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This is a glossy, high-quality 24 page publication that is on a par with the standards that WNW have set themselves. These manuals are a delight to flick through and are an event in themselves. All constructional sequences are beautifully illustrated in ink-style drawings that are easy to follow, with blue ink being used to denote new parts placement, and full colour illustrations of completed assemblies so as to give a better understanding of how various sequences are supposed to look. Colour references is given throughout, using Tamiya, Humbrol, and FS codes. All optional parts are easily denoted due to the format used, and PE parts are also easy to denote. Period photos are used throughout, highlighting various areas of the airframe and equipment installations. I do note that WNW has been cautious in not supplying contemporary photos of the composite airframe that resides at the RAF Museum, Hendon. This is presumably due to the possibly inaccurate and modern realisation of the airframe. But then again, maybe not. A rigging diagram is also included towards the rear of the manual.

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The last pages of the manual are taken over with the five schemes, complete with Ronny Bar illustrations. Colour and marking applications are easy to follow, and each scheme comes with historic notes on the machine, and also the pilots that flew them.

Conclusion
Of course, we have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to Wingnut Wings releases. A Christmas kit is sort of expected these days, but the subject is certainly one that I don’t think anyone really thought they’d see, or certainly not at the moment. Despite the Dolphin’s unglamorous appearance and awkward stance, this is actually a very attractive model, with some excellent options thrown into the mix. Being WNW, you know the research will be impeccable, and the engineering is as innovative as we are now used to seeing. There is an amount of rigging to get your head around, but that’s the nature of the beast with most Great War subjects, but it really doesn’t look too daunting (hey, I built a DH.2 as my first WNW!!). For $79USD, this also represents good value for money for your next happy bench hours, and it must surely be a contender for one of your most unusual WW1 subjects. Get one whilst they’re hot!

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My sincere thanks to Wingnut Wings for the review sample seen here. To purchase directly, please click THIS link.

 

 

 

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