Airfix has caught everyone by surprise with the unveiling of a newly tooled 1/48 Sea King HAS.1/HAS.5/HU.5 kit at the Historic Helicopters Museum earlier this morning.
There was an air of anticipation as a group of magazine editors and influencers entered the Historic Helicopters Museum at Chard, Somerset for a press briefing day from Airfix. That was nothing, though, compared to the ripple of excitement as Airfix Head of Brand Dale Luckhurst unveiled a stunning new addition to the kit manufacturer’s range: a newly tooled 1/48 Westland Sea King HAS.1/HAS.5/HU.5. Here at Airfix Model World/Key Model World we’d been given privileged knowledge of this announcement. A full build of the kit – plus a bespoke history article – are available on Key Model World and in the September issue of Airfix Model World (AMW154). If you're feeling lucky, we also have a competition to win this newly tooled offering, available here!
But what of other attendees on the day? Had the location proved something of a giveaway?...
With attractive boxtop artwork of an HAS.1 banking over the coastline, the background to the kit’s inception and development was described in full by designer Christopher Joy and researcher Luke Slaney-Hewitt at the press unveiling.
Enough of the background, though, I hear you cry… what’s in the box? Well, there are eight styrene runners (with one dedicated to the transparent parts) seven of which are in the firm's now familiar hard, dark-grey plastic. Even at first glance the moulding quality is superb, from the crisply defined airframe grilles to the delicate panel lines and combination of raised and recessed rivets. There’s also been a big effort to capture airframe nuances – such as overlapping panels – missed previously by other manufacturers. Looking at each runner in turn:
Above: Runner A contains the main floor plus interior ‘shell’ – for those who own Airfix’s 1/48 Lynx, it’s exactly the same design philosophy. These are joined by the wheels, which come as halves, plus the cabin door, open crew door and a D-shaped ‘collar’, which allows the dipping sonar in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variants to be raised/lowered. The highlight of this frame has to be the floor, which replicates the panels and tie-down points faithfully, along with a full complement of raised rivets.
Above: Runner B is a mix of interior and exterior components, from the tail section (which can be folded), intake cowlings and exhaust nozzles to the fabric-type seating for the main cabin, early type instrument panel coaming and central cockpit console. The attention to detail is most notable on the upper engine cowling section, with well-defined grilles, while the layered surfaces on the tail have been replicated to a ‘T’.
Above: The fuselage halves dominate Runner C, and these are among the kit’s main highlights as the panel layering – combined with recessed and raised rivets – are all easily visible. Other notables include a choice between the early anti-icing ‘shield’ and later box-type filter unit for guarding the air intakes, while additional seating (not used in this initial boxing) should set minds racing over future releases.
Above: Runner D is mainly concerned with the main and tail rotors, offering choices between early and late-type main blades and folded/unfolded main rotor hub. A six-bladed tail rotor is also included, with the rest of the frame occupied by various handles, antennas and the external rescue winch.
Above: On Runner F there’s much for the interior, from pilots and cabin operator seats through to the later instrument coaming with raised central section, plus two types of instrument panel. This frame also contains the sonar winch mechanism and dunking sonar, along with the ‘boat hull’ underside and a five-bladed tail rotor. The later, larger flat-topped radome fitted to the Sea King HAS.5 onwards is supplied too, complemented by its associated fuselage spine.
Above: All things transparent are presented on Runner X, and the moulding quality is excellent, with crystal clear glazing for the cockpit windows and windshield; two types of the latter are included, one with integrally moulded wiper blades and the second for those modellers preferring to use aftermarket photo-etched metal wiper blades. Side windows for the main cabin hint at other variants, with flat and bulged options available… while all landing lights are also supplied on this frame.
Together, these six frames appear to be common to all Sea King variants, so expect to see them in future boxings. They also offer several tantalizing hints of future releases, notably the infrared countermeasures equipment on Runner X – most likely for an HC.4 Commando version – while the extra openings for windows point towards an HAR.3 at least.
Above: It’s notable that Runner E has all the sponson-related parts, along with consoles for the radar and ASW operators, as this opens the possibility for the fixed undercarriage used on the HC.4. The smaller radome fitted to earlier Sea King versions (again with a corresponding spine section) is included.
Above: Runner G is the first of what could be called a specialised/ancillary frame, providing niche items for an HAS.5/HU.5 such as the ASW console, along with later fitments such as the EO/IR sensor ‘turret’ plus underside antennas and blade aerials. Notably, it has the angular fairings associated with electronic support measures, sporting various lumps and bumps, although some versions not fitted with this equipment had ‘flat’ faces.
Above: The fuselage halves are definitely eye-catching, with the profusion of finely engraved rivets, ‘layered’ panels as per the real helicopter plus well-defined tie-down loops and reinforcement plates.
Above: This attention to detail extends to the underside, with the join lines cleverly placed to coincide with those of panels; the open hole for the sonar has an optional blanking plate for those building a search-and-rescue or utility variant.
Above: Arguably one of the kit’s big highlights, the main interior floor is packed with finely rendered detail, from tie-down points to access panels and a multitude of raised rivets.
Above: Two full sets of five blades are provided, enabling modellers to depict Sea Kings with the early (upper examples) and later (lower examples) types.
Above: Another option concerns instrument panels, with that for the HAS.1 on the left; HAS.5/HU.5 variants utilise the right-hand version. Note the finely moulded instrument dial housing and panel switches.
Above: Airfix offers a choice of unfolded/folded main rotor blades, with a separate rotor hub component for each; that for the latter option has two extra parts (shown to the right of the ‘in flight’ hub.
Above: Opting for multi-part sponsons allows Airfix to capture the uneven surfaces accurately, with clever design minimising the need for filler.
Above: All wheels come as two halves each, and the detail on the outer faces of the mainwheels (as shown) is crisp.
Above: The attention to detail is such that the centre consoles for the HAS.1 (lower left), HAS.1/HU.5 (upper left) and ASW terminal (right) are packed with lovely moulded switches, dials and displays.
Above: Here the upper engine panel is adorned with raised and recessed rivets, plus beautifully replicated grilles just aft of the main rotor.
Above: Two tail rotors are included in the kit, this being the later, six-bladed, version.
Above: Airfix has excelled itself with the glazing; the side/quarterlight windows feature rivets along the frames and even the divider on the side frame.
Above: Two styles of main windshield are included, this example featuring integrally moulded wiper blades – and one without, which allows modellers to us aftermarket/scratch-built alternatives if desired.
Above: The well-printed decal sheet supplies markings for four machines, all representing the same airframe, XV666:
• HAS.1, XV666/144/44/E, 826 Naval Air Squadron, Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall, England, 1970
• HAS.5, XV66672/CU, 814 NAS, RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, England, 1988
• HU.5, XV666/823/23/CU, 771 NAS, RNAS Culdrose, Cornwall, England, 1995
• HU.5, XV666, Heli-Operations, Portland, Dorset, England, 2022
Above: All the colour scheme options possible with Airfix's new 1/48 Sea King. (Airfix)
So, who’s thrilled about this new 1/48 Sea King? We certainly are and completing the kit looks to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The EXCLUSIVE FULL BUILD feature is available to read now on Key Model World and in the September issue of Airfix Model World (AMW154 - available via the Key Shop).... don’t miss it!