Short Sunderland III
The Sunderland was designed to meet Air Ministry
Specification R.2/33 which called for a four engined monoplane flying
boat to succeed the long line of biplane types that had served the RAF
in the coastal patrol and long range reconnaissance roles for nearly
two decades. Short's model S.25 was based on but not a derivative of
the C-Class "Empire" Flying Boat airliner. The Sunderland was notable
for being the first flying boat to be equipped with power operated bow
and tail turrets. The Sunderland competed with the Saunders Roe Saro
A.33 which suffered a structural failure as a result of porpoising
during taxi tests and effectively eliminated itself from the
competition. The RAF's decision to use a powered four gun turret in the
tail required some basic changes to the design to accommodated the
shift in the center of gravity. This included giving the wings a slight
sweep back which resulted in the engines and wing floats to have a
slight outward cant.
The prototype made its first flight in October of
1937. One interesting feature of the bow turret was that it retracted
back into the fuselage to allow space for a crewman to supervise the
mooring process. The Sunderland's offensive armament consisted of four
500 lb. bombs or eight 250 lb. bombs carried internally, they were
winched out on tracks from the fuselage to a position under
the inner wings for deployment. Defensive armament consisted of a
Frasier Nash two gun turret in the bow with .303 in. guns, a four
gun Frasier Nash four gun turret
in the tail with .303 caliber guns and two .303 in. guns firing from
two beam positions in the upper hull. It was powered by four Pegasus
XXII engines offering 1,010 h.p. for takeoff and 890 h.p at 6,500 feet.
Seventy-five Sunderland I's were built which were followed by
fifty-eight II's. The II first flew in August of 1941 and differed in
having Pegasus XVIII engines rated at 1,050 h.p. for take off and a
maximum output of 1,065 h.p. at 1,250 feet. Late production Mk. II's
had the beam guns replaced by a power operated dorsal turret with two
.303 in. guns. The Sunderland III standardized on the dorsal turret and
used the same engines as the Mk. II. It flew in prototype form in in
June of 1942. Four-hundred and seven of the Mk. III's had been built by
the end of 1943 when production was shifted to the last variant the Mk.
V. The Mk. V had four .303 in guns mounted in the forward fuselage and
fired by the pilot for use in clearing the decks of U-boats during
attack runs. The Mk. V was the first model to switch from the Pegasus
engines to R-1830 Twin Wasps of 1,200 h.p. Some Mk. V's had their
dorsal turrets replaced by two manually operated 50 caliber guns beam
guns. 143 Mk. V's were built bringing the total to 721 of all
given the nickname of "Flying Porcupine" by the Germans and it on more
than one occasion proved it could hold its own during attacks by a
variety of German aircraft from fighters to the Fw 200 Condor and proved to
be a valuable weapon during the battle of the Atlantic.
kit is ancient, being one of the first four engine aircraft to be
modeled by Airfix and while the kit may not be up to current standards
of fit and finish it is still an accurate representation of the
Sunderland and can be built into a nice looking model with a bit of
work. I'm going to do an inbox review but due to the age of the kit and
length of time that I've had it, it will be a bit different than
looking at the sprues of a pristine kit. Some where back in the late
sixties or early seventies I apparently did some preliminary fitting on
the kit as some of the parts had been removed from the sprues. In fact
a good deal of them are off, some were my doing, some were loose in the
box when I got it.
The kit comes in a top opening box that is rather
sturdy by today's standards with what was fairly typical Airfix artwork
on the front. Back then most kits were not bagged like they are today
and loose parts were fairly common. I can't say exactly how many sprues
there were originally. The kit is molded in white plastic with raised
detail, most of which are rivets. The rivets are actually quite small
for the time though certainly out of scale. The plastic itself is very
smooth but does exhibit sink marks on the fuselage and upper wings.
These correspond with the locations of the alignment pins and sockets.
These also appear on some of the smaller pieces as well though less
noticeable. There was very little flash on any of the parts and just
parting lines on the smaller parts but the halves lined up well so
round sections were mostly round.Typical of the times the kit has
movable ailerons, elevators and rudder and the turrets would rotate and
guns elevate if one so desired. Even the front turret would retract as
on the prototype although some detail was sacrificed for this.
detail was also pretty much the standard of the time for Airfix, flight
deck, control columns, instrument panel, seats, pilots and a printed
set of instruments you could cut out of the instruction sheet and glue
to the instrument panel. The turrets were also typical Airfix with a
gunner with a bushing attached through which the guns mounted, a front
and back and retainer for the bottom so that it could be rotated if you
were careful gluing the fuselage together. The engines were molded with
the nacelles and were pretty shallow detail wise. The kits comes with
parts for a beaching gear which makes it convenient display purposes.
By my count, assuming none have dissapeared over the years there are
122 parts in white.
The clear parts were pretty typical for the time as well, thick and
distorted, the round porthole glass looks like it has a bulls eye in
the center. Total for clear parts is 43 for a grand total of 165 parts.
Photos below show the kit parts.
I no longer have the decals that came with the kit, not that I
would want to try to use forty year old decals anyway. They covered
markings for one aircraft in the sea green and slate gray over white
scheme. The instructions are printed on a single 8" x 12" page
front and back. The front has history, painting instructions and
written assembly instructions. The back has 1/3 page with an assembly
diagram and the balance of the written instructions.
So why would anyone want to build one of these dinosaurs ? Well it's
really still the only game in town if you want a Sunderland, the only
other kit I remember was a vacuform version and back then they were
pretty crude as well. Besides the Airfix kit is accurate dimension
wise. As for the surface detail I haven't decided yet what I'm going to
do. I really don't want to scribe it. I may just lightly sand to rivets
to reduce their size or maybe do away with them altogether. In 1/72 you
really shouldn't see them or panel lines either one unless you have
your face right up against it.
After Market Goodies
In spite of the kits age there are some after market items available.
Squadron has vacuform canopies for the kit  which includes the
turrets but not all the port holes. The other items are interior
details from White Ensign models and while these are really neat not a
lot of them will be seen once you close up the fuselage. None the less
I couldn't resist. Nothing like putting $50 worth of details inside a
$2.00 kit. Yes sports fans that's what the Sunderland cost when new in
the sixties ! White Ensign makes three sets for the Sunderland, cockpit
details, depth charge compartment and an exterior details kit. I
decided to just use the two interior kits. The photoetch fret is shown
below and the work on it is exquisit. It comes with two 8 1/2" x 11"
pages of very well done instructions and a parts map. Only thing
missing was a clear film to use behind the instrument panel but the
instruments couldn't be seen from outside anyway. See below.
The depth charge compartment is a smaller fret and only has one page of instructions with it, see below.
The White Ensign parts are available from Great Models Webstore or directly from White Ensign Models website.
This kit is a blast from the
past and sometimes its good for the sole to build up one of the old
kits if nothing else to help one appreciate just how far the industry
has come. The review linked below includes the White Ensign interiors
and includes some really good photographs of them built up.
Links to kit build or reviews
A review / build can be found here.
"War Planes of the Second World War - Volume Five - Flying Boats" by William Green
"Sunderland Squadrons of World War 2" by Jon Lake
Back to the Flying Boats page