Armstrong Whitworth Whitley Mk.V

In July 1934, the Air Ministry issued Specification B.3/34, seeking a heavy night bomber/troop transport to replace the Handley Page Heyford biplane bomber. John Lloyd, the Chief Designer of Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, chose to respond to the specification with a design designated as the AW.38, which later was given the name Whitley after the location of Armstrong Whitworth's main factory. The design of the AW.38 was in fact a development of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.23 bomber-transport design that had lost to the Bristol Bombay for the earlier Specification C.26/31.

Lloyd selected the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger IX radial engine to power the Whitley, which was capable of generating 795 horsepower. One of the more innovative features of the Whitley's design was the adoption of a three-bladed two-position variable-pitch propeller built by de Havilland; the Whitley was the first aircraft to fly with such an arrangement. As Lloyd was unfamiliar with the use of flaps on a large heavy monoplane, they were initially omitted from the design. To compensate, the mid-set wings were set at a high angle of incidence (8.5) to provide good take-off and landing performance. Although flaps were included late in the design stage, the wing remained unaltered; as a result, the Whitley flew with a pronounced nose-down attitude when flown with the wings in the cruising position, resulting in considerable drag.

The Whitley holds the distinction of having been the first RAF aircraft with a semi-monocoque fuselage, which was built using a slab-sided structure to ease production. This replaced the traditional tubular construction method employed by Armstrong Whitworth, instead constructing the airframe from light-alloy rolled sections, pressings and corrugated sheets. According to aviation author Philip Moyes, the decision to adopt the semi-monocoque fuselage was a significant advance in design; many Whitleys surviving severe damage on operations.

While the Tiger VIII engine used in the Whitley Mks II and III was more reliable than those used in early aircraft, the Whitley was re-engined with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines in 1938, giving rise to the Whitley Mk IV. Three Whitley Mk I aircraft, K7208, K7209, and K7211, were initially re-engined to serve as prototypes. The new engines are accredited with producing greatly improved performance. Other changes made included the replacement of the manually operated tail and retractable ventral turrets with a Nash & Thompson powered turret equipped with four .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns, the increasing of fuel tank capacity, including two additional fuel tanks in the wing. A total of 40 Whitley Mk IV and Whitley Mk IVA, a sub-variant featuring more powerful models of the Merlin engine, were completed.

The decision was made to introduce a series of other minor improvements to produce the Whitley Mk V. These included the modification of the tail fins and rudders, the fitting of leading edge de-icers, further fuel capacity increases, a smaller D/F loop in a streamlined fairing being adopted, and the extension of the rear fuselage by 15 in to improve the rear-gunner's field of fire. The Whitley Mk V was by far the most numerous version of the aircraft, with 1,466 built until production ended in June 1943.

The Kit

The Airfix Whitley is a new tool kit that was released in 2015. It must have been very popular as the kit took a long time to find its way to U.S. distributors. The kit comes in a large box considering the scale of the kit and there is a fair amount of unused space inside. It is a sturdy tray type top open box made from thin corrugated cardboard. Inside one finds that all of the parts are contained in a large sealed plastic bag with a smaller inner bag for the clear parts. The parts are molded on four large sprues and with the exception of the sprue with the wing halves all the parts were still attached when I received it. The large wing parts were only attached to the sprues at three points and one had broken completely free and the other three had at least one broken attachment point. These were the ones on the leading edge and unfortunately left a small divot that will need addressed during assembly.

The parts are molded in the Airfix signature pale blue color that has a smooth matte finish. The surface detail consists of some very restrained and nicely done fabric detail and the metal surfaces feature recessed panel lines. Still large for the scale but much better than some other recently released 1/72 scale kits and should look fine once painted. The parts are crisply molded and I had to look hard to find even the slightest hint of flash. Mold parting lines are also quite fine and should be easy to clean up. Other than some faint flow marks I did not find any surface defects. The ailerons are molded in the neutral position but the flaps, elevators and rudders are molded separate.
The kit has a some what unusual break down assembly wise the fuselage is divided fore and aft about the wing, the rear section consisting of two halves minus the top which is a separate part. The forward section is more conventional but part of it has no top initially. The lower wing center section is built up with two large spars to which a fair amount of interior detail is added before attaching the lower and upper wing halves. More internal structural and detail is then added in the area of the engine nacelles which are then added once they have been assembled. Once the wing assembly is complete the forward fuselage is added and when that is in place the rear portion is attached. The top section of the rear fuselage extends forward and adds a top to the forward fuselage.

The interior has a good amount of detail for the scale but I fear that except for the cockpit area little of it will be seen. There are decals for the instrument panel which is otherwise flat and featureless. It does have rudder pedals attached. The fuselage has structural detail molded inside in the front and rear and there is an option to leave the crew door open so there will be structure to see inside. The bomb bay has structural detail molded in and the kit supplies bombs to fill it. The doors are molded in the closed position and will need to be cut if you desire them open. The turret detail is nothing to write home about but adequate for most I suspect. The wheels are in halves and weighted but look way too flat in my opinion. You have the option of gear up or down. Separate open and closed doors are supplied so no cutting is necessary on those. The propellers are one piece moldings. OK, lets look at the parts.

The first sprue shown has the three parts of the rear fuselage, the two halves of the forward fuselage, the lower wing center section, the two main wing spars and one of the internal floor sections.

The next photo shows the internal detail of forward fuselage

The next sprue has the upper and lower wing halves and two of the interior floor pieces.

The next sprue is quite busy with the horizontal stabilizers, all the moveable control surfaces, props, landing gear parts and a variety of other parts.

Like wise this sprue is also busy with the engine nacelles, bombs, more landing gear parts, internal details and others.

The clear parts are thin with well defined frame lines but are not all that optically clear.

The decals are thin and in register and appear to be sufficiently opaque with a flat finish. All but two of the smaller roundels have a very minimal amount of excess clear film. The sheet provides markings for two aircraft, one in the traditional green and brown over black from # 102 Squadron, #4 Group from March 1940 and an all black aircraft from #10 Squadron, #4 Group from December 1941. The sheet provides instrument panel and radio face decals, a map decal for the navigators table and a few stencils.

The instructions are the typical fare for the newer Airfix kits, an A4 sized booklet 16 pages long and stapled at the spine. The cover page has a brief history and specifications in five languages. The second page has some basic assembly instructions and an icon chart. There is no parts map or color chart. The color call outs are small circles spread throughout the instructions with Humbrol numbers only. Not very handy in my opinion, at least color names would be helpful. The next twelve pages have gray scale cad drawings with colors used to show parts being installed. The last two pages have the painting and marking instructions. At least here color names are supplied in addition to Humbrol numbers. Some of the pages get fairly cluttered but the use of color helps.

After Market Goodies

 I wasn't all that impressed with the decals for the instrument panel so I got this Eduard Zoom set mostly for the panels and seat harnesses. A few of the other items may be useful as well, only time will tell. I also got an Eduard Mask set [CX420].

This kit certainly is way nicer than the previous Airfix kit which I built many years ago and way better than the Frog or Matchbox kits. It's well detailed and molded and if its like their other new releases should build up easily as well. Recommended !

Links to kit build or reviews

A Build/Review can be found here.

Famous Bombers of the Second World War by William Green


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Updated  8/15/18