HMS Illustrious by James Jacob
Brand: Airfix
Scale: 1/350
Modeler: James Jacob - Museum Quality Custom Airctaft Profile Prints

The Kit


I was lucky enough to receive the 1:350 Airfix HMS Illustrious kit for Christmas 2014 and cannot rate the kit highly enough. I have previously built a couple of other warships in this scale so was looking forward to getting stuck into this from the moment I unwrapped it!

The HMS Illustrious R06 is the second of the Invincible class light aircraft carriers of the British Royal Navy, commissioned in 1982. Though sadly now decommissioned due to the Ministry of Defence's budget restructure in favour of the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers currently under construction. At 22,000 tonnes and 210 meters in length, the Illustrious was considerably smaller that the US Navy Supercarrier fleet. However despite its smaller size the compliment of up to 22 aircraft, including the infamous VTOL Harrier Jump Jets proved an effective fighting platform.

The box artwork is very impressive, as is the size of the box itself. The artwork does show the flight deck where a couple of Lynx helicopters are present, along with a compliment of Harrier VTOL fighters. Unfortunately, the Lynx helicopters are not included as part of this kit, but I am certain that aftermarket kits can make up for this.

Moulded in grey styrene, the kit can be built as either full hull or water line versions. One observation I had was that the plastic was fairly thick, not only on some of the parts but also the sprues - some of them were the same thickness as a pencil! Having used aftermarket photoetch sets on both my previous builds in this scale, I really wanted to 'go to town' with this build and get hold of the White Ensign Models set, even though very pricey. A web search and by asking the Google+ modelling community I am part of resulted in me finding out that WEM sets are no longer in production and it was virtually impossible to get hold of one for my project. Not to be put off however, I saw this as an opportunity to do the best I could from the spares box and some creative thinking!

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The Build

The build itself is pretty straightforward, with the main lower hull being moulded in two halves and a stern plate. These parts enclose a 'core' to which you build up the various sponsons and inset details. You can opt to have the two flight deck elevators (mounted in the middle of the flight deck as opposed to the outside like Nimitz class carriers) either raised or lowered. I felt that if they were lowered, it would be very difficult to see any detail so fixed them in the raised position.

Progress on the hull went painlessly and quickly up until I glued down the flight deck and realised that I would need to replace both the cat walk and add the safety netting if I were to match the WEM kit. I had some aluminium mesh left over from a past build which looked close enough to the safety netting so cut some of this to size and affixed it with super glue. The WEM kit requires you to cut out the base of the cat walk pieces and replace these sections entirely, but this was too complicated for me to replicate. I used left over photo etch from my Enterprise build to add safety railings across the hull.

The island however did receive plenty of photo etch and styrene additions. This piece was almost unrecognisable once I had finished with it! Before gluing the island to the flight deck however, I completed the painting, using Tamiya Sky Grey and several gloss coats ready for the decals. The flight deck is literally covered with decals and all in, took about three hours to complete over a number of evenings. This was again coated, this time with matt varnish and left to dry for several days.

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Finishing Up

I then moved onto the airwing, which comprised of 8 aircraft, 4 helicopters and 4 harriers. They were painted and the recessed panel lines made to stand out by using an Indian ink was which was then dabbed off with cotton buds. Luckily, Airfix do offer this aircraft sprue as a 'kit' you can buy in its own right. If you decide to build the Illustrious, I strongly recommend making this purchase. Once the aircraft were all painted and varnished, the hull and island were glued together and I moved onto the fun part - making the seascape.

Last year I made my first waterline seascape using an old Titanic model as a proof of concept to see if I could. This went really well, so I purchased a 6mm thick piece of MDF, had it cut to size and decided to go for it. The hull was first glued to the base using 5 minute epoxy and then I covered the base with a thin layer of interior filler, followed by giving it a fair representation of deep ocean water. After 24 hours, I gloss coated this to give the paint a good surface to stick to.

I then proceeded to paint by hand around the base of the hull using Tamiya Sea Blue, moving outwards about ten centimetres. I then sprayed outwards from there. Next Tamiya's Medium Blue and Flat White were sprayed on to show deep water churned in the right places to show a passing warship. This was then given three coats of Humbrol gloss, followed by a coat of Vallejo Gloss Varnish to give it a realistic shiny water look.

I then glued down the air wing which was to be positioned on the flight deck. At this point I had an epiphany and remembered I had an unused set of Eduard carrier figures in the spares box. Being prepainted, all I needed to do was to cut them from the sprue and stick them to the hull.

Lastly, I mounted four aircraft on thin brass rods and fashioned two helicopter rotors from some clear plastic from the household recycling bin. Spinning rotors were drawn on with a Sharpie prior to two coats of Tamiya Smoke.

With the base, this really adds to the size of the model and is a sizeable entity when placed on the dining room table! I'm really pleased by this and do not feel that the lack of a WEM set has made any tangible difference. When I told her I was done, my three year old daughter said 'Wow Daddy!' so that's good enough praise for me!

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  Photos and text © 2015 by James Jacob

March 13, 2015