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Airfix 1/350 HMS Illustrious

Airfix 1/350 HMS Illustrious

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CODE: AF50059
Retail Price: 59.99
Our Price: 52.49
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Superb new kit from Airfix of the Royal Navy carrier HMS Illustrious. This Gift Set includes 15 paints, 2 brushes, 1 bottle of Poly Cement and an 8 page booklet. Consisting of 276 pieces, it measures 603mm in length when fully assembled.

Read a Review of the Airfix 1/350 HMS Illustrious

Review by Mike Williams

Ship modellers, and I suspect quite a lot of Fleet Air Arm modellers have been waiting for this kit with baited breath since it was announced by Airfix some time ago, and after a sizeable silence where no details seemed forthcoming, it has finally arrived.

...and when it does arrive, you are immediately struck by the sheer size of the box it turns up in. It's a sturdy top opener one-piece box, with 360 degree color printing, so it looks good from any angle. This is no mere frippery either, as the contents fills the box fairly well, as Lusty is a rather large kit at this scale, with the hull sides around 60cm in length.

The hull can be built either waterline for diorama use or easy display, or the keel can be added to display her out of the water, perhaps on the supplied stand. Looking through the sprues, it seems to be a kit with a split personality, as the hull parts are quite reminiscent of previous maritime kits from Airfix, being simple but sturdy of construction. The detail present however is nicely engraved, and where possible the large number of ejector pin marks on the inside of the hull are hidden from view. If you're planning on showing off the hangar deck however, you'll need to fill quite a few, but they're not deep, so don't despair!

The deck and Harrier "Ski-ramp" are moulded in one piece, and here some deck detail would have been nice, either in the form of tie-downs or texture to the surface, which I believe is as rough as the proverbial bear's posterior in real life. The hangar deck floor has elevator wells built in, and the jacks can be positioned in three places to portray the lift in various stages of motion - quite a nice touch.

The hangar deck itself consists of the walls and precious little else... adding some of the provided deck equipment and aircraft/helos will busy it up, but it's a suitable blank canvas for the super detailer to go to town on.

The bulk of the superstructure is completed by the mating of two major parts, onto which the detail parts such as funnel, masts etc. Is added in a large number of very explicit stages numbered 16-40. This should help the novice modeller keep track of their progress, and is preferable to a mass of parts and lines on one diagram as is often seen.

The detail parts, deck equipment and airframes are the second part of this split personality kit, as they have plenty of detail that should satisfy the majority of builders, as it is crisp and nicely moulded.

The raison d'etre for the aircraft carrier is the transport and deployment of air assets to prosecute, or assist in the prosecution of military action anywhere around the globe. What would the Illustrious kit be without her airwing? To start you on your way, there is one (comparatively) small sprue of aircraft, including two each of Harriers GR7/9s and FA2, together with 2 each Merlin and Seaking from the rotary winged branch of the FAA. Each airframe has been broken down into components to aid in moulding, and in the case of the helos, so that they can be shown stowed as well as ready to fly by way of folding tail rotors, and stowed plus unfurled main rotors. Detail is good for the scale, although panel lines seem a little chunky on the fuselage parts of the Harriers. As usual however, this may well reduce under primer and paint.

For accuracy, you should model either the FA2 or GR7/9 but not both, as these aircraft were never deployed together to my knowledge, so perhaps 2 examples could be seen as a little short. However, when you consider that many (if not most) carrier models provide little in the way of air assets to the modeller, this isn't all that surprising, and if the accuracy aspect doesn't bother you, a reasonably busy deck can be made out of the box.

Add into the mix the Coles deck crane and two moto-tugs, and the value for money in terms of posable parts starts to look good.

Building the hull will require a multitude of hands, or clamps and tape, but the resulting structure will be sturdy, even more so if you decide to add the keel in. The flight deck is added late in the build, so access to the hangar deck will be easy until you are ready to seal it in. Sprue gates are necessarily large on some of the hull parts, and there are some sink marks and ejector pin marks on the visible faces of some parts, but these should disappear once filled - although a few are in between lattices of raised detail, so may prove a little tricky.

As with most ships of any longevity, you will need to carefully check your references if you decide to model Lusty in any particular period, as there have been some changes to her fit as time goes by, so try to find period images before you begin, as you will possibly need some additional weapons, depending on your chosen era. The fit portrayed is that between 2008 and 2009, and to assist the modeller, a 20 page color booklet (10 double sided pages, not 8 as shown on the box) provides references and background information on the Lusty's duties and operations.

The painting guide is provided in full color, and the many decals for the deck are laid out and marked clearly for ease. It looks like a task best undertaken with a methodical approach, to ensure that everything ends up where it should, and interlinked decals match up. Decals are also provided for the airwing, as well as Humbrol painting guides called out during the build and on the painting guide itself.

The package is completed by a set of 15 pots of Humbrol Acrylic paints, plus two different sized and surprisingly competent looking paint brushes. A bottle of Humbrol precision poly finishes off the build package.


British warships of the modern era aren't modelled that often by mainstream companies, and Illustrious has been (pardon the pun) lusted after by many for a long time. We now have a kit from a British manufacturer that will build up into a nice replica out of the box, and for those with a passion for more detail, there will be additional options available from 3rd parties.

The kit represents excellent value when compared to ships of a similar size, so I have no hesitation in recommending it to modellers. Subjects of this side should always be approached with care however, as gluing and fitting such large parts needs a little patience and dexterity, so if you doubt you have either, try something smaller first.

Do make sure that you have sufficient room in your stash to store this kit - it's a big box! Better yet, just build it now - you know you want to.