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Classic Airframes' 1/48 Scale
Hawker Sea Hawk FB.5

by Stephen Naylor


Hawker Sea Hawk FB.5 WN108 ('033')


Classic Airframes' 1/48 scale Hawker Sea Hawk is available online from Squadron




For a look at the contents of Classic Airframes' 1/48 scale Hawker Sea Hawk, see the in-box review elsewhere on HyperScale.

Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk FB.5, WN108 ('033'), was operated by Airwork Services Limited FRU (Fleet Requirements Unit) from their base at Hurn Airport (now Bournemouth Airport) in Dorset (UK), from June 1958 to August 1963.  Airworks used various marks of Sea Hawk at Hurn, as well as other types, in order to provide gunnery target practise and radar calibration for warships of the Royal Navy, during exercises off the south coast of England. 

Sea Hawk FB.5's were basically the FB.3 model fitted with the uprated Nene 103 engine, a conversion carried out by the original manufacturer on this FB.3 airframe (#AW6041) in 1955.  In this way, all FB.5's were conversions -  there were no production examples. 



As soon as I heard that CA was to produce a Sea Hawk, I knew that the aircraft I would model would be one in the FRU Hurn 'all-over black' finish (more on this later), but which one?  Whilst there are several Hurn-based examples I would like to have done, I eventually chose 'WN108', mainly because 'Kits at War' (Dutch Decal) produced a timely decal sheet featuring the aircraft (their sheet #K4/13 'Royal Navy Postwar').  This avoided the need for me to source appropriate decals from elsewhere, especially being a black aircraft requiring white lettering and numbers of the correct size and style.  As a bonus, this aircraft is also preserved at the Ulster Aviation Society Heritage Centre in Northern Ireland, though the only useful photograph I have found to date of 'WN108', is the one on page 15 of Warpaint No.29.

Sea Hawk 'WN108' Details

In terms of the subject-specific features or modifications I undertook on the kit, these were just two comprising;

      No fins on the under-wing drop tanks (a feature of FRU/Hurn Sea Hawks)

      Port drop tank to be fitted with a searchlight (Harley Light?) in its nose. [This searchlight 'pod' was an aid to target acquisition by ship-board gunners during exercises, as was the all-over black finish.  Choosing to fit this pod is a bit of 'modeler's license' on my part, as although this feature is shown on other aircraft of the time, I have no actual proof of one being fitted to 'WN108'].






Although they will be mentioned shortly during the build steps, here is a quick list of the other corrections or modifications I made to the kit; 

      Opened the canopy (to show off all that excellent resin/etch).

      Opened the cannon ports under the nose.

      Opted for folded wings.

      Added scissor links to main undercarriage leg oleos.

      Discarded use of photoetch (PE) Parts 'PE8', 'PE9', 'PE10' and 'PE14/15'

                        (the engine intake guides see later).

      Replaced the kit's stubby resin jet pipes with longer (internally) brass tubing.

      Added the curiously missing 'tail bumper' to the tail.

Other than the decal sheet mentioned earlier and my own scratchbuilding efforts, no aftermarket accessories were used, though I was tempted to replace the ejection seat with something more detailed.  However, given the long gestation of this build and the 'issues' I had (some kit-related, some of my own making), I went with the kit seat to save time (and my sanity!). 

Finally; CA's Sea Hawk FB.3/FGA.6/FGA.50 kit has already been extensively reviewed elsewhere, so as usual I do not propose to repeat what has already been said.  On the other hand there are some 'issues' with the kit which will have an influence on the modeler's 'experience', so I will mention them where appropriate.



      Kits At War's (Dutch Decals) 1:48 decal sheet K4/13 'Royal Navy Postwar' (www.kitsatwar.nl). 


Getting Underway 

In describing this build, I will follow the kit's instruction sheet sequence and parts numbering, though this is not necessarily the order in which I proceeded.  Although I realise this is not as convenient for those without access to these instructions, I think it will still work with a bit of explanation along the way, and perhaps be of more use to other modelers faced with the open box of parts. 

STEP 1 (Instrument Panels)

One of the delights of the kit for me, was the depiction of the main and front quarter  instrument panels.  After dipping the clear acetate instruments sheet in Johnson's 'Klear' floor polish, and allowing to dry, I sprayed the rear face of it with white automotive primer (as per the instructions), so that the dials, etc, would show up better.  The faces of the panel etches (Parts 'PE1', 'PE2' and 'PE3') were then sprayed with black automotive primer, followed by dry-brushing with white enamel paint to pick out the highlights and added a few lamps picked out with a fine brush in appropriate colours.  These latter parts were then secured in place over the appropriate areas of the aforementioned instruments acetate with superglue.  Once trimmed out of the acetate, three beautiful panels resulted, the best I have yet seen on a model.  Strange therefore, that some subsequent CA kit offerings (Meteor NF and Canberras for example), only have simple moulded-plastic instrument panels.  However, moving on... 

STEP 2 (Cockpit Wall Instruments)

No problems here.  Resin pieces 'R13' 'R16' fit fine and similarly benefit from dry-brush work and detailing (check your references).

 STEP 3 (The Cockpit)

One of the 'problem areas' with this kit is squeezing that resin cockpit tub (Part 'R1') into the fuselage.

As indicated in most reviews, a considerable amount of material had to be removed from not only the sides, but particularly the base, of the main cockpit tub resin casting.  In fact, the floor of mine ended up so thin, that it actually separated from the base!  Despite all this fitting and sanding however, I was still not really able to get the two fuselage halves (split horizontally) to meet properly.  This ultimately led to some filling and sanding of the mating seams, with consequent loss of panel line detail, requiring re-scribing later.  That said, the the side panel detail of the cockpit tub is good and shows up well once painted (lightened black) and picked out in appropriate colours (references again).

 The gyro gunsight (Part 'R3') and its 'film' reflector glass (I only fitted one of the two required -  my eyesight is not what it was!) was painted and left to be fitted after final painting, as was the joystick and ejection seat (Part 'R2').  On the subject of the seat; it passes muster but the perfectionists amongst you will probably want to replace it with a more-detailed aftermarket specimen.  For simplicity's sake I chose to use the kit seat, though fitting the PE parts was fiddly.  In the end, the retractable knee guard etch (Part 'PE13') broke off once too often for my patience, so I discarded it.


STEP 4 (Lower Fuselage Internals)

No problems here.  The resin main wheel wells ('R7') and intake duct housings ('R5' and 'R6') are superbly moulded and fit with little other attention.  Do not forget the required weight in the nose (10g + suggested: see later for further problems I had in this regard), otherwise you will end up with a 'tail-sitter'.


STEP 5 (Closing the Main Fuselage Halves)

For me, this was an area where I undertook some technical modifications, partly to correct a problem, and partly to enable a more secure assembly.  Obviously this was my decision and I'm sure others will do things differently, but anyway here goes... 

The kit instructions require that the jet exhaust pipe mounts (Parts 'A8' and 'A27'), which form part of the aircraft's two jet pipe 'pen-nib fairings', are fixed in place between the fuselage halves (after some fitting and fettling) and then the tail assembly is butted on to the rear of the closed fuselage halves in the next step.  I was not happy about this method for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, as the parts ('A8' and 'A27') form part of the 'pen-nib fairing', the majority of which is actually ed onto the tail halves (parts 'C1' and 'C2'), it is therefore important that they line up correctly with the latter, rather than just fitting them to the main fuselage and then having to accept the resultant alignment the kit sequence gives you.  Secondly, I was also not that happy (from a visual perspective) with how short the actual resin jet pipe 'cans' were (Parts 'R9' x 2).




To solve that, I substituted two of my own jet pipes made from suitable thin-walled brass tube and placed a couple of mounts for them (ex-1/72 Airfix Lancaster wheel centers I think, from the scrap box), inside the lower fuselage half in order to fit the pipes to them, after final assembly.  These scrap 'mounts' also have the advantage of stopping the pipes from disappearing completely inside the body when you do come to fit them!  Fitting the pipes later also allowed me to paint them, and the natural metal finish (NMF) 'pen-nib fairings', as separate items later, rather than as an assembly.  Note, that if you do use the CA-supplied resin jet pipes, there is a problem in that the location 'pips' moulded on parts 'A8' and 'A27', which determine where the supplied jet pipe 'cans' ('R9') are positioned, are actually cast too far aft anyway (in reality, the ends of the jet pipes barely emerge from the rear of the outer part of the fuselage fairing). 

So if you are still with me, the upshot of all this is that I actually fitted parts 'A8' and 'A27' (having first removed those location 'pips') to the assembled tail in Step 6, and offered that sub-assembly up to the dry-assembled fuselage halves, so that I could get the tail/'pen-nib fairing' spot-on before closing the fuselage permanently.  More on that in Step 6.




The fit problems at the cockpit end have already been mentioned, so what else?  Well the only other problem (for me) is with the intake duct splitter plates (Parts 'PE8', 'PE9' and 'PE10') and their respective 'top plates' (Parts 'PE14' and 'PE15').  The problem, is that the kit shows them as being fitted flush with the leading edge of the intakes, 'ala' DH Vampire.  In fact, these actually curved (rather than straight) guide vanes are in reality much further back (and staggered aft) inside the intake ducts and can therefore hardly be seen.  This is especially true in the case of my model, as the insides of the ducts were going to be black anyway.  As a result, I left all this PE out completely, though I did still fit the boundary layer splitter plates (Parts 'PE11' and 'PE12') next to the fuselage here, back in Step 4.


STEP 6 (Tail Assembly)

See Step 5 above for how and why I did things slightly differently here.  One or two things are worth mentioning though.  The main thing, is that despite my best efforts, and in keeping with the experience of many other modelers at this point, I failed to get a good match between the cross-sectional profile of the tail sub-assembly (split vertically) and that of the main fuselage (split horizontally), at this important butt joint.  Not sure if it was all my fault or partly the shape of the kit's moulding, but in the end I again had to resort to a fair bit of filling/sanding/re-scribing around this joint after assembly, to restore its smooth aerodynamic shape.  Remember also to fit something appropriately shaped to the underside of the tail, to represent the rubber 'bumper' seen in this location (for some reason, CA left this feature off this kit's tail, but did provide it on the 'Mk.101' version).




Other pointers are: don't do as I did and fit the tailplane (Parts 'A3/A4') to the tail sub-assembly early on, to 'make some progress'.  Wait until AFTER the tail is actually assembled to the fuselage, so you can sight back over the top of the fuselage and get the tailplane parallel with the wing (or wing stubs if opting for folded wings).  I couldn't wait however, and although the tailplane seemed square when I fitted it to the tail assembly there is, even now, still a slight tilt towards Starboard after I assembled the tail unit to the fuselage.  Whilst this 'tilt' may be mostly of my own making, it might also be because once assembled the tail itself seems, for some reason, not to be quite vertical with respect to the fuselage? 

Just one final don't here.  Don't fit the arrestor hook now; wait until just before final painting -  the resin hook-end on mine broke off three times(!).  Luckily 'The Carpet Monster' failed to get it!


STEP 7 (Wing Assembly -  Deployed)

Not followed -  see Step 8.


STEP 8 (Wing Assembly -  Folded)

The wings were no problem really.  Getting the PE on the hinge end of the wing halves to stick with superglue was fun (Parts 'PE16' and 'PE17'), and they needed some trimming to match the wing profile.  Though the resin parts (Parts 'R17' and 'R18') fitted reasonably well to their respective points in the fuselage, one of the paradoxes of this method of providing the wing-fold, is that the PE on the ends of the folded wings is very good (but will not really be seen), whilst the resin parts on the fuselage (which are more prominent) do not really represent this area too well at all. 

As is my preference, I also fabricated clear plastic wingtip lights port and starboard, drilled-out and filled with red or green food colourant as appropriate.   In lieu of suitable microtubing, I substituted a cut-off dressmaking pin for the kit's pitot tube on the port wingtip. 

The wing sub-assemblies were painted and decaled separately, then assembled to the fuselage using a card jig I designed with CAD on the computer, to provide symmetry and support whilst the glue set.


 Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


STEP 9 (Nose Wheel Assembly)

No real problems here.  With care, you can leave the wheel ('R10') off until later and squeeze it between the forks of the nosewheel oleo ('A16' and 'A25') after assembly and painting.  The only other improvement, was to beef-up the PE arrestor wire guard ('PE5') with some superglue gel, once fitted, and then sand it to a shape more like the forging it represents.


STEP 10 (Main Wheel Assembly)

Again, this is all pretty much straightforward.  To help assembly of the main undercarriage  (Parts 'A13'/'A29', 'A18'/A24' and 'A20'/'A22'), I drilled a fine hole into the fuselage end of  each gear actuator ('A18'/A24') and also into the corresponding location points for that actuator in the resin main wheel wells ('R7').  This was done, so that a short piece of fine wire could be glued into the end of each actuator, both to assist with location during final assembly and to help with undercarriage strength.  Although a small detail, I also added the missing scissor link to each mainwheel leg, sourced from the scrap box (removed from ex-1/72 Airfix RA-5C Vigilante undercarriage units I think) though in truth, they can hardly be seen on the finished model.




One other thing to watch in Step 10, is that the kit's instruction sheet shows the resin catapult strop hook ('R12'), as being fitted in a position aft of the rear gunbay access doors.  In reality, this hook is mounted just forward of the chainlink/shell ejector chute access panels (you will see a small rectangular engraved panel area for it, at the correct location).  On the prototype, this hook was retractable, though my reference photograph and many others, show that in practice it was usually left in the deployed position.  Finally here; the shell ejector chute parts ('A19' and 'A23') need their upper ends attended to, in order to get a good fit against (and the slight outward angle from) the fuselage.


 STEP 11 (Underwing Stores and Doors, Etc)

As mentioned earlier, I fitted the two drop tanks ('B5'/'B6' + 'B7'/'B8') to the two inner stores pylons ('A21' x 2), having first modified the tanks to FRU specifications. 

Initially, this involves removing the rear fins on each tank (a standard FRU Sea Hawk feature).  Additionally, on this aircraft, the Port drop tank was then further modified by having its nose cut back and replaced with a glazed searchlight (Harley Light?).  The light unit was made from a scrap rear rocket motor (chromed plastic) from an old 'Zero-X' toy from my childhood -  remember that? (the toy, not my childhood!).  To finish it, a large-headed dressmaking pin represented the bulb. 

The searchlight's glazed nose/lens was made by 'heat-smashing' some clear plastic sheet over the end of the resin radar nose left over from CA's NF.21 Sea Hornet kit.  Once cut out from the sheet, this glazing was then attached to the tank with white wood glue.  I had no drawings for these tank modifications, I just roughly scaled it from the reference photos I had to hand. 

Everything else at this stage went together OK, though I obviously didn't need the second set of stores pylons ('A21'), one under each folded wing, for this aircraft.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:


STEP 12 (Canopy and Other Details)

This final step on the instruction sheet, mainly covers the fitting of the cockpit canopy ('C1').




What should have been the most difficult part of this (separating the canopy into two halves to allow the sliding section to be displayed open) was, in the end, the easiest.  Merely a simply operation with a razor saw, followed by sanding and polishing to cleanup the cut faces.  Once the front (fixed) canopy section had been painted internally, it was secured to the nose with superglue (using the sliding canopy section as a guide) and any resulting gaps between it and the fuselage filled and rubbed down.  The sliding section of the canopy was masked and painted separately, then secured to the fuselage with white wood glue on final assembly. 

Step 12 also covers the fitting of one of the many antennas (i.e. 'PE7') -  though other antennas are expected to be fitted in preceding steps.  In my case, I elected not to use any of the PE antennas from the kit's fret.  This is firstly because I don't think that PE is necessarily a good representation of these things (my thoughts are, 'just because you can etch something, does not mean you should'.  Secondly, most of these antenna are better left off until after final painting and finishing anyway.  Normally, I use fine wire or bristles from a brush for the wire-type antennas and shaped Evergreen strip for the blade-type UHF antennas (e.g. the one in the centre of the roundel, under the starboard wingtip).  There is a good reference diagram covering all possible antenna 'fits' to Sea Hawks, on page 30 of the '4+' book (see the reference list at the end).



Painting and Markings


The usual filling and sanding was undertaken and once cleaned up, the cockpit area and glazing was masked off, as were the wing-tip navigation lights and the tip of the pitot tube (that metal pin), on the separate wing assemblies.  Parts such as the main undercarriage and nosewheel oleo assemblies, the wheels, undercarriage doors, sliding canopy and the pair of jet pipes were left off to be painted and weathered separately and assembled later.

So, on to the painting.   Should be simple -  its just black isn't it?  Well the exterior of the airframe is, but what about the wheel wells, undercarriage and wing-folds?  The kit instructions are silent with regards the wing-fold area but as usual, suggest that the wheel wells and the inside of the undercarriage doors should/could either be aluminium or the same colour as the underside of the aircraft. 

From research and photos, I know that Hurn's Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) received their Sea Hawks from the Fleet Air Arm in their last service scheme and then repainted themselves in black.  However, that then raises the question; what scheme was 'WN108' in when received by the FRU in 1958?  Barring any exceptional circumstances, the underside options are clearly either 'Sky' (more likely?) or White (less likely?).  Even if I knew that (and I do not), the next point is whether the FRU would have left the wheel wells and insides of the undercarraige doors as delivered (for simplicity's sake) or would they have gone to the trouble of repainting them?  From a maintenance point of view, I cannot imagine that black for these areas is a good idea, but I could be wrong of course.  To add to the complexity, my only photo of 'WN108' shows that this aircraft had (as with some other, but not all, FRU black-finished machines) a black nosewheel strut/oleo.  Of course, this photo and many others of Sea Hawks does not show the main undercarraige clearly, making it difficult for the modeler to confirm whether they too were painted black.  This problem is compounded by the fact that on an aircraft with such a short undercarriage, this area is often in dark shadow.  In the end, I decided that I would go with black undercarriage legs and aluminium/silver for the wheel wells  and hubs, as well as the inside of undercarriage doors.  For the wing-fold, I decided on black, partly because the few (b/w) reference photos of black Sea Hawks with folded wings I have, seem not to show a light colour (aluminum or 'Sky'?) in this area, and partly because black tends to hide the relatively poor representation of the wing-fold joint on the fuselage. 

Having thus, finally, decided the colour scheme, the interior of the wheel wells, the inside of the undercarriage doors, the wheel centres, the ejector seat, the interior and exterior of the masked canopy and the wheel hubs all received a spray coat of cellulose automotive Silver primer from a 'rattle can'.  With the exception of the ejector seat and the canopy, all then received a very dilute wash of black enamel paint to accentuate the detail.  The wheel wells were then masked off using damp tissue and the model, plus the wings, the exterior of the undercarriage doors, the undercarriage assemblies, the ejector seat and the exterior of the sliding canopy, were then sprayed with a coat of cellulose automotive Grey primer, also  from a 'rattle can', followed by a top coat of Humbrol Matt Black.  Once dry, these areas received a couple of light coats of Johnson's 'Klear', prior to decaling.




Using the 'Klear'-coated black finish as a base, I separately masked off the engine exhaust 'pen-nib fairings' and, together with the painted exhausts themselves, sprayed them with Alclad II 'Polished Aluminum'.  Afterwards, I tried Tamiya acrylic 'Clear Blue' ('X-23') and 'Clear Orange' ('X-26') on these areas to simulate heat discolouration of the stainless steel, but without a great deal of success -  need more practice.  Perhaps on my next project I'll give Bare Metal Foil a try and see what happens. 

The appropriate decals from the 'Kits At War' #K4/13 sheet were then applied, using 'MicrolSol' and 'MicroSet', seemingly with no problem, followed by a second coating of 'Klear' to seal them.  Some slight silvering has since become apparent, but it is only visible under close scrutiny and strong lighting (e.g. in digital photos!).  Thinned Humbrol Gloss Varnish provided the airbrushed finishing coat. 

Prior to assembling the undercarraiges to the airframe, the tyres were picked out in Matt Black and weathered slightly (dry brushing), remembering also to add the pairs of white 'creep marks' to each tyre/wheel rim (including the nosewheel).  To complete the model, the various wire and strip antennas were then fitted and the wings assembled in their final position using the card jig I mentioned earlier. 

Unfortunately, as alluded to earlier on, when the finished aircraft was placed flat on a level surface, I had still ended up with a 'tail-sitter' (insert profanities here)!  Locations for adding extra weight were, by now of course, severely limited.  In the end, I had to feed some fishing weight 'shot' into the roof of the nosewheel bay and pour in some epoxy glue to secure it in place.  Although an unsightly solution, should you happen to pick up the model and examine it, the Sea Hawk does at least now sit flat on its wheels unaided, but only just - Phew!





Perhaps one of the most difficult 'post-build' tasks has been to take some decent photographs.  Trying to photograph a shiny black object has proved to be quite a challenge, whether indoors, or outdoors, natural or artificial light or flash, automatic or manual settings!  Even now, I am not that happy with the results, but at least digital photography allows for endless experimentation.  Of course, you do have to bear in mind that gloss black does have a tendency to show up the slightest flaw on any model and its paint job, especially to the unforgiving lens of a digital camera (that's my excuse and I am sticking to it!). 

Would I build another Classic Airframes Sea Hawk?  Lets just say its not high on my list of priorities, and I don't have one in the unbuilt kit 'stash'.  Having said that, I am pleased with the final result and it is the best kit of the 'Hawk' around, though for me, it was a 'trying' build and there were times when I thought I would never get it finished.  Still, there are also markings for an all-red FB.3 Sea Hawk of the 1958 'Red Devils' aerobatic team on that 'Kits At War' decal sheet, so as a former Bond once said, 'never say never again'...





  1. Hawker Sea Hawk; Tony Buttler MRAeS; Warpaint No.29; Hall Park Books.

  2. Hawker Sea Hawk; Michal Ovcacik, Karel Susa, et al; Mark 1 Limited, 2001; 4+ Publication.

  3. Hawker Sea Hawk - Type History Database; Derek James; Aeroplane Monthly; September 2002; p.47 -69

  4. Hawker Sea Hawk; Richard J Caruana; Scale Aviation Modeller; 1996?; p.156 -163

  5. The Fleet's Hawk; Richard J Caruana?; Modelaid Quarterly, Issue 3; 1980's?; p.83 - 88

  6. The Hawker Sea Hawk; Francis K Mason; Profile Publications; 1966; No.71

  7. http://daveg4otu.tripod.com/fru.html  This is a webpage (part of a larger 'Aviation in Hampshire, UK' website) dedicated to the Airwork Fleet Requirements Unit, listing all the aircraft that worked at Hurn before the Unit was relocated to Yeovilton in 1972





The photographs were taken with my Olympus Camedia 4040 Zoom camera on a tripod, mostly using aperture priority setting (to preserve some depth of field), close/'macro' focusing and occasionally 'AEL' (exposure lock).  The latter was tried in order to read exposure from a grey card, rather than relying on the automatic reading from the camera's sensor when pointed at the shiny black model.  The final choice of images were then adjusted, sharpened, cropped and re-sized using Paint Shop Pro7.  Most are indoor shots, lit by up to three angle-poise lamps fitted with daylight bulbs.



Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright 2006 by Stephen Naylor
Page Created 12 December, 2006
Last Updated 21 February, 2007

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