1:72 Supermarine Swift FR.51, aircraft '902/2 Red' of 6th Squadron, Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force, 1967 (Whif/Xtrakit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!
Never colonised, Oman has benefited from a long and close alliance with Britain, which helped transform the tribal levies and palace guard of Muscat and Oman into modern armed forces. The 1950s had seen several challenges to Oman’s sovereignty, which led to the modernisation of the Sultan’s Armed Forces. This was driven by increased nationalism in the Middle East and the discovery of oil. The successful use of air power during the Jebel Akhdar Campaign provided the impetus for the formation of the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force, as it illustrated the importance of air power.
An exchange of letters in 1958 between the Sultan and the British Government agreed to the formation of a national air force. The British Foreign Office agreed to fund it while the Royal Air Force would supply officers. This set a precedence that continues to this day.
The Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force was officially formed on 1 March 1959. Initial RAF aircrew, under Wing Commander Barry Atkinson, arrived at Bayt Al-Falaj airfield on 19 August 1959. Initial aircraft for the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force consisted of two Scottish Aviation Pioneers (XL518 and CL554), provided by No 78 Squadron based at Aden, together with three Hunting Provosts T.52 (XF682, XF683 and XF688) delivered directly from the manufacturer. The Pioneers were the first aircraft to wear the Sultan’s insignia; the crossed swords and Khanjar (dagger) design.
While the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Forces early aircraft were not modern, their simple designs perfectly suited Oman’s rugged terrain. The first jets for the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s Air Force arrived in 1961, in the form of eight Supermarine Swifts, which came just in time for the escalating Dhofar Rebellion.
The Swift was a British single-seat jet fighter of the Royal Air Force (RAF), built by Supermarine during the 1950s. After a protracted development period, the Swift entered service as an interceptor, but, due to a spate of accidents, its service life was short - even though it did break a number of speed records in its time.
A photo reconnaissance variant, the FR.5, resolved some of the Swift's teething problems, and the FR.5 was the last Swift variant to enter service with the RAF and was eventually replaced by the Hunter FR.10, leaving the RAF in 1961. The FR.5 was primarily based with RAF Germany during the Cold War and the Swift never saw combat action with the RAF – . Some of these early retired aircraft were revamped and offered as FR.51 to friendly nations. Oman was happy to buy some of these fast aircraft which paved the way to the country’s entry to the jet age.
The Omani Swifts were used in both the reconnaissance and interceptor role. In order to improve the air-to-air capabilities, the Mk. 51s were retrofitted with an EKCO Ranging Radar Mk.1 (ARI.5820) in a bulged new nose, coupled with a Gyro Gunsight Mk.5 (actually a predecessor of the Swift F.7's system, but this type did not make it into operational RAF service). The nose-mounted camera was re-located in a shallow fairing behind the front wheel well. The FR.5's two ADEN cannon were retained, and two additional pylons under the wing roots for AIM-9 Sidewinders were added - similar to the arrangement on Singaporean Hawker Hunters. The outer pylons were hardwired for Sidewinders as well, so that a total of four could be carried.
The new jets had just become operational, the Dhofar Rebellion escalated in 1962. At first, 12 armed Percival Provost T.Mk 52s were taken on charge, and these saw extensive use in the close air support role. The Swifts were primarily used for low level reconnaissance missions, or for the Provosts' air cover.
The rebellion, initially supported by Saudi Arabia, intensified in 1967, with the establishment of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), which gave the rebels an adjacent source of arms and supplies, and which radicalised the Adoo rebel forces, whose aims went from greater autonomy for their region, and an improvement in living standards, to an overthrow of the Sultanate.
The campaign moved from a tribal revolt into a major communist rural insurgency backed by the USSR and the Peoples Republic of China. The Omani Supermarine Swifts were deployed for close air support missions (firing unguided missiles or dropping iron bombs), but they were not really suited for this type of mission. Therefore fet-engined BAC Strikemaster Mk.82s entered service in 1968 (the order increasing from four to 12 and later to 24), and these were augmented by Dakota transports and later by DHC-4 Caribous and Short Skyvans and five second-hand Vickers Viscounts. Pilatus PC-6 Porter air ambulances were also used extensively during the conflict. The Supermarine Swifts were then relegated to their original reconnaissance and escort fighter role.
Around 1971 the reorganised and modernised armed forces, ably supported by British SAS and (from 1971) Iranian detachments, and by RAF, IIAF and SOAF air power, drove the rebels back into their heartland. But the rebellion lasted was finally declared to be over in 1976.
The Swifts did not serve with the Omani forces that long - the machines had become outdated and by 1970 three had been lost (two through AA fire, one through a ground accident) and the harsh climate took its toll on the airframes and engines – by the early 1970ies all Swifts were eventually replaced by Hawker Hunter FR.10.
Length: 42 ft 3 in (12.88 m)
Wingspan: 32 ft 4 in (9.85 m)
Height: 13 ft 2 in (4.02 m)
Wing area: 328 ft² (30.5 m²)
Empty weight: 13,435 lb (6,094 kg)
Max. take-off weight: 21,673 lb (9,381 kg)
1× Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R/114 turbojet, rated at 7,175 lbf (31.9 kN) dry thrust
and at 9,450 lbf (42.0 kN) with afterburner
Maximum speed: at sea level 713 mph (1,148 km/h)
Range: 630 mi (1,014 km)
Service ceiling: (service) 45,800 ft (13,960 m)
Rate of climb: (initial) 14.660 (74.5 m/s)
2 × 30 mm ADEN cannon under the air intakes
Underwing provisions for drop tanks, bombs, AIM-9 Sidewinder AAMs
or up to eight unguided missiles
The kit and its assembly:
A rather unglamorous whif kit. The Swift did not have a breathtaking career in RAF service, and the Oman is not a country that comes to your mind when you consider air power. Anyway, since Great Britain exported many aircraft in the post WWII era to "friendly countries", inclusing the Venom and the Hunter, why shouldn't the Swift have seen a second life after RAF retirement?
The kit is the Xtrakit offering, not the new Airfix kit, I had it in the stash for some time until the background story came to fruition. It's a nice rendition of the FR.5, with fine, engraved panel lines, a nice interior and superb clear parts. The only issue I had upon building it was that the wing section (which also forms a part of the lower fuselage) was 1mm too long for the fuselage opening, and the interscetion between these major parts called for some putty work.
The only personal additions are the wing pylons, the Sidewinders and the drop tanks - the Xtrakit model comes clean. The nose camera was replaced by a small radome and a new camera fairling - carved from a piece of 1.5mm styrene sheet - mounted under the fuselage. Furthermore the flaps were lowered, for a more lively look.
Painting and markings:
This livery is based on 1st generation Omani aircraft like the Provost or Strikemaster, with a livery in Dark Green, Dark Earth and Light Aircraft Grey (Humbrol 163, 29 and 166, respectively). The pattern is the original RAF scheme, just the Dark Sea Grey was replaced by Dark Earth. The cockpit became very dark grey (RAL 7021) while the landing gear remained in Aluminum. Very simple.
The Swift depicted in this model is supoosed to have seen some service, so the kit received a black ink wash and the panels were lightened, esp. directly from above, with several green and brown tones (including RLM82, Faded Olive Drab, French Earth Brown and even Israeli Armor Brown, all ModelMaster enamels).
Decals come primaily from an Xtradecal aftermarket sheet for the BAC Strikemaster, which offers several Omani aircraft. Stencils come from the OOB sheet, and some more details like the white ring behind the radome or the yellow markings on the canopy were scratched from generic stripes and sheet.
Finally, after the white AIM-9 and the drop tanks were mounted, the kit received a final coat with acrylic matt varnish.
A simple and quick project, but I think the Swift has a lot of whiffing potential - concerning both operators as well as further, fictional versions?