1:72 Airco TR.2; aircraft "B" (s/n 6135) of the Royal Air Force 157 Squadron; Battle of Amiens, July/August 1918 (Whif/Revell kit)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!
The Airco DH.2 was a single-seat biplane "pusher" aircraft which operated as a fighter during the First World War. Early air combat over the Western Front indicated the need for a single-seat fighter with forward-firing armament. As no means of firing forward through the propeller of a tractor aeroplane was available to the British, Geoffrey de Havilland designed the DH.2 as a smaller, single-seat development of the earlier two-seat DH.1 pusher design. The DH.2 first flew in July 1915.
The majority of DH.2s were fitted with the 100 hp (75 kW) Gnôme Monosoupape rotary engine, but later models received the 110 hp (82 kW) Le Rhône 9J. The rear-mounted rotary engine made the DH.2 easy to stall, but also made it highly maneuverable, since the aircraft’s center of gravity was located in a highly beneficial position.
The fighter was armed with a single .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun, which was originally able to be positioned on one of three flexible mountings in the cockpit and with the pilot transferring the gun between mountings in flight at the same time as flying the aircraft. Once pilots learned that the best method of achieving a kill was rather to aim the whole aircraft than the gun, the machine gun was fixed in the forward-facing center mount, although this was initially banned by higher authorities until a clip which fixed the gun in place, but could be released if required, was approved.
After evaluation at Hendon on 22 June 1915, the first DH.2 arrived in France for operational trials, but it was shot down and its pilot killed. No. 24 Squadron RFC, the first squadron equipped with the DH.2 and the first complete squadron entirely equipped with single-seat fighters in the RFC, arrived in France in February 1916. At the height of the type's deployment, the DH.2 equipped seven fighter squadrons on the Western Front and quickly proved more than a match for the Fokker Eindecker. DH.2s were also heavily engaged during the Battle of the Somme, No. 24 Squadron alone engaging in 774 combats and destroying 44 enemy machines.
The DH.2 had sensitive controls and at a time when service training for pilots in the RFC was very poor it initially had a high accident rate, gaining the nickname "The Spinning Incinerator", but as familiarity with the type increased it was recognized as very maneuverable and relatively easy to fly.
The arrival of more powerful German tractor biplane fighters at the front such as the Halberstadt D.II and the Albatros D.I, which appeared in September 1916, meant that the DH.2 was outclassed in turn. It remained in first line service in France, however, until No. 24 and No. 32 Squadron RFC completed re-equipment with Airco DH.5s in June 1917, and a few remained in service as fighters on the Macedonian front and in Palestine until late autumn of that year. By this time the type was totally obsolete as a fighter, and new uses were found.
One role was as an advanced trainer into 1918, the other was armed reconnaissance at low altitudes, where the types high agility and the excellent forward field of view could be exploited. For the latter role, the Royal Air Force (founded in April 1918) converted roundabout thirty DH.2's into TR.2s. The machines received external armor plating for the pilot and an uprated Le Rhône 9Jb rotary engine with 130 hp (96 kW), driving a new four blade propeller, in order to compensate for the raised overall weight. However, the extra weight, nevertheless, hampered top speed and rate of climb, but the type’s original high agility was retained.
Originally, an armament of three machine guns was planned, with two additional, belt-fed fixed Vickers guns for strafing attacks. The two additional guns were placed behind the pilot and fired forwards and downwards through the cockpit floor. While the concept proved to be successful, the plan was quickly dropped since the weapons' extra weight (on top of the armor plating) and vibrations made the aircraft sluggish, nose-heavy and unstable – both in the air and on the ground. Consequentially, the idea was quickly dropped and only the original gun mount in the aircraft's nose was kept. As a compromise, the nose section was modified so that the Lewis gun could now be tilted downwards by up to 60° and fixed for strafing attacks. The drum magazines for the Lewis machine gun were retained, though, so that the weapon had to be raised back into horizontal position every time the pilot wanted to change the magazine (while flying the aircraft over enemy lines, of course).
The first TR.2-equipped unit, RAF 157 Squadron, was sent out to France with 24 aircraft in June 1918, but the machines only flew a limited number of missions until the end of hostilities. At this time, however, the DH.2s had already been progressively retired, and at war's end no surviving airframes of the total of 453 DH.2s and TR.2s produced by Airco were retained.
Length: 25 ft 2½ in (7.69 m)
Wingspan: 28 ft 3 in (8.61 m)
Height: 9 ft 6½ in (2.91 m)
Wing area: 249 ft² (23.13 m²)
Empty weight: 1,061 lb (482 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 1,630 lb (740 kg)
1× Gnôme Le Rhône 9Jb rotary engine, 130 hp (96 kW)
Maximum speed: 90 mph (145 km/h) at sea level
Range: 236 mi (380 km)
Service ceiling: 12,500 ft (4,100 m)
Rate of climb: 475 ft/min (145 m/min)
Wing loading: 6,55 lb/ft² (32 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.079 hp/lb (130 W/kg)
Endurance 2½ hours
Climb to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) 28 minutes
1× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis machine gun, using 47-round drum magazines
The kit and its assembly:
Well, this one is another Group Build submission, this time the RAF Centenary GB at whatifmodelers.com. I used this occasion to tackle a build that I had on my list for a long time, and it also offered the opportunity to apply an exotic, yet reality-inspired, paint scheme.
The kit is the vintage 1965(!) Revell kit, in its 2007 re-incarnation. Not a lot of aircraft, and building the whole thing basically from struts that hold everything together is not an easy task - you need patience.
The kits was left mostly OOB (well there’s not much mass to change…), I just modified the nose section, so that the idea of a downward-tiltable machine gun became visually plausible, and I added some 0.5mm styrene sheet to the flanks and to the floor, simulation retrofitted armor plates.
Another modification concerns the propeller; following common practice at the aircraft’s era, this is just a second two blade propeller (IIRC from a Sopwith Triplane) stuck onto the original one, so that a staggered four blade propeller was created. Makes the aircraft look a little beefier.
The real horror started with the rigging process, though, and in order to avoid damage I painted the model before the delicate work started. Rigging was done, as usual, with dark grey sprue material – and the DH.2 needs lots of it!
Painting and markings:
The paint scheme was inspired by the trial schemes that were actually applied to some Sopwith Salamander attack aircraft in July 1918, even though, AFAIK, none of these was used in front line use. However, the scheme’s concept (Orfordness Report E30/A) of “depicting” trenches and the rough frontline “landscape” on an aircraft and other details like asymmetric roundels in order to confuse enemies and impede aiming is pretty unique, and this build was a great occasion to apply it.
I was able to dig up some information concerning the camouflage trials and the colors that were used:
the upper tones were mixed individually from a few basic colors, and I did follow a similar approach in order to achieve a unique and pretty retro look. The colors are/were:
“Light Earth” (White, Indian Red and Raw Sienna); I went for Humbrol 62 (Sand), which is a bright, almost orange tone. I did some mixing experiments and the color turned either into a pink of skin tone, or into a yellow-ish tan, depending on the mix ratios. After that, Humbrol 62 appeared to be a convenient OOB option, since I found mixing for the lightest camouflage tone hazardous.
“Green” (Ultramarine Blue, Chrome Yellow and Raw Sienna); I used a 1:1 mix of Humbrol 80 (Grass Green) and 170 (Brown Bess), with a little 15 (Midnight Blue) added.
“Dark Purple Earth” (from Indian Red, Ultramarine Blue and White); I settled on a 1:1 mix of Humbrol 68 (Purple) and 98. Sick result!
The undersides, landing gear and struts were painted in “Light Green Grey” (Mixed from White, Chrome, Brunswick Green and Indian Red); I’d assume that the tone would be very similar to Sky, but I used Tamiya XF-71 (Flat Grey Green, a.k.a. IJN Grey), which is a bit darker and more greenish.
According to the Orfordness Report E30/A, the lower wings’ upper surface carried, by tendency, patterns with considerably more Light Earth - probably an early attempt of counter-shading? All the upper colors were furthermore separated through black lines, 2-4” wide, which were done with acrylic Revell 09 (Anthracite) and a thin brush.
On some aircraft the wings’ undersides were painted differently – some had upper and lower wings’ undersides painted black, while some only had the lower wings painted in this fashion. Because of the odd look I went for the “lower-wings-in black-only” option, painted with Revell 06 (Tar Black), which is actually a very dark grey.
This all results in a REALLY distinct and colorful look - it’s almost sad that the DH.2 offers so little surface to apply the scheme, which is a faithful adaptation of the Orfordness Report E30/A recommendations.
In order to make the exhaustive rigging process easier, all major surfaces were painted and weathered, and decals (gathered from various sources, none is OOB) were applied, so that only some minor repairs had to be made.
Due to the delicate rigging and the complex paint scheme, this tiny model was a nerve-wrecking affair. But I think that the result was worth the effort – the paint scheme and the markings look so odd that it is hard to believe that the livery is actually based on a real camouflage proposal! And from the beauty pics I’d assume that the paint scheme – at least from above, would have been quite effective. But I won’t tackle another DH.2 soon…