Airfix 1:72 Brewster Buffalo F2A-1

KIT #: 02050
PRICE: NZ$17.99
DECALS: Two options
NOTES: Re-issue


“The Brewster F2A (named Buffalo by the RAF) was designed in 1936 to replace the large numbers of US Navy biplane fighters, which were rapidly being outclassed, and became the first monoplane fighter to enter service with the USN. The prototype B-139 XF2A-1 first flew in December 1937, and had a disappointing performance. Several modifications to the airframe, engine and armament brought the design up to acceptable standards, and a production order for 54 B-239/F2A-1s was placed, the type entering service with VF-3 on 8 December 1939. Only 11 machines were delivered, the remainder being diverted to Finland.

 “By this time the improved B-239/F2A-2 was in production, with 43 going to the USN. Belgium ordered 40 B-339Bs, the UK 170 B-339Es and the Netherlands East Indies 72 B-339Ds, followed by a further 20 B-439/F2A-3s, all of these export models having arrestor gear and catapult pools removed. The USN also ordered 108 F2A-3s in 1941, most of these being relegated to the training role, and by the end of 1941 development work and production had ceased.

 “After the start of World War Two, US Marine Corps Squadron VMF-221 was the only American unit to use the type in combat when, on 4 June 1942, their 19 F2A-3s fought at the Battle of Midway with a loss of 13 aircraft to the Japanese fighters.

Several Belgian aircraft were diverted to the UK, while the British orders were diverted to the Far East theatre for the defence of India, Malaysia and Singapore. The Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force also supplied squadrons to fly these Buffalos alongside the RAF, and although they put up a valiant defence were completely outclassed by the Japanese fighters. The RAAF also operated three squadrons of Buffalos in Australia.” (from the kit instructions)

 Reading the accounts of pilots who flew the Buffalo in combat in the Far East it becomes apparent that they had no love for the machine as a fighter: it was a tool that was generally no good for the job. Some pilots had the original .5 Colt machineguns replaced with .303 Brownings as the former were troublesome and sometimes would fire only four rounds before jamming. The aircraft was delightful to fly but struggled to gain height, so the British and Commonwealth pilots often found themselves on the defensive in combat. However, despite the aircraft’s shortcomings many victories were scored against the attacking Japanese forces before the aircraft were replaced by more capable modern types.

 While the RAF had limited success and the USN next to none, the Finns achieved great things with their Buffaloes: at one time the kill ratio of their crews was 32 enemy aircraft downed for every one of their Brewsters. Such was the skill of the Finnish pilots that 36 of them made “ace” on the type (one, Hans Wind, scored 39 kills in Buffaloes). In comparison to the Commonwealth pilots the Finns found the aircraft to have few maintenance issues, was easy to fly and took comfort in its long range. Replaced by the Bf109G in WW2, the last Finnish Air Force Buffalo flights were in September 1948.

Only one Buffalo remains today: Lieutenant Lauri Pekuri’s BW-372 was raised from a Russian lake in 1998 and is now on display in as-recovered condition at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo (Aviation Museum of Central Finland). This museum also has parts of F2A-1 BW-393 on display. Two static replicas also exist, built by the Cradle Of Aviation Museum in Long Island, NY: one of these is on display at that museum as an F2A-2, the other (a B-339C) at the Militaire Luchtvaart Museum at Soesterberg in the Netherlands.


This is truly 1960s-era Airfix: nice accurate lines, very little interior detail (seat, floor and a nicely detailed pilot), not many parts, and rivets and ejector pin towers everywhere. As soon as you open the box you see four small sprues of light grey (and somewhat flashy) plastic, and one of thick clear. The only engraved exterior detail is the control surface demarcation lines; every other panel line is raised.

 There are two sets of undercarriage legs and doors in the box, but only one set is mentioned in the instructions. I’m guessing that the other parts would have been used to represent retracted gear on an “in-flight” model as in many vintage Airfix kits. If this is to be done one must figure out the parts placement on their own and find a suitable stand. There is no wheel well detail at all.

 The Buffalo was armed with four machineguns. The muzzle ports for the guns in the engine cowling are there, but the wings have no openings for theirs so they must be located and drilled. The wing folds are moulded as very deep trenches, but I have the feeling these need to be filled for the RAAF aircraft as no pictures I’ve seen of these aircraft show them.

 As one of the two decal options is a naval aircraft there is a tailhook included. In common with many kits of the era the fuselage has a slot so this can extend and retract, and the instructions mention that it should not be cemented in place. The naval variant also has a different tailwheel with a canvas boot, the life-raft container for behind the pilot, and the telescope-style gunsight. The landplane tailwheel is also included for the other option (but the turnover truss is not). Surprisingly the Wright Cyclone radial engine is very nicely detailed with petite cooling gills.

 There are four, flashy clear pieces. The unusual ventral window is included, as are two different windscreens (one with a slot for the gunsight), and the expansive rear glazing. The sliding canopy is moulded separate, but I’m not sure if it would fit over the rear section (Squadron make a vacform replacement that is readily available).

 As mentioned above, there are two decal options: one is an F2A-2 of VF-2 US Navy aboard the USS Lexington in 1941, the other is TD-V/AN185 of 453 Squadron, RAAF, flown in action by Flight Lieutenant RD “Van” Vanderfield. This aircraft and pilot combination shot down three Japanese aircraft on December 13 1941, an action made even more surprising by the fact that the Buffalo’s landing gear was so extensively damaged it remained extended for the whole flight. Strangely, the aircraft featured in the striking box art is not one of the options, and possibly not even one that served: the serial W8243 doesn’t appear in the seminal Buffaloes Over Singapore, but the RD squadron codes were used by a Buffalo squadron (67 Sqn RAF).


For an aircraft that seemed so obsolescent, unloved in the West and incapable of holding its own against modern opponents, the Buffalo has been well represented in kit form. This was probably the first, followed by another effort by Matchbox in the 1970s. (Editor's Note: Revell also did a Buffalo that is about the same age as the Airfix kit as it was at one time part of their aircraft three-packs.) These have both now been surpassed by the expensive but apparently much more accurate and detailed kit from Hasegawa (do not forget the Special Hobby/MPM kits in this scale. Ed), as well as Tamiya and Special Hobby (and Classic Airframes) offerings in 1:48. The Airfix kit though is great for the beginner or to cure a bout of AMS as it’s sure to go together very well and will certainly look like a Buffalo when complete.


 Buffaloes Over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and Dutch Brewster fighters in action over Malaya and the East Indies 1941-42 – Brian Cull with Paul Sortehaug and Mark Haselden

Zac Yates

April 2012

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