Anigrand 1/144 Britten-Norman Defender
KIT #: A-4036
PRICE: $88.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
NOTES: Part of a set that includes a Nimrod, P.1185 and Merlin HC.3


I was lucky enough to fly in an Islander a few years back on one of the world's shortest commercial routes - the now-defunct hop from the Westman Islands off Iceland back to Iceland itself. As we got on board, the pilot said, in that typical restrained Icelandic style, "Welcome on board, flight time will be six minutes". It was a great flight past spectacular island peaks and across the grey sand shoreline. It was also a perfect example of the type of work that the Islander excels at and has kept it in production since 1965.

The military version is slightly longer and has a slightly longer wingspan. Known as the Defender, it has two underwing hardpoints for light stores, and sometimes has various sensors attached (like a turreted FLIR) under the nose. They're used for various tasks by the UK, seemingly mostly classified based on what little I can find online.

At least two were modified with big radomes under the nose. One had the kind of flat circular radome you typically see under ASW helicopters like the Lynx or SH-60B. That one seems to have been modified in 1984 as part of the British Army Corps Airborne Stand-Off Radar CASTOR programme. The other one had a big fat bulbous radome like you see here and was apparently a prototype AEW plane. It had a Thorn EMI Skymaster radar and space for two operators and their consoles, and could surveil 100 nautical miles from 10,000 feet. But the relatively weak performance of the airframe itself apparently meant that customers were not really interested. Later this aircraft, or maybe another one with the same type of radome, was in testing or maybe in service, with who knows what inside that bubble. I've spent a while reading online but I can't work it out. Perhaps you can!

Anyway, I wondered what the plane might have looked like if it had in fact been bought for AEW or maybe maritime surveillance by a smaller country's air force that couldn't afford, or didn't need, something like an Orion, Nimrod or Poseidon. In my backstory, this and a few like it were used to patrol coastal waters for fisheries, counter-piracy and anti-drug trafficking operations, as well as higher-end military applications if needed. Smaller South East Asian states spring to mind, with all the competing maritime claims and bullying by a resurgent China. The little Baltic states might be another potential customer base, or even Central American/Caribbean states. I found some small roundels from a country I can't identify and went ahead. 

Don't get sticker shock! The price tag includes a great kit of a Nimrod plus two other smaller kits - a Merlin HC.3 and the P.1185/AV-16 supersonic Harrier design project. Still, it's not cheap. You're probably only going to buy it if you really want a Nimrod (like I did). For a full preview, have a look right here on MM

In brief, this is a lovely little resin kit, very nicely moulded with nice engraved detail. It has delicate detail and on my copy at least there was very little by way of surface blemishes. You get two alternative noses -  the regular pointy one and the bulbous radome one. There is a single seat inside the cockpit and some nice, fine undercarriage and propellors. The engines have lovely delicate exhaust pipes. The undercarriage is a bit bland in the wheel area but the main gear fairing is nice.

Happily there were no pinholes or air bubbles that I could see on this, and the parts were generally very clean. A little trimming was necessary on the wingtips and the tailplane. The wheels had a tiny bit of what I guess is flash, and it just rubbed off between my fingers. The radome and also the front part of the bottom of the fuselage had a bit of what looked like a seam, though I don't know if that's actually what it was. I shaved this away carefully with a sharp blade and then gave it a bit of a rub with some fine sandpaper.
I toyed with building an interior until I realised that just about nothing would be seen through the windows which are very small despite the size of the clear resin canopy. They're thick, too. So just imagine that there are a couple of operator consoles in there. 
The part fit is amazingly good. Once you chop off the excess resin (like sprue, basically), the quality engineering of this becomes apparent. To get the tailplane to fit I had to do a little test fitting and trimming, but the vertical tail went in perfectly. The radome nose fits well too, with a tiny step underneath that I decided not to fuss with. The wing goes into the slot on the canopy perfectly. That assembly then fits nicely on the fuselage, and the engine pods fit the wing equally well. Absolutely no complaints there.
This is a tail sitter because there is nowhere to put any weight. If you have a few bits of dense plutonium handy you might be ok! By tipping the surface so it's slightly downhill, I got it to sit on its wheels properly.
I painted the inside of the cabin and the interior of the clear part with light grey (Tamiya XF-19) and the instrument panel and coaming flat black. You really can't see anything through the tiny windows. For the overall paint job, I contemplating going with a single grey on top, and maybe a different grey underneath, along the lines of practically every modern military aircraft. Somehow that seemed pretty boring though, so then I decided to go with a camouflage scheme. But that seemed a bit unrealistic for the contemporary era although an image search revealed that Colombia's new CN-235 maritime patrol plane has a two-tone grey scheme. 
So I did ultimately go with an overall modern dark grey on top, and a lighter one underneath, but keep some interest by giving it high visibility wingtips and tail as well as some interesting markings to brighten up the subtle national insignia. That goes against the modern trend but I thought that these markings better fitted the kind of operations this plane would mostly be doing. They could be quickly be painted out if needed for a real war scenario.
I used Mr Colour 331 Dark Sea Grey for the upper shade and Mr Colour 73 aircraft grey underneath. The radome is matt black and the hi-vis sections are Tamiya orange. 
To make it a bit more visually interesting still, I added some other decals from the spares department. These included a little radiation symbol to put near the radome, and some DANGER signs to go near the engines. And I found a few other data stencils and symbols that looked like they could belong. It has a tail badge that actually came from a 1/200 Kawasaki C-1 cargo plane, and it has a nose art style name: The Firefly. That came from a 1/144 B-58. I put "NAVY" on the side despite contemplating this as from a smaller, non English speaking country. Such places often put English language labels on their planes, so it's realistic enough for a whiffer.

I enjoyed this and I like the way it turned out. Sure, it's extremely expensive and a tail sitter.  But if you're buying the Nimrod then you will get this too and it is well worth building.


March 2015

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