Trumpeter 1/32 Lightning F.1A/F.3
KIT #: 02280
PRICE: $189.00 SRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Andrew Abshier
NOTES: includes white metal main gear struts and vinyl tires


The English Electric Lightning was developed as the operational culmination of research projects in Great Britain into high-speed flight.  In 1949 a contract was awarded to the English Electric Corporation (EEC) to develop a high-speed interceptor based on the P1 research aircraft.  Although development showed great potential for the Lightning to become a true multirole combat aircraft, the Air Ministry, believing that the Lightning would be an interim type, stalled development.  What emerged was an austere point-defence interceptor, armed with just two cannon and two Firestreak missiles.  Even still, the Lightnings, upon entering service in 1960, represented a quantum leap in capability for RAF Fighter Command over the Hawker Hunters it would be replacing, and would serve the RAF for nearly 28 years.

The first Lightnings in service, the F1s of 74 Squadron, were quickly joined by the improved F1As of 56 and 111 Squadrons.  The F1As could be distinguished from the F1s by the external cable conduits on both sides of the fuselage.  The F1A, and all subsequent Lightning variants, could also be fitted with an inflight refueling probe underneath the left wing. 

In 1964 the more advanced Red Top missile went into service.  The differing aerodynamics of the missile necessitated a larger vertical fin on the Lightning.  The first Lightnings cleared for the Red Tops, the Lightning F3s, were introduced into service by 74 Squadron in 1964.  In addition to the new vertical tails, the F3s also introduced more powerful Mk. 301 Avon engines.  This was also the only front-line Lightning to not be equipped with guns.  The F3s would replace the earlier Lightning variants in front-line service from 1964, and continued in front-line service until the mid 1970s. 


For many years the only route to a 1/32nd Lightning was the Echelon vacuform and multimedia kit.  While that kit was excellent for its time, it also only represented the F2A/F6 variants with the much larger ventral tank.  As good a vacuform kit as it was, considerable modeling skill was still needed to get the best results.  Thus, Trumpeter's kit of the F1A/F3 represents the first time the earlier Lightnings have been done in kit form, and represents a much easier route to get a model of the Lightning in the large scale.

Trumpeter's kit is well packaged and the box looks very full when opened. Even still, just 189 parts make up into the Lightning model--less than half the parts count of Trumpeter's P-47D in the same scale.  The kit is remarkably spare for a Trumpeter model, with no photo-etch included at all, just one film for the instrument panel, and the aforementioned metal struts and vinyl tires; there are no opening panels of any sort on this kit at all.

Molding is generally very good overall.  The plastic is somewhat soft and springy.  Surface detail consists of recessed panel lines and slightly recessed rivets.  The rivet detail is NOT inaccurate in this scale--I have close-up in-flight photos of Lightnings in my primary reference that show the rivet detail--but the determined modeler can always reduce it or eliminate it by successive primer coats and sanding.

Cockpit detail is very good, with nicely rendered side consoles and instrument panels.  The main instrument panel is clear with a film to put on the backside.  As for the ejection seat, no less than 15 parts are used, including separate oxygen bottles and ejection seat pull handles.  No seat harnesses are molded on, which I personally appreciate, but no seat harnesses are provided either!  Aside from the lack of harnesses, you're really not going to need much other than modeling skill to make this a standout cockpit.

Wheel well detail is very good, as are the landing gear struts.  The main wheels are OK but the holes on the hubs should be drilled out for best appearance.  Landing gear doors are convincingly chunky looking, especially for the main gear.  No mention of nose weight is made on the instructions, but this model will require it.

Full intake trunking is provided, as is exhaust trunking.  Speed brakes can be assembled in the deployed position, and the cockpit canopy can be assembled open or closed.  Two each of the Red Top and Firestreak missiles are included, and are well molded with seperate clear seeker heads.  Both the early "witch's hat" tail and the later F3 tail are included

My main gripes with this kit is less over what is included than over what isn't.  No refueling probe is provided at all, and it looks like Trumpeter flat-out missed it, because no flashed-over mounting holes for one are provided on the left wing!  Trumpeter also forgot to include the longer cable conduit length needed for the F3 variant, and also completely neglected the under-canopy details such as a rear-view mirror and grab handles.  There are also quite a few additional scoops on the sides of the fuselage of the F3s that Trumpeter completely missed (in fairness, few Lightning models have gotten this right). Aside from the refueling probe, nothing is left off that can't be replaced by the modeler either from the spares box or good old-fashioned modeling skill. 

Two markings schemes are provided, both in overall natural metal:

1.  Lightning F1A, 56 Squadron "Firebirds", 1962 display scheme as seen on the box art.

2.  Lightning F3, 111 Squadron with a black fuselage spine and vertical fin.

Trumpeter botched the first printing of the color scheme decals by printing the blue parts of the fin flashes in yellow!  Fortunately a replacement color scheme decal with the correct colors is provided.  A second decal sheet is provided with maintenance stencils; the larger stenciling is very readable, but the smaller stenciling is very muddy-looking.  An additional goof is that missile markings are provided for only one each of the Red Top and Firestreak missiles.  Lightnings never flew with mixed missile loads (In fact, the avionics for each was quite different so they couldn't. Ed), so you'll either need to trade markings with another modeler, or paint the markings on, to finish two of the same missiles for your model.  Fortunately the striping on later Red Top and Firestreak missiles is relatively simple to produce, and can easily be sourced from the spares box or even painted on.


The various omissions by Trumpeter are very annoying, and really should have been addressed by the manufacturer before releasing this kit to market, especially at the price they're asking.  On the plus side, what is there is mostly very good, and with some extra detailing, the kit can be built into an impressive and imposing miniature. 

I have one of these kits underway, and will provide a full-build review to MM once it is completed.

Review sample provided by Stevens International via Tom Cleaver.


Lake, Jon: "English Electric Lightning"; Wings of Fame Volume 7, 1997

Aeroguide 8: Lightning: BAC Lightning F Mk. 3/Mk. 6, 1984 

Thunder and Lightnings website:

Aviation Picture Hangar website:

Andrew Abshier

 October 2009

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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