The Fairey Swordfish was an aircraft that combined World War 1 design parameters with construction techniques of the 1930’s. Built with a metal structure it was covered with fabric and had the bracing wires of aircraft of an earlier age. Despite it’s out of date design and less than sparkling performance statistics it would serve throughout World War II and at least twice would be the crucial piece of equipment in actions against the Axis powers.

       The Swordfish design traces back to an Air Ministry request for a spotter aircraft to assist in the spotting of naval gunfire. A follow on requirement expanded the operating parameters to include carrying a torpedo, gun spotting and reconnaissance and took on the designation TSR 1. The TSR 1 was being developed at the same time that Fairey was working on a private venture (PV) for the Greek Armed services. The TSR 1 and PV were externally similar except for the engines. The TSR 1 made its first flight on March 21, 1933. The TSR 1 was lost on September 11, 1933 during spin recovery trials.

       A follow on design, the TSR II, was built incorporating a larger Bristol Pegasus IIIM.3 engine and an extra bay was added that lengthened the fuselage, strakes were added to help in spin recovery. Because of the extra length the upper wing was swept back at an angle of 4 degrees to compensate for the change in the center of gravity. This was the definitive Swordfish prototype and it made its first flight on April 17, 1934. The TSR II was ordered into production as the Swordfish I.

       Early in World War II Swordfish aircraft went to sea aboard the Royal Navy’s fleet carriers. They saw action during April, 1940 in Norway, operating from the island base of Malta Swordfish ran up an impressive record of sinking Axis shipping in the Mediterranean. In November of 1940, operating from carriers, Swordfish again hurt the Axis in the daring nighttime raid against the Italian Naval Base at Taranto. In this operation Swordfish sank one Italian Battleship, heavily damaging two other battleships, two cruisers, two destroyers and two auxiliary ships. In May of 1941, the Kriegsmarine Battleship Bismarck was loose in the Atlantic and the Royal Navy was using all its might to sink this dangerous threat. If it were not for the Swordfish the Bismarck might have escaped and gotten back to the safety of the French coast. On May 26th Swordfish from the HMS Ark Royal attacked the Bismarck using their torpedoes. One torpedo struck the steering gear of the Bismarck causing it to lock in place and making the mighty battleship steam in circles which allowed the Royal Navy’s Battleships to catch it and sink it the following morning.

       In February of 1942 the German battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and the cruiser Price Eugen attempted to breakout into the Atlantic through the English Channel. Again Swordfish were called upon to attack, however this time the Luftwaffe was there to fly cover for the Kriegsmarine ships. The Swordfish did not fare well against Messerschmitt Me-109s and all attacking aircraft were shot down. This led to a change of mission for the Swordfish as well as development of the MK II Swordfish.

       As the war progressed Swordfish were used from CAM (Catapult Armed Merchantmen) ships and light aircraft carriers as ant-submarine escorts for the North Atlantic convoys. The Swordfish Mk II was developed with this role in mind. The torpedo rack was still there but the lower wings were skinned with metal instead of cloth allowing rockets to be fired. Rockets were a useful tool against submarines. Mk IIs also were equipped with ASV (Airborne Surface Vessel) radar and a more powerful engine. The Swordfish accounted for the sinking of 22.5 U-boats.

       This is a follow kit to Tamiya’s 1999 release of the Swordfish MK.1 with approximately 95% of the kit being interchangeable. Upon opening the box the one surprise was the recommendation that an additional $17 be spent on photo etch accessory tree.

       Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 produce a highly detailed cockpit that is a pretty detailed model all by itself. I chose not to include the crew figures so step 5 was skipped.

       Step 6 includes detailing the instrument panel by painting it and then decaling 3 individual instrument clusters that really comes out nice. The rest of Step 6 and steps 7, 8, 11, 12 and 13 involve assembling the fuselage and lower wing mid-section and braces, then attaching the cockpit assembly, fuselage halves, tail surfaces and braces and the upper wing support. A choice has to be made between Steps 11 and 12 as to whether you want the model to have folded wings or not. I chose to not fold the wings. I also chose not to use the extra fuel tank and left the engine assembly, oil cooler, wind screen off until after painting the fuselage.

       Steps 9 and 10 produce another excellent sub assembly - the engine. Photo-etched parts were used in this step. I left the cowling ring off until after I painted it.

       Step 14, the upper wing mid-section, was assembled and put aside for painting.

       Steps 15, 16 and 17 involve assembly of the upper and lower wing halves, their bracing struts and bracing wires. For the bracing wires the kit instructions involve using a majority of the photo-etched parts that were purchased separately. On previous models I had tried using photo-etched bracing wires and was not happy with the results. It was difficult to make them taut and I had a hard time gluing them in place without getting glue so it was visible on the finished model. Also aren’t bracing wires supposed to be round, not flat? So I diverged from the kit instructions. After painting the wing halves and fuselage, I assembled the upper half of the lower wing, the bracing struts and lower half of the upper wing for both left and right wings. I then drilled small holes (.020” diameter) and ran .011” diameter (10 Lb. test) monofilament fishing line through the drilled holes. To anchor these “wires” I used small pieces of sprue with additional hole drilled in them. Super Glue works great in this application.

       I also used this fishing line method for bracing wires on the upper wing section and the tail surfaces and using smaller diameter (.006) fishing line I fashioned an antenna.

       I followed the kit instructions through the remainder of the assembly remembering to add the pieces that I had skipped over. Pieces from the photo-etched tree were used for the torpedo aiming guides (DP 9 & DP10) in step 14.

       Tamiya gives you three choices for markings in this kit. I chose markings for a Mk.II Swordfish from 816 Squadron aboard the HMS Tracker serving on convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic convoy escort duties during 1943.

       I am pretty happy with the results of this build.

Photo GalleryModel Magazine DatabaseModel ProjectsEnthusiast's LinksHomeContact Us