+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Wasp was a transonic British jet-powered fighter aircraft that was developed by Folland for the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the late 1940s and early 1950s. The Wasp’s origins could be traced back to a privately funded 1952 concept for a bigger and more capable day fighter aircraft than Folland’s very light Midget/Gnat. The Wasp’s development had been continued until the Gnat’s service introduction, and by then it had evolved under the handle “Fo-145” into a supersonic aircraft that took advantage of the new Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet engine, swept wings and area rule. The aircraft was built with the minimum airframe size to take the reheated Saphire and a radar system that would allow it to deploy the new de Havilland Blue Jay (later Firestreak) guided air-to-air missile. In this form the aircraft was expected to surpass the Royal Air Force’s contemporary day fighter, the only gun-armed Hawker Hunter, which had been in service since 1954, while using basically the same engine as its F.2 variant, in both performance and armament aspects. The missile-armed Wasp was also expected to replace the disappointing Supermarine Swift and the Fairey Fireflash AAMs that had been developed for it.
The Wasp strongly resembled the smaller Gnat, with a similar but much thinner shoulder mounted wing, with a sweep of 35° at quarter chord, but the new aircraft featured some innovations. Beyond the area-ruled fuselage, the aircraft had full-span leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps with roll control achieved using spoilers rather than traditional ailerons. Anticipating supersonic performance, the tailplane was all-moving. The cockpit had been raised and offered the pilot a much better all-round field of view.
The Wasp was armed with four 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon, located under the air intakes. Each gun had a provision of 125 rounds, from form a mutual ventral ammunition bay that could be quickly replaced. Four underwing hardpoints could carry an ordnance load of up to 4.000 lb, and the Wasp’s main armament consisted of up to four IR-guided “Firestreak” AAMs. To effectively deploy them, however, a radar system was necessary. For launch, the missile seeker was slaved to the Wasp’s AI..20 X-band radar until lock was achieved and the weapon was launched, leaving the interceptor free to acquire another target. The AI..20 had been developed by EKCO since 1953 under the development label “Green Willow” for the upcoming EE Lightning interceptor, should the latter’s more complex and powerful Ferranti AIRPASS system fail. A major advantage of the AI..20 was that it had been designed as a single unit so it could be fit into the nose of smaller single-seat fighters, despite its total weight of roughly 400 lb (200 kg). For the Firestreak AAM, EKCO had developed a spiral-scan radar with a compact 18 in (460 mm) antenna that offered an effective range of about 10 miles (16 km), although only against targets very close to the centerline of the radar. The radar’s maximum detection range was 25 mi (40 km) and the system also acted as a ranging radar, providing range input to the gyro gunsight for air-to-air gunnery.
Beyond Firestreaks, the Wasp could also carry drop tanks (which were area-ruled and coulc only be carried on the inner pair of pylons), SNEB Pods with eighteen 68 mm (2.68 in) unguided rocket projectiles against air and ground targets, or iron bombs of up to 1.000 lb caliber. Other equipment included a nose-mounted, and a forward-facing gun camera.
The Royal Air Force was sufficiently impressed to order two prototypes. Since the afterburning version of the Sapphire was not ready yet, the first prototype flew on 30 July 1954 with a non-afterburning engine, an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa.6 with 8,000 lbf (35.59 kN). In spite of this lack of power the aircraft nevertheless nearly reached Mach 1 in its maiden flight. The second prototype, equipped with the intended Sapphire Sa.7 afterburning engine with 11,000 lbf (48.9 kN) thrust engine, showed the aircraft’s full potential. The Wasp turned out to have very good handling, and the RAF officially ordered sixty Folland Fo-145 day-fighters under the designation “Wasp F..1”. The only changes from the prototypes were small leading-edge extensions at the wing roots, improving low speed handling, esp. during landings and at high angles of incidence in flight.
Most Wasps were delivered to RAF Germany frontline units, including No. 20 and 92 Squadrons based in Northern Germany. However, the Wasp’s active service did not last long, because technological advancements quickly rendered the aircraft obsolete in its original interceptor role. The Wasp’s performance had not turned out as significantly superior to the Hunter as expected. Range was rather limited, and the aircraft turned out to be underpowered, since the reheated Sapphire Sa6 did not develop as much power as expected. The AI..20 radar was rather weak and capricious, too, and the Firestreak was an operational nightmare. The missile was, due to its solid Magpie rocket motor and the ammonia coolant for the IR seeker head, highly toxic and RAF armorers had to wear some form of CRBN protection to safely mount the missile onto an aircraft. Furthermore, unlike modern missiles, Firestreak’s effectiveness was very limited since it could only be fired outside cloud — and over Europe or in winter, skies were rarely clear.
Plans for a second production run of the Folland Wasp with a more powerful Sapphire Sa7R engine with a raised thrust of 12,300 lbf (54.7 kN) and updated avionics were not carried out. During the 1960s, following the successful introduction of the supersonic English Electric Lightning in the interceptor role, the Wasp, as well as the older but more prosperous and versatile Hunter, transitioned to being operated as a fighter-bomber, advanced trainer and for tactical photo reconnaissance missions.
This led to a limited MLU program for the F..1s and conversions of the remaining airframes into two new variants: the new main version was the GR..2, a dedicated CAS/ground attack variant, which had its radar removed and replaced with ballast, outwardly recognizable through a solid metal nose which replaced the original fiberglass radome. Many of these machines also had two of the 30mm guns removed to save weight. Furthermore, a handful Wasps were converted into PR..3s. These had as set of five cameras in a new nose section with various windows, and all the guns and the ammunition bay were replaced with an additional fuel tank, operating as pure, unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. When Folland was integrated into the Hawker Siddeley Group in 1963 the aircraft’s official name was changed accordingly, even though the Folland name heritage persisted.
Most of these aircraft remained allocated to RAF Germany units and retired towards the late Sixties, but four GR..2s were operated by RAF No. 57 (Reserve) Squadron and based at No. 3 Flying Training School at Cranwell, where they were flown as adversaries in dissimilar aerial combat training. The last of the type was withdrawn from service in 1969, but one aircraft remained flying with the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Boscombe Down until 24 January 1975.
Length: 45 ft 10.5 in (13.983 m)
Wingspan: 31 ft 7.5 in (9.639 m)
Height: 13 ft 2.75 in (4.0323 m)
Wing area: 250 sq ft (23 m2)
Empty weight: 13,810 lb (6,264 kg)
Gross weight: 21,035 lb (9,541 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 23,459 lb (10,641 kg)
1× Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa.6, producing 7,450 lbf (33.1 kN) thrust at 8,300 rpm,
military power dry, and 11,000 lbf (48.9 kN) with afterburner
Maximum speed: 631 kn (726 mph, 1,169 km/h) / M1.1 at 35,000 ft (10,668 m)
654 kn (753 mph; 1,211 km/h) at sea level
Cruise speed: 501 kn (577 mph, 928 km/h)
Range: 1,110 nmi (1,280 mi, 2,060 km)
Service ceiling: 49,000 ft (15,000 m)
Rate of climb: 16,300 ft/min (83 m/s)
Wing loading: 84 lb/sq ft (410 kg/m2)
4× 30 mm (1.18 in) ADEN cannon, 125 rounds per gun
4× underwing hardpoints for a total external ordnance of 4.000 lb, including Firestreak AAMs,
SNEB pods, bombs of up to 1.000 lb caliber or two 125 imp gal (570 l) drop tanks
The kit and its assembly
This kit travesty is a remake of a simple but brilliant idea of fellow modeler chrisonord at whatifmodellers’com (.whatifmodellers./index.php?topic=48434.msg899420#m…), who posted his own build in late 2020: a Grumman Tiger in standard contemporary RAF colors as Folland Wasp GR..2. The result looked like a highly credible “big brother” or maybe successor of Folland’s diminutive Midge/Gnat fighter, something in the Hawker Hunter’s class. I really like the idea a lot and decided that it was, one and a half years later, to build my personal interpretation of the subject – also because I had a Hasegawa F11F kit in The Stash™ without a proper plan.
The Tiger was built basically OOB – a simple and straightforward affair that goes together well, just the fine, raised panel lines show the mould’s age. The only changes I made: the arrester hook disappeared under PSR, small stabilizer fins (from an Italeri BAe Hawk) were added under the tail section, and I replaced the Tiger’s rugged twin wheel front landing gear with a single wheel alternative, left over from a Matchbox T-2 Buckeye. On the main landing gear, the rearward-facing stabilizing struts were deleted (for a lighter look of a land-based aircraft) and their wells filled with putty. A late modification were additional swing arms for the main landing gear, though: once the kit could sit on its own three feet, the stance was odd and low, esp. under the tail – probably due to the new front wheel. As a remedy I glued additional swing arm elements, made from 1mm steel wire, under the original struts, what moved the main wheel a little backwards and raised the main landing gear my 1mm. Does not sound like much, but it was enough to lift the tail and give the aircraft a more convincing stance and ground clearance.
The area-ruled drop tanks and their respective pylons were taken from the Hasegawa kit. For a special “British” touch – because the Tiger had a radome (into which no radar was ever fitted, though) – I added a pair of Firestreak AAMs on the outer underwing stations, procured from a Gomix Gloster Javelin (which comes with four of these, plus pylons).
Painting and markings:
Since the RAF theme was more or less settled, paintwork revolved around more or less authentical colors and markings. The Wasp received a standard RAF day fighter scheme from the late Fifties, with upper camouflage in RAF Dark Green/Dark Sea Grey and Light Aircraft Grey undersides with a low waterline. I used Humbrol 163, 106 and 166, respectively – Ocean Grey was used because I did not have the proper 164 at hand, but 106 also offered the benefit of a slightly better contrast to the murky Dark Green. A black ink washing was applied plus some panel post-shading. The silver leading edges on wings, stabilizers and fin were created with decal sheet material, avoiding the inconvenience of masking.
The cockpit interior was painted in a very dark grey (Revell 09, Anthracite) while the landing gear, wheels and wells received a greyish-metallic finish (Humbrol 56, Aluminum Dope). The air intakes’ interior became bright aluminum (Revell 99), the area around the jet nozzle was painted with Revell 91 (Iron metallic) and later treated with graphite for a dark metallic shine. The drop tanks were camouflaged, the Firestreaks became white so that they would stand out well and add to a certain vintage look.
The decals were a mix from various sources. The No. 20 Squadron badges and the Type D high-viz roundels on the wings were left over from an Airfix Hawker Hunter. The fuselage roundels came from an Italeri BAe Hawk sheet, IIRC. The bent fin flash, all the stencils as well as the serial code (which was puzzled together from two real serials and was AFAIK not allocated to any real RAF aircraft) came from an Xtradecal Supermarine Swift sheet. The individual red “B” letter came from a Matchbox A.W. Meteor night fighter.
Finally, the kit was sealed with matt acrylic varnish – I considered a glossy finish, since this was typical for RAF aircraft in the Fifties, but eventually just gave the radome a light shine.
Basically a simple project, and quickly done in just a couple of days. However, chrisonord’s great eye for similarities makes this “Tiger in disguise” a great fictional aircraft model with only little effort, it’s IMHO very convincing. And the RAF colors and markings suit the F11F very well.
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