Airfix 1/600 Scale HMS Ark Royal
Review by Felix Bustelo

You can see this model in the Photo Gallery

The Ark Royal was launched on April 13, 1937 and at the outbreak of World War II, she immediately saw action against German U-boats and aircraft. There were even claims made be the Luftwaffe early in the war that they had sunk her. These were of course false and she served in several important operations. In late 1939, she and the HMS Renown took part in the hunt for the Graf Spee. In 1940 her airplanes provided valuable support to ground troops in the Norwegian campaign and they unsuccessfully attacked the Scharnhorst. She went on to become part of Force H based in Gibraltar and was in action against the Italian Navy and Air Force in the Mediterranean. Probably her most famous mission occurred in 1941, when the Ark Royal was part of the massive Royal Navy flotilla sent to search and destroy the Bismarck. Swordfish from the Ark Royal spotted and attacked the German battleship with torpedoes. Two hits were scored, damaging the ship's rudders and severely limiting her maneuverability. Eventually, she was sunk by other ships dispatched in the search. She returned to Gibraltar to participate in the Malta Convoys, where she was torpedoed by U-81. While being towed back to Gibraltar, the Ark Royal sank on November 14, 1941, with the loss of only one life.

 My kit is a recent re-release of a kit that was first issued in 1966. I honestly do not know at what point in her career this kit is supposed to represent the Ark Royal. The kit has 171 parts molded in a light gray and measures a length of about 16 inches by 2 inches (406mm x 48mm). I find that this kit is a mixed bag for an Airfix kit in that some parts are nicely done while others are rather bad. The hull halves are nicely detailed, though there is quite a bit of flash around the openings in the sides that needs to be cleaned up. The one piece flight deck is adequate and comes with openings to optionally show any of the elevators in a down position. The kit does come with parts to close these openings up and show the elevators in a closed position. The 8 arrestor wires are finely etched into the deck and the two catapults are represented as recessed channel at the extreme bow.

 Most of the other kit's parts are O.K. and typical for an Airfix kit. The 2-pounder 8-barelled poms-poms and Vickers Quad 0.5 inch guns can be improved with either the White Ensign Models 600 Pro resin upgrades or parts from their RN Anti-Aircraft Weapon photo-etch set. The 19 ship's boats are again a mixed bag, with most of them having some detail but still a few of those terrible solid plastic blobs. The biggest criticism that I have of this kit is with the quality and selection of airplanes. First, there are no Skuas with the kit, only Swordfish and Fairey Fulmars. The planes, which come in both open and folded wing versions, are rather poor. The ship's cranes and aerials could use photoetch replacements, since they are solid plastic parts.

 My complaining aside, the Ark Royal, like all Airfix kits, can be made into very nice models with photo-etch, good references and patience. For evidence of this, check out Jim Baumann's build of this kit in the Gallery. Coming to the rescue in the photo etch department is White Ensign Models , which is planning to market a superdetail set for this kit. So, if you enjoy 1/600 scale kits and would like a model of this venerable aircraft carrier, then grab it and wait for the upcoming photoetch set.