1/72 Trumpeter English Electric Lightning F.2A

Gallery Article by Bill Gilman on Apr 4 2012



The English Electric (later BAC) Lightning has always been one of my favorite Cold War fast jets. Since I model exclusively in 1:72 scale, I got excited several years ago when Trumpeter released the first “new tool” injection molded kits of the Lightning. That excitement soured a bit upon learning of the many inaccuracies present, so I resigned myself to waiting for another supplier to produce the “ultimate” Lightning. Eventually, I realized that it may be a long wait, so I decided to tackle the project and correct what I could.

I used the Trumpeter F.2A/F.6 kit as my starting point, since I knew that I wanted to model the colorful markings of 92 Squadron while stationed in Germany, in particular XN793 which was an F.2A mark. Xtradecals has a beautiful 1:72 scale decal sheet of these markings along with a separate sheet for full stenciling. The Trumpeter kit is beautifully molded, and I especially liked its fine engraved surface detail.

I decided to replace the kit cockpit and bang seat with those from Aires, as I can’t seem to resist the exquisite detail in the resin sets. Next, I purchased a resin replacement set from Quickboost to fix the rear fuselage and exhaust nozzles of the kit. The Trumpeter Lightnings are famous for having a “pinched” rear fuselage and undersized nozzles, this being one of the most obvious errors in the kit. To this I also added a replacement resin intake nozzle for the front of the fuselage, as that provided in the kit is too long, and I preferred the sharper lip of the resin intake. 


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Another very obvious fault in the Trumpeter kit is the belly tank. It’s oversized, and has an exaggerated cross-sectional profile. I thought first about trying to modify the kit parts, but settled on using the belly tank from an old Matchbox F.6 kit that I bought off of eBay. For 1:72 scale, the Matchbox kit probably has the best belly tank available. The F.6 belly tank needed to be modified by sanding off the cannon blisters which were not on the F.2A. There is also a slightly different profile to the front of the F.2A tank, but I did not modify that. I sanded off the raised Matchbox detail and re-scribed the panel lines on the tank. I also used the refueling probe from the Matchbox kit, as that provided by Trumpeter has the light molded at the wrong angle. I grafted the Trumpeter light and receptacle onto the Matchbox refueling probe. Some landing gear links were also purloined from the Matchbox kit.

Another problem that I discovered with the Trumpeter kit is that the wings have no anhedral. On the real plane, the anhedral is quite obvious, but if you build the kit as it’s designed, you end up with virtually level wings. After measuring scale drawings and photos of actual aircraft, I determined that the approximate anhedral when viewed from the front is about 6 degrees. The wings were also designed too far forward on the kit, so I had to move them back a few millimeters. 

The wings on the real Lightning F.2A and F.6 have a unique “triple-kink” in the leading edge which has been captured by only a few model kits. (The best way to see this is to sight along the leading edge from the tip of the wing towards the fuselage.) Needless to say, no one in 1:72 scale has gotten this right yet! This is a tricky modification, and I chose to leave the Trumpeter wings as they are in this regard. They did get the change in the angle of the leading edge of the wing right, this occurs near the “notch” in the leading edge.

The main landing gear struts as provided by Trumpeter are too long (they seem to be the right length for the struts prior to landing!). They were duly shortened.

I used a photoetch detail set from Eduard to spruce up the landing gear bays, landing gear, wheel hubs, and the cockpit including the inside canopy structure, rear view mirror, and seat belt harnesses. The natural metal finish was done with several shades of Alclad lacquer over their gray primer. The dark blue is Gunze H322 masquerading as British Roundel Blue. I applied a light wash for the panel lines, but did not do any extensive weathering as I like the look of a clean Lightning. The finished model has an overcoat of Alclad Aqua Clear Gloss.

I hope you enjoy the photos. The project took about three months to complete and while I know it’s not perfect, I think it represents one of the ways to get an accurate Lightning in 1:72 scale. 

Bill Gilman

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Photos and text © by Bill Gilman