July 2024

De Havilland Sea Mosquito TR.33

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De Havilland DH.98 Sea Mosquito TR.33

Prototype LR367, Hatfield/RAE Boscombe Down/RNAS Ford, June 1945

Airfix 1/72  (old mould) with Scratch Conversion

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The Fleet Air Arm were interested in the Mosquito from an early stage given its range and speed, qualities that would have been needed if the Pacific war had dragged on past 1945.  Although there were remaining doubts about the resilience of the wooden airframe at sea in warm tropical regions and the extreme torque of the two Merlin engines posed a risk of flipping or involuntary turning during takeoff (the later Sea Hornet had handed engines turning in opposite directions to correct this), in March 1944 a converted FB.VI with arrestor hook, flown by Lt Cdr Eric “Winkle” Brown RN, achieved the first ever landing of a twin engine aircraft onboard an aircraft carrier (although apparently the French may have done so earlier with a Potez).   Navalised Sea Mosquitoes followed quickly, with more powerful Merlin 25 engines, folding wings, ASV radar and an arrestor hook.  With a range of 3.500 miles and a top speed of 350mph, the Sea Mosquito was a major leap forward in capability

The armament of the Sea Mosquito TR.33 consisted of 4 x 20 mm cannon under the nose and either 2 x 500 lb bombs in the fuselage (2 could also fitted under the wings), or 8 x 60 lb rockets (four under each wing) and a torpedo under the fuselage.   Fifty aircraft were built, followed by another 6 TR.37 variants, fitted with more advanced and lighter radar in a larger nose radome.   

Although a successful design, its size and tricky take off/landing characteristics remained issues at sea, so it only served ashore.  The stalling speed of the aircraft was above the maximum deck landing speed, requiring a tricky approach with high alpha and full power, cutting the engine completely as soon as the wheels hit the deck, and definitely no sooner!  811 Sqn were the only operational front-line squadron, operating the TR.33 at RNAS Ford and RNAS Brawdy for a very short period from 1946 to 1947.  Another 8 Second line squadrons used the aircraft, right through until 1953 when 751 Sqn finally surrendered its last TR.33s.

As a postscript, after their withdrawal from RN service, 14 of the Fleet Air Arm’s TR.33s were transferred to the Israeli Air Force, who used them as part of a 100 strong Mosquito fleet in reconnaissance and ground attack roles right up until the end of the Suez conflict.

Follow this link to hear the amazing  Eric Brown describe his experience conducting the first Sea Mosquito landings..

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Converting the Airfix Mosquito Kit to a Sea Mosquito:

After my quick fun build of the FROG Meteor U.15 drone in April, my enthusiasm for these quick and basic scratch conversions has been renewed.  This is a project that I kicked off way back in 2008 with the purchase of an Airfix Mosquito NF.XIX/J.30 kit, that had been recently released at that time.  

The original mould dates way back to 1972, with the additional night fighter parts added in 1995.  It's a kit of its time, with a creditable attempt at detail, some over large rivets (on the engines mainly) and a mix of raised and engraved details (not that the Mosquito has much surface detail anyway).  The additional parts in this later release include a new nose section and 4 bladed propellers with their hubs (on a single stage supercharged Merlin), all of which are a good start for a Fleet Air Arm TR.33 torpedo carrying aircraft.  Flash is mostly non-existent, although some details are a little soft, especially on the new parts.

For the naval Mosquito conversion, I intend to add a radome (using a spare torpedo nose), the port side fuselage strengthener, an arrestor hook and beef up the undercarriage legs to reflect the naval variant's pneumatic oleos.  Decals will come from the spares box.  I will also add a little scratch cockpit detail to reflect the radar equipment, since the kit itself comes with a very bare cockpit, particularly behind the Observer's position where there is nothing more than a gaping hole.  And, of course, it will have a torpedo!!!!

Some of the less obvious changes will have to be ignored, such as the (slightly) enlarged elevators, the strengthened hatches and the lengthened air intakes (although I can see photos of aircraft without these), little of which will be obvious in this scale.

Parts fit on the main fuselage and wings is at the upper end of my expectations of a kit from this era.  No filler was needed, but joints needed smoothing back afterwards, and the excessively large rivets on the wings and engines need sanding back - my pictures of real Mosquitoes at the De Havilland Museum show some quite large fasteners and screws on the engine cowling side panels, but not as many as Airfix would have us believe, whilst those on the radiators and the upper and lower wings should be almost invisible.

Since I have no drawings of Sea Mosquitoes to refer to, the length of the new radome had to be approximated from photographs.  I attached it to the basic kit nose (for most variants the kit has you cutting this off and adding something else).   Some masking tape was wrapped around it at the point where I believe the taper should end, then Milliput putty used to roughly fair in the radome to the kit nose profile.  Two small plastic card blisters were added to the lower rear fuselage as fixing points for the A-frame tail hook; these will be sanded back later to make them a little more conforming to the aircraft shape. The A-Frame and hook itself came from my spares box and its origin is a bit of a mystery as I have no idea which other model is missing a hook!

The engine nacelles and undercarriage are some of the more complex sections of this kit, and I fully expect that they will not mate easily with the wings!  The undercarriage is complex and a little fragile, not good news since I need to disassemble parts of it and make them look more like Sea Mosquito Lockheed pneumatic oleos.   The assembly itself is very fiddly, with the wheels providing much of the rigidity as you build and the X-shaped cross braces providing alignment.  It is essential to ensure that the locating pins are all trimmed correctly before you start or the assembly will end up misaligned (ask me how I know).  

Most model builds have their “oops” moment, and this was mine for this build.  

As I assembled the nacelles, it became obvious that my expanded oleos were not going to fit happily into the available space!    I cut away some of the side of the nacelle and this helped, but they still don’t bear too close examination.   

However, this was not my biggest problem, because it turns out that the nacelles are sided and when assembled correctly, provide a step that meshes with the lower wing surface.  Out with the scalpel and time for rework!  All my careful assembly of the delicate undercarriage had to be prised apart, realigned and re-fixed correctly.  Thank goodness I tried a fit on the wings before leaving it overnight, because I doubt it would have come apart in the morning.  This was actually quite a major boo-boo on my part, assuming that because the parts fitted together and all their pins meshed, that I had used the correct bits.  I did consider briefly whether I should simply give up and build the nacelles from the other kit in my stash, but I plodded on and got there in the end.

The nacelles, as I expected, were not a tight fit on the wings, needing some fettling to get them to sit close and square.  The rear upper surface also had some deep moulding sink points that needed filling, along with the self-inflicted ragged joints elsewhere after I prised the incorrect half parts away from each other !

At this point I cheated slightly, and reverted to one of the prototype aircraft for my build, since it did not have the extended engine intakes of the production aircraft.  

Paint is my normal Humbrol enamel favourites (123 and 224) over the Humbrol 90 (Sky/beige Green), brushed on in two thin coats to avoid translucency, coated with Johnson’s Klear before decaling, then finished with Windsor & Newton matt acrylic varnish.

Decals came mostly from the spares box, with a mix of Xtradecal, Modeldecal, and spare parts from kits, plus an Xtradecal set for the prototype “P” marking.

And there you have it, a long delayed project complete.  Not a competition winner and don’t look too close (for example, I think the radome is a bit too wide) , but it was fun to build, looks accurate enough to be convincing for me and fills yet another gap in my Fleet Air Arm collection.

The Real Thing:  

Above:  A mockup of a radar-equipped Mosquito Night Fighter cockpit at the Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum The Sea Mosquito would have looked very similar.

Below:  The marvelllous De Havilland Aircraft Museum at the former De Havilland research centre at Salisbury Hall, just north of London is THE place to go if you are interested in the Mosquito, since it was designed there and they possess the original prototype, preserved and displayed in immaculate condition.

Plenty of other Mosquitoes too, including fighter and bomber variants.  No Sea Mosquitoes unfortunately, although they have bits of a Sea Hornet, plus the original concrete moulds for its fuselage.  

Numerous other De Havilland designs can also be seen around the museum.

Above:  Copyright IWM (A 30631).  The TR.33 prototype on public display  

Below: Showing the manual wing-fold.  Regardless of the ability to fold, this was still a huge aircraft to handle below decks, another issue that counted against its use on a carrier.

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