Valiant Wings Publishing | Airframe Album No. 19: The Fairey Barracuda
Reviewed by Kevin Futter
Valiant Wings Publishing has just released the 19th instalment in its Airframe Album series, entitled The Fairey Barracuda: A Detailed Guide To The Fleet Air Arm's First Torpedo-Bomber Monoplane. In common with previous titles in the series, this one is authored by Richard A. Franks, a well-known name in modelling and aviation publishing.
The first thing that strikes you with this book is the terrific cover art by Arkadiusz Wróbel. The presentation of material in this book is impressive throughout. Photographs are generally clear and crisply reproduced, as are the isometric line drawings by Juraj Jankovic. The colour profiles by Richard Caruana are handsomely rendered.
The content itself is organised into five main sections plus an introduction and appendices:
- 1. Technical Description
- 2. Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants
- 3. Camouflage & Markings
- 4. Models
- I. Barracuda Kit List
- II. Barracuda Accessories, Decals & Masks List
- III. Barracuda Production
- IV. Bibliography
It should be evident from the list of contents alone that this title is aimed squarely at the modeller. There's plenty here for aviation enthusiasts and Barracuda aficionados too, but the emphasis is on providing the modeller with copious data and as much detail as possible.
The Introduction consists of a 21-page Preface that details the development and service history of the Fairey Barracuda, including its use by foreign powers. It's a useful overview of the type—especially if, like me, you're not overly familiar with this often-overlooked aircraft.
The Technical Description section of the book is packed with period photographs and technical drawings. The airframe is covered pretty comprehensively from nose to tail, with special emphasis on those areas of the most interest to modellers. Since there are no surviving complete airframes (though one is currently undergoing restoration), the photographic coverage is obviously confined to historical data only.
The section on the evolution of the airframe gives a concise but very clear overview of the development of the Barracuda, including prototypes and projected variants. Each isometric line drawing is accompanied by explanatory notes, making it relatively easy to track changes across the development history of the type. This has always been my favourite element in all of the books from Valiant Wings, and it's a really useful feature.
The Camouflage and Markings section covers the type's use by the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm, as well as by France and The Netherlands post-war. A decent selection of period photographs is accompanied by a selection of colour profiles. A handy stencil placement guide in 1/72 scale is also included.
I'd like to see larger versions of some of the photos, but that's a perennial constraint that all aviation publications have to deal with, and hardly a criticism.
The final of the main sections of the book features but a single model build, which sees Libor Jekl tackle the Special Hobby 1/72 scale kit. This is a very nice build, complete with improvements to the basic kit that make it a useful guide to tackling this kit.
It's a shame that there aren't more model builds featured in the book, as there have been with previous instalments in the Airframe Album series, but it's not explicitly a modelling instructional series in any case, so I can understand the decision from that perspective.
The final section is the Appendices, and these follow the customary pattern for this series of books, in outlining what options the modeller has in terms of kits, accessories and decals for producing a scale replica of the Fairey Barracuda. Perhaps one day we'll see a kit in 1/32 scale, but so far, there hasn't even been a vacuform example released!
The book rounds things out with a bibliography of existing titles covering the Barracuda, which serves as a handy launch pad for further research into the type.
Here's a small selection of sample pages, courtesy of Valiant Wings:
This is a detailed, comprehensive and modeller-friendly title. If you're building, or intend to build, a model of the Fairey Barracuda in any scale, this book will prove invaluable, and I highly recommend it. In the meantime, we'll continue to wait for a 1/32 scale kit!
Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for the review sample.
© Kevin Futter 2023
This review was published on Sunday, October 15 2023; Last modified on Sunday, October 15 2023