The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team “Red Arrows” Folland Gnat T.1


The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the formal name of the Red Arrows, began life at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, then a satellite of the Central Flying School.  The Red Arrows moved to RAF Kemble, now Cotswold Airport, in 1966 after RAF Fairford became the place of choice for BAC to run test flights for Concorde.  When RAF Scampton became the CFS headquarters in 1983, the Red Arrows moved there.  As an economy measure, Scampton closed in 1995, so the Red Arrows moved just 20 miles to RAF Cranwell; however, as they still used the air space above Scampton, the emergency facilities and runways had to be maintained.


The first team, led by Squadron Leader Lee Jones, had seven display pilots and flew the Folland Gnat T1 jet trainer.  The first display in the UK was on 6 May 1965, at Little Rissington for a press day.  At the subsequent National Air Day display, three days later, at Clermont Ferrand in France, one French journalist described the team as “Les Fleches Rouges”, confirming the name “The Red Arrows”.  By the end of their first season, the Red Arrows had displayed 65 times in Britain, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, and Belgium and were awarded the Britannia Trophy by the Royal Aero Club for their contribution to aviation.

How low can you go?

In 1968, the then team leader (Sqn Ldr Ray Hanna) expanded the team from seven to nine jets, as he wanted to expand the team’s capabilities and the permutations of formation patterns.  During this season, the ‘Diamond Nine’ pattern was formed and it has remained the team’s trademark pattern ever since.  Ray Hanna served as Red Leader for three consecutive years until 1968 and was recalled to supersede Squadron Leader Timothy Nelson for the 1969 display season, a record four seasons as Leader, which still stands.  For his considerable achievements of airmanship with the team, Ray Hanna was awarded a bar to his existing Air Force Cross.

After displaying 1,292 times in the Folland Gnat, the Red Arrows took delivery of the BAE Hawk in the winter of 1979.



Airfix 1/48 Folland Gnat T.1



Upon opening my first Airfix model in something like twenty years I was both surprised and impressed with what I saw. The sprues contained well moulded parts, and lots of them. The surface detail looked great; delicate lines and crisp access and sundry panels giving every bit the impression of the same quality of product as I’d expect from Tamiya.
Construction went surprising well considering how out of practice I am. Beginning with the cockpit I assembled to the point of paint. As I was going to close the canopy, I didn’t spend too much time or effort on the finer details opting instead to create the impression of the cockpit “busyness” rather than a scale representation.

I liked the engineering of the cockpit insertion into the fuselage and the result was a more or less flawless major assembly. Likewise, the wings and tail, though I was puzzled at the fin arrangement. On my model the fin which was part of the fuselage half was warped/bent and I spent some time gently persuading it to return to true.

The movable/pose-able control surfaces were a nice touch, in this scale they add a dynamism to the model. I posed all of mine in a neutral position however and glued them in place; simply being separate pieces was enough to enhance their separateness for me.

Finally, I attached the one-piece canopy and masked it ready for paint.

Paint and Decals


First, I covered the canopy frames with dark grey so that the interior of the frames would appear the same colour as the cockpit. Then I loaded the airbrush with the red and began to mist on the first couple of light coats to set my base. This is where I discovered how poorly red covers as after several coats, I could not cover the dark grey over the canopy (and over spray).

Concerned about how much paint I was laying down I came up with plan B and sprayed a light grey over the dark grey (which was still clearly showing through the red) which covered well and hoped that the red could cope with the lighter grey.

Turns out it could. Well, kinda. If you look closely at the photos, I think there’s still a darkness to the canopy area and on the spine a little in front of the tail fin.

A note on the paints I used; I have always preferred acrylics and now living in an apartment I wanted an odourless option so followed the recommendation to use Vallejo paints. There’s a steep learning curve with these, and they’re much more difficult to use than Tamiya (my previous paint of choice).

After the paint finally cured, remember there’s a lot of it! I laid down a gloss coat in preparation for the decals. I am not a fan of the Vallejo gloss clear and will be looking for something else to use on the next one.

Applying the decals is, along with painting, my favourite part of modelling and this one was no exception. The Airfix decals were easy to use and reacted well to the Microsol/Microset system. I worked through the decaling methodically over a couple of evenings and when complete, I sealed everything up with another gloss coat.

Finishing Up


Adding the final bits and pieces is where it comes together. I added the undercarriage, the various antennas and other add-ons. With all that done, I applied a few very light coats of matt clear to take off the sheen and arrive at a satin finish which, to my eye, better represents a scale shine even for an aircraft that is shiny in real life.

The Red Arrows are very well looked after, and I applied absolutely no weathering. It was done. I really enjoyed this one as my warm-up model in coming back to the hobby after a long break. There’s lots on it I would do differently but nonetheless I like how it turned out.




Official RAF Red Arrows site

Red Arrows on Wikipedia


Copyright:  As usual, I make no claim of original work in this article except for the photos of the models and text describing their construction and painting.  Except where noted otherwise, I sourced all images and photos from the internet and are used under fair-use.  Any copyrighted material will be removed or credited forthwith upon request by its owner.

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