09 October 2023
Aviation 72 Folland Gnat F-1 – XK740 RAF North Weald & Yugoslav Air Force
PRICE: £49.99 each
REF: AV72-28-002 (RAF) & AV72-28-005 (Yugoslav)
The fifth and sixth versions of Aviation 72’s Folland Gnat single-seater have just arrived. Aviation 72 released the first three examples of its newly-tooled Gnat at the beginning of 2020. Following in the contrails of Aviation 72's successful two-seat T.1 trainer variant that has spawned many versions in 1/72 scale, the model's casting was modified to replicate the original solo cockpit 'light fighter' F.1 that first flew in 1955.
Initially released in three schemes (RAF Cosford Museum XK724, Finnish Air Force, and Indian Air Force E1974), this trio of 2020 releases together won the Aviation category in our Diecast Collector Awards in 2021 (see the January 2021 issue). The fourth version, replicating RAF XK740 as preserved and on display at the Solent Sky Museum, landed in Spring 2022 (reviewed in the May 2022 issue).
The British Folland Gnat was developed as a compact swept-wing subsonic fighter aircraft that was produced by Folland Aircraft. Envisioned as an affordable light fighter in contrast to the rising costs and size of typical combat aircraft, it was procured as a trainer aircraft for the Royal Air Force as well as by overseas customers in Finland, Yugoslavia and India, who used the Gnat in both combat and training capacities.
Although never used as a fighter by the RAF, the 2-seat Gnat T.1 jet trainer variant was also adopted and operated for some time. The Gnat also became well known due to its prominent use as the original display type used by The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. The Gnat was replaced by the Hawker Siddeley Hawk.
The RAF version (a limited edition of 360) depicts an aircraft based at RAF North Weald, in Essex. Wearing registration number XK740, this model actually replicates the same aircraft as modelled for the Solent Sky Museum release, but this one wears the livery it wore during 1963. XK740 spent most of its active life (1957 to 1967) on engine development flights.
The Yugoslav Air Force ordered two Gnat F.1s for evaluation and the first of these flew in June 1958, but no further aircraft were ordered. One aircraft was destroyed in a crash in 1958, but the other has survived and is preserved and displayed at the Aeronautical Museum Belgrade, in Serbia. This is the airframe modelled here. It’s original registration during tests was 11601, but this is not present on the preserved aircraft, so the model correctly reflects this.
Just like their predecessors, each of these two latest 1/72 scale replicas really looks the part with the smaller cockpit and both are wonderfully finished in the appropriate liveries for their respective aircraft. The paintwork on both features a suitable level of sheen and the markings are all beautifully applied and there is plenty of excellent detailing to enjoy. Undercarriage is fixed in the deployed position on both aircraft and each comes complete with a display stand to use, if desired.