Painting War Gaming Figures: WWII In The Desert

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The cover shows some of the results in action.

This book represents a foot into the dark art of figure painting for me. Whilst I don’t wargame myself I do admire the skills wargamers display in their painting techniques and I do subscribe to many wargaming channels and pages on social media in the search to pick up tips that I can transfer to my scale modelling.

Despite this though I always shy away from including figures into my builds as I don’t feel I am able to do them justice. With this book and the scale’s it covers I thought this would give me a knowledge base and basic skill set to improve upon over time that should transfer over to my predominately 72nd scale work and I may well be able to include some of these figures included with kits for a change rather than throwing them into the spares box!

Each section of the book is concise and to the point, the aim being to give the modeller confidence to master the basics and build up from this. It’s pointed out the book is not intended to get you to build masterpieces, just some achievable results in good time that will hopefully prevent us from becoming disheartened with our work. So the Author does not spend page after page trying to explain the nuances of brush work but instead gives solid practical advise that you are encouraged to work with.

The book begins by covering the very basics, with a description of the most common materials wargaming figures are made from and the tools you will require to begin to build and paint small scale figures and how to look after them. It also describes the basic techniques you will be using such as dry brushing which will be familiar to many scale modellers but also washing and glazing and varnishing, these are techniques that many people are using in the scale modelling world also, so should probably be somewhat familiar to most. All good so far and nothing is sounding particularly intimidating!

Then we move on to construction techniques and poses for multipart figures. This section does a great job of highlighting the importance of prep and methodical working without making it obvious they are doing so, something I liked as it in no way felt like the author was talking down to their audience.
Now the book moves on to Part 2, which is the painting guides themselves. This is split into 4 main sections. Painting British and Commonwealth Soldiers, the Italian army, the U.S. Army and the German army. There are also sections on painting Camo uniforms and basing of figures.

Each of the 4 forces are looked at with a step by step guide listing the colours and techniques used to produce the results shown in the full colour photographs. Starting from the base coat or primer all the way through to the finished article. Along the way there are 3 skill levels to work to, Conscript with is the most basic level of finish, Regular which uses more techniques to result in an improved finish and finally what the author describes as Elite level, which whilst it may sound intimidating in title, it is really just another step up and is not in anyway saying this could not be further improved upon.

I found the colour charts and the step by steps in the painting guides to be well laid out and easy to follow and thought the accompanying photographs were detailed enough to see the effect the author is aiming for you to pick up even though the figures being built are obviously small scale.

The camouflage section follows the same format as each of the forces painting guides and even though the basing section is a little more basic than the painting guides, it has to be remembered that this is aimed at wargaming figures not diorama pieces and although the skills will transfer you would want to build on these.

Over all I found the book to be a great introduction to figure painting which as a novice to the genre will hopefully allow me to produce a good basic figure which I can then work on extra detailing, shading and other effects as my skill sets and confidence grow!

I would as always like to thank Pen and Sword books for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many more great titles at their website!

Book Review: Flight Craft 18 “Special” – British Military Test and Evaluation Aircraft The Golden Years 1945 – 1975

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Flight Craft 18

This volume of the Flight Craft series differs somewhat to those I have reviewed previously. Typically, the books concentrate on a single aircraft type such as The Spitfire or the ME-109 for example, this one differs in that it covers a genre of aircraft.
Prototypes and test aircraft are always at the forefront of development, and they can often be radically different to the aircraft they are intended to replace, this book covers British Test and Evaluation aircraft during what was probably the busiest period of aircraft development for the British industry, 1945-1975.
This post war environment and the rapid shift in predicted warfare tactics this period bore witness to massive developments being made in everything from avionics to electronics, weapons to power plants. This volume concentrates mostly on the colour schemes and markings of these aircraft during this period.
The book starts in the 1940’s with 1945-1950 being looked at. The chapter begins, as do the others in the book, by describing the conditions and developments the period was to bear witness to and there plenty of fantastic photographs and the superb full colour profiles of aircraft that we are by now used to finding in this series of books. There are profiles of some fantastic and unusual aircraft in this section including the Armstrong Whitworth AW.52, Saunders-Roe’s SR.A1 and De Havilland 108 Swallow.
Next, we move into the 1950’s, a decade that due to the Cold war saw much development of British aircraft, it witnessed the quest for supersonic fighters. There are profiles of what have become very famous aircraft in the Gloster Meteor, the English Electric Canberra and the Hunter, accompanying these are profiles of test versions of the Lincoln B2, the Avro Lancaster B.1 (special) and the Fairy Gannet amongst many other aircraft.
The 60’s is looked at next, which was a decade of decline really for the British aviation industry, the cancellation of the TSR.2 project is often looked at as the focal point of this decline. This was a project that so much of the British aviation industry was focused on that its cancellation was to have massive repercussions for the sector. The increase in development costs for new aircraft types was causing more collaborative efforts with other countries to come to the fore. Still this meant that aircraft such as the HP.115 and BAC 221 which were produced as part of the Anglo-French Concorde project for example. The 60’s did see the birth of one of the real highlights of British aircraft design the Hawker P.1127 was developed into what was to enter service as the Harrier. There are also references for aircraft such as the Javelin and some rotary wings in the form of the Westland Scout and Whirlwind.
Finally the book moves into the 70s and there are more variants of the Canberra, Javelin and Hunter looked at along with things like the Vickers Viscount, Handley Page Hastings, there’s even a VC-10 and a Shackleton to name just a few of the aircraft in this chapter and there are again rotary wings in the form of Westland Wessex and the Sea King.
Overall this book is a fantastic resource for the modeller, again as with all Flight Craft books this should provide great references and inspiration to maybe get a conversion or two on the bench or look at reproducing some of the fantastic and rarely seen schemes the test aircraft of the post war period wore with pride. The photographs and profiles are good quality and the accompanying text and captions are informative. This volume is definitely one you should pick up if you like aircraft of the period.

I would as always like to thank Pen and Sword books for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many more great titles at their website.

Book Review: The Royal Navy Wasp. An Operational & Retirement History

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The Royal Navy Wasp: An Operational & Retirement History

So, I have another book from those fantastic people over at Pen & Sword Books to have a look at, this time it’s a subject matter with wings that are rotary rather than my usual fixed wing interest.

This publication looks at the small but mighty Westland Wasp, this was the first helicopter in the world to be designed to be deployed at sea.

The book begins by looking at the conditions during the post war period that lead to the development of the Wasp as a solution. Anti-Submarine operations using aircraft were nothing new, in fact aircraft have been used since the first world war to attack submarines, albeit in a much less sophisticated manner. During WWII though things were advancing rapidly but still ships and aircraft alike needed to catch their prey on the surface to launch an attack.

Technology continued to advance and by the 50s aircraft were able to detect even submerged vessels. It was at this point the Navy decided the use of a small helicopter that could be launched from destroyers and frigates as a weapon carrier in anti-submarine warfare operations could be an effective tool.

From the outset the book includes anecdotes from pilots and crew. From the test pilots, to those that were to use the aircraft in operations and finally those that went on to operate the aircraft in a civilian role. These are taken not only directly from the crew members or official reports, but also from articles in publications such as Cockpit! or Flight Deck Magazines for example. I found many of these to be really fascinating and I loved being able to read these first-hand accounts of what the aircraft was like to operate and the tasks it was asked to carry out.

Moving on we take a brief look at the company that would eventually go on to secure the contract for providing this ship-based aircraft, The Westland Aircraft Works, and how it came to purchase Saunders Roe and with it their prototype project P531. This aircraft was subsequently developed into the land-based Scout and what was briefly named the Sea Scout, which was the basis of what became the Wasp

The development of the Wasp during the early years is looked at, covering everything from engine improvements to safety systems such as the flotation devices for a ditched helicopter. Weaponry and aircraft roles are looked at next including the development of new roles for the Wasp to be utilised in as a counter to emerging threats such as the advent of the Fast Patrol Boat for example.

As the book continues we hear about the initial deployment of the aircraft to the vessels it was to serve from and the trials that those early crews faced, both the flight team and the ships company. More articles from Flight Deck and Cockpit provide a great insight to what these early days of Wasp operation was like.

There are more anecdotal articles describing first-hand what it was like to work with the aircraft including a brief diary covering a year of operations by a Naval Air Engineering Mechanic on board the HMS Naiad during the early 80s. There are also accounts from three different vessels carrying Wasps that were deployed during the ‘Cod Wars’ of the 70s. This makes for interesting reading due to the unusual and sensitive nature of the situation.

Returning to the 80s we head into the Falklands conflict, looking at the aircrafts first real operations in a theatre of war. This section begins with the account of the flight on HMS Endurance which was the only Navy vessel in the area when hostilities began, and it is during this account that we hear about the encounter between the Argentine submarine Santa Fe and the Wasp that saw the first guided missile ever fired by the Royal Navy not only being fired but also meeting its target.

Falklands missions are also described from Flights aboard several other vessels including HMS Plymouth, HMS Yarmouth, the hospital ship HMS Hydra along with HMS Herald and HMS Hecla. Missions after the surrender are also looked at from other vessels.

There are then more personal accounts from crews that flew the aircraft during its service with the Navy, including the book authors own experiences with the aircraft.

Moving away from the Wasps service to the UK the book takes a look at their 2nd lease of life which was to be found abroad. Service was to be seen with New Zealand, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil and South Africa with some aircraft remaining in service well into the 90s and beyond, impressive considering the type first flew in 1962.

Finally, the book looks at the few Wasps that are still active although not in military service. With the aircraft now in civilian hands the trials and tribulations they have faced since becoming civilian owned are covered, such as an impromptu search and rescue mission during a 2016 air show after another aircraft was forced to ditch into the sea.

In conclusion, I have found this book to be a very interesting read. I found the stories from operations to be very compelling and those centred around operations in the Falklands in particular were my favourite part of the book. Whilst it is true that this is an aviation history book more than anything else there are still some great reference images for modellers alongside the fantastic stories and I don’t think the level of detail the book goes into should be off-putting to anyone with an interest in military, naval or aviation subjects.

If you fancy picking up your own copy of this title then you can do so over at Pen & Swords Website, I would also recommend having a good look around on the site too as there are loads of great titles to be found.

Book Review: Flight Craft 16 Hawker Hunter in British Service

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Flight Craft 16: Hawker Hunter in British Service

This issue in the Flight Craft series focuses on the Hawker Hunter in British service. This is an aircraft that has always been able to lay claim to being one of the most elegant jets to have graced the RAF in service. It is a design that despite its emergence during a period of rapid advancement in British aviation, was able to remain in service until the final flight of XL612 in 2001.

The Flight Craft series are fantastic resources for modellers and this edition is no exception, as always the aircraft’s history is looked at, starting rightly with the prototypes of the design we move swiftly through the various marks to enter RAF service. The concise descriptions of the upgrades each revision saw are often accompanied by the reasons the modifications were sought, all alongside the usual excellent standard of photographs that are always present in the series.

Next the book continues by covering the two seat variants of the aircraft in a similar manner and then moves on to take a brief look at the naval GA.11 variant, again all accompanied by great quality images and captions.

The Camouflage and Markings section comes next with its array of fantastic artwork covering many of the types and schemes the Hunter has been found in during its history. This section has been my favourite part of previous Flight Craft titles and this is no exception. The quality of artwork really is fantastic and the with the variety of schemes covered you are sure to find inspiration for a future build.

Modelling the Hunter is covered next with images of some great completed kits and conversions before finally the book moves on to look at the Hunter’s cockpit, this includes some great detail photography of the cockpits and ejection seats.

Overall this book is yet another great addition to the Flight Craft series, if your planning a build in the future of pretty much any variant of the aircraft in British service then there should be something for you in this book.

I know I say this at the end of every book review but my thanks really do go out to Pen &Sword for the continued opportunity to review titles like these. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many other fantastic titles over at their website.

Book Review: De Havilland Comet. The World’s First Commercial Jetliner

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This volume of World’s Greatest Airliners looks at what in my opinion is one of the most beautiful airliners to grace the sky, De Havilland’s Comet. The book’s concise text is accompanied throughout by some fantastic images of the aircraft, and whilst I could never grow tired of looking at photos of the Comet, its storied history during such a time of development and change for the aviation industry makes for great reading.

The book begins with a brief introduction describing the build up to the Comet’s first flight, an event that saw Britain as the world leaders of jet airliner development, barely four years since the end of the second World War.

We then jump back 7 years to look at the circumstances that lead to the development of the Comet. The formation of the Brabazon Committee during the war believed that there would be the need for 6 different types of aircraft to serve the Empire’s post war civil aviation requirements, Type IV being the most radical of the requirements. This was a demand for the fully jet powered airliner the Comet was to end up fulfilling.

The book follows the Comet’s rapid development, from authorisation to production in barely 4 years, leading up to that exciting afternoon on the 27th of July 1949 that saw her roar into the skies above the Hatfield factory.

Continuing to look at the Comet’s seemingly unstoppable rise, the initial success and the development of the Comet is covered. This saw it grow not only in engine power, efficiency and customers, but even in size as the Comet 3 prototype comprised of longer fuselage to accommodate increased passengers and fuel loads as the Comet moved, without rival, into routes all over the world. All with levels of luxury not before seen in the sky.

On we continue to what was some of the darkest days for the type, the loss of multiple aircraft and many lives lead to the grounding of the entire Comet fleet in 1954. The subsequent investigations are looked at as well as briefly describing the testing methods that lead to discovery of the ultimate cause of the accidents.

The rebirth of Comet which saw the development of the airframe into the larger Comet 3 and 4 saw BOAC again place its faith in the type. Indeed, it used the extensive testing period the Comet had endured because of the 1954 accidents to its advantage describing the Comet 4 as ‘The worlds most tested jetliner’

Next, we move on to the Comet’s slow decline that begins with BOAC, the Comets biggest supporter to date, moving its fleet over to the larger Boeing 707 to enable it to remain competitive on the scheduled routes whilst moving its fleet of Comets to its smaller subsidiary airlines across the Empire.

Overseas operators are covered next with Comets being used by airlines across the world, but the aviation industries shift towards chartered flights during the 60’s for the rapidly expanding package holiday market was already seeing the type become uncompetitive.

Still the type was to remain in service with what had become the operator of the single largest fleet of Comets, Dan-Air, until the end of 1980 when the type made its final commercial flight.

As the book nears its end it looks at the Comet’s service with the RAF. The chapter covers the roles of types during their service with 216 Squadron and 192 Squadron, the latter being renumbered 51 Squadron, before the most extensive modifications saw the Comet inspired maritime patrol aircraft The Nimrod come into existence.

Before ending the book, the author treats us to a chapter of anecdotes from RAF Comet pilots Brian Burdett and Peter Bowright

As you may guess by the way I go on a bit in this review this is an aircraft and story I love. The tale of its birth from war time meetings to its retirement at the dawn of the 1980s is one that provides times of fantastic highs of record-breaking journeys and cutting-edge development and terrible lows.

It took place during a time of great turmoil for the British aviation industry, which saw many of the famous names from wartime aviation disappear. Whether that be due to liquidation or their merger into large corporations desperately trying to be able to keep the British aviation industry competitive and relevant on a global stage.

Thanks to the author, this is a story any aviation fan can enjoy. Whilst including enough detail to keep the enthusiast interested, I think the balance is well done and it should not be off putting to those with just a passing interest in the subject and throughout, the story is accompanied by an array of beautiful photographs.

I would as always like to thank Pen and Sword books for allowing me the opportunity to review this book. You can pick up your copy of this book, along with many more great titles at their website.

Book Review: Images of War. The Desert Air War 1940-1943

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This book looks at the conflict fought in the skies above the Mediterranean and North Africa during the period from which Mussolini declared war in June of 1940 until the Italian armistice of September 1943.

Over the course of the book the author looks at the types of aircraft used by their relative air forces during the conflict, from the CR.32 & Gloster Gladiator biplanes of the Regia Aeronautica and RAF respectively during the early months; to the Douglas Boston DB-7’s of the SAAF and the Ju-87 Stuka’s of the Luftwaffe.

The book looks at the roles each type of the wide range of aircraft involved played during the various stages of the conflict and the conditions they and their crews were operating in.

Whilst the vast array of photographs included may not provide many opportunities for the modeller to examine the details of each aircraft, they are sure to provide plenty of inspiration for potential builds and dioramas.

Overall, I found this book to be a good introduction to an area of the second world war that I had not really spent much time looking at before, with the text providing a good amount of historical detail whilst the selection of photographs covers a good variety of subject matter helping retain a high level of visual interest too.

As always my sincerest thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, you can get your copy over at their website!

Book review! Flight Craft 15: The Supermarine Spitfire. The Mk.V And It’s Variants.

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This edition of the Flight Craft series takes a look at what for many is one of the most iconic fighter aircraft, the Spitfire.

The book begins, as is typical with the series, with a concise history covering the development of the Spitfire. From its roots held within Supermarine’s Schneider Trophy winning aircraft, through the early types and then focuses in on the Mk.V that served as the basis for development into so many of the later variants.

The journey through design and development is accompanied by an array of fantastic photographs of development and service aircraft, with their details providing a valuable source of reference photographs.

The colour profiles included in this edition are spread throughout the latter parts of the book rather than being in one specific markings section as they were in the previous titles in the series. They cover a variety of types and operators and include some beautiful looking schemes which are sure to provide inspiration to the modeller.

The modelling specific section of the book takes a different approach to looking at the Spitfire in model form than I have seen in the other editions of Flight Craft by taking a more historical look at the Spitfire in its plastic guise. There are so many kits and editions available covering so many different variants across so many different scales it would be impossible to look at each kit individually without it becoming a work in its own right.

Even without going into the details for specific kits this section still provides plenty of information and details with regards to the various manufacturer’s offerings, whilst still focusing on the Mk.V, as well as pointing out the almost countless opportunities for detailing.

Finally, we are treated to Frank Reynolds write up of a build of the Airfix MK VB Trop. Which is accompanied by more great photographs of built kits and colour profiles.

Overall this is another great addition to the Flight Craft series, containing a wealth of information and great images to provide the modeller with both a source of reference and inspiration.

The Flight Craft series of books are available from Pen and Sword Books, to whom my thanks go out to for allowing me review this copy, pick up your copy here!

Book Review! Flight Craft 14: The Messerschmitt 109

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Flight Craft 14: Messerschmitt Bf109

This edition of the Flight Craft series looks at the iconic German fighter the Bf-109. As with other editions in the series the reader is treated to the history of how the aircraft was conceived and developed over its life time and its numerous revisions.

This is followed by the service history of the type, covering the major theatres the aircraft was used in and by which air-forces. The accompanying captioned images provide the scale modeller with plentiful reference images of the various types and a few of its adversaries too.

The camouflage and markings section has 16 fantastic large colour side profiles of various types of Bf109 from various countries, including one of a development aircraft, one from the Spanish civil war and even a captured type in RAF markings.

Finally the kit reviews come next and these cover offerings across a wide range of manufacturers, scales and types and again even covers a conversion kit. The reviews are all well written and accompanied by images of some beautifully built offerings which should provide plenty of inspiration for any scale modeller.

Overall this is another great title in the Flight Craft series and if anything was going to make you want to pick up a 109 kit from the local hobby store, or dig one out from your stash, it’s this book.

As always my thanks go out to Pen and Sword Books for the opportunity to review this title, why not head over to their site and treat yourself to a copy!

Book Review: Flight Craft 13 The Gloster Meteor In British Service

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This volume of the Flight Craft series takes a look at Britain’s first generation jet fighter, The Gloster Meteor.

Starting with the prototypes the book contains a wealth of reference photos all with concise captions whilst the accompanying text provides one with a detailed history of the aircrafts development through the years moving through each of the production variants, explaining the alterations made during each stage where possible and pointing out both the visual and non visual differences between them.

There is a treasure trove of images for scale modellers and the good news doesn’t stop there! The book covers the history and development of types used by the UK including Photo Reconnaissance, Night Fighters, Targets, Tugs and Royal Navy Meteors plus some of the more unusual configurations in the Miscellany section before moving on to the Camouflage and Markings section.

This section contains 22 pages of full colour art work that was specially commissioned for the book, there are the familiar side profile images along with some of the aircraft being shown from a second either topside or underside view, again a fantastic resource for the scale modeller.

The book then moves on to provide a list of Scale model kits that were available for the Meteor at the time of writing, all the major scales are covered and whilst some more recent re-boxing’s may not be covered it does provide a fantastic source of information about each kit listed including which variants can be built and are covered by the decal sheets included. There is even a brief list of Alley Cat Conversion Sets. Finally we are treated to a gallery of various Meteor Models that have been built by well known modellers.

I had no personal experience with the Flight Craft series prior to reading this volume and I find myself wondering how I have missed these in the past. This volume is a fantastic resource for any modeller wishing to build a British Meteor, or even for anyone with an interest in the aircraft type.

As always my thanks go to Pen and Sword Books for the copy to review, please head over to their site for your copy!

Book Review: Airkraft Modelling Guide #1 Fighters and Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War

Airkraft Modelling Guide #1: Fighters & Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War
Front Cover of Airkraft Modelling Guide #1: Fighters & Attack Aircraft of the Vietnam War

So as my last book review wasn’t really something especially for the modeller I thought that I would ensure that this next review definitely was!

For this review I am looking at the AirKraft Modelling Guide #1 which has been put together with HobbyZone and the paint manufacturer Hataka so of course their products feature heavily. This issue covers the fighters and attach aircraft of the Vietnam conflict and despite the paint manufacturers heavy presence, the builds covered offer solid advice and technique demonstrations along the way. The build articles themselves provide a very useful insight to the kits covered along with many of the aftermarket parts used too.

The Introduction offers great images along with historic information on Air combat over Vietnam
The Introduction offers great images along with historic information on Air combat over Vietnam

Whilst the title is retailed as a book I suppose it would be more accurate to describe it as a bookazine I suppose, but for the price of £10 its not too expensive for what you get with the book containing 96 pages of lovely full colour spreads. There’s also a great little introduction at the start of the book covering the history of the use of air power over Vietnam and how it was used changed the way wars were fought for decades to come. Some of the images in this section are understandably in black and white but this if anything only adds to their atmosphere.

It's not just American Aircraft that are covered, there are NVAF types covered
It’s not just American Aircraft that are covered, you will be glad to see there are North Vietnamese Air Force types covered too.

There are a decent number of builds covered by the book and whilst there are of course multiple Phantom builds, there is a decent variety of aircraft and kit manufacturers covered in several scales, besides its not like you can ever have too many Phantoms.

The Airfames/Kits covered by the book are:

  • Eduard’s 1:48 F-4J
  • Hasegawa’s 1:48 F-104C Starfighter
  • Eduards 1:48 F-4B
  • Meng’s 1:72 F-102A Delta Dagger (Case XX)
  • Rodens 1:48 JOV-1A Mowhawk
  • Kinetics F-5B Freedom Fighter
  • Monogram/Revell’s 1:48 F-8 Crusader
  • Academy’s 1:48 Mig-21MF Fishbed
  • Italeri’s 1:72 F-4C/D/J
  • Tamiya’s 1:72 A-6E Intruder (Experimental Camouflage)
  • Trumpeters 1:48 F-100C Super Saber
  • Italeri’s 1:72 Martin B-57B Canberra
  • HobbyBoss’s 1:48 MIG-17F Fresco C
  • Airfix’s 1:72 Cessna 0-1 Bird Dog
  • Eduard’s 1:48 A-4E/F Skyhawk
  • Trumpeter’s 1:48 A-37A Dragonfly
  • Fujimi’s 1:48 Grumman KA-6D Tanker
  • Revell’s 1:100 AH-1G Cobra
  • Airfix’s 1:48 English Electric Canberra MK.20 (RAAF)

Now I think you will agree that this is a pretty impressive list especially so you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with this book.

The full colour images that accompany the builds and finishing techniques are superb
The full colour images that accompany the builds and finishing techniques are superb

Each one of the aircraft are covered by their own full colour build article, detailing the builders process from start to finish, including any aftermarket they have used, issues they have overcome, additional detailing they have scratched and the finishing techniques they have used.

Now I love the aircraft from this time period, the aircraft were all such a massive leap forward from those of the second world war and those SEA Camo schemes make them look all the more purposeful when compared to the grey schemes that many airframes sport these days, so every subject in this book is right up my street so to speak.

Personally I love this book and I look forward to looking over future issues of the series, you can get the title from SAMpublications over at http://www.sampublications.com/books/airkraft/airkraft-1-vietnam/prod_1145.html as well as other retailers.