Here at Aeroplane we have a very valuable resource - our huge archive of original glass-plate negatives. They are large format at 5in x 4in( so can be printed across two pages with little loss of quality due to film grain. They are stored in their original boxes which contain about 15 or more plates each, and while one or two in the box were at some point used in The Aeroplane, the rest may have never been published. Therefore our new Aeroplane Unseen Archives series has been launched to show some of these fascinating pictures. We began it in the previous issue with a view of air gunnery training, showing an aspect of this that many people may never have been aware of. This month's picture (on pages 102-103) shows a scene from a Bristol Blenheim production line. As a reader benefit we have decided to offer these images to be downloaded for free as computer desktop wallpapers via our website. The new feature will be a regular inclusion from now on, and while they are available initially as desktop wallpapers, we will also be looking at the possibility of making some of them available as high resolution downloads for personal use only in the future. The pictures available will be further populated with some of the best ones from our sister series such as Aeroplane Icons.
The Ki-30 was an early Japanese light bomber and was considered pretty much obsolete at the start of the war which may explain why it's never been popular with kit manufacturers. In kit form it has been available from Pavla and there have been some vacform versions, though this AZ Model version is somewhat better in detail than any previous offerings. The kit arrived in the usual AZ Model small end-opening box, the parts all contained in a single bag with a simple instruction sheet, very small decal sheet and colour guide on the back of the box. Several medium grey-coloured sprues contained some rather nice looking parts; finely engraved panel lines and restrained rivet detail were visible on the fuselage and wings. A separate bag contained a resin engine, wheels and two bombs. The engine and wheels were very nicely done though the bombs had some air bubble damage to the noses. The build began with the cockpit and though the instructions would have you assemble the interior as one part then glue it into the fuselage, experience has taught me the best way to tackle this type of kit is to build the interior directly into one side of the fuselage. This way, you can completely assemble the interior, check and adjust the fit of the other half of the fuselage then after completing the painting and detailing, it all fits together easily.
The Saab JAS 39E Gripen NG has won Brazil's FX-2 fighter competition. The country's Defence Minister Celso Amorim and Brazilian Air Force Commander Brigadier Junito Saito announced the news at a press conference on December 18. The decision follows more than a decade of considering alternatives for the requirement, which latterly came down to three shortlisted contenders: the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Rafale. The Brazilian Air Force requires 36 aircraft, worth an estimated $4.5 billion and negotiations will now get under way to finalise a contract. It is expected to be signed in around 10-12 months with first delivery anticipated 48 months from contract signature. Initially, the first 12 Gripens will replace the FAB's ten Mirage F-2000Cs and two F-2000Ds, which were leased from France as an interim fighter but the last six Mirages were retired on December 31, 2013, as they are now out of flying hours. The Mirages had been flown by 1° Grupo de Defensa Aérea/1° Esquadräo 'Jaguares' at Anâpolis, which will become the first unit to re-equip with the new Gripens. As a further stopgap, Brazil will use its modernised F-5EMs to temporarily replace the Mirages until the Gripens enter service. Prior to delivery of the new aircraft, Brazil is considering leasing existing Gripen C/Ds from the Swedish Air Force, which could be supplied much earlier than the new production Gripens to act as interim Mirage replacements.
A ceremony was held at NAS Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, on December 13, 2013, to mark the production of the 100th Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. A total of 42 F-35As for the US Air Force, 39 F-35Bs for the US Marine Corps/Navy, 14 F-35Cs for the US Navy, three F-35Bs for the United Kingdom and two F-35As for the Netherlands had been built by the time of the event. In all 36 were delivered in 2013, of which seven were handed over in the final two weeks of December. The milestone aircraft, F-35A 11-5030 (b/n AF-41), will be assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron 'Top Dogs' at Luke AFB, Arizona, part of the 56th Fighter Wing (FW). The squadron was reactivated on October 27, 2013, to conduct instructor pilot training on the aircraft. F-35A 11 -5030 is the first of 144 due to be delivered to Luke AFB for use by six squadrons assigned to the 56th FW. On December 3 the US Air Force announced that Hill AFB, Utah, would be the first operational base for the Lightning II, taking 72 F-35As from 2015. The initial Air National Guard F-35A base will be Bennington in Vermont, where the first of 18 will arrive in 2020. Meanwhile, the first F-35A sent to the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB for structural modifications to strengthen the aircraft and extend its service life is due to return to service on February 7. The work took 131 days to complete.