1/72 Merlin Seafire Group Build
One of the aircraft types missing from my WW II Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm collection has been the Seafire. Although kitted by several resin and short run manufacturers, I was unable to obtain these, or unwilling to pay the price they command. During the construction phase of this project, I did obtain the Pavla (Octopus) and High Planes releases. These will be the subject of another article. Special Hobby has promised a Mk. IIc, but at the moment, it has not been released. After-market companies offer a few parts that would have been useful; with one exception, these were again unavailable at the time of construction. I was therefore obliged to use kits of the Spitfire Vb or Spitfire IX upon which to base the conversions. Whilst not perfect, the accuracy level was adequate for this project. Hopefully, newer mainstream injection kits will offer the modeller more choices.
To the modeller, the Seafire should be approached with care. It is not just a Spitfire with a hook, although ‘Hooked Spitfires’ existed. There were structural strengthening alterations made to the fuselage, slinging points, catapult spools, and eventually, folding wings. There were three major variations of the wing, three air filter types, several armament options, and two major propeller and exhaust choices. Minor differences showed up in undercarriage detail, antennae and aerials, cannon barrel length, elevator detail. Some Seafires were outfitted with cameras as fighter/reconnaissance machines. The modeller can become bogged down detailing the minituae, even if they could be verified for a particular example. My efforts have been directed to representative examples of the major marques, as verified by photographic evidence.
The Supermarine Seafire was the most successful
British-designed naval fighter of the Second World War. Although based on the
early Spitfire, it was not introduced to Squadron service until 1942. Due to
its’ narrow undercarriage and light structure, landing on carriers caused many
more losses than enemy action. Despite this, once airborne, it was a superb
fighting machine in the Spitfire tradition. It saw service in the Atlantic,
The initial Supermarine Seafire was an adaption of the Spitfire Vb to shipboard use, fitted with a Merlin 45 . In the Seafire Ib, very little other than the addition of naval radios, slinging points, strengthened interior longerons and an arrestor hook distinguished the two marques. A tropical filter was usually fitted. The next Seafire, the Mk. IIc, featured additional strengthening in the form of external longitudinal fishplates and surrounding hatch openings. This was an attempt to cure weakness caused by arrested landings and accelerated take-offs. Catapult (accelerator) spools and spigots were added beneath the wings and to the rear fuselage sides. The undercarriage was strengthened and moved forward two inches. The Spitfire ‘C’ wing was fitted, with provision for four cannon. Large over-wing breech covers were fitted. In service, only two cannon were carried, due to weight concerns. The unused outboard cannon positions retained stub fairings. Some early IIc aircraft were fitted with the Vokes tropical filter. Fitting a low altitude Merlin 32 engine to the Mk. IIc produced the Seafire Mk. LIIc. This featured a Rotol four-bladed propeller and Coffman starter. Some Seafire LIIc squadrons removed the wing-tips to gain a few extra knots and improve roll rate, although this also increased the take-off run and made the aircraft tiring to fly. IFF antennae under the starboard wing replaced the wires running between the horizontal stabilizers and fuselage. A 45 gallon slipper tank could be carried under the fuselage. Small numbers of Seafire LRIIc fitted with cameras in the fuselage were used operationally in the photo-reconnaissance role. Some later Mk. IIc models were retroactively fitted with a six stack ejector exhaust configuration. The fully developed Merlin Seafire was the Mk III. Manually folded wings were introduced, which also deleted the outboard cannon bay, its’ stub, and wide breech fairing. Utilizing the Merlin 55, this marque was 20mph faster than the previous model. Replacing that engine with the low altitude 55M with six stack exhausts produced the LIII. This Seafire was the one most widely produced. During production of the III/LIII, small Vokes tropical filters were introduced. Later production LIII had shorter barrel Hispano cannon barrels fitted. Finally, the Mk FRIII was introduced for the photo-reconnaissance role. This differed from the LIII only in the fitting of cameras.
Drawing on kits available at the
commencement of this project, an Italeri Spitfire Vb provided the basis of the
Seafire Ib. A Revell Spitfire Mk Vb became the Seafire IIc. Italeri’s Spitfire
Mk IX evolved into a Seafire LIIc, and a Hasegawa Spitfire MkIX became the
Seafire LIII.. Aftermarket parts were limited to Red Roos’ Spitfire Vc oil
coolers, fitted to the LIIc and LIII.
Decals used were: Seafire Ib: 45 ‘K’ 885 NAS, HMS Victorious, Home Waters, Autumn 1942 HisAirDec ENG2B.
Seafire IIc: MB 156 Ø6G 885 NAS, HMS Formidable , Operation Torch, Oct. 1942 AeroMaster 72-192 Fleet Air Arm pt.1;
Seafire LIIc : MB 312 3Q D4Z 808 NAS, Ayr, May 1944 Carpena 72-18 Spitfire Exotics (thanks to Scott Van Aken);
Seafire LIII Tally Ho 7121 FAA: East Indies Fleet 1945.
National markings and stenciling where appropriate were from the donor kit decals. Serial number on the Mk Ib was home-made laser printed .
Seafire Ib: a well detailed cockpit is assembled first, with RAF Interior Green overall, bakelite brown seat, and detail drybrushed in black, silver. Seat belts for a Sutton harness are cut from masking tape and applied. The sub-assembly is glued into one half of the rear fuselage. Next, the three piece forward fuselage is assembled, using the tropical filter for the lower cowl. Once set, this is mated to the two rear halves of the fuselage. Some fit problems were encountered that required a spreader bar (sprue)to be inserted in the fuselage. Wings are of five pieces, plus an insert for the oil cooler. The tips do not fit well and will require filler. After the glue sets, the wings and fuselage are mated. Again, an iffy fit requiring filler. At this point, after everything is solid, a panel is scribed under the rear fuselage to represent the A-frame fairing for the arrestor hook. A small hole at the rear is drilled and shaped for the hook itself, made from scrap plastic. Horizontal stabilizers and rudder can now be attached. The propeller has three separate blades, a backplate and spinner requiring assembly. The main undercarriage is delicate, just like the original. It consists of the leg, a wheel, and cover. There is a separate tailwheel and leg to be attached to the fuselage. One has the choice of 2 carburetor intakes (with separate delicate intake lips). Final assembly involves the pitot, exhausts, cockpit door, and antennae mast. The canopy (two choices) is in four parts, with a choice of mirror styles. A miniscule clear part for the light on top of the fuselage completes the parts.
Seafire IIc: very similar to the Italeri above, the Revell is of heavier plastic, with slightly better moulding and crisp detail. The cockpit door is not an option unless one wishes to cut it away. The underwing ‘gull’ is totally absent, which may be off-putting to some modelers. Both upper and lower cannon bulges are separate items. The canopy is one piece, no options, no mirror. Although the kit is less detailed than the Italeri, the outline shape is quite good, with the exception of the nose, which is a little narrow. Construction procedure is simpler than the Italeri due to the lower parts count, and requires less filler. However, representation of the four catapault spools with small scratchbuilt plastic assemblies will take some time. Also, the strengthening on the fuselage needs representation. This I accomplished with appliquéd aluminium duct tape. The large cannon breech covers were cut from sheet plastic, sanded to shape, and applied to the wings with liquid glue.
Seafire LIIc: incorporating all the modifications applied to the previous model, this kit is very similar to the Italeri Mk.V; the same comments apply. Two major mods need to be accomplished: shortening of the nose, and removal of the underwing port radiator. The first is done on the forward section of the fuselage at the firewall before joining the rear fuselage and cowling together. If done cleanly, not too much putty is needed to fair the parts together. Detail will be lost in the sanding, such as bumps and small intakes. Under the wing, cutting away the radiator leaves a void that needs to be filled with a blanking plate, puttied and sanded smooth. Once filled, the earlier style oil cooler can be fitted. I used an excellent resin casting from Red Roo (RRR72104). Large cannon breech fairings are constructed and fitted, appliqué fishplates and catapault points applied, canopy choices made. Two small lengths of stretched sprue serve as IFF antennae under the starboard wing. For this model, clipped wing tips were selected, using the kit parts.
Seafire LIII: the Hasegawa is the most recent version of the models selected, and has the finest detail. It required the least amount of putty, and parts fit was superior to the Italeri. The later style elevators and rounded rudder need to be used for this version, as does the fixed tailwheel. The four bladed prop is a one piece moulding. The canopy offers no choices but closed. The long air intake/filter under the cowl should be selected. The standard wingtips were used. I also used the slipper tank under the fuselage. Wing fold lines need to be scribed on upper and lower surfaces. Otherwise, assembly procedure and modifications are as for the LIIc.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
All aircraft were finished in the standard Temperate Sea Scheme, consisting of Extra Dark Sea Grey, Dark Slate Grey uppers, with Sky lowers. The earlier two had Sky spinners, the later two, Black. The Mk. IIc carried a Sky band on the tail. The LIII had white theatre markings on wings and tail. Pretty drab, but time consuming to apply. I use enamels, in this case Xtracolour gloss, with Model Master flat for touch-up after the flat coat is applied. Model Master metallic used for the exhaust. The EDG was sprayed, as was the Sky. The DSG was applied by brush, cutting out the need for masking the camouflage pattern. Decals were applied over the gloss finish with setting solution as required. Problem areas were primarily painting white stripes over the dark camouflage (duh!), and the red machine gun patches, wrapping around the leading edge of the wing - Future helped make them conform. The Carpentia and Tally Ho decals were slightly brittle and could have used some liquid decal film, but perseverance and micro paint touch-ups made them acceptable. Canopies were treated to a Future bath. Final coat was sprayed Model Master flat Dullcote.
You want a 1/72 Seafire without paying for the CMR resins, you gotta do a little work! As usual, at the end of a lengthy build, I question whether or not it was worth it. The aerial wires are still not on (one day I’ll do them!) All four models are a little narrow in the nose, and the Hasegawa a bit skinny in the aft fuselage. If I had to do it again, I’d use the Airfix Spitfire Mk Vc as the starting point – it comes with ‘b’ and ’c’ wings. Four bladed prop and spinner are available from Aeroclub. Sorting out the differences was most frustrating, but I’ve done the work for you. Stay tuned for the Griffon engined Seafires, if I’m not locked up before then.
The Seafire David Brown
Spitfire the History Morgan and Shacklady
Spitfires with Sea-Legs Captain Eric Brown, RN
Spitfire – the story of a famous fighter Bruce Robertson
Air Combat Legends volume 1 editor David Donald
Various Internet sites too numerous to cite; do a Google
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