Airfix/Aeroclub 1/48 Spitfire PR XI

KIT #:
PRICE: $
DECALS:
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Kitbash

HISTORY

The Photo-Recon Spitfire: 

          The Spitfire became the primary RAF photo-reconnaissance platform in World War II, beginning with aircraft modified from the Spitfire I and II airframes.  All armament was removed and various methods of adding additional fuel capacity were developed, as the Spitfire P.R.IV series.

          The PR Mk XI was produced in greater numbers than any other PR variant, with over 470 produced in total.  Based on the Mk IX fuselage, it had the extra fuel tanks of the standard PR variants as well as wing tanks utilizing the areas of the wing given over to armament in the fighter versions. It entered service in the summer of 1943.

          The P.R. Mk XI used a universal camera installation, which allowed the cameras to be easily changed. This allowed a much wider variety of cameras to be used, allowing a variety of missions to be flown. Common installations included two F.52 cameras with a 36in focal length lens, two F.8s 20in focal length lens , one F.52 20in focal length and two F.24 14in focal length lenses combined with one F.24 with either a 14in or 8in focal length lens fitted in an oblique position. Some also carried a 5 inch focal length F.24 just behind the wheel well for low to medium level tactical reconnaissance. A number of PR Mk XIs carried F.24 cameras in each wing like the P.R. Mk1A.

          Originally, the USAAF intended to use the F-4 and F-5 photo recon variants of the P-38 for their reconnaissance needs in the ETO.  The difficulties encountered with operating P-38s at high altitude over Europe also manifested themselves with the F-4s and F-5s; engine failure on an operation was almost a guarantee the airplane would be lost, since it would be unable to operate higher or faster than the fighters sent to hunt it.  In the spring of 1944, the Seventh Photo-Recon Group at Mount Farm received Spitfire Xis.  One of the first missions flown was to Berlin to photograph damage from the first daylight mission to Berlin on March 6, 1944.

THE KIT

           The only 1/48 kit of the P.R.XI I am aware of is the vacuform set from Falcon that provided a fuselage with the proper profile and a canopy, to be mated to the old Otaki kit.  I am sure this could also be used to go with the Airfix Spitfire P.R. XIX wing, and it is still available from Falcon Models in New Zealand.

CONSTRUCTION

         Having kitbashed the Spitfire XIV using the Airfix Spitfire P.R. XIX fuselage, I had the wing left over.  I had one of the Aeroclub Spitfire IX fuselages that were created to correct the fuselage in the Hasegawa kit, and discovered with a little test-fitting that the Aeroclub fuselage and the Airfix wing could fit without a lot of difficulty.  I also used the later horizontal stabilizer and elevators, and the late rudder, from the Eduard Spitfire IXc (early) Weekend Kit that were left over.  The cockpit came from the Airfix kit.

           Other than a little putty along the wing/fuselage joints, the main work of the kitbash was making the deeper lower cowling, which I made from balsa wood and shaped by eying a profile drawing of a P.R.XI along with some photographs.  The Airfix P.R. XIX windshield and canopy were used.

          The model was painted with Xtracrylix PRU Blue.  Decals came from various sheets in the dungeon, to make a USAAF Spitfire, circa spring 1944.

CONCLUSIONS

           The P.R. XI is the one important Spitfire sub-type I didnít have in my collection.  It would be pretty easy for Airfix to do this, and perhaps they will since they have said they plan to do all versions of the Spitfire.

          Altogether, not a difficult kitbash.  I would have used the Falcon vacuformed fuselage had I had one, though one would also have to modify the upper cowl of that to correct the inaccurate overall shape there.

 Tom Cleaver

October 2014

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