Special Hobby 1/48 Seafire I-III
KIT #: 48052/48102
PRICE: Around 22-00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Frank Reynolds
NOTES: Variations on standard kit to produce a series of Seafires

HISTORY

 The Royal Navys Fleet Air Arm entered World War 2 under-equipped with modern aircraft. An adaptation of the RAFs Hurricane had successfully entered service on the Navys aircraft carriers, so a logical next move was an adaptation of the RAFs legendary Spitfire. The first Seafires, designated Mk. 1B, were rebuilds of Spitfire Vbs and entered service in early 1942. A simultaneous redesign of the Spitfire Vc gave rise to the new-build Seafire Mk..IIc, which entered service in September 1942. Both these versions represented an absolute minimum of alterations to the standard Spitfire and lacking folding wings, were essentially limited to being stored on the flight decks of aircraft carriers. Progressive development led to the definitive naval Spitfire, the Seafire Mk.III which featured manually folding wings. The Mk IIIs served in the front line until 1946 and were then rapidly superseded by Griffon engined Mks XV, XVII and 47s. France equipped some of its  Aeronavale squadrons with  ex-Royal Navy Seafire IIIs and these saw front line service in Viet Nam in 1946/47. A handful of de-navalised MK IIIs served with the Irish Air Corps until 1960 and were almost certainly the last Seafires in service anywhere.

Some historians have derided the wartime Seafire as too fragile and too sensitive to be an effective naval fighter and there is no doubt that its deck landing history reflects many accidents. It is, however, acknowledged as one of the finest low level fighters afloat in 1945 and one of the few that could tackle a Japanese Zero on equal terms.

THE KIT

 The Special Hobby package mimics real life in that their Seafire kits are derived from their Spitfire Vc kit with appropriate extra parts for the naval modifications. Parts are moulded in a softish medium grey plastic, that show traces of flash and mould wear, and as with any short-run kit a degree of trimming and fettling is necessary during assembly, constantly checking that the joining surfaces are clean and true. I found that the worst of the flash occurs on the clear parts and this was carefully trimmed away with a sanding stick.

Special Hobby provides the same basic moulding for its 1:48 Spitfire Vc and Seafires, with additional parts frames for 3 or 4-blade propellers as appropriate, a choice of inserts for three types of wing cannon bulge, inserts for the lower rear fuselage where the arrestor hook mechanism is located, a choice of 3-stub or 6-stub exhaust outlets, and a choice of three types of wheel hub insert.

The original Special Hobby Spitfire Vc was reviewed by Tom Cleaver in MM in March 2009, in yet another of its guises as an Eduard boxing. Reference to this article is a reasonable review of the whole package, so this article will deal with matters relevant to the Seafire versions.

The parts bear a close resemblance to the Tamiya Spitfire V and Spitfire 1 series, although they differ in that the cockpit interior has separate side walls and the wheel wells are built up from separate components.

The basic difference between the two Seafire types is the fact that the Mk III has a folding wing and Special Hobby has created a separate tooling for the Mk III kit with the wing fold line inscribed.

Common to both kit versions is a small sheet of pre cut vinyl, which on initial inspection appears to be paint masks but in fact is a thin overlay for the external strengthening plates over the fuselage longerons and around the port side rear fuselage radio hatch a very neat idea. The comprehensive multi-media approach extends to a film insert for the instrument panel and an etched fret which provides instrument panel, seat belts and external strengthening plates for the catapult spools.

The only real flaw in the kits is the thickness of the ailerons, which are noticeably undersized. I fixed this by plating over the under surface with 10 thou plastic card trimmed to shape and with the panel lines rescribed.

The most versatile of the kits is the MkII boxing, since the parts and decals provide a choice of variants with 3 or 4-bladed propellers, standard or clipped wing tips or even an ultra-rare version with a shark mouth, flown by a Royal Marines pilot. This boxing alone also includes resin inserts for the wheel wells. 

Supplied as standard in each kit are of good quality and printed by Aviprint of the Czech Republic. The Mark II majors on standard Royal Navy colour schemes of the mid-war period with upper surfaces of Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey over Sky undersurfaces, carrying standard British Roundels of the period, but one variation is the dramatic temporary colour scheme of the North African invasion where British carrier based aircraft carried American-style white stars. The MkIII versions have a similar camouflage scheme, with the distinction of the US-influenced Blue and White roundels with White side bars of the British Pacific Fleet in the last months of World War 2. 

Common to all of the kits that I have examined, Spitfire and Seafire, is a separate comprehensive sheet of stencils and walkways, some of which are alternative versions of the same stencil. Densely printed in black they tend towards over-emphasis but provide a realistic-looking tattoo of markings, especially obvious against the sky-coloured undersides.

COLORS & MARKINGS

These Seafires form a part of my ever-increasing collection of 1:48 Spitfire variants, currently 48-strong, so I elected to cover the principal variants with the Mk.IIC carrying the distinctive American-style stars used during the first Allied combined operations in the invasion of North Africa. The next distinctive variant is an LF IIc with 4-blade prop and the unusual RAF-style day fighter paint scheme. Third is a Mk III of the British East Indies Fleet, with its unique dark blue/light blue roundels and large white identification stripes. The Mk III of the British Pacific Fleet has yet another variation on national markings with its white/blue roundels modified with American-style side bars. To spice things up the unique Irish Air Corps land based Mk III has a stand out green colour scheme. Finally, there is a bonus Mk1b, which is a hybrid model, as noted below.

Within the illustrations to this feature are:

Seafire Mk IIc ,MB156 ,O6*G  of 885 Naval Air squadron during the Operation Torch invasion of North Africa, November 1942.  Special Hobby kit decals supplemented by wing roundels from Aeromaster sheet48-769. This an out of the box kit build.

Seafire L.MkIIC, LR642, 8*M,  of  807 NAS during the Salerno landings, Italy, September 1943.This carries the unusual day  fighter colour  scheme that  was  only applied at the Westland factory.  Again a straightforward kit option.

Seafire III PP979, D5*X  of  807 NAS of the British East Indies Fleet, May 1945.  Decals  from Aeromaster sheet48-769.  Standard kit option but with aftermarket decals.

Seafire III, PR256, S-146 of 894 NAS, British Pacific Fleet, April 1945.  Standard kit option.

Seafire L.III. 153 Irish Air Corps.  Decals from sheet 48-001 by Max Decals of Ireland. This colourful subject can be built from either the Mk II or Mk III  kit , deleting the arrestor hook assembly and using the plain insert for the lower fuselage that is marked not for use, but which applies when the parts are boxed as a Spitfire. If the Mk III is used, the wing fold line needs to be filled.

When finishing my early Seafires, I cannot resist showing the A frame arrestor hook extended just a fraction. In reality the hook was only fully extended in flight or was tight shut, but since Special Hobby have gone to the trouble of tooling separate parts for the whole assembly I feel it only fair to show them off.

I use Xtracrylix paints for the camouflage colours, decals over a coat of Future/Kleer and an overall finish of Xtracrylix varnish.

CONCLUSIONS

 I find the Special Hobby Seafires to be a good overall package, the contents and the options are comprehensive and although short run kits demand some extra care in preparation and assembly, these are at the easier end of the spectrum.

 As a footnote, the pictures also show a Seafire 1b.  Finished as K/MB345 of 885 Naval Air Squadron on HMS Formidable, Mediterranean, 1943. The close match between the Special Hobby and Tamiya Spitfire Vs make this cross kitting exercise irresistible. The Special Hobby IIc  fuselage parts can be mated to a Tamiya Vb Trop wing and nose intake to make an ideal simple conversion. The beauty of the exercise is that the left over Seafire wing can be mated to the unused Tamiya fuselage to make an effective Spitfire Vc- but that really is another story

REFERENCES

Spitfire International by Helmut Terbeck, Harry van der Meer and Ray Sturtivant, Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 2002.

Spitfire, the History by Eric B. Morgan and Edward Shacklady, Key Publishing, 2000

Profiles 5, Supermarine Seafire Mk.1b Mk.47, by Jon Freeman. The Aviation Workshop Publications Ltd.

 Frank Reynolds

April 2012

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