Airfix 1/48 Spitfire Vb

KIT #: A05125
PRICE: £16-99
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Frank Reynolds
NOTES: New tool kit


The Spitfire Vb was a logical update of the preceding Spitfires Mks.I and II, in response to lessons learned in combat during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Initially fitted with a Merlin 45 engine of 1470hp, over 400hp more than the original Mk.1, its most obvious feature was the introduction of 20mm cannon. The Vb was capable of being fitted with tropicalisation that resulted in a very distinctive lower nose profile and an larged under wing oil cooler. Three sizes of slipper tank could be fitted under the centre section to improve range. As the war progressed many Mk.Vs were  updated, some with modified windscreens and cockpit canopies, some with wing tips clipped for low altitude operations. By September 1943 twenty seven RAF squadrons were operating Spitfire Vbs . As later Spitfires entered service well used and war weary Vbs were transferred to overseas areas of operations and to other air forces. Vbs could, for example, be found in the inventory of the South African Air Force, Turkey, Yugoslavia and intriguingly, for a short time, that of the US Navy, the inspiration for the following project.

 When modelling a Spitfire V, good reference sources are essential to get the right combination of features and it will always be a trap for the unwary. Sometimes the only answer is an inspired guess.


 This new tooling is supplied in Airfix’s now standard top opening box with a rather flimsy lid. There are five parts frames in pale blue plastic and one of clear.  The parts are very cleanly moulded with no evidence of flash or sinkage and are beautifully engraved with sharp clean panel lines and subtle fabric texture to the rudder and elevators. The transparent parts are reasonably well done but there is some distortion visible in the cockpit hood mouldings.

 Instructions consist of a 14 page  booklet with construction steps set out in 46 pictorial stages keyed to CAD drawings with the relevant parts colour coded to each stage. There are two  finishing options in the full colour three-views, one offering an early Mk.Vb of No 317 Polish fighter squadron, interestingly based upon a currently operated restored example at Duxford, England. (This seems to be an increasingly normal thing for Airfix kits. Ed) The other is an early tropicalized Mk.Vb of No 249 Sqn, RAF, operated in the defence of Malta, in an unusual scheme of upper surfaces in Dark Earth and Medium Grey.

The decal sheet is well executed being sharply printed, matt finished and includes a generous amount of airframe stencilling and an instrument panel.

The kit is impressively comprehensive and offers enough options that a careful study of the instructions is essential. There are many parts on the frames that are not applicable to either of the options in the box and this suggests that there could be other variations in the future.

There are two types of gun sight. Two types of wheel hub, plain and five spoke variety. Three types of windscreen/hood – the early windscreen with external armour plate, the later type with integral armour and a third type with no windscreen armour and a flat hood that hints that a Mk.1 boxing might appear. There are two types of wing tip, normal elliptical and clipped wings, in both clear and blue plastic. There is a set of underwing bombs and shackles that could only be relevant to a Mk.Vc. An optional fit is the large 90 gallon belly tank applicable to aircraft ferried to Malta. The large chin-type tropical filter is included with the option of the small standard carb intake instead. Two types of underwing oil cooler are offered, original and an enlarged tropical type. There is a choice of two propeller/spinner combinations for the early De Havilland and later Rotol units. Two types of radio mast are in the box and three types of exhaust stack, all of three-stub variety, a very early plain type, a later variety with flared pipes and a third with the heater pipe connected.

This is a comprehensive package, giving every encouragement to go ahead and build and yielding quite a harvest for the spares box.


This is a classic case of “just when you think it’s all over”. I had just happily completed what I thought was the last of 56 representative Spitfire and Seafire types, covering the 29 air arms that operated Supermarine’s finest in squadron service, when a friend said “what about the US Navy?”

 A clanger had been duly dropped as we say in Southern England. This had to be corrected and the Airfix Vb was to be treated to a change of colours.

 Cruiser Scouting Squadron 7 (VCS-7) was formed in May 1944 to provide artillery spotting support to the heavy ships of the US Navy when they bombarded the Normandy coast on D-Day. Gunfire support to the entire invasion fleet was recognised as a naval task so a number of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force squadrons, together with a US Navy unit formed the Air Spotting Pool, based at Lee on Solent, on Britain’s South Coast.

 The catapult flights came from the battleships Nevada, Texas and Arkansas and the cruisers Quincy, Augusta and Tuscaloosa. Their Kingfisher and Seagull floatplanes were landed at at the British Fleet Air Arm base at Lee on Solent while their pilots underwent Spitfire training on Spitfire Vs with the USAAF’s 67th Reconnaissance  Group at Membury.

 The Air Spotting Pool at Lee on Solent comprised around 90 Spitfire Vbs, considered long in the tooth as interceptors, but fast, agile and sufficiently hard hitting to survive in the intense operations of the invasion. All of the aircraft carried standard RAF-style camouflage and invasion stripes. The VCS-7 aircraft were distinguished by the number “4” and an individual code letter painted either side of the fuselage forward of the windscreen. Historians have identified at least sixteen Spitfires so marked. They gave good service in support of the invasion bombardment and were withdrawn from service on 26 June, after just fifty days in commission, their job well done and their crews went back to operating their floatplanes from their assigned capital ships. They carried out 209 sorties, losing nine aircraft. None seem to have been lost in air to air combat.

Construction begins with the interior, which is satisfyingly detailed. There are two separate cockpit side walls which also form the interior of the lower fuselage, resulting in the characteristic floorless cockpit of a Spitfire. There are four bulkheads providing the engine firewall, instrument panel, pilot’s seat support and headrest support. The seat is well detailed with separate sides, rear armour plate, seat frame and head rest. The cockpit tub has notches to the sides to give a positive alignment to the bulkheads. Well detailed levers, pedals, trim wheels and oxygen bottle are separately moulded. The cockpit interior was finished in Xtracrylix XA1010 Interior Grey Green, with the section aft of the seat in Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium. The instrument panel, control boxes and handles were picked out in Flat Black. The kit provides an effective decal for the instrument faces and seat belts were provided by a decal stolen from a Revell Spitfire sheet.

The entire cockpit pod is trapped between the fuselage halves and it is a very tight fit, needing a degree of juggling and fettling to get it right. This is a stage of construction that demands care and a good deal of dry fitting the sub assemblies. The kit provides a choice of windscreens and canopies and to accommodate this  the whole upper cowling between the engine and cockpit is a separate “U” shaped component. This needs to be carefully juggled into position, mindful of the fact that it is intended to be a tiny fraction wider than the surrounding fuselage to represent the armour plating fixed over the forward fuel tank. I found that the tops of the bulkheads needed some trimming before the top cover would sit down satisfactorily.  Before the fuselage halves are joined a decision has to be made as to whether the cockpit hood is to be open or closed. If closed, an appropriate transparency is provided, but the upper edges of the cockpit have to be trimmed away about 1mm to a scribed line moulded into the fuselage halves. This was straightforward matter of a few strokes of a scalpel blade. The fuselage halves can now be glued together and attention turns to the wings.

 The lower wing is a full span section and in a departure from Airfix tradition, the flaps are moulded in place, with no option for dropped flaps available. There is an option for holes to be opened up for attachment of the belly fuel tank or a display stand that is available separately. The walls to the circular wheel wells are glued to the lower surface. Again in a departure from Airfix tradition the wing is provided with front and rear stub spars that span between the wheel wells and help to set up the correct dihedral. An unusual undercarriage arrangement has been tooled, whereby each leg has an angled pintle (stub) at the top of the leg that fits into the rear face of the front spar, the remainder of the gear leg is to be added later. The spars and leg stub/pivot were found to be a very close fit and some shaving and fettling of the parts was necessary. I chose to add the lower wing section to the underside of the fuselage and then add the separate left and right upper wing mouldings in case they needed adjustment. I need not have worried since they were a perfect fit. The upper wing panels incorporate the elliptical tips.

 Next come the tail planes, formed in a style that has become familiar with the later breed of Airfix kits such as Spitfires 12 and 19 and the Seafire 17. The horizontal tails consist of separate upper and lower surfaces that fit positively into sockets in the fuselage. The elevators are a one piece structure with a central joining bar. I find it easier to cut the two elevator sections apart and to line them up when gluing either side of the tail fine. The one piece rudder and ailerons can now be added and the various flying surfaces checked for alignment.

 The lower section of the engine cowl needed some adjustment to get it to seat into the leading edge of the wing. Next I added the small carburettor air intake under the centre section

The under wing radiator and oil cooler show the degree of sophistication that is found in current Airfix kits with moulded fine mesh detail inside the components and a positionable outlet door on the radiator housing. These parts fit snugly into positive recesses in the lower wings.

 A centre section fuel tank was added next. The kit only provides the large ferry tank that tends to be associated with the supply of Spitfires to Malta, so I used a spare 30 gallon slipper tank from an ICM kit, This was noted in various reference sources as being fitted to the Spotting Pool Spitfires to extend their loiter time over the battle.

 The canopy was added and I chose the closed option, not forgetting to add the gun sight before the canopy went on. The hood and fixed rear section are supplied in one piece, with a separate windscreen.

 They fitted snugly and were secured with Airfix Clearfix glue, then masked with Tamiya tape trimmed with a fresh scalpel blade. Next I added the wing cannon.

 The propeller assembly has a positive keying system to prevent the blades from being assembled backwards. The spinner was painted Sky in Xtracrylix  XA1007 , with the blades in Flat Black and tips picked out in Yellow. The prop assembly was set aside while painting was carried out.


The paint scheme was based upon black and white photos that can be accessed on line after a search, but the most useful reference that I could find in print was a back issue of Model Aircraft Monthly magazine and its article by Andrew Thomas, referenced below.

 The basic airframe was finished overall in Tamiya White Fine Surface primer, applied from a rattle can. This serves as a primer – just as it says on the can – but is also so dense and smooth that it serves as an excellent white finish. The large areas of the wing and fuselage invasion stripes were masked off with masses of Tamiya tape in preparation for the camouflage colours; the underside airbrushed in Tamiya XF-83 RAF Medium Sea Grey, the upper surfaces shadow shaded in Tamiya’s XF-81 RAF Dark Green and XF-82 RAF Ocean Grey. The upper colours were masked with sausages of Blu-tack to provide a slightly feathered camouflage demarcation line. The whole airframe was then brush painted with Future/Klear to provide a good base for the decals.

 The black stripes to the wings and fuselage came from solid decal strip that I cut from an old Academy Spitfire sheet and the wing leading edge yellow strips from a Revell sheet. They could equally well have been painted conventionally. The wing upper roundels came from the kit decal sheet, while the fuselage and under wing roundels and tail flashes came from the decal dungeon. The kit decals were used for stencilling and wing walk lines but much of this would have been overpainted by the invasion striping, so only small amounts of stencilling were used.

 There is no reference that I have found to tie up the airframe serials with squadron codes, so although the codes are based upon a photograph, the partially overpainted airframe serials are based upon guesswork. Those small airframe serials came from a generic sheet.

The biggest challenge came in trying to find suitable decals for the squadron codes on the forward fuselage. Eventually I settled upon Sky code letters from Xtradecal sheet X72189. This sheet provides letters only, so the “Q” came directly from the sheet while the number “4” was cobbled together by slicing up sections from the letters “I” and ”Z”. A further brush coat of Future/Klear sealed the decals followed by an airbrush misted coat of  Xtracrylix Flat varnish/.

 The undercarriage is added next and there is a separate set of parts for those who like a retracted option. I went for the extended version but Airfix’s approach to it is far from conventional and not far from a PITA for this modeller to execute. The join between the undercarriage legs and the pintle  and stub arrangement housed in the wing is shallow and potentially weak. It is definitely not novice friendly. The main leg and in-wing stub each have a flat section cut onto them to serve as a half lapped joint. At the same time the instructions show that each leg has to be angled forward by 77 degrees and set up at 93 degrees splay to the wing under surface. I left the wheels off to avoid a dead weight on the end of the legs while I tacked then in place with tube cement and then pushed and prodded them for about half an hour while waiting for the cement to go off, constantly checking the legs’ alignment against the drawings in the instructions. I would much prefer the good old fashioned square peg into a square wing socket arrangement in Airfix kits of old. Left overnight to dry the legs still looked really fragile so when adding the gear leg doors I extended the upper edge of the doors with a sliver of  20 thou.  plastic card. This enabled me to glue the doors to both the wing underside and the leg and stiffen up the structure. Not strictly scale, but good for my peace of mind and it ain’t gonna show when parked in my showcase. The wheels were added once I was satisfied that the undercarriage structure had well and truly set hard. 

The engine exhausts were attached, painted in Tamiya XF-64 Red Brown, overlaid with X-33 Bronze.

Finally, adding the pitot head, mirrors and propeller assembly completed a very enjoyable build.


I rate this as a strong candidate for Kit of the Year. It is impressively comprehensive, well engineered and a lot of thought has gone into its design. It repays careful work but it is not a kit for the beginner. I query whether it might be over engineered in some aspects, but can hardly criticize for being too well detailed. The only filler needed was the slightest trace along main joint lines. I have already started on another one. Highly recommended and, for what is on offer, amazing value for money.


Model Aircraft Monthly Magazine, Volume 6  Issue 2, February 2007.

Aeroguide Classics Number 1, Supermarine Spitfire Mk V. Linewrights Ltd 1985.

Spitfire in Action. Squadron Signal Publications 1980.

Supermarine Spitfire. Ducimus Books Ltd 1970.

Frank Reynolds

September 2014

Kit supplied by my LHS, Spot on Models and Hobbies of Swindon, England.

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