Airfix 1/48 Spitfire Vb/trop
The Spitfire Vb was the first major upgrade of the Spitfire
series following lessons learned in combat during the Battle of Britain
in 1940. Fitted with a Merlin 45 engine of 1470hp the wing profile was
changed by the installation of
a 20mm cannon in each wing, which
replaced the inboard pair of .303in machine guns. The cannon
installation required the provision of very distinctive blister fairings
to the upper and lower wing surfaces. In order to adapt the type for
operations in desert conditions a very distinctive lower nose profile
incorporated a large air filter and an enlarged under wing oil cooler
was fitted. On late build Vbs the windscreen and pilot’s hood were
modified to a more aerodynamic shape. The combination of these factors
resulted in a very different looking Spitfire from the sleek point
defence interceptor that had entered RAF service in 1938.
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 were found in the inventory of the South African Air Force, Turkey and Yugoslavia, all of whom had influence in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War 2.
It is the air force of Turkey that provides the interest for this project, a service that has the intriguing claim to fame of being the only one to simultaneously operate the Spitfire and Focke Wulf Fw-190 in its fighter squadrons. A neutral country in World War 2, Turkey was able to accept deliveries of war material from both sides of the conflict.
Turkey initially accepted three Mk.1 Spitfires in late 1939, but
further deliveries were delayed until 1944, after some years of
negotiations to persuade Turkey to cut off trade and diplomatic
relations with the Axis Powers. A total of 105 aircraft were supplied,
some 36 Mk.Vb and 69 Mk.Vc. Drawn from RAF Middle East stocks many were
well-used and in poor condition when delivered and they were used
primarily for training by the 5th
and 6th Air Regiments. The
Vbs were withdrawn in 1948 and the Vcs a year later.
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
This is my second version of Airfix’s recently released Spitfire Mk.Vb, the first of which was reviewed on MM on 02 September 2014. This project represents the “other version” offered by Airfix, a Mk.Vb/Trop incorporating the massive chin air intake/filter, the later type windscreen with more bulged cockpit hood and the large Rotol propeller.
Construction begins with the interior, which features separate cockpit side walls which also form the interior of the lower fuselage. 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. 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 fashioned from painted masking tape.
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.. The walls to the circular wheel wells are glued to the lower surface. 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. The upper wing panels incorporate the elliptical tips. Airfix have moulded two prominent strengthening strips on the upper surface of each wing, a feature that is not found on all Mk.VBs. Having established that they were not applicable to the Turkish machine being modelled, I carefully carved the strips away, using a fresh scalpel blade. The ailerons are separate and very finely cast. There is minimal joining area between the ailerons and the wing cut out so they are vulnerable to breakage and I had to re-glue each one after some careless handling during construction.
The horizontal tails consist of separate upper and lower surfaces that fit positively into sockets in the fuselage. The elevators are a one piece component 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 fin. The one piece rudder 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. 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.
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 fit 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.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The colour scheme was taken from Tigerhead Decals sheet 48008 “Spitfires and
Wurgers of the Turkish Air Force” which I obtained from Hannants in the UK
at a reasonable £10-50 .
.These provide a selection of two FW 190A-3s, a Spitfire IX and two Spitfire Vb’s.
The decals are well printed in good register and packed with a small header card that simply shows side views of three of the five colour schemes. I queried this with Hannants and it seems that the full instructions are available on Tigerhead’s web site as a download – duly obtained as a pdf.
The aircraft is finished in the standard RAF-style desert scheme of the era, the underside airbrushed in Xtracrylix XA1026 Azure Blue, the upper surfaces shadow shaded in Xtracrylix XA1009 Middle Stone and XA1002 Dark Earth. The upper colours were divided with sausages of Blu-tack to provide a slightly feathered camouflage demarcation line. The rudder was picked out in Tamiya XF-7 Flat Red over a white undercoat and the propeller assembly in XF-1 Flat Black. All of the paint was applied with my Iwata HP-C airbrush. The whole airframe was then brushed with Future/Klear floor polish to provide a good base for the decals.
The decals went on fairly easily assisted with Micro Sol and Micro Set. Tigerhead provide only the main national markings and codes but the photos that I have seen indicate that the Turkish Spits had little in the way of obvious stencilling. Wing walk lines came from the Airfix decal sheet and I added a few of their RAF-type stencils to the underside to break the monotony of the all-blue paintwork. The decals were sealed with an airbrushed coat of Xracrylix XFF Flat varnish.
The undercarriage is added next but Airfix’s approach to the assembly far from conventional and demands care. The join between the undercarriage legs and the pintle/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 still wonder whether this clever arrangement is over-engineered. In about 60 years of plastic kit production most manufacturers seem to agree that the easy way to secure a single leg undercarriage is to have a peg on top of the leg and a socket in the wing. It is a reasonably strong system and virtually self-aligning. It is even a system that Airfix use in their relatively recent 1:48 scale kits of Spitfire XII, Spitfire XIX, Seafire XVII. I still prefer that traditional arrangement. Left overnight to dry the legs still looked fragile so I extended the upper edge of the gear doors with a sliver of 20 thou. plastic card. This enabled me to glue the doors to both the wing underside and the legs and stiffen up the structure. The wheels were added once I was satisfied that the undercarriage structure had well and truly set hard.
In spite of the irritation with the undercarriage assembly I still rate this as a great kit.
Teamed with the Tigerhead decals it makes an interesting and unusual subject and comparison with the standard Mk.Vb makes an interesting contrast in configuration. The kit is comprehensive, and a lot of thought has gone into its design. It repays careful work but it is not a kit for a beginner. The only filler needed was the slightest trace along main joint lines. Highly recommended and, for what is on offer, amazing value for money.
Aeroguide Classics Number 1, Supermarine Spitfire Mk V. Linewrights Ltd 1985.
Spitfire in Action. Squadron Signal Publications 1980.
Supermarine Spitfire. Ducimus Books Ltd 1970.
Spitfire International, by Helmet Terbeck, Harry Van der Meer and Ray Sturtivant, Air-Britain Publications 2002
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