Airfix 1/48 Spitfire PR.XIX
If the status of the Spitfire as “the best fighter aircraft of WW2” can be doubted, its condition as “the best medium range reconnaissance aircraft” probably cannot. Without in any way having been designed for the role, Spitfires were modified for the reconnaissance role from the very beginning, at first in an almost artisan scale, and it were PR Spitfires the first to be deployed overseas and make contact with the enemy. Later, beginning with the PR.IV, production was standardized, as was the scheme “fuel in wings, cameras in fuselage”, with the introduction of the so-called “Bowser” wing, an early attempt at a “wet” wing. The last of these recce versions, and the only one fitted with a Griffon engine, was the PR.XIX, which, as most Spitfire versions were, was a kind of an hybrid aircraft mating the general Mk.XIV fuselage to a PR.XI wings (with extra fuel in the seldom used wing camera bays, to a total of 256 gallons) and (type 390) PR.X pressurized system (itself an adaptation from the HF.VII), modified with a “PR windscreen”, without armor. It was a remarkable aircraft, with a top speed of 717 km/h at 26,000 ft, and a maximun ceiling of 42,600, a figure reached almost unofficially. Entering service in May, 1944, 225 were built, seen widespread service in Europe and Italy before the end of the war.
No.682 Squadron was formed from No.4 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit at Maison Blanche on 1 February 1943, for photographic reconnaissance duties in the Western and Central Mediterranean. After flying missions over Tunisia and Italy from Algeria, it moved to Italy in December 1943, mounted on Spitfire PR Mk XIs, and for the rest of the war based detachments at many airfields in Italy. In September 1944 it began being reequipped with PR.XIX; about that same time, a detachment was sent to southern France which moved forward behind the Allied armies until it reached Nancy in November, where it stayed until the end of March 1945. On 14 September 1945 the squadron was disbanded.
This most eagerly awaited kit is one of those embodying the virtual resurrection of Airfix to the “kits for serious modellers” market. You can read a more detailed preview here.
The first impressions are good. Plastic is a bit soft, but some people like it best. Panel lines are still a bit oversized but well defined. Small parts are rather poor, specially the undercarriage. Cockpit detail is barely adequate; but the seat looks very good. Armour is molded into the headrest bulkhead, which surprised me; though in wartime it looks to have been fitted (against PR practice), the post-war machines depicted in the decal sheet had it most probably removed.
The moulds are “PR.XIX specific”, it doesn't look as if they were planned as a multiversion mould. Every one of the three plus transparent sprues have “XIX specific” parts. Airfix will be able to profit of the research only if releasing a XIV or XVIII model.
The camera compartment is a very good addition to the kit; having been in the “PR Spits” business for some time, I have long prayed for some aftermarket company releasing something like that. I decided to open the hatches on both sides, but it would be probably a better idea to open only the one with the camera port.
Everything was painted in Aircraft Grey Green, as I
intended to model a wartime machine. The cameras were painted a light grey.
The canopy/rear window combo, another usual Airfix's Spits trait, is ridiculous, and I honestly think there is no way it may look anywhere near realistic. I therefore chose to simply put the hood opened on its rails. The quarterdeck window is a bit small in width compared to its sills; I worked a bit to get a better fit, but, in the end, it backfired, for the hood would have sat easier on it. I had to force it a bit to avoid it riding high.
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- “Spitfire at War”, Alfred Price, Ian Allan Publications
- RAF website
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