Airfix 1/48 Seafire XV/XVII

KIT #: 5117/6102
PRICE: $22.99/29.99
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Kitbash to create Seafire XV


             Following the success of the Seafire Mk. III with folding wings, and the introduction of the Spitfire XII, the first operational Spitfire variant powered by the Griffon engine, the Royal Navy requested a Seafire development based on the Mk. XII with the folding wings of the Mk. III.  The result was the Seafire XV, which was powered by a Griffon VI providing 1,850 h.p. While it was considered a navalized Mk. XII, it was actually a strengthened Mk. III, with overload fuel tanks in the wings, and the larger elevators and broad-chord rudder of the Spitfire VIII.  The first 50 aircraft built by Cunliffe-Owen had the A-frame arrestor hook used on the previous Seafires, as well as the stiff landing gear associated with those Seafires.  The result was a failure.  The Griffon engine rotated in the opposite direction to the Merlin, though the airframe was still “bent” for the Merlin’s torque; on takeoff, the Seafire XV had a pronounced swing to the right, which could and did result in aircraft actually hitting the island of the aircraft carrier they were attempting to launch from.  Pilots were told not to give the airplane full throttle on takeoff, and it was impossible to use the RATOG due to the swing.  Additionally, the airplane bounced horribly on landing and with the additional weight in the nose of the new engine, since the gear was unchanged from that used by the lighter-weight versions; it invariably ended up either tail up with the propeller blades shattered, or upside down, if the landing was anything less than perfect and even then ship motion could bring on disaster regardless.  These aircraft went aboard HMS Implacable with 1801 Squadron just before the end of the war, but were quickly declared completely unsuitable for carrier operation.

            The rest of the 340 Seafire XVs were modified with a stinger hook at the extreme tail which helped keep the airplane from bouncing over the safety barrier on landing, and featured a greatly enlarged rudder which helped with the takeoff problems, but the landing problems which were due to the stiff oleos were never really solved.

            Seafire XVs were provided to the Royal Canadian Navy for operation by 803 Squadron aboard HMCS Bonaventure.  Other Seafire XVs were transferred to the French Aeronavale in 1950, where they served until 1953.

            The Seafire XVII appeared in the summer of 1945, and went far to solve the problems of the Seafire XV, most notably by changing the landing gear to a long-stroke soft oleo designed for a higher-weight airplane with a lower rebound ratio, which tamed the landing problems.  The Seafire XVII was the first Seafire to be really comfortable aboard an aircraft carrier, though the entire structure was still much too light and fragile for prolonged carrier operation without damaging the airframe.  The aircraft featured the cut-down rear fuselage of later-mark Spitfires, with a 33-gallon fuel tank immediately behind the cockpit, and a bubble canopy that differed from that used on Spitfires by having a rounded vee-shaped windshield.  This was disliked because rain could seriously reduce visibility; it was suggested that the standard bubble canopy with the traditional windshield be fitted, but this was not done.  Additionally the Seafire XVII featured a stronger main spar which allowed it to carry increased underwing fule tanks and ordnance compared with previous marks.  The airplane could carry two 22 gallon “slipper” tanks underwing as well as eight Rps in four twin-rocket racks, as well as a 50-gallon drop tank on the lower fuselage centerline.  The 232 Seafire XVIIs built (212 by Westland, 20 by Cunliffe-Owen) were primarily used by the RNVR squadrons, and it was the last Seafire to see service, not being retired until 1954, two years after the retirement of the Seafire 47.

            Seafire XV PR503 was restored to flying status in 2010 in the United States, and Seafire XVII SX336 was restored to flight in Great Britaain in 2007, suffering a gear-up landing accident in 2011, which is expected to be repaired by 2013.


             The Seafire XVII preview is here and the Spitfire XII is here.  

            The Spitfire XVII kit comes with two complete sets of wings, one in the extended configuration, and one in the folded configuration.  Given how close the two Airfix kits are, it is a relatively simple kit-bash to use one of the two Seafire XVII wings with the Spitfire XII kit to create a Seafire XV.


            Since I wanted to do two complete kits, there were some compromises to be made, the major one being that it would only be possible to build an early Seafire XV, since I would need the larger rudder and the tail stinger hook for the Seafire XVII build. 

            The kitbash is fairly simple, if one has some leftover Spitfire parts in the spares box.  What is needed is a larger carburetor intake than is provided in the Spitfire XII kit, and a second radiator.  I had the larger carburetor intake left over from my Spitfire XIV conversion, and a spare radiator from the unbuilt Airfix Seafire III kit, which only needed a little detail sharpening to match the radiator housing provided in the Spitfire XII kit.  Additionally, I had to add some additional plastic to the trim tab of this kit to reproduce that used on the original, I cut off a tailhook from one in the spares box and fitted it in an opening I filed on the rear fuselage of the Spitfire XII kit for the A-frame arrestor hook.

            The Seafire XVII kit was assembled per the instructions, without encountering any problems.  I did however make a mistake in assuming that the entire cockpit was painted black.  In fact, the Seafire XVII was the last Seafire with a green cockpit interior, though the upper sides were painted black.  This mistake is an example of Failure To Do Proper Research. (The Airfix instructions are correct in this regard as they are based on the unrestored cockpit of the Seafire F.17 at the FAA museum. Ed)  I solved the problem (after it was too late to go in and repaint things) by not opening the side flap, limiting the view of the cockpit interior.

            The propeller blades were re-shaped to look like those for the two different types.  I studied photos to see that the Seafire XV has a different, narrower blade shape with more symmetrical tips than does the Seafire XVII, which is closer to that provided in the kit if the tips are reshaped.

            I used exhausts from the Spitfire spares box for the Seafire XV; I believe these came from an Airfix Seafire 46/47 kit originally, and they had to be backed with plastic plugs so they could stick out far enough.


            The Seafire XV was painted in the wartime camouflage scheme of Dark Slate Grey and Extra Dark Sea Grey on the upper surfaces with Sky lower surfaces, using Xtracrylix paints applied freehand after the model was suitably pre-shaded with flat black along the panel lines.  The prop spinner was painted white and Insignia Blue using Tamiya paints. The Seafire XVII spinner was painted red by a guess looking at the single black and white photo I had available, a choice later confirmed when I saw photos of another kit done in these markings over at

            The Seafire XVII was painted in the postwar scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey on the upper wing and horizontal stabilizer and the upper spine of the fuselage, with the rest in Sky.  Again, Xtracrylix paints were used, but this time were masked off.  The Extra Dark Sea Grey being applied first, then masked, with the Sky then applied.

            The Seafire XV was marked using decals from the Decal Dungeon, primarily from old Aeromaster Fleet Air Arm sheets for the Corsair and Hellcat, with the fuselage national insignia coming from a Grand Phoenix Firefly I sheet, to do one of the Seafire Xvs assigned to HMS Implacable in 1945.

            The Seafire XVII was marked as an airplane from 1832 Squadron based at Brawdy around 1949, done from a photo found on the Internet.  The serials and the side number were pieced together from the kit sheet and from other decal sheets in the dungeon.


            The Seafire XV canopy was unmasked, and the sliding section attached in the open position.  The landing gear and prop were attached, and then the wings were glued on.  The position for the bracing strut is slightly off; if you go with what is provided, the wings where the tips fold down will come together, which is not right, so I modified the attachment point to give a wingfold that looked like the photos of the restored Seafire XV PR503.

            The Seafire XVII canopy was unmasked and the sliding section glued in the open position.  Landing gear and prop were attached. 

            I did not weather either model because the available photos showed the originals to be in clean condition.


             For a total price of $51 (less if you get online discounts from major suppliers), you can do two interesting Seafires, and give yourself a bit of exercise in a simple kitbash, provided you have decals in your collection to do the Seafire XV.  I have long wanted to have these two Seafire versions in my collection, which is now complete in 1/48 from the Spitfire prototype to the Seafire 47 for all major marks and variations.

Tom Cleaver

June 2012

Review kits courtesy of my wallet.

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

Back to the Main Page

Back to the Review Index Page