Hasegawa 1/32 Seafire III (Conversion)

KIT #: 08052
PRICE: $44.00 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Greymatter conversion sets: GMAA3212 - Seafire III conversion (about $35.00); GMAA3210 - Seafire Wings (about $29.00); GMAA 3202 - Spitfire seat (about $5.00).


 The Supermarine Sea Spitfire - the official name - or Seafire, was the first modern carrier based fighter operated by the Royal Navy.  Its existence demonstrates the need for naval aviation to be developed separately from land-based aviation. While the aircraft performed admirably in the role of low level interceptor, its fragile structure and landing gear placement resulted in 80 percent of Seafire losses being due to operational accidents rather than enemy action.

While Supermarine had approached the Admiralty as early as 1938 with a proposal for a naval version of the Spitfire, the operating philosophy of the Fleet Air Arm resulted in the development of the Fairey Fulmar instead.  Only when the fighters operated by the Fleet Air Arm were shown to be outperformed by their opposition was the Hurricane adapted for the role of fleet air defense as the Sea Hurricane, and it was also shown to be outmoded.  The first Seafires, the Mk. I and Mk.II, were minimal conversions of land-based Spitfires, with the primary addition being the addition of an A-frame arrestor hook under the rear fuselage, and catapult spools.  Since the wings did not fold, these Spitfires could not be struck below on a carrier, with the result that all maintenance at sea had to take place on the open flight deck.

The first version of the Seafire to specifically meet all the requirements for a carrier-based fighter was the F. Mk. III, which first flew in November 1943.  Developed by Cunliffe-Owen, which had been responsible for the modifications of Spitfires as Seafire I and Seafire II, the Seafire III was  fitted with a manual folding wing, which allowed below deck stowage. The F, Mk. III was quickly replaced by the F. Mk. L III, which used the Merlin 55M engine with a cropped impeller to give maximum performance below 5,000 feet. 1,220 Seafire IIs were manufactured - Westland built 870 and while Cunliffe-Owen produced 350. 

The Seafire III was able to outperform the A6M5 Zero at low altitudes when the two types were tested against each other.  While the Hellcat and Corsair were more robust and powerful, the Seafire III still had a better climb rate and acceleration, making it the superior low-altitude fleet short-range interceptor

The Seafire III first entered combat in April 1944 as fighter escorts for the raids on the “Tirpitz” in Norway.

HMS Indefatigable was modified for Pacific service between October‑November 1944 and then joined the Eastern Fleet in November 1944.  Indefatigable’s fighter units were the Seafires of 887 and 894 Squadrons, the most-experienced Seafire units in the Royal Navy.  They were allocated the vital defensive duties of Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the fleet, since they did not have a secondary ground-attack capability as did the Hellcat and Corsair.

The Seafires first entered combat with the British East Indies Fleet when HMS Indefatigable led air strikes on January 4, 1945 against an oil refinery at Medan with HMS Indomitable and HMS Victorious, then striking Palembang on January 24 and 29.

The British Eastern Fleet entered the Pacific War in February 1945 as the British Pacific Fleet, Task Force 57, to support the invasion of Iwo Jima.  In March and early April, they participated in attacks on Formosa Sakishima Gunto, and provided air cover for the invasion of Okinawa to prevent reinforcement of the Japanese forces on that island from Formosa and mainland China for the rest of April and early May.  In May, the fleet returned to Sydney Australia for refit, returning to the front line in early July, 1945.  That month, the Seafires of 887 and 894 squadrons became the first British aircraft to fly over Tokyo; the units provided continued air defense against the kamikaze threat for the rest of the war.  

The top-scoring Seafire pilot of the war was Sub‑Lieutenant R.H. Reynolds, DSC, of 894 Squadron, who claimed 4.5 air victories in 1944–5. During the campaign in the Pacific, 887 Squadron claimed 12 victories, while 894 Squadron claimed 10 victories, with two more victories claimed earlier in 1944 over Norway. HMS Indefatigable contributed one‑third of the Fleet Air Arm sorties flown in the Pacific.

 The Last Dogfight:

 HMS Indefatigable operated with the American Third Fleet in Japanese waters after August 10, 1945, to provide low altitude interception protection against kamikazes to the American fleet, since British carriers had armored decks and were better able to take hits from the attacks.

On August 15, 1945, three Seafires of 887 and four Seafires of 894 Squadrons were assigned as escorts to six Avengers of 820 Squadron and four Fireflies of 1772 Squadron, for a dawn strike against the kamikazes on Kisarazu airfield, 30 miles south of Tokyo.  Operating with American aircraft from two other carriers, this was officially the last airstrike of the Second World War, and was flown to prevent any attempt by die-hard Japanese fliers to attack the Allied fleet off Tokyo Bay after the surrender went into effect at noon

When the formation was over Odaki Bay at 0545, they were hit by ten A6M5 Zeros and four J2M Raidens of the 302nd Kokutai. In the ensuing dogfight, the Seafires claimed 7 shot down, 3 probables and 4 damaged. While this was a confused action with some US Navy Hellcats flying nearby also joining in, it is very possible that Sub‑Lieutenant Gerry Murphy, who destroyed two Zeros, had actually fired the last shots of the final dogfight of the Second World War.

Japanese Chief Petty Officer Yoshinari was credited with shooting down the Seafire flown by Sub‑Lieutenant Fred Hockley, who bailed out and was captured.  Nine hours after the surrender was announced on radio by the Emperor, Hockley was shot on orders from a senior Japanese officer. The Japanese officers who obeyed this order were, by their own admission, well aware of the surrender.  The officer who ordered the execution of Hockley was hanged as a war criminal in November, 1945.


This Seafire III is a conversion based on the Hasegawa Spitfire Vb kit, using the Greymatter Figures Seafire III conversion set and Seafire Wings set.  The Seafire III set provides the 4-bladed prop, the lower cowling panel with the later Aero-Vee filter, the fishtail ejector exhausts, the lower fuselage section with the A-frame arrestor hook, and the later-style elevators with the extended horn balance.  The Seafire Wing set completely replaces the kit wings, and gives the “C” wing armament with the wing fold scribed.  I also used the Greymatter Spitfire seat, which is the right size (the kit seat is about 1/3 too big overall).  Overall, this conversion will allow you to create the most accurate model of a Seafire III in any scale.

I decided to do a model of Seafire L.III, 112/S NN212 of 887 Squadron, flown by Sub‑Lieutenant Gerry Murphy from HMS Indefatigable, who shot down two Japanese Zeros on August 15, 1945, which were definitely the last two Fleet Air Arm victories and may have been the final victories of the Second World War.  I sourced the markings for this using the kit sheet for the stencils, and then getting the BPF insignia from a Dutch Decals sheet, and the rest of the Royal Navy markings from various decal sheets in the decal dungeon.


This is an advanced conversion project, but it is not as difficult as it looks at first.

The worst part of the project was the replacement of the wings.  This seems daunting at first, but it’s easy.  I cut off the plastic wings, then attached the resin wings to the plastic center section.  I then taped the fuselage together and used it to test-fit the wings to the fuselage.  I found I needed to thin down the area of the wing attachment on the fuselage for a smooth fit.  After that, I attached the gun bulges in their proper positions, and attached the wingtips.  The wingtips seemed too wide in chord to fit the wing, and further test-fitting of the wing to the fuselage revealed the resin wing was overall too narrow in chord (Greymatter has since corrected this).  I corrected the wings here by gluing Evergreen rod on the wing leading edge, then filling in with Squadron Green Putty.  When that was dry I sanded it smooth and the wing fit the fuselage with no problem.  This was the only hard part of the entire conversion.  I finished off by attaching the radiator provided by Greymatter, and the oil cooler I had cut off the donor kit.  

I then cut out the lower fuselage area and test-fitted the attachment of the arrestor hook assembly.  I also cut and assembled the horizontal stabilizers and fitted the elevators.

I assembled the fuselage, using the Greymatter seat and Eduard photoetch RAF seatbelts in the cockpit. The arrestor hook assembly fit well, and was puttied over and then sanded smooth before I attached the arrestor hook in the raised position.

I then attached the wings to the fuselage, and puttied the upper wing-fuselage joint.  The lower cowling with the Aero-Vee filter fit easily, though the reare part of the Aero-Vee filter had to be puttied to fit to the lower center section.

When everything was sanded smooth, I rescribed the panel lines on the fuselage.

While in Australia in May-June 1945, 887 Squadron obtained a supply of US 75-gallon metal tanks from the RAAF, and jury-rigged a mount for their Seafires to carry these tanks, which provided more gas than the standard “slipper” tanks and did not reduce performance as the other tanks did.  I used a 75-gallon tank left over from a Trumpeter P-47 kit for this.   



The model was first pre-shaded with black paint along the panel lines, then Xtracrylix RAF “Dark Sea Grey,” “Dark Slate Grey” and “Sky” were applied freehand for the Fleet Air Arm Temperate Sea Scheme.


I found two photographs of 887 Squadron Seafire IIIs, which showed that the airplanes used oversized large BPF insignia; this was likely done to insure that their erstwhile USN allies recognized the unfamiliar shape of the Seafire as “friendly.”  I was able to source the BPF decals from the Dutch Decals sheet “Dutchies in de FAA”, which were originally meant for the 1/32 Hellcat.  The “Royal Navy” and the serial NN212 came from leftover decals for the Fisher Sea Fury, while “S/112" was sourced out of other Fleet Air Arm decal sheets.


You don’t find airplanes in a marine saltwater environment with a lot of “dings,” so I only gave a minor “ding” to the area where the pilot stepped on the wing.  I applied exhaust and oil stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”  I attached the prop, wheels, and drop tank, then unmasked the canopy and placed it in the open position with the side flap dropped. 


The Seafire III is one of the most interesting versions of the Spitfire.  With its oversized BPF insignia and the strange-looking US drop tank below, this model makes an excellent addition to my collection of 1/32 Spitfires.  The conversion is not for the faint-hearted, but it is not that difficult if you take your time.  As I said above, the wing situation has been dealt with, but if you should get an older wing, the fix is not hard.  Highly recommended to all “Boffins.”

Review kit courtesy of my wallet.  Conversion sets courtesy of Greymatter Figures.  Get yours at: http://www.greymatterfigures.com/

Tom Cleaver

October 2010

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