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KIT REVIEW


Special Hobby # SH48052
Seafire Mk. III "Last Fights Over the Pacific"
1:48 Scale



The legendary Supermarine Spitfire will forever be associated with British airpower throughout WWII.  The Seafire was a less widely-produced carrier-based derivative of the Spitfire employed in the European, Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters.  In this review, we’ll take a look at Special Hobby’s recent (re)release of one of their injection molded Seafire Mk. III kits in 1:48 scale.

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Since the late 1930s, the U.K. Ministry of Defense had been seriously contemplating a carrier-based version of the Spitfire.  The Fleet Air Arm was in dire need of more capable and modern aircraft, but quite logically, production of standard land-based Spitfires took priority.  By late 1941, the continued push by the Admiralty for a naval Spitfire finally yielded the Seafire (a contraction of “Sea Spitfire”).  The Seafire Mk. Ib was a standard Mk. Vb airframe fitted with an arresting hook and a strengthened rear fuselage.  The 40 Seafire Mk. Ibs that were produced indeed validated the concept of a naval Spitfire but also demonstrated that the Spitfire design’s narrow wheelbase, aft center of gravity, and short range were factors that also detracted from the airplane’s performance at sea.  Also, the general Spitfire airframe did not handle the stresses of carrier landings particularly well. Even after significant effort was made to reinforce the airframe, structural fatigue issues plagued Seafires to the end, and even affected the ultimate definitive version into their final carrier deployment in 1950.

The Seafire Mk.III was the first combat-ready Seafire.  Various design improvements, including manually folding wings and wingtips, catapult spools and slinging lugs just behind the engine bulkhead, and a cropped supercharger impellor were incorporated into these new-build airframes.  The Mk. III also featured a Merlin 55 powerplant fitted with a four-bladed propeller and six-stack exhausts.  The Mk. III was armed with the short-barreled Hispano Mk V cannon.  In all, 1,220 Mk. IIIs were manufactured by Westland and Cunliffe Owen, which was a little less than half the total number of Seafires produced, including several additional variants that came along over the following years.   

In November 1942, Seafires saw their first combat as part of Operation TORCH in North Africa.  In 1943, Seafires participated in the Allied invasion of Sicily and Italy, and in 1944, provided extensive support to both the landings in Normandy and Operation DRAGOON in Southern France.  Also in 1944, the Seafire joined the British Pacific Fleet.  It outperformed the A6M5 Zero, and it quickly demonstrated an ability to successfully intercept kamikaze attacks.  So, while still plagued by short range, Seafires found a niche, specializing in fleet defense and combat air patrol.  Following the end of the war, Seafires continued on in British, French, Irish, and Canadian service, but structural fatigue and the advent of jet power meant the airplane’s days were numbered.  Later versions operated by the Royal Navy took on ground attack and CAP roles in the Korean War in 1950, sometimes flying cover for USAF B-29s.  The Irish Air Force retired the last active duty Seafire in 1954.

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Special Hobby’s Seafire Mk. III “Last Fights over the Pacific” is a reissue of their earlier 2009 Mk. III kit (and an ever-growing series, it seems, of 1:48 scale Seafires).  This kit also contains photoetched metal parts and new decals.  The 108 injection molded parts contains seven medium gray polystyrene sprues.  One clear sprue features 11 parts, and 22 photoetched metal parts come on one metal fret.  The kit also includes a piece of clear film for the instrument faces and a small precut vinyl parts set (see below).  The color instruction booklet guides the build through eleven steps.
Markings are provided for three airframes:

Strengths: Special Hobby’s Seafire kits are all quite nicely molded and from what I can gather, they are quite shape- and size-accurate.  Test fitting of the fuselage and wing halves produced a very good fit.  Surfaces are smooth, and all recessed panel lines, screws, and fasteners look great to my eyes.  The quality of the photoetched parts is awesome; some of the parts are very small and fine, so use care when cutting from the fret.  What I first thought was a sheet of precut vinyl masks are indeed additional self-adhesive parts, with the vinyl cut-outs representing external aft airframe stiffeners.  The ailerons and rudder are separate parts and can be positioned as the builder wishes.
Cockpit details are okay, but the use of photoetched instrument panel and photofilm will add a great deal to the level of detail to the front office.  I also love the inclusion of the photoetched metal shoulder harnesses and restraints.  To me, separate belts are key, as you can’t do a more accurate looking seat without them.  The instructions are very nicely rendered and easy to read.  The decal printing quality looks very good, and color callouts are in the Gunze Sangyo range.  I am also a big fan of the Seafire Mk. III color schemes, and two of the three airplanes on the decal sheet were particularly historic and tell rather poignant stories.  
   
Weaknesses:  A few drawbacks surround this kit.  To me, the biggest bummer is that there is NO provision to fold the wings.  Of course, that makes tooling more expensive, but what a unique configuration and construction feature that could have been... 

Special Hobby has come a long way in their tooling since this kit was first produced in 2009, and so, this kit has their older-style, 2009 vintage MPM-type pour gates.  They are pretty big, and even attach to the smallest of the injection molded parts.  Some extra time in cleanup and parts preparation will be undoubtedly expended.  There’s also a little flash here and there to be wary of.  Cockpit sidewalls are a bit simplified.  I was underwhelmed by the quality of the photofilm representations of the instrument faces, as the resolution is rather poor.  The exhaust stacks are simplistic and need to be hollowed out.

Do note that Sprue H is included but not even depicted in the instructions; these are parts for three slipper external fuel tanks and are not used here.  Bottom line: don’t worry about them.  And finally, one question mark: page 8 of the instruction booklet is a stencil marking guide, but the kit does not include decals for stencils.  It seems to be an unfortunate oversight?

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This is an all-around good kit of the Seafire Mk. III, and it should build into a fine replica of the airplane.  To my knowledge, there’s not a lot of aftermarket resin or PE metal sets for the Mk. III, but CMK does produce highly detailed resin replacement parts for the low-quality exhaust stacks and far better detailed main wheels.  To me, they would be highly recommended and I would not want to build this kit without them.  Such parts can elevate yet further the detail and fidelity of this late Pacific war veteran.  Overall, most scale modelers should find this as a straightforward, enjoyable, and interesting project.     

Sincere thanks are owed to Special Hobby for the review sample. You visit them on the web at http://www.specialhobby.info and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/specialhobby

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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** Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.**


 

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