The Seafire was essentially a navalized Spitfire designed for carrier operations with the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet. At the beginning of World War II, although the Royal Air Force was operating some first class equipment (including Spitfires and Hurricanes), the Royal Navy was equipped mainly with types that were decidedly inferior in performance to what the Luftwaffe had. These types, including the Blackburn Skua and Roc, Gloster Gladiator, and later the Fairey Fulmar, were not in a class with the Messerschmitt Bf-109 or the Focke Wulf FW-190, the planes that would become their adversaries. Although the earlier aircraft were used successfully in some operations, it was clear to the naval commanders that more suitable aircraft were required. While American naval fighters, notably the Grumman F4F Martlet, the Grumman F6F Hellcat, and the Vought F4U Corsair, were eventually obtained, the Spitfire/Seafire variants were seen as interim models until later types could be placed in service. In addition, Hawker also produced the Sea Hurricane, a navalized Hurricane, which also was used in substantial numbers. The first Seafires were essentially Spitfire Mk. IV’s with tailhooks and strengthened landing gear, while the later Merlin powered marks were roughly equivalent to the Mk. IX, lightened by the deletion of two cannons. The Mk. III was the first version to feature a manually folding wing, and a total of over 1200 were produced before Supermarine switched to the Griffin powered versions late in the war. Merlin powered Mk. III’s were used in European operations until the end of the European war, after which the Royal Navy sent significant carrier forces into the Pacific, where the Seafires were used effectively against the Japanese. Postwar, the Mk. III’s were replaced by later models, and a few were used by the French in the Far East.
To my knowledge, the Sword kit is the first 1/72 scale Seafire III from any producer (I believe High Planes did a couple – Ed.), although many kits of Spitfire variants have appeared over the years, varying widely in accuracy and quality. A quick glance at the Sword offering in the box reveals an accurate outline with recessed panel lines and a lot of extra parts, hinting that Sword intends to produce a number of interesting variants of this historically significant aircraft. The box opens at the ends, and the kit is packed in a plastic bag. My example arrived in mint condition. Looking at the instruction sheet, there are four pages of assembly drawings and four pages of color and marking data for four different aircraft. The front page provides a short history of the type, and the rear box cover has four color profiles of the aircraft represented on the excellent Propagteam/Techmod decal sheet. The sheet also provides a color guide and a sprue diagram, although some of the X’ed out parts on the diagram were not included in the kit. No problem here, unless you want to use the extra parts for some kind of conversion. You can never have too many Spitfire spare parts.
The molding is almost first class, but there is a certain amount of flash that will need trimming, something to be expected in almost any short run kit these days. The kit does include a set of resin exhaust stacks, but the instructions fail to mention that you will have to glue in a backing strip on the inside of the cowling or the stacks will push right through and be lost forever inside the nose of the airplane. The sprue stacks are a little crude, giving reason for the one resin part.
Nearly all of the sprue parts have at least two attachment points, requiring a little trimming, but this is a good thing. Some flash removal is necessary on a few of the parts, but this is not unusual for this kind of kit. I would suggest that you read the instructions carefully before beginning this kit, mainly to make sure that the proper parts are used. I just trimmed off the “X” parts and put them in a small plastic bag for future use.
Assembly of this kit starts with the detailed interior, which consists of a floor, seat, instrument panel, rear bulkhead, seat mounts, control stick, headrest, oxygen bottles, and a clear gunsight. Some of these parts are extremely small, so be careful they don’t fly off of the workbench into oblivion. They should be painted first, mainly in RAF Interior Green. The instrument panel needs to be detailed, as it contains raised instrument faces. Once the cockpit is complete and painted, the fuselage halves can be joined. There are no pins, but the parts went together easily. The upper part of the tailhook unit fits into the lower rear fuselage, and it needs to be carefully attached. On the wings, there are a number of small parts that simulate the main spar and the sides of the wheel wells. Pay close attention to their location, as they aren’t explained too well in the instructions, and paint the insides interior green. Some of these parts can’t be seen from the outside, but YOU will know they are there. The wings go together smoothly, although you need to be careful where the wing surface joins the control surfaced, as too much glue can squirt out and ruin the exterior surface of the model. When the wings are attached to the fuselage, there will be some fairly wide gaps in the upper wing root area. I used a shim of plastic strip to fill in one side, and filler to eliminate the gaps. Just be sure to get the wing dihedral angle correct. One problem with the wing is that the mounting holes for the landing gear struts are very tiny. These should be drilled out with a larger bit but, even then, the landing gear struts will be a bit tedious to install. I used superglue, although regular Tenax would work if you can get it down into the narrow gear strut opening. In addition, the radiator housings are provided separately and, while the right side unit (an oil cooler) is no problem, the larger left side (the whole thing looks like a Mk. V unit) has radiator facings that are a little too large for the squared housing. These are easy to trim to fit, however. The elevators are somewhat butt fitted to the rear fuselage, but they have two surfaces so they actually fit pretty well without mounting tabs. When ready, glue the canopy to the fuselage and mask off the clear portions. It is a shame that they didn’t make the canopy so that it could be left open, as there is quite a bit of cockpit detail that could be seen. With the canopy closed, you can see something inside, but the kit really needs an open canopy for best effect. Possibly a vacuform after-market unit would be appropriate.
Painting and Finishing.
After painting detail parts, cockpit interior, etc., and assembly, the exterior can be painted. Be sure you have the proper colors. The colors are listed for the four versions on the box, and these are readily available from any good hobby shop. I used Testor’s Model Master paints, which give the stated shades in useful reference form, and painting was almost an anti-climax. The color guides in the instructions are useful, and there is a special drawing provided for the maintenance markings provided. These, by the way, are excellently done, and are clearly readable under magnification. (Some of us older modelers have large magnifying glasses mounted on our workbenches so we don’t have to switch to a larger scale.) After painting, the decals go on effortlessly, and the model is ready. The biggest job is the maintenance markings, which are a necessary but tedious task. None of the decals requires trimming, which is nice. The prop just glues onto the nose and won’t turn unless you do some extensive creative surgery earlier in the assembly process.
This appears to be a new series of Spitfire Seafire variants. My good friend Jim Pearsall just finished a later mark Seafire from this same company, and his comments will probably be similar to mine. By and large, however, this kit is a welcome addition to the bevy of Spitfires already available, and is unique in that it represents a Seafire variant that was only possible through conversion previously. I did a Mark II from an Airfix Mk. Va while back, and muddled through the Pegasus Seafire FR.47, but this kit was fun to build. If you like British aircraft, and have moderate modeling skills, this kit is worth getting. Also, watch for the other variants that Sword will release in the future, as they should be good, too.
Thanks to Sword Models and Squadron Products for the sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build it.