August 2018

Supermarine Seafire LIII

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Supermarine Seafire L.III

880 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, 8th Carrier Group, HMS IMPLACABLE

Allied Task Force 37, British Pacific Fleet Operating over Japan, July/August 1945

Aircraft of Lt Cdr Mike Crossley DSC, RN, O/C of 880 Sqn.

Jul-Aug 1945.

Airfix Spitfire IX (1960 mould) scratch conversion  1/72

The definitive Merlin-engined Seafire was the Mark III, which introduced much needed folding wings, allowing many more aircraft to be carried on the RN's small carriers. As with the Mark II, a low altitude variant, the L.III, was produced to fit the Seafire’s planned short range interceptor role.

Production was shared between Cunliffe-Owen aircraft in Birmingham and Westland at Weston-super-Mare, with the aircraft seeing widespread service in the European and Pacific theatres.

By VJ Day in 1945, 12 FAA Squadrons were flying the Seafire, all but 4 of which were equipped with the MkIII.  

Arriving in the Pacific in June 1945, HMS IMPLACABLE was an improved version of the ILLUSTRIOUS Class, fitted with two hangars, one above the other to allow a far greater aircraft load to be carried, up to 81 aircraft with use of deck parking.  

Unfortunately, the low deckhead height of these hangars precluded use of the high-tailed Corsairs and Hellcats equipping the rest of the British Pacific Fleet.  IMPLACABLE’s 8th Carrier Air Group carried two squadrons of Seafires, from 801 and 880 NAS, along with Fireflies and Barracudas.  

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Background Picture - BPF Corsair at IWM Duxford

Have a look at many more Fleet Air Arm models on my RN Props and Seafire pages

Back on my feet and at my own modellling desk this month; hopefully this is the last of the “sofa builds” !

With their usefulness limited by the Seafire’s short range, 880 managed to obtain a stock of surplus P40 teardrop shaped fuel tanks which they fitted to their Seafires.  These were far more streamlined and reliable than the normal Seafire/Spitfire slipper tanks and are reputed to have improved the Seafire’s landing characteristics as well as significantly extending its range.

As a result, Seafires could be used on regular bombing escort and strafing “ramrod” missions over the Naval Base at Truk Atoll,  the Japanese home islands (including over Tokyo), as well as protecting the fleet from increasingly desperate kamikaze attacks by the Japanese Naval Air Arm and Imperial Japanese Army.

In reality, this build has been as much about housekeeping as modelling; this particular model has been sitting on my “build” shelf, taunting me since 2015 and I just had to get rid of it, one way or another.  Rather than simply add it to the landfill bag, a bit of old-fashioned improvisation seemed like a good idea.  

I didn’t buy the kit deliberately;  It came as part of an e-bay job lot of old blister packed Airfix kits. I knew this kit had a poor reputation, but even I was shocked to see how toy-like it is.  It’s an ancient Airfix JE@J Spitfire Mk.IX, definitely one of Airfix’s poorest kits, first issued in 1960, but which had an inappropriately long life before Airfix finally killed it off and replaced it with their more recent and much, much better Mk IX kits.

I guess that to the un-initiated it probably looks like an OK Spitfire, but the list of faults is impressive.  

The overall shape is very “approximate” – its fuselage is far too square around its engine cowling and rear underside, the fuselage sides are vertical and slab-like, the exhaust pipes are blob-like, the propeller boss too small, the fuselage completely empty (with a vaguely humanoid pilot creature to fill the gap, it is festooned with battleship rivets all over, the solid two-part wings lack the iconic Spitfire “gull wing” effect, the wheel wells are too small and too shallow, the undercarriage legs to thin and too short, and the two-part wheels are just pitiful.  

I’m not exaggerating or being fussy.  This really is a badly miss-shaped kit.

So not much going for it then.  The canopy is clear and fits well.  Actually it doesn’t – it’s too wide and nearly a millimetre too short.  But this was the only place I needed to use any filler, because the small number of vaguely Spitfire-like parts actually fit together very well.  

In the end, this was a very quick “looks like a Seafire” conversion, with a sprue and plastic card hook, plastic strip fuselage strengtheners and lifting points, plus an awful lot of sanding on the cowling and lower rear fuselage to try and get them looking a more realistic shape.  I think I managed reasonably well, although the sides are still a little too slab-like for me.  I didn’t even try to address the missing gull-wing section.  

For interest and to disguise the underside faults, I added a spare P-40 drop tank, just like the real thing (my P-40 has a bomb instead). The extra cannon barrels were removed along with the spare radiator, which was replaced with an oil cooler (half an ex-Hawk rocket launcher – the other half is on one of my other Seafires).

Decals are from the spares box.  The fuselage ones are, I think, a little too small, but the larger ones wouldn’t fit (perhaps the kit is under scale, or the fuselage is too small).

But hey, it’s a better ending for a simple kit than the landfill site!