Supermarine Spitfire HF.VI
by Randy Lutz
Building an out-of-the-box Hasegawa Supermarine Spitfire HF Mk VI in 1/32nd scale to represent a machine from the fifth production batch assigned to No. 616 "South Yorkshire" Squadron, while based at Great Sampford, England during August 1942.
"At a meeting held at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, on February 17, 1941, the Air Ministry asked that a Spitfire should be provided with a pressurized cabin capable of maintaining a differential pressure of 11 lbs. per square inch at 40,000ft. The Marshall blower was to be used, and it was agreed that the sliding hood could be eliminated, provided that arrangements were made to allow the new hood to be jettisoned".
These words were the opening statement at a meeting where the Air Staff determined it had a need for a high altitude fighter. A Mk V Spitfire, serial R7120 was pulled from the production line and modified to accept 2 airtight bulkheads, a specially designed canopy made from 5/16" perspex as well as the elimination of the pilot's side door and the sliding hood rails. All seams, bolts and fasteners leading to the cockpit were covered with an airtight rubber compound. The Spitfire was fitted with a Marshall blower and was flight tested at 40,000 ft. The test results concluded that there were no insurmountable problems in pressurizing the cockpit. Following these and subsequent tests, an order was given by the Air Ministry to commence production of the Mk VI in January, 1942.
The original intent of the Mk VI was for high-altitude interception of German reconnaissance aircraft over England. A total of five Mk VIs were shipped to the Middle East to bolster the modified high altitude Mk Vs assigned to No. 252 Wing. The Mk VIs were assigned serial numbers BS106, 124, 134, 149 and an unknown machine. Little is known of the camouflage schemes or markings given to these aircraft.
The last production Mk VI, serial number EN189 came of the assembly line in November of 1942 and was immediately sent to Worthy Down for testing. In general the Mk VI did not meet all expectations, and consequently the majority of the Mk VIs were relegated to training roles with all armament and pressurization removed. They were also retro-fitted with normal Mk I wingtips.
Supermarine's records indicate that a total of 100 Mk VIs were delivered yet the RAF records account for only 97.
The subject of this review is an aircraft from the fifth production batch, serial number BS111, airframe number 3130. It was a Mk V, converted to Mk VI standards and ferried to number 33 Maintenance Unit where the Sky fuselage band was applied. After which it was assigned to No. 616 squadron on August 1, 1942 while they were stationed at Great Sampford, England. In February 1944 it was allocated to No. 519 squadron and finally struck off charge on January 29, 1945.
This model first made it appearance during 1978, and was released immediately following the Hasegawa Mk V. In fact, it shares the majority of parts with the Mk V. Because it is based on the Mk. V, this kit still features the pilot's side door as a separate piece, which is not the case with the Mk. VI Spitfire. My sample was moulded in medium grey styrene with a total of 82 parts, 8 of which are clear plastic. All surface detail is of the raised variety, except for access panels and control surfaces, which are recessed. Hasegawa has provided a very detailed interior, 24 pieces in total that will produce a more than acceptable model out-of-the-box. The only thing that could be added are seat belts.
My only complaint with the model is the way Hasegawa has moulded the ailerons. As they have been known to do, there is a seam running spanwise through the mid point of the ailerons. I would have preferred that the seam run along the hinge line as moulded on the tail planes, or the trailing edge. Hasegawa has provided the choice of retracted or extended landing lights simply by means of cutting through the scored outline on the bottom of the wing.
Decals are provided for three aircraft. The first is unquestionably the most photographed Mk VI, a machine from No. 124 "Baroda" squadron, code letters ON-H. A word of caution is in order here. The code letters are printed in white. They should be "Sky", and the order shown on the left side should read H-ON, not H-NO. The second scheme is for a machine used for cockpit contamination trials at Boscombe Down and later transferred to No. 616 squadron and flown by Johnnie Johnson. It has serial number AB534. This aircraft displays no squadron codes and is impressively boring. The final bland scheme is AB200, and as with the previous, it also lacks squadron codes. This was the second production machine and the only thing interesting about this aircraft was that it was used for numerous tests during the development of the Mk VI. Originally it was fitted with normal span wings, but these buckled during a terminal velocity dive and were replaced with the extended wings.
The instructions are incorrect, wherein they indicate that the sliding portion of the canopy can be installed in the open position along with the side door. In reality, there was no side door and the canopy was of a non-sliding design. It was fastened in place by four locking tabs. So while you are blending in the side door, don't forget to eliminate the sliding canopy rails.
This model has a very detailed cockpit, however most of it will not be visible through the closed canopy. Keeping this in mind, I decided to try something new to represent the shadows in the cockpit. After all the interior parts were painted using Xtracolor X10 Aircraft Grey/Green, BS283, I added a drop of black to the remaining paint in my colour cup and airbrushed the darkened mixture into all recesses and corners. This is best accomplished using a dual action airbrush with the paint flow set to almost zero. Once dry, the raised areas were dry brushed with a mixture of Grey/Green enamel and white oil paint. The airbrush method for reproducing shadows works very well. It is a shame it is hidden under the closed canopy. The top half of the instrument panel bulkhead and various boxes were finished using Testors Model Master Black Chrome. This was followed by a dark grey and light grey dry brushing to enhance the detail.
The seat was painted using Testors Rubber, as it does a fine job or replicating the dark reddish-brown colour of the original. Do not add any silver chipping to the seat, as the actual seat was not made from metal. It was bakelite, which is a synthetic resin or plastic made from formaldehyde and phenol.
A drop of Micro Scale Kristal Klear was placed over each of the instrument dials to represent the glass faces. The final item was the set of seat belts which were made from masking tape, painted a pale linen colour and added to the seat. No photo-etched buckles were used, as this model was out-of-the-box. Note, that on Spitfires, the shoulder harness attachment point is well to the rear of the fuselage. If you should intend to build ON-H, the Spitfire from No. 124 squadron, you must remove the moulded in headrest as it was not fitted to this particular aircraft.
All the cockpit components were installed in the fuselage and the two halves were glued using liquid cement. Prior to assembling the main wing, the top halves were fastened to the fuselage to get as small a wing root joint as possible. The resulting joint was fine enough that I deliberated about filling the crack, but finally decided to apply a small amount of putty. When sanding the wing root seam, invariably much of the surrounding detail will be lost. My modelling colleague Jamie, showed me a tip which I think most readers will appreciate. Go to your local photographic supply store and obtain some splicing tape. This is a heavy grade plastic tape used during the film developing process. It is impervious to most chemicals and is waterproof. Place a strip along both sides of the joint and them sand as usual. The joint will be smoothed over while at the same time preserving the surrounding detail. This splicing tape is quite resistant to most sandpaper and performs much better than masking tape. The bottom half of the wing was installed along with the tail planes and all body work was tackled. The front and rear portions of the canopy were installed using liquid cement and blended in with the aid of Tamiya putty. All canopy framing was masked off, and then airbrushed with Interior Grey/Green. At this point the openings in the leading edge of the wings for the .303 wing guns were drilled out as well as the 20mm cannons.
The rear fuselage band and leading edge wing identification bands were airbrushed using Xtracolor X7 RAF Sky, BS210 and Xtracolor X106 Insignia Yellow, FS13538 respectively. Check your references carefully concerning the yellow bands, as they were not consistent in terms of width from one aircraft to the next. Some will start at the inboard .303 machine gun, some start midway between the inboard .303 and the 20mm cannon and in the case of ON-H, they start at the 20mm cannon. Once these areas had dried they were masked off, and the under surface was airbrushed Medium Sea Grey. Xtracolor X3, BS637, was the paint chosen for this area. The wheel wells and inside face of the landing gear doors were also finished in this colour. The undersides were masked off and the upper surface camouflage pattern was applied freehand using a Paasche "V" dual action airbrush. Xtracolor X1 Dark Green, BS641 and X6 Ocean Grey, were used. All paints were thinned with straight lacquer thinner and applied at high pressure to obtain a tight demarcation line between the upper surface colours.
While this was drying, the wheels were assembled and sprayed with Testors Rubber. The wheel hubs and landing gear struts were finished in Testors Metalizer Non-buffing Steel. Prior to painting the struts, the two landing gear locking lugs were drilled out. Testors Metalizer Burnt Iron was airbrushed over the exhausts, followed by a darkened mixture sprayed into the depressions between the exhaust pipes.
The spinner was finished in Sky, while the propeller blades are black with yellow tips. Often seen in photographs but not supplied on the decal sheet are the eight small alignment mark stencils found on the spinner. On the real aircraft the stencilling reads "Locked/Unlocked" with the two words straddling a fastener. From a distance they resemble the letter "H". I made these by transferring various characters from the Greek Alphabet Mathematical Symbols Letraset sheet to clear decal film and applied along with the other decals.
All the remaining decals are as supplied by Hasegawa except for the squadron codes and serial numbers. The codes are made by Arrow Graphics and are superb. I elected to use their decals and model a different Mk VI. As many times as I have seen this model at conventions, it has always been done in the No. 124 squadron markings. I wanted mine to be different from others, and the timing could not have been better as Arrow Graphics had just recently released this sheet of codes. The serial numbers were made by applying the correct size of Letraset on to clear decal film. The wing walk stripes were obtained from a sheet of Letraset lines and applied directly to the upper surface of the wings prior to applying the roundels. All decals were applied with the aid of Solvaset, which was sparingly applied to the Arrow Graphics decals and much heavier on the national insignia. The fin flashes are not quite wide enough to allow the red to wrap around the leading edge of the vertical fin. To rectify this, I airbrushed Humbrol Gloss Red #19 over the red portions of the decals after they had set.
Once everything had dried, the control surfaces and any access panels were picked out with a dark wash. Chipping was next, and was accomplished by mixing Testors Pla Silver and Winsor and Newton Raw Umber oil paint and then judiciously dabbing on small amounts. It is better to have too little rather than too much. One of the advantages in applying the chipping over gloss paint is that it can be easily removed with a minute amount of Turpentine on a cotton swab, just do not rub too hard! I actually removed a fair amount of chipping as I thought it was too heavy. This reinforces my "stop when you do not think you have enough" rule. The flat finish was next, and here I deviated from my normal practice of using Testors Dullcoat. I tried the Polly S flat finish. It does dry to a flat finish, but I found that it lightens the overall appearance too much. In future, I think I will stick with the Dullcoat. Afterwards, I used various shades of grey pastels on the bottom to highlight panel lines. The upper surface was treated to dark grey pastels to delineate the panel lines, followed by grey and greens to represent general fading and dirt.
Finally, the wing tip navigation lights were finished in Humbrol gloss dark red and dark green, followed by Gunze Sangyo Transparent red and green. The formation light on the bottom was made by airbrushing Testors Tun Signal Amber Metallic on to clear decal film. Once dry, A Waldron punch was used to punch out a small amber disc the same size as the light and then installed as a regular decal. The upper deck formation light was drilled out, a drop of white paint was added to represent the bulb and then fastened to the fuselage using white glue. The 20mm cannon barrels were painted with Testors Model Master Gunmetal and the I.F.F. antenna wires were made from stretched sprue and fastened in place with super glue.
This completes my Spitfire Mk VI. All told, it took only a little over a month to complete which is quite fast compared to my usual standards. I attribute this to not performing any modifications or corrections. Actually, it is quite liberating to build one straight out-of-the-box every now and then.
In case anyone would like to check out the line of decals offered by Arrow Graphics, their address is R.R. No. 1, York, Ontario, N0A 1R0.
Model, Text and Images Copyright © 2000 by Randy