From 1941 until 1943, Spitfire development was often dictated by the need to beat its main adversary over the Channel: The FW-190. The Spitfire XII was no exception. It was developed as a direct counter-measure to low-flying fighter-bomber Focke-Wulfs skimming the waves below radar height and dropping their bomb loads over the coastal towns along the Channel. The Spitfire IX was about even with the FW-190 when it came to top speed and the German tactics made it impossible for them to intercept the Jabos in most cases. What was needed was a Spitfire with a lot more speed on the deck, the Mk XII!
By combining the old Mk V airframe with the RR Griffon engine Supermarine designed an aircraft that in 1943 was the leading low-altitude fighter. Faster than both the FW-190 and the Typhoon (read about how Jeffrey Quill beat both of those types in a fly-off at Odiham in “Spitfire, a Test Pilot’s Story”) it also handled very well, in fact many pilots preferred it to the otherwise very popular Mk IX. Only 100 aircraft were built, equipping nos. 41 and 91 squadrons. Most were based on the Mk V but some were also based on the Mk VIII, most easily identified by their retractable tail wheel.
The Xtrakit Spitfire XII is a very welcome addition to the family of 1/72 Spitfires. Until recently, the easiest way to build a Mk XII have been using the Paragon Designs Spitfire XII conversion supplying nose, prop, radiators and wheels and a Hasegawa Mk IX donating the rest of the parts. This combination is possible to build without any undue problems but the Xtrakit Spitfire is the real thing complete with choice of fixed or retractable tail wheels, spoked or plain wheel hubs and a decal sheet with a good selection of stencilling and four decal options. Cast in grey plastic by Pavla, the parts are glossy with delicate recessed lines. Canopy is injected and in one piece. There is no resin or photo etch included: I don’t miss the resin parts since the plastic is well detailed but a pair of etched seat belts and the radiator grills would have been welcome!
Decals cover four different aircraft, all from 41 squadron. One or two aircraft from 91 squadron would have been nice!
Construction is very straightforward; it pretty much follows the standard for any WWII single-engined fighter. There is however a few points to look out for so I have put together this Spitfire-builder’s check-list to be kept for reference:
1) Be careful when assembling the upper nose halves. I added them to the fuselage halves, holding these against a flat surface for alignment, so that I got two complete fuselage halves instead of fiddling with them after the fuselage was closed. Check that you get a good fit along the natural panel lines since this is hard to fix afterwards. Also check the nose contours against the spinner backing plate so that it will fit later!
2) I didn’t use the forward and aft landing gear walls; they seemed a bit large making it hard to assemble the wings correctly. It’s almost impossible to notice on the completed model so I would recommend not using parts 21, 22, 44 and 45!
3) Do not use parts 3 and 26, the drop shaped gear well covers. They were not used on the XII.
4) Wing-to-fuselage join is a bit tricky. Add a spacer inside the fuselage if needed to minimize the gap. The fuselage wing fillet is a bit “high” and will need filling towards the wing upper surfaces.
5) Be careful when adding the canopy. Some putty will probably be needed below the windscreen. Protect the canopy with masking tape and go easy on the sanding!
When it comes to painting, Xtrakit of course recommends Xtracolor and Xtracrylix paint. I used a mix of Agama and Xtracrylix paints sealed with a coat of Gunze clear but you can use whatever favourite WWII RAF colours you prefer!
Decals went on without a hitch. Soft, strong and reacting well to Mr. Mark Setter! The only reservations I have regarding the decals are the colour of the codes: they look too green to me. I cut masks from tape and painted them on.
References are a bit thin on the ground. Going through my own library this is what I found:
· Famous Airplanes of the World No 25, Bunrin Do 1990: Four well-reproduced photos of 41 sqn. aircraft with EB-B as the main solo performer. In addition to these there are three photos of the prototype.
· Late Marque Spitfire Aces 1942-45, Osprey 1995: Three photos of 41 sqn. aircraft, a good history of the Mark XII in squadron use and two profiles from 41 sqn.
· Spitfire in Action, Squadron/Signal 1980: Two photos that can be found in the Osprey publication as well.
There are other books with Spitfire XII photos in but the above ones are the best that I have access to. There is also one recently published book that I haven’t got (yet) that looks promising: Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XII, Allied Wings N°1, by
Phil Listemann. See http://www.raf-in-combat.com/index.html
To conclude this review: This was an enjoyable build of an interesting aircraft. Short-run has come a long way during the last one or two decades but even if it is a well produced model it still has some way to go to reach the standards of the market leaders! I bought mine from http://www.freightdogmodels.co.uk