Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sword XVI Preview


Sword Spitfire Mk XVI “Bubble” canopy SW72052

Back in May I was on vacation in London and was able to visit an IPMS UK show at Hendon.  What a treat!  But that’s a story for another day, as they say.  While there I picked up Sword’s recent release of their Spitfire Mk XVI at a very good price.  Given I saved shipping costs to the US, and import duties, this kit only cost me about $18 US, or about $5 less than here in the US.

What makes a Mk XVI?  The short answer: it’s basically a Mk IX with a US Packard built Merlin 266.  The mark was produced in both high back and low back (bubble) variants.  I understand that a few of the early production had the “c” armament of 2x 20mm cannon and 4x .303 guns, but the majority were the “e” wing armament of 2x 20mm cannon and 2x .50 guns.  Other than the serial number there is no real way to tell the difference in photos of a Mk IX and Mk XVI.  “Typically” if it’s a low back then it’s a Mk XVI, as the vast majority were produced with the bubble canopy; and the majority of Mk IX were of the high back.  Most also were built with clipped wingtips to lessen stress on the wing spar during rolls; by the last year of the war the Mk XVI was generally used in the low-level ground support role with 2nd TAF.

This kit has very fine, recessed panel lines.  And I mean very fine.  If you use a hairy stick to paint with, be prepared to lose some of the detail, and keep your paint thin for airbrushing as well!  This makes for a very accurate look, of course.  

Additional detail is just as good, such as a well detailed cockpit.  Much more than I need as I always build with the canopy closed (...dust).  The canopy is provided as two pieces to allow showing off the interior.  The cannon and gun barrels are provided as resin (very nice!) and there are two resin alternatives for the engine exhausts; fishtail and the later round type.

Interestingly, my sample had one half of the high back fuselage that is on the original sprue.  A shame as that would have provided real value if both were there as I could have corrected that awful Italeri Mk IX...  The low back fuselage is provided on a separate sprue.

Plenty of folks elsewhere have checked this and the other Sword Spitfires against plans, and they are spot on accurate.  I did not check as I trust those experts at Britmodeller.

Kit includes things under the wings like two bombs with their racks and choice of slipper tanks; these are typically not provided in a Spitfire kit so this is very welcome given the typical mission of the Mk XVI.  I look forward to hanging these on.

Markings are provided for 4 aircraft of 2nd TAF late in the war:
  1. TB625/OU-V of 485 Squadron, “Rongotea” flown by Warrant Officer M.J.C. Lind out of Fassburg, Germany, April 1945.
  2. TB886/AU-J of 421 Squadron, “Dorothy” flown out of Reinsehlen, Germany, May 1945.
  3. TD240/WX-V of 302 (Polish) Squadron, “Janetka” flown by Squadron Leader Boleslaw Kaczmarek, 1945.
  4. TD317/ZF-P of 308 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader K. Pniak, 1945.
The only Sword kit I’ve actually completed was one of their Hurricanes, and the decals were very nice.

Obviously a comparison has to be made to the other Mk XVI kits available.  These are the old Heller and KP kits.  Hands down this Sword is much better.  Both Heller and KP have raised panel lines and nearly no detail in the cockpit.  Both are fairly accurate in shape, albeit the Heller kit has too deep radiators (an easy fix).  I’ve got quite a few of the Heller kits because I can find them for $2 or less at swap meets.  But if adding an aftermarket cockpit and vacform canopy the price is nearly as much as the Sword kit.  Considering the Heller decals are so off in color, you’re in for more than the Sword kit.

I like scratch building a cockpit for the Spitfire and with a closed canopy it works, so I’ll keep those Heller kits to use up some spare decals.

The KP is typically $5 or more, so I don’t recommend it as bringing it up to the Sword in terms of appearance will cost significantly more than the Sword.

So from a value perspective, the Sword is well over the top.  

Watch this space for a side-by-side build with the Heller Spitfire Mk XVI.

Thanks for reading.