The Curtiss SO3C Seagull (the third design to carry the Seagull name) was designed to replace the aging SOC Seagull biplane. Intended for naval observation and artillery spotting, the SO3C had a large clear canopy, with the front section for the pilot and the rear for the radioman/observer. The float arrangement of the SOC was continued in the SO3C, with a main center float and two outrigger floats mounted on the wings. The wings themselves had an interesting feature that was unique at the time - upturned wingtips resembling modern-day winglets seen on airliners.
At a time when most other Navy planes were equipped with radial engines, the SO3C was designed around an inverted 520hp V-6 inline engine. Compared to the 1200hp radial engine powering the Wildcat, which was built at roughly the same time, the SO3C was considerably underpowered, and this was reflected in a top speed of only 167mph and a maximum ceiling of only 16,500ft.
The armament of the Seagull was minimal as well, with only a pair of 0.30 caliber machine guns and two 100lb bombs being the maximum war load carried. While the SO3C wasn't designed to get into fighting matches with the enemy, its slow speed would make it very vulnerable. The type only saw limited service, and in some cases were even replaced by the SOC, for which the SO3C was supposed to replace!
In an attempt to get some extra use out of the SO3C, several were sent to England under the Lend/Lease agreement, and these entered the Fleet Air Arm under the name 'Seamew'. In FAA service the Seamew was about as successful as it was in USN service. The Seamews were a bit better off than the USN versions, as they had the heavy floats removed and were fitted with fixed landing gear. This arrangement allowed them to carry a 500lb bomb under the fuselage greatly increasing its hitting power, but it was still very slow and underpowered. Only a couple of squadrons used the Seamew in any kind of quantity, and it was quickly phased out of active service when other Lend/Lease types came on board, most notably the Vought Kingfisher.
This is the third kit from the Sword company, and in looking at all three together it is great to see the amount of improvement they have made from their beginnings with the N9M-A. The SO3C kit is crisply molded with no flash apparent at all. The surface detail is very well done with finely recessed panel lines throughout, easily rivaling the big manufacturers. Like most short run kits, this one has no locating pegs or tabs for any of the parts. For the fuselage, this really isn't too big of a problem, but it will make aligning the wings tricky, as all you have to go by is a recessed line on the fuselage. An alignment jig might be useful here, especially for the float version.
The interior is a combination of resin, plastic, and brass and looks very sparse. Sword can't be blamed for this though, as there just isn't much out there in the way of interior information for this odd bird. In trying to research the Seagull for this article, all I could come up with was a couple pictures of USN and FAA SO3Cs in flight, and nothing that showed anything more than what the kit has in the interior. Working with what they had Sword has done quite a good job of making the cockpit and observers' sections look busy, which is good considering the thin, clear vacuformed canopy.
The options to make either a landplane or seaplane consist of injection plastic floats or a one-piece resin main gear. The one-piece resin main gear is a nice touch, as you don't have to worry about aligning individual struts and such. But you will have to worry about aligning the entire piece to the fuselage, and resin means using CA glue. I'm thinking of using a spot of white glue to position it in place, then use CA glue when it's properly aligned.
The decal options are for one USN SO3C flown off of the cruiser USS Denver in January 1943 and one FAA Seamew from 755 Squadron in April 1944. The decals are printed by Propagteam and are spot-on in registration, as well as being very thin. Not much is given in terms of decals, but there isn't much to put on the SO3C anyway.
Sword has come a long way in just three kits, and the SO3C Seagull/Seamew can easily compete with anything the large manufacturers are putting out. The only problems I can see that would limit novice modelers from building this would be the lack of locating pegs, the resin and brass parts, and the vacuformed canopy. This kit would be a great one to start in the world of mixed media though, so if you're looking for a kit that is unique, well done, and has a little bit of everything in it, look no further.
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