The Supermarine Spitfire, along with the Hawker Hurricane, ruled the skies over Great Britain during the early years of the Second World War. It was also able to take the battle over the continent and hold its own against the Luftwaffe's best fighter of the day, the Messerschmitt Bf109E. With the introduction of the Focke Wulf Fw190A, the Spitfire had finally been outclassed.
In response to this new threat, the RAF set out to update the Spitfire beyond the known future capabilities of the Luftwaffe. Also recognizing that such a major upgrade would take time, time that the British could ill afford, the RAF needed an interim solution. That interim solution would come in the form of the Spitfire Mk.IX.
By taking the existing Mk.V airframe under production, installing the new Merlin 61/63 series (which added 100-200hp and an improved supercharger) which turned a four-bladed propeller, and integrating such refinements as a gyroscopic gunsight, additional fuel tanks and (later) the E-wing, the new Spitfire was able to regain its superiority in the skies over Europe. The Mk.IX was the second-most produced version of the Spitfire, with some 5600+ examples built. The most numerous version was the Mk.V.
ICM has really done it this time. They've developed a robust set of molds and produced a new level of excellence in modeling. This Spitfire Mk.IX is like no other model that ICM has produced in the past. The box contains 144 parts on eight trees, some of which are used for the other two versions of the Spitfire supported by these molds.
Seven of the trees are molded in light gray plastic, while the eighth contains the clear parts. With the exception of a few parts, the kit is free of flash. Molding is exceptionally crisp, especially when you see how fine some of the details like the underwing bomb racks are. The kit is also free of ejector pin marks in visible locations with the exception of insides of the gun bay doors and cowl covers, and even these are very minor and easily cleaned up. The only real flaw I could find in the kit were some very slight sink marks in the fuselage and in the warheads of the air-to-ground rockets. Once again, these are easily dealt with.
The Merlin engine alone is a masterpiece of 29 parts! That number does not count include motor mounts, oil tank or firewall. The cockpit is also laden with details, comprised of 15 parts, plus a positionable cockpit entry door. The wing gun bays can be left open as well, complete with guns and ammo feeds.
The built-up Mk.IXs that were on display at RCHTA were very impressive indeed. The only noticable issue is the void between the stock detailed Merlin and the firewall. Since there is no economical way for ICM to have replicated all of the plumbing and wiring that run from the Merlin through the firewall, it will be up to the modeler to fill the void (only if you are planning on leaving any of the cowl panels off your finished project).
What else is included? The kit is rather mind boggling with all of the options it contains! Let's go through this step-by-step: ·
C or E wing selection, with the appropriate gun bay bulges and armament. ·
Standard or LF clipped wings. The instructions refer to parts E5 and E6 for the HF wingtips, but these were not on the trees. In fact, tree E has a number of holes in it, leading me to think that more variations are in store! ·
Early or late mark rudder ·
Early or late mark horizontal stabs/elevators ·
Early or late mark 'chin' fairing under the Merlin ·
Open or closed canopy ·
Exposed, partially exposed or 'buttoned up' engine compartment ·
Open or closed gun bays ·
Positionable ailerons (interesting since the elevators, rudder(s) and flaps are molded in place) ·
Your choice of clean centerline, conformal external fuel tank, or centerline bomb rack w/bomb ·
Your choice of clean underwing stations, underwing rockets, or underwing bombs
When you open this kit up, the level of detail and engineering required to cram so much detail into such a small area will truly impress you. I can already foresee building a number of these kits just to explore the variations included!
The decal options in these releases are also impressive. I'll cover the options in these first three releases:
Spitfire IX (Early versions)
HF.IX FY-F of 611 Sqn, flown by Sqn Ldr H. Armstrong
Mk.IX ZX-6 of Polish Fight Team in Tunisia, flown by Sqn Ldr S. Skalski
LF.IX JE-J of 144 Wing, flown by Wg Cdr J. Johnson
LF IX 5J-K of 126 Sqn, flown by Sqn Ldr J. Plagis
HF.IX DU-N of 312 Sqn, flown by Flt Lt O. Smik
LF.IX RAB of 132 Wing, flown by Wg Cdr R. Berg
101 Squadron, IAF, Hatzor, mid 1949 (aircraft #14 or #26)
CM-M of 31 FG, flown by LTC McCorcle
HL-K of 31 FG, flown by Capt Molland
This would be classified as a 'no-brainer' recommendation. Virtually anyone who has progressed beyond snap-tite kits will be able to build these beauties straight out of the box, and those of you with intermediate and advanced skills will have a field day adding the plumbing and wiring under the hood.
According to the Hannants website, ICM also has two other Spitfire releases not yet acknowledged by their website or literature - the Spitfire Mk.VII and Spitfire Mk.XVI.
ICM has announced the upcoming release of 1/48 Bf109Fs, Bf109Gs and a Bf109K. According to ICM, these releases will be every bit as detailed as the Spitfires. Given the very low retail prices for ICM kits, I'd plan on tossing out your Japanese kits and investing in these newest ICM releases!
My sincere thanks to ICM for this review sample. If your local hobby shop does not carry the ICM line, you can obtain yours in North America from Squadron, or in Europe from Hannants.