SMER 1:72 MORAINE SAULNIER MS.406
Reviewer: Myself (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Morane-Saulnier developed the all-metal MS.405 design in response to a 1934 French requirement for an advanced single seat monoplane fighter. Some 15 were built before the adoption of a lightened wing structure and different engine mark which thus became the MS.406. The French ordered 1,000 MS.406 aircraft in 1939, which was beyond the capabilities of the Morane-Saulnier factory, so deliveries were completed by three divisions of the nationalised aero industry. With only half of these delivered by the outbreak of the Second World War, early combat experience revealed engine problems and the fact that the aircraft was obsolete. But for lack of a replacement type (namely limited numbers of the Dewoitine D.520) the MS.406 soldiered on into the Battle of France campaign where losses exceeded 400 aircraft in destroying 175 Luftwaffe types.
This is a reboxing of the Heller MS.406 kit - most notable by the fact that it wears the Heller stamp inside the fuselage - along with the Smer stamp somewhere too. There's just one sprue with a separate full lower wing part in light grey injection mold. Quite a bit of flash is evident so the parts require a little cleaning before use. One part - the V frame visible in the cockpit between the armor plate behind the seat and back of cockpit - is particularly bad with flash. The kit also contains some nicely done raised rivets and lines with etched control surfaces.
The instructions are set out on an A3 sheet folded to make four page booklet. There are 8 assembly steps that are easy to follow, except a few vague positioning call outs. The first thing you notice is that the part numbers do not match the numbers in the instructions! With the absence also of a sprue diagram, you have to identify parts by shape, and I managed to do this rather easily, with a few little double checking routines. Another annoyance is the absence of any painting instructions for individual parts. Have some reference material handy. Painting guide for the finished product are by way of Humbrol numbers (a couple obsolete) but you can match the colour names with other brands. A four view diagram is provided on the instruction sheet and on the bottom of the box for painting, black and white version and colour respectively.
Construction begins with the assembling of the aircraft propellor and shaft. I chose a dark green spinner with gunmetal shaft, cylinder and fuselage front. The instruction drawings indicate a gun pointing out of the spinner, but this is not reflected in the kit at all. The fuselage halves go together by themselves, you need to paint the interior and perform a little sanding preparation first, but otherwise affix very well, even with a couple of nasty ejector pin marks. In spite of the instructions (which do not call upon you inserting the propellor shaft until the next step) I affixed the whole unit inside one fuselage half before gluing against the other. Since there is like an outer cylinder, it allows you to still move the propellor freely, and I would highly recommend you follow my call here.
Next the seat is put into the already affixed fuselage halves, as well as the armor plate behind the seat and that little V frame pointed out above. The whole interior was painted Interior Grey without the ability to consult a reliable reference source (dark greyish blue colour - French Interior blue). There are small alignment rails to hold the armor plate in place (and seat) to make this part not very difficult. Annoyingly this is your only detail inside the cockpit! There is absolutely nothing else. What's worse is that the seat is overscaled!! You will have to trim a bit of the top in order to put the canopy on later - be wary of this and perhaps do some dry fit testing at this stage before you find this out later. The tailplanes are put on at this point with stabilising struts (these pieces must be "interpreted" from the sprue given the mismatch of part numbers, so beware, others are guns!) and a grill plate over the underside intake.
Next is the undercarriage to assemble which is basic and easy. I then attached the upper-wing halves to the fuselage. While this was drying the one-piece lower wing was attended to before attaching underneath the belly. This included putting in the radiator grill, which seems a bit overscale, and can be moveable if one desires. I also wanted a wheels-up model so I affixed the gear doors on. The wheels are two-piece, so this allows you to use one half so it can be exposed underneath the aircraft rather well. I used the axle to plug up the wheel centre-hole, then because they would obviously poke up into the upper wing and not allow the wings to mate, I used end nippers to cut off some of the axle from inside the wing with good effect. If you build wheels-down, consult your reference material for the distinctive inward slant - not captured in the instruction sheet. There is a plug that goes into the underwing - this is a clear piece, which could be overlooked given the mismatch of part numbers (you could forever look for a plastic bit that isn't there!). Finally the underwing was affixed under the aircraft - fitted okay but needed filling and trimming to match exactly with the upper wing. Gaps were then filled and sanded, bye bye to some raise-scribed detail.
Canopy is two piece - windsreen and front canopy together with the rear canopy separate. If you wish to have an open cockpit (not advisable unless you have done something about the sparse cockpit detail) you will have to separate the front canopy from the windscreen. I attached the back canopy first then the front - this is where I found out about the overscale pilot seat and spent time trimming to ensure the canopy would fit. The only problem is a very small gap between the windscreen and fuselage that you will need to do something about, otherwise canopy fits well. The gun sight is another matter. In spite of what the instructions say there are no holes to put the gun sight into! Make sure you consult your reference. The gun sight should almost be touching the windscreen and should sit just slightly starboard of the middle of the fuselage in front of the cockpit, also the sight itself is at the furtherest end of the sight. The tail skid is annoying to attach because the pin is much smaller than the hole. I used some creative puttying to affix the bumper in place properly.
The Kit provides for two versions to be built, an M.S.406 C1 operated by the Turkish air force in 1939 (covered in black and white on the instruction sheet) that has upper chocolate, Dark Green and Khaki camouflage and light blue undersides, or a French MS.406 (colourfully portrayed on the bottom of the box) in upper Dark Green, Chocolate and Blue-Grey camouflage containing a couple of patches of middle green with Light Blue Grey undersides. I chose to do the French version with the choice of Humbrol colours recommended by the box (which of course come out a lot darker than the artwork would have you believe), except I used H127 for the undersides. There is a folding antennae located on the belly of the aircraft (as the type did not have aerial wires) and you have to be a little careful with the painting, you might seal it to the plane!
The Decals are produced by Propagteam and are in excellent register with the exception of a darkened rim of colour around each of the decals. Annoyingly (most likely because of the Heller/Smer takeover) the decals are actually oversized! This is most notable by the French banner that goes over the rudder, it clearly hangs off over the aircraft. Some delicate positioning and trimming after they dried was what was required but I still managed to slightly ruin one. The decals are very thin and go onto and conform to the aircraft very well - but major caution, they are very easy to curl and ruin if you leave them in the water too long, and extremely easily to tear if you employ anything other than a delicate dedicated touch!! Those of you who are experienced users of Propagteam decals will know exactly what I mean here.
Overall the accuracy of the aircraft's profile is captured quite well, although I think it is slightly underscale. It is a basic kit and that is how the whole product really portrays itself. For an experienced modeller this is a very easy build but for the novice, a few little quirks will need to be attended to (such as the flash, a few problematic fits, trimming of cockpit seat, wing joins, decals etc) that might make it a bit of a frustrating project. Still a recommended build providing you have some handy reference material on hand. Could also easily be a weekend project.
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