MPM 1/72 IAR 80
If you exclude the U.S., British, Soviet, German, Japanese and Italian aviation industries in World War II, what you are left with are mostly stop-gaps, technological dead-ends economically unfeasible pipe-dreams and aircraft that arrived too late. France and Czechoslovakia had their aircraft industries taken over by Germany, and Australia produced the Boomerang and Wirraway with U.S. and Commonwealth help, but overall few truly notable airplanes came from these lesser powers.
Perhaps the finest combat aircraft developed by these nations was the IAR 80, an indigenous Romanian design that itself drew on the design of the Polish PZL P-24, which Romania license-built before the start of the war. A team of IAR engineers led by Dr. Ion Grosu studied the Polish aircraft and used its best features, but abandoned the parasol gull wing of the Polish fighter in favor of a thin, tapered low wing, added retractable landing gear, and closely cowled the engine. The Romanian government ordered 100 of the new fighters on December 18, 1939.
However, like many of the IAR-80's components, its armament of two .50-caliber machine guns had to come from a foreign supplierónamely, Belgium, whose conquest by Germany inconveniently disrupted delivery. The Germans eventually allowed the production of the guns to resume, but it took until November 1940 for the order to be released, delaying the arrival of the first 20 production IAR 80s until January and February 1941.
Pilots considered the aircraft under-powered and lacking in firepower, but with the same ingenuity shown in the plane's development these shortcomings were addressed. A 1,025-hp IAR 14K 1000A engine and six Belgian-built Browning FN machine guns went into the IAR 80A, along with an armored windscreen and seat back for the pilot's protection and a new Goerz gunsight.
These changes gave the Romanians an efficient fighter with which to participate in the invasion of Russia, although only eight IAR 80As had been completed when the invasion of Russia began. By the end of 1941, three squadrons in Grupul 8 Vinatoare were fighting in the IAR 80A over southern Russia, supporting the Romanian and German forces of Army Group South in their advance through the Ukraine.
Several Romanian pilots ran up respectable scores in the IAR 80, most notably Lieutenant Dan Vizante, who scored most of his 32 kills flying the IAR 80. But the Russians were introducing better types of fighters, and the IAR 80s and 80As were soon outclassed. The Germans decreed that it would be more economically practical to provide the Romanian air force with German-built aircraft, and the IAR 80 faded into secondary and training duties.
Until recently, building an IAR 80 in 1:72 involved taming an assortment of vacuform kits. MPM has addressed the notable lack of injection-molded kits with their new IAR 80, which looks like a real winner. One tree containing 30 parts provides a basis, with a 15-part engine and separate prop blades and spinner in resin and 17 brass parts adding detail.
The cockpit has a plain floor, but a resin control column, photo-etched rudder pedals and brass seat belts add greatly to the front office. The throttle quadrant and some other nondescript cockpit details go on the sidewalls of the cockpit, although the interior would benefit from some styrene strip former and stringer detail. When I say the brass panel/photo negative instrument combination is standard for MPM, I really mean that itís the standard all kits should strive for.
The finished cockpit goes between two very nicely scribed fuselage halves. The engine, which is comprised of a crankcase with separate cylinders, is very nicely molded, although the addition of pushrods would help it even further. This goes inside a two-piece cowling and is topped by a resin spinner that will obscure much of the detail. Prop blades go into the shallow holes in the spinner; an extra blade is included to encourage ham-fisted builders like your editor. Exhaust pipes are provided, which could be improved with some drilling out. The chin scoop has its front section made of brass, providing a sharp, thin leading edge. How it will blend with the plastic rear section remains to be seen.
The wing has three pieces - a single-piece lower wing with upper halves. The wheel wells are not boxed, and this raises a problem; the seams of the fuselage and wings are clearly visible, despite the inclusion of a too-small blank-off plate. Creative use of styrene sheet should make quick work of this area.
The landing gear struts are much better than the standard short-run kit parts, although the gear doors are very thick and would best be replaced with sheet styrene replacements. The tailskid is quite nice, and four tiny brass mass balances go on the lower side of the ailerons. The machine guns are not drilled out; the modeler will have to drill holes and insert tubing according to the simplistic drawings in the instructions. The benefit of this is that the modeler can build the IAR 80 or 80A without making modifications.
Unlike earlier MPM kits, this kit includes an injection-molded rather than a vacuformed canopy. This part is thick but clear, although imperfections are visible without a dunk in Future. Although some modelers hate vacuformed canopies, this reporter misses them.
Although the IAR 80 wore one basic scheme - dark green and tan over light blue, with yellow cowlings and fuselage bandsóthe decals are spectacular. Decals include three aces' machines: an ace identified only as Pomut, with nose art of Mickey Mouse riding a charger, Ion Galea, with a large shamrock on the fuselage and blue-yellow-red stripes on the rudder; and Ioan Micu, a rather plain machine with eight kill markings prominently displayed on the tail stripes. The decals are very sharply printed; I've never seen Mickey look better on a decal!
This is a terrific little kit, despite some lapses in the cockpit and wheel wells. If you like single-engine WWII fighters but have had it with Mustangs, Messerschmitts and Spitfires, this one's for you.
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