Azurís 1/72 Bloch MB 155
In 1939 the Société National de Constrictions Aéronautiques de Sud-Ouest (SNCASO) started developing a single-seat based on the MB 152, but with a higher speed, greater range and smaller turning radius. Designated MB 155, the fighter was developed quickly and at the beginning of 1940 a modified MB 152 began flight trials at Châteauroux-Déols. The modified aircraft featured an enlarged and cleaner engine cowling and a slight increase in the wing chord. Flight trials with the experimental aircraft were successful, and production of the MB 155 began at Châteauroux-Déols in May 1940.
While many of the jigs and tooling from the MB 152 could be used, the increase in internal fuel capacity forced the cockpit back, making a major redesign of the fuselage a necessity. The MB 155 retained the Gnôme-Rhône 14N-49 of its predecessor, driving a three-blade electric Ratier airscrew. The main wing structure and undercarriage remained the same as that of the MB 152. The MB 155 was the first French production fighter to feature belt-fed cannon and an armored windshield. Two MB 155s were destroyed on June 18, 1940 when the Châteauroux-Déols facilities were attacked by the Luftwaffe.
MB 155 fighters were about to be delivered to GC I/1 at Agen, but the capitulation of France on June 25 stopped this. With the capitulation, production of the MB 155 was halted but after the Germans withdrew to the line of demarcation, the MB 155s under construction were completed. These airframes were delivered to the Groupes de Chasse of the Vichy Air Force that operated them alongside MB 151s and MB 152s. When most of the Groupes converted to the Dewoitine D.520 in 1942, all existing MB 155s were gathered together and handed to the Groupe de Chasse I/8 based at Montpellier. When the Vichy forced on November 27, 1942, the Luftwaffe seized the remaining MB 155 fighters.
Azur is a kit name that is becoming synonymous with well-done French models, and this is another great example. While there has been a couple nicely done kits of the MB 152 (Heller and Hasegawa), this is the first injection kit of the MB 155 to come out. The kit is finely molded in light gray plastic, with very little flash present. There is a beautiful resin engine and a fret of etched brass included, along with the usual vacuformed canopy.
Looking at the interior, most of that is done in plastic, with some nice sidewall detail molded into the fuselage halves and a floor, seat and stick provided. Seat belts and the usual instrument panel are supplied on the etched brass fret. The engine has a central hub and separate cylinders, making it very easy to paint up and detail. Itís a pity that the MB 155 has a fairly tight-fitting cowling, as little of this nice engine will be seen (unless you decide to open up some engine panels, that is). The cowl is in two pieces and sandwiches the engine in place. The only shortcoming with the engine assembly is that there is no exhaust stubs, only a drawing showing the dimensions needed to make them from stock material. The propeller is made up of individual blades, to be glued to a spinner with no markings or pegs to get the proper alignment. Without a jig of some sort here, this will be very difficult to do.
The rest of the construction is straightforward, with a one-piece lower wing ensuring the proper dihedral. The landing gear looks frail, but once the gear doors are attached they should be just fine. The wing guns are separate pieces, and some care will be needed in aligning them (unless you do the German option, which doesnít have the wing guns). The final difficulty will be with the canopy, as it is vacuformed with only one available. With the rear canopy fitting into the fuselage, some careful trimming will be needed to get a perfect fit.
The decals are printed by Cartograf and look to be quite well done. There are two French options and one German option. All are finished in the French camouflage of medium blue-gray, khaki, and brown over light blue-gray. The first French example is from the French Air Force, GC II/8, and is #14, the Group commanderís aircraft. Interesting, but for some real color, the second French one takes the cake. Vichy Air Force, líEscadrille I. GCI/8. In addition to the rather colorful French camouflage, this one has the Vichy red/yellow stripes on the cowling and tail, along with a white line running down the fuselage sides. And not to leave the Luftwaffe fanatics out of the game, the final choice has an MB 155 in German markings (but still in the French camouflage). To get around the European swastika issue, they printed the arms, with the center cross as a separate piece. The instructions show to put this center cross over the arms to make a correct swastika, all the while without actually showing it completed.
The Azur kit of the MB 155 is the only game in town for this French fighter, and for the most part it is a very well done kit. It may take a bit of cleaning up and careful planning, but as long as nothing is rushed it should turn into a very nice model. And with the growing collection of new French models, it wonít be alone on the shelf.
1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
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Reference Guide $15.00
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