Classic Airframes' 1/48 Marcel Bloch MB.152
By Bob Swift
The MB.152, subject of this kit, represents the approximate mid-point in the evolution of this aircraft's development. The design was rendered by M. Roussel to meet a French Air Ministry specification issued in July 1934. Designated MB.150-01, the prototype was built by Avions Marcel Bloch and was powered by a Gnome-Rhone radial engine of 930 hp. The prototype was completed in 1936, and in July of that year the first flight was attempted. Many red faces resulted from this attempt, as the plane was unable to become airborne. At this point the original specification had been met by the Moraine-Saulnier M.S.405, and the Bloch entry was shelved; development only to be resumed again in early 1937. With major refinements to wing, undercarriage, power plant and airscrew, the plane finally flew in October 1937. Further development progressed through the MB.151 to the MB.152; the MB.155 and culminated with the MB.157 in 1942 which possessed an outstanding performance that was not equaled by aircraft of other countries until much later in WWII. The MB.152 was produced in greater numbers than any other of the series, although production of the MB.151, and later, the MB.152 aircraft was very slow in developing due to the dislocation and disruption created when the French government nationalized the aviation industry in the late 1930ís; Avions Marcel Bloch being absorbed into SNCA de Sud-Ouest.
By the outbreak of WWII both the MB.151 and the MB.152 were reaching operational levels with French squadrons. The MB.152 was originally powered by the Gnome-Rhone 14N-25 engine rated at 1,050 hp, and later, by the slightly more powerful 14N-49. While the -152 was reported to be pleasant to fly, and a stable gun platform; it was no match for its main antagonist, the Bf-109 when they met in combat. While flown with great courage by French pilots; the top speed of 320 mph, poor maneuverability at rated altitude, and short range left the MB.152 at a distinct disadvantage in fighter-to-fighter combat. Against bombers, the then heavy armament of two 20mm HS cannon, and four 7.5mm machine guns was quite effective, and some success was achieved against bomber formations. With the end of hostilities in France, The Vichy Air Force continued to fly both the -151 and -152 aircraft on hand, but during 1942, three Groupe de Chasse re-equipped with the D.520 and their aircraft were passed on to the Rumanian Air Force. Perhaps not an outstanding aircraft for the modeling enthusiast of today, but one that fills the gap in defining France's air power at a very critical point in history; in this scale, it will be a welcome addition to my collection.
The box art is good; the box typical of Classic Airframes offerings in the recent past; just a little too flimsy for those of us who like work out of the top and bottom of the box. Two main sprues of light grey injected plastic with some small areas of flash present that should clean up with modest effort. As with other limited run moldings, no locating pins are present on main parts. One sprue contains sixteen parts, the other has fifteen. Surface detail is finely etched, but was not checked for accuracy in all areas; it looks to be correct on major parts at this writing. Wing trailing edges will require some work to thin them down a bit. Surfaces of the parts do not have the finish of the kits from major players in this medium, exhibiting a somewhat grainy texture. I find this to be pretty typical of Classic Airframes previous offerings, but have never attempted to polish the parts to correct the finish. The purist may find it necessary to do so, but I find that after several layers of paint are applied, it really doesnít seem to matter. The most distinctive feature of this plane was the engine cowling with the bumps for the valve covers on the cylinders. The kit cowl is molded in two parts, but not all bumps are present; some have to be added from resin moldings provided. Visually the bumps appear to be a bit too chunky and thick compared to drawings and pictures, and will require some work to make them more presentable. Propeller blades are individually molded, and each must be hand fitted to the hub. Main gear and tail skid are among these parts, and appear to be accurately molded. The jury is still out on the accuracy of the Hispano cannons.
Eleven separate resin pieces are present, with the cockpit elements very nicely done; seat harness is molded onto that part, but is nicely detailed. Control panel is a bit light on detail and will require some effort to spruce up; the side panels are very nicely molded with considerable detail present, right down to twisted electrical cables running in pairs. Main wheels are resin and don't appear to be weighted. Engine crankcase is molded onto a cylindrical pedestal that attaches to a bulkhead. The trend lately, seems to be individually molded cylinders for radial engines that must be attached one at a time; fifteen resin cylinders are provided leaving one spare. This approach prevents damaging the parts trying to clean between them where they attached to the crankcase. The crankcase itself is indexed to make the mounting of the cylinders a bit less painful. Mounting the separate cowling bumps accurately will be a challenge. An excellent resin wheel-well insert is a nice addition, and can be super-detailed if so desired. The kit does not contain any photoetched parts.
Dual vacuformed canopies are provided; they are a bit on the heavy side but have well defined detail in the frame segments; clarity could be better, and I doubt that using this canopy in the open position will be very easy to accomplish.
A beautiful sheet of Microscale decals provides markings for two aircraft; one is No. 251, Groupe de Chasse 1/6, Montpellier in 1942. This is the Vichy set of markings. The second aircraft is No. 628 (close to the end of the production run) from Groupe de Chasse 11/9, Clermont-Ferrand in 1940. The pale blue roundel centers are separate and must be added individually; avoiding register problems during printing. A nice, full color profile of the two planes is included, but the engine thrust line seems to be exaggerated in the drawing, and I have not been able to confirm this to be correct from personal pictures and drawings of the MB.152. The direction sheet is light on text, and the line drawings donít help on the cowling placement.
Classic Airframes has provided the serious modeler with yet another opportunity to expand the collection with the addition of another accurate rendering of an aircraft of historic importance that we will not see from a major manufacturer. Their kits have consistently improved with each new offering, and while not for the beginning modeler, patience and modeling skill turns these kits into worthy additions to any collection. The MB.152 may not be their best effort to date, but the quality is consistent with their other offerings of recent history. I can say this with a clear conscience because I bought the kit based on the subject and what I saw in the box. Classic Airframes deserves whatever accolades come their way, and our support for their contribution to our hobby.
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