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Classic Airframe's 1/48 Morane Saulnier MS306

By Tom Cleaver

 

History

The Morane-Saulnier MS-406 had the privilege and the misfortune to be the first modern French fighter, i.e., a low-wing monoplane with enclosed cockpit, retractable landing gear, and what was supposed to be appreciably higher performance than what had gone before. Aerodynamically a reliable aircraft, it was evolved from the MS-405 which flew in August 1935.

The Morane's fault lay in the fact that the official request that led to its design was not visionary enough, at a time of great and revolutionary change in fighter aviation design and development. What was cutting-edge in 1935 was passe in 1939, unless the airframe had "stretch" built in. The MS-406 would have given a good account of itself, had it gone up against its contemporary, the Bf109B/D; however, it was fated to be opposed by the superior Bf109E, a fighter that was a generation ahead of the Morane, and suffered accordingly.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Morane-Saulnier was the most numerous French fighter, followed by the Curtiss Hawk 75, an airplane of similar generation but with more advanced thinking behind it. Without armor plate or self-sealing fuel tanks, the Morane was little more than a maneuverable target for its enemies.

Nevertheless, the airplane served throughout the war with the French and Vichy-French forces in France, North Africa, Syria and Indochina, and was in the air forces of Turkey, Finland - where it was quite successful - and Switzerland. The Luftwaffe used it as a fighter trainer.

The Kit

The Morane-Saulnier has been ill-served by the kitmakers over the years. An early 1/72 Heller kit of the 1960s had an accurate outline and good surface detail, but had the "empty hole" look of models of its period. This Classic Airframes kit is a step in the right direction, but still not a home run. I have heard from those who claim to know that the nose outline and the girth of the rear fuselage are wrong, and looking at photos I have of the airplane, I believe they are right about the nose. If you want this airplane in your collection, however, the "nose job" doesn't look too hard, and I have heard that Adeco is planning a resin correction set. Personally, I must admit to not knowing enough about the airplane to be able to say with certainty who is right.

The kit comes on two sprues of "limited run" injection molded plastic, with a modicum of flash, and nicely-engraved surface detail. The cast resin parts of the cockpit look to have come from Czechmaster, since their color matches that of other sets released by that company. Again, I have heard the cockpit is not completely correct, but cannot definitively comment. The resin is well-cast with nice surface detail.

The decal sheet provides a French Morane circa 1939, and a Finnish Morane of 2/LeLv 28 circa 1941. They're Microscale and easier to use the Propagteam decals C-A has used previously.

There are two vacuformed canopies, and they look right. Interestingly, this is the first instruction sheet I have seen that suggests dipping the canopies in Future or Johnson's Kleer to increase the transparency - I think Jules Bringuer has been listening to modelers back there in Chicago.

Conclusion

Other than a very expensive JMGT full resin kit that is alleged to be quite accurate, this is likely to be the only 1/48 kit of this historically-important airplane to touch down on the shelves of your hobby shop. If aviation history is your bag, then you should get this kit. Wait awhile, and the experts will sort out what it needs and provide the resin bits.

Thanks to Squadron Mail Order for providing this review copy. Order your Morane at Squadron Mail Order.




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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
87199-0933
USA

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