The Vultee V-11 was a military version of Gerard Vultee's single-engine passenger transport V-1A, with which it shared the wing, the tail surfaces and the undercarriage. Designed as an attack bomber, it was a low-wing, all-metal design with an elongated, four-section canopy covering its two tandem-seated crew members. It could carry up to 1,100 lbs. of bombs internally and externally, and was armed with one forward-firing, fixed .30-inch machine gun mounted on each wing and one flexible .30-inch gun operated by the rear crewman. The prototype and the initial batch of production models were powered by a 750 hp Wright SR-1820-F53 Cyclone radial engine driving a two-bladed Hamilton Standard propeller. A second version, the V-11A, got instead a three-bladed airscrew.
Offered for the export market, the V-11A first piqued the interest of the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist government. They purchased a total of thirty V-11As in various states of completion, some as kits that were assembled in Shanghai and nearby Hangzhou. A number of 850 hp R-1820-G2 Cyclone engines were acquired separately by the Chinese and installed in the Vultee attack planes, whose designation was then changed to V-11G. They ended up manned by the international mercenary pilots of the Fourteenth Squadron, based in Hangzhou, in skirmishes against the Japanese in 1938.
A dedicated attack bomber version was developed as V-11GB, and provided room for a third crew member-a cameraman cum bomb aimer who would also operate an additional retractable .30-inch machine gun placed on a trapdoor on the bottom of the aft fuselage. The wings now had a pair of .30-inch guns on each side. The estimated bombload was of 1,000 lbs. on internal racks over a range of 2,400 miles.
In 1936, the Soviet Union purchased a manufacturing license for the V-11GB so as to provide experience in modern aeronautical technology to Russian industry. The Vultee factory delivered four airframes, two complete with a Cyclone engine and the others without powerplants. In the following two years, 31 Soviet renditions of the V-11GB, modified by Sergei Kocherigin to accomodate a 750 hp M-62IR radial engine, were built in Moscow and called BSh-1 (for Bronirovanniy Shturmovik-1, or Armored Attack Plane-1). Their poor performance removed them from the attack bomber role and they were transferred to Aeroflot under the new name PS-43 (for Poschtoviy Samolyot-43, or Postal Airplane-43) as long distance mail carriers for the Moscow-Kiev and Moscow-Tashkent routes. They were employed in liaison duties by the VVS throughout the Great Patriotic War, and the survivors were retired in 1947.
A European demonstrator V-11GB ended up being part of a group of forty units ordered by Turkey. Designated V-11GBTs, they served in the Second Air Regiment at Diyarbakir, in the southeast of the country, not far from the Syrian border. They added to the mind-bogglingly motley nature of the Turkish Air Force, which by the early 1940s also had aircraft of British, German, French, Polish and Soviet origin.
In 1938, the Brazilian Army Aviation placed an order for 25 aircraft, which were designated V-11GB2 and had a single gun instead of a pair on each wing. A 26th example was modified as a floatplane and offered to the Brazilian Navy, but it was turned down. The army aircraft equipped the First Aviation Regiment and the School of Military Aviation, in Rio, and also the Third Aviation Regiment, at Canoas, southern Brazil. They served throughout World War II in coastal patrol duties, and on 26 February 1942 a V-11GB2 attacked a German submarine off Ararangu· (about 29 degrees S). They started to be decommissioned after the end of the war, and many ended their days as ground trainers.
Although the airliner V-1 did indeed see action in the Spanish Civil War, in spite of a number of reports on the contrary, no V-11s were involved in that Iberian conflict.
Ironically, the USAAC was the last military service in the world to order this U.S.-made bomber, some six months after Gerald Vultee died in an accident while returning from a sales pitch to Army authorities. Seven airframes were ordered as service test aircraft and designated YA-19. Those were modified from the regular V-11GBs, with a different cowling housing a 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp powerplant. Other features that distinguished the YA-19 from the export V-11GBs were a loop antenna instead of the “football” type on the aft fuselage, a carburetor intake placed above and behind the cowling and a 1080-pound bombload. All YA-19s were stationed at March Field, California, and later transferred to the Panama Canal Zone, where they carried military attachés on duty throughout Central and South America. None of them were involved in any offensive military operation, and by the late ’30s, with the advent of multiple-engine attack bombers, the obsolete YA-19 slowly faded into oblivion.
If the above history extends much longer than usual for this site, please bear with me-this is not your average Mustang, Bf 109 or Spitfire. We're talking downright obscure here, a footnote in the annals of the USAAC, but also an aircraft of some significance in the foreign air forces it served. This ungainly, ugly duckling of a plane would certainly be among the most unlikely subjects for kitting. As far as I know, the only previous model someone cared to make of it was the old Execuform "draped" (i.e., taken from a "male" mould, with no external detail scribing) vacform.
It was quite a surprise, then, to learn that there was a new 1:72 scale kit of this low-key attacker. Even more surprising was the high level of workmanship I found, considering how little documented is the subject. (An exchange of messages with C5 revealed they got original factory plans from an officer in the Brazilian Air Force.) The irony is that, with the V-11 series now represented by this kit, practically every product of that unsung concern, Vultee, is available in model form! (Take that, Boeing, Douglas and North American!)
Commando5 is a small but enterprising cottage-industry outfit hailing from Porto Alegre, southern Brazil. They are about a year or so in business, and their previous releases include some rather nice 1/72 resin renditions of three Gloster Meteor variants in South American colors: a T.7 and an F.8 in Brazilian markings and an FR.9 in a splendid Ecuadorian livery. (They have just announced a forthcoming Argentinian F.4). Good as those kits were, the quality of their V-11 exceeded all my expectations.
The kit comprises thirteen parts in resin, a vacformed acetate cockpit canopy with a spare, and a couple of dozen small pieces in soft white metal. It has specific parts for three versions, the V-11G, the V-11GB and the YA-19. In true cottage-industry fashion, the kit's production is limited to 200 castings, all consecutively numbered. C5 doesn't have it in stock at all times: they'll take your order and make a new casting on demand. It is indeed a hand-made special edition.
The kit comes in a standard, thin cardboard box that opens at the ends. All parts come protected in pieces of bubble wrap. The packaging is weak. The cardboard box is flimsy, and its size too tight a fit for the parts and their huge resin pours. This is one of those kits that are hard to put back into the box once you've unpacked their parts.
Assembly instructions are in Portuguese, but I understand an English version is also available upon request. I wish they had included a four or five-view GA drawing in the package, preferably in 1/72 scale, as it is not easy to find good references on this aircraft.
The resin parts comprise a one-piece pair of wings, two fuselage half-shells, a pair of tailplanes, tail fin and rudder, the cockpit floor, pilot and navigator/gunner seats, and a pair of alternate cowlings with molded-in engine fronts. They are cast in a caramel-colored, smooth and hard resin. The amount of flash is not unreasonable, and some parts come with large pour stubs: however, the outlines are sharply defined, and releasing the parts from their stubs shouldn't be too laborious.
Overall, the engraved panel lines are very fine and clearly defined. I hope they don't disappear altogether under two or three layers of paint, yet rescribing them on a kit in this scale might be a case of overkill.
The inner side of each fuselage half is very well rendered, with convincing rib detail and some instrument boxes. The rear end of the fuselage halves, however, is a little rough and will have to be properly sanded in order to match the lower leading edge of the rudder. The solid one-piece pair of wings is well-molded, with reasonably deep and detailed wheel wells. Ailerons and flaps would certainly benefit from rescoring with a scribing tool.
The tailplanes are thin and wide, with no alignment aides-the dreaded butt-joint is the recommended method for attaching them to the fuselage. They look too thin to allow for any reinforcing pins to be inserted. Since the top surface of the horizontal empennage is perfectly flat and flush with the upper portion of the aft fuselage, I wonder why C5 didn't come up with a one-piece, full-span set of tailplanes (just like they did with the wings) to be sandwiched horizontally between the tail fin and the rear fuselage. It would have helped the assembly tremendously, and you wouldn't have any alignment or butt-joint headaches. Go figure.
There are two alternate cowlings for the V-11GB and YA-19 versions, with their respective engine fronts molded in. They are quite nice, but I'd have preferred separate cowlings and engines. Also, the cowling for the Wright Cyclone version has a very short resin pour stub that will be hard to saw off because of the narrowness of the part's chord. The P&W Twin Wasp cowling is longer and gives you a better grip for the sawing operation.
White Metal Parts
The white metal parts are very soft and with a good amount of flash, which I think could be cleaned up with a pair of nail clippers. They are petite and well detailed, particularly the undercarriage parts and the rear gun ring. Some tiny bits such as air intakes and oil coolers are included in the white metal parts bag. However, small and slender items such as the pitot tube and the rollover post supports are to be provided by the modeler, stretched sprue being recommended. For some odd reason, the "football" radar antenna of the V-11GB is provided in white metal, yet you're on your own if you need a loop antenna for the YA-19 version.
All the undercarriage components are in white metal, which helps supporting the heavy, solid-resin wing. The main undercarriage door and gear are a one-piece affair, which fits quite tightly into the proper recess in the wheel well. This is not typical of most resin kits I've seen, and gets my full thumbs-up.
The main instrument panel bezels are rather poorly defined; it’s too bad C5 didn't include a decal rendition of the panel, or at least a drawing showing the general arrangement of the instruments. The rear instrument panel is made of resin and has better detail.
There is an alternate two-blade propeller allegedly for the "early Chinese V-11G", for which there are no decal options. I thought all V-11As and V-11Gs had three-blade airscrews, but I may be wrong: can someone shed some light on this? The Soviet BSh-1/PS-43 did carry a two-blade propeller, however.
The trap door for the rear ventral machine gun is nicely detailed, but much like the ventral antenna mast of the Dewoitine D.520 or the Boulton Paul Defiant, or the "dustbin" turret of the Ju 52 and Ju 86, it can only be displayed opened and extended with the airplane in flight.
I foresee some trouble placing the wing guns correctly, as their location points are marked way too far behind where they should be. It will be necessary to drill some appropriate holes still on the upper half of the wings, but a little closer to their leading edge.
There is a spare cockpit canopy, but both copies are rather cloudy vacforms of mediocre transparency and have ill-defined frames. But if you cut up the canopy for an open cockpit display, perhaps the overlapping sections wouldn't look too bad.
No transparent material is provided for the aft fuselage port door or the starboard window. I believe some Krystal Kleer should come in handy.
The decals are by the Brazilian FCM company: they are well printed and in register.
They cover four options, starting with two V-11GB of the Brazilian Army Aviation, Third Aviation Regiment, Canoas 1939-45, one of them (designator 122) the attacker of the German submarine off Ararangu· on 26 August 1942. All aluminum (Alclad 2024), with cowling front ring in red, scalloping into a red lightning bolt that extends along the fuselage. Brazilian stars on wings in four positions. A nice cartoon unit badge on the aft fuselage, with an alligator in a tux riding a bomb. Black anti-glare panel. (See box top illustration).
Next is a YA-19 of the United States Army Air Corps, AQ-10, Panama Canal Zone 1939-41, a military attachè carrier for US Embassies in South America. All aluminum (Alclad 2024), with black anti-glare panel. Regulation striped rudder and wing stars in four positions. Wing walkway stripes are not provided. (A very boring scheme, as in all USAAC bare-metal aircraft of the period. Shouldn't there be a badge over the aft fuselage window, perhaps the crest of the 17th Attack Group?)
Last is a V-11G of the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist) Air Force, "White 2", Fourteenth Squadron, Hangzhou 1938-39. Aluminum undersurfaces; top surfaces hand-painted in dark green. Kuomintang stars in four wing positions, blue & white striped rudder.
This is a first-rate resin kit of an obscure, yet fascinating airplane that is unlikely to come out in another form with such a level of detailing. I'm confident it'll make a good build. Highly recommended. Thanks to Commando5 for our review copy.