Special Hobby 1/32 Morane-Saulnier MS-406C.1 “Hi-tech”
Kit: SH32019 Special Hobby 1/32 Morane-Saulnier MS-406C.1 “Hi-tech”
Price: 45.90 Euros Available from CMK Kits: http://www.cmkkits.com
Decals: Three Options, two French, one Finnish Air Force.
Reviewer: Richard Reynolds
Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts. In addition, the Montex Super Mask K32074 MS 406 was used: www.montex-mask.com
In 1934 the Armée de ‘l Air announced a competition for a single-seat fighter aircraft design capable of reaching 450 km/h, armed with one or two 20mm cannon.
The winner of the competition was the Morane-Saulnier M.S. 405C.1 of which 16 were produced before production was turned over to the modified M.S. 406C.1 version of the aircraft. The M.S. 406 as powered by the Hispano-Suiza 12Y-31 liquid-cooled V-12, 640 kW (860 hp) engine rated at: 486 km/h (303 mph) at 5,000 m (16,400 ft) and was armed with one 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannon firing through the propeller hub and 2× 7.5 mm (0.295 in) MAC 1934 machine guns mounted in the wings.
By the standards of the day the Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406C.1 was a good aircraft being more powerful than the German Messerschmitt Bf 109D. However, development was slow and by the outbreak of the war the M.S. 406 had been superseded by the more capable Messerschmitt Bf 109 E.
The Aircraft was first introduced in 1938 and served with the French, Turkish, Swiss and Finnish Air Forces. It achieved its greatest combat successes with the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) during the Continuation War with Russia and the Lapland War against the Germans.
During the Winter War of 1939 to 1940, the French Government donated 50 M.S. 406C.1s to the Finnish Air Force. In total the Ilmavoimat received 76 M.S.406 and 11 M.S.410.
The initial batch of 50 were assembled in Malmö Sweden and flown to Finland by Finnish pilots in February 1940. These aircraft were coded; MS-301 to MS-330.
After the fall of France in 1940 the Finnish Government entered into negotiations with the Germans to acquire additional stocks of M.S. 406’s that had been captured during the conflict. 10 aircraft were bought in late 1940 arriving on January 4th the next year. These aircraft were overhauled at Valtion lentokonetehdas (The State Aircraft Factory at Tampere), and were given the codes MS-601 to MS-610.
An additional 15 more aircraft had been procured by the end of 1941 which received the designation codes: MS-611 – MS 625. A further 30 M.S. 406’s were ferried from France the next summer by Finnish Pilots. These were designated: MS-626 to MS-655. The last two aircraft of the 406 series destined for Finnish service were MS-656 and MS-657 arriving in late 1942.
Of the 11 M.S. 410 aircraft that were operated by the Ilmavoimat, 4 were fitted with fixed radiators. These were: MS-614, 615, 621 and MS 624. The Finns were adept at converting existing aircraft to improve performance and acclimatise them to the cold conditions of their country. The major conversion was the Mörkö-Morane (“Ghost Morane”). The Mörkö’s were adapted to take the Russian Klimov M105P Engine which had approximately the same dimensions as the Hispano-Suiza used by the M.S.406. The new power-plant increased the aircraft’s output from 860hp to 1100hp.
Top speed at sea level was 445 km/h and 510 km/h at 4,000 metres. Service ceiling was 10,300 metres. Three Aircraft were available at the time of the Continuation War; the Mörkö-Morane took part in the Lapland War driving the German forces northwards out of Finland into German occupied Norway. 41 airframes were converted to the Mörkö-Morane standard.
The Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406C.1, 410 and Mörkö-Morane served with distinction in the Finnish Air Force during World War II. The aircraft served with Lentolaivue 28 between 1940-44 scoring 104 aerial victories whilst losing 36 aircraft, 16 of which were in combat. It served with Lentolaivue 14 between 1942-44 scoring 17 aerial victories, losing six aircraft; two in combat, one to anti-aircraft fire and three due to accidents.
During 1944, hostilities ceased between the Soviet Union and Finland. In accordance with the armistice terms, all German forces stationed in Finnish territory had to be expelled on the 15th September 1944. This campaign became known as the ‘Lapin Sota’ or Lapland War. Lentoryhmä Sarko was formed for aerial operations in Lapland. Due to the demobilisation conditions imposed upon the Finns by the Soviet’s, the Finnish Air Force was only able to commit two squadrons to the task of driving out the German armed forces. These squadrons were; Lentorykmentti 2 and 4. Two flights of Moranes were assigned to the former.
After the war the Moranes were given to a new unit HLeLv 21 which was formed from HLeLv 28. It operated Mörkö-Moranes until September 11th 1948 at which point, all Moranes were stored and then scrapped in 1952.
The kit comprises 4 sprues of 79 parts in grey injection moulded plastic, one fret of 6 clear injection moulded parts, one clear bag comprising of 17 resin cast parts, one clear sprue, two photo-etched frets with one in colour, a decal sheet with options for two French and one Finnish Air Force machine, one colour reference sheet and an instruction booklet.
Opening the Box reveals Special Hobby’s usually well filled and equally well packaged contents. With the resin parts and the clear sprue in their own plastic bags stapled to a cardboard bridge which spans the injection moulded parts. The injection moulding is crisp with fine recessed panel lines. The fabric texture on the rear fuselage and slightly raised ribs on the wings looks convincing and well sculpted. Some of the sprue attachment points intrude onto the plastic and care will be needed in removing them, however, Special Hobby looks to have done a fine job in the manufacture of this kit.
Once all of the parts were removed from their polyurethane bags, they were washed in a Luke warm soapy solution to remove the mould release and dried carefully with standard household paper towels.
All of the parts with the exception of the colour photo-etch and transparencies were sprayed using grey auto-primer from a rattle-can.
Sections 1 to 11 deal with the construction of the cockpit and this is a real gem. The cockpit is where the “Hi-Tech” element of this kit’s presentation lives up to its advertising.
The instrument panel consists of an angled injection moulded backing which is then furnished with nine full-colour photo etched sub-sections, three of which are applied first. These contain the instrument dials which are overlaid with three superbly detailed etched panels which are stamped out to reveal the coloured flight instruments. Eight slits have been machined out so that the modeller can apply levers, good eyesight and a set of needle-point tweezers are recommended for this job. In addition, there are three etched instrument panels which are applied to the lower section of the control panel.
The instrument panel is further enhanced with additional photo etched parts applied to the lower console; both the main instrument panel and lower console were then attached to the bulkhead to the rear of the engine compartment.
The cockpit is contained within a tubular framed compartment this was airbrushed with Humbrol 165 blue-grey and is well furnished with levers and a trim wheel, photo-etched control panels in full colour, rudder pedals with PE straps and a well detailed control column. The stand-out item is the seat which has a beautifully detailed set of harnesses and a seat cushion which I decided to paint with ‘burnt-umber’ Windsor and Newton oils to give it that ‘real’ leather look.
With the cockpit complete, it was photographed and set to one side. The fuselage halves were removed carefully from the sprue frames using side cutters, trimmed and sanded. The pre-painted rear shelf was glued in place along with the cockpit compartment and the resin exhausts which had been airbrushed in black. Finally the radiator was added before the fuselage halves were joined.
The fuselage halves have no locating pins which is a feature of Special Hobby kits. I have made a few so I assumed that this would present no problems. The interior parts fitted perfectly and the fuselage halves appeared to fit together equally well. I left the construction overnight to cure, only to discover the next morning that there was a step running from the front of the nose all the way to the cockpit. This was purely down to my carelessness. It took a great deal of green putty and sanding down to correct this problem. I estimate no less than six sanding sessions!
The final part of the fuselage construction consisted of fitting of the engine-cooling intakes and attaching the fore and aft transparencies once the Montex Masks had been applied. The cooling intakes are located either side of the nose, the Photo-etch intake covers may require some trimming to fit but otherwise the process is a straight forward one. There has been a great deal of discussion amongst modellers that the canopies do not fit on this model. I’ll admit that they appear to be a little narrow but if they are displayed with the canopy open the effect looks good to my eye.
The tail assembly is sections 14 and 15 presented few difficulties, as did the next step, the radiator assembly. There is a square hatch located in the lower-wing that the completed radiator drops into. I found this an extremely tight fit and had to resort to a scalpel blade and some sanding before the radiator slotted into position.
At this stage the top and bottom halves of the wings were glued together before constructing the final sub-assemblies whilst the wings dried. The headrest and tubular frame support was added to the rear fuselage shelf, the guns and pitot tube added to the now dried and sanded wings before preparation for painting began.
Camouflage and markings
Painting Continuation War Finnish Air Force aircraft is now a familiar process to me. I do however always refer to Kari Stenman’s excellent Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, Sotamaalaus/Warpaint book which is the authority publication on camouflage schemes of the Finnish Air Force during World War II. I refer to a section from the book which I used in my Special Hobby 1/32 Brewster 239 article: Finnish aircraft of this period were painted with aluminium dope on their under surfaces, until a comparison was made with newly delivered Dornier 17Z’s in January-February 1942 and the air depot decreed that a light blue matt colour matched from Luftwaffe Hellblau 65 would better camouflage the fighters and was introduced from march 1942. White Ensign Models RLM 04 Gelb mixed with a few drops of Hu-33 Black was used for the nose, under the wing tips and for the tail-band. The lower-surface camouflage was WEM RLM 65 Blue. The upper-surface camouflage of Finnish Air Force green at the time of the continuation war consists of: Humbrol 116 (6 parts) + hu 117 (6 parts) + hu 163 (1 part). Top-surface black was similarly matched as: Humbrol 33 and 0.5ml of a pipette of Humbrol 64 added to lighten the hu 33 black. The white ‘Distemper’ paint was hastily applied, usually at airfields and consisted of an easily washable glue and white powder, which is why many aircraft that carry the winter camouflage have a very ‘patchy’ appearance.
I decided that I wanted to paint a winter camouflaged Finnish M.S. 406 which meant that I had to obtain a set off Montex K32074 Super Masks from A2ZEE Models. I have had experience of using these vinyl masks on canopies before but never having had to use them to mask fuselage codes and the Number ‘8’ on the tail. I admit to approaching this process with some trepidation but patience (a lot of patience!) produced a satisfactory result.
Weathering the aircraft was done with ivory black oils and lightly rubbing down the white distemper with a sanding stick. The remainder of the markings were traditional Special Hobby decals which were opaque and in register and went on using micro-sol and Micro-set.
The outer vinyl masks were removed from the canopy and the centre section was glued in the open position using Humbrol clear-fix. The gun-sights were added, as was the mass balance. The undercarriage comprised the final part of the construction process. Special Hobby helpfully provides a head-on diagram of the correct positioning of the undercarriage arrangement which is useful.
I have to confess to being a Special Hobby fan. The kits do have their drawbacks but I feel that with a patient approach you can build an excellent model. This “Hi-Tech” example made it an outstanding kit to build. It comes highly recommended.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, Sotamaalaus/Warpaint by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing, 2003.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 4, Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406 by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing, 2004.
- IPMS Stockholm Magazine, Finnish Air Force camouflage and markings 1940-44 2004/05 edition.