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Hawk III

Classic Airframes 1/48 Hawk III Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2006 Manufacturer Classic Airframes
Subject Curtiss Hawk III Scale 1/48
Kit Number 434 Primary Media Styrene, Resin, White Metal
Pros Nice detailing, especially with the resin castings Cons  
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Hawk III
Hawk III
Hawk III
Hawk III

Curtiss had developed a strong reputation within the US military as well as with the allied nations for building robust aircraft. The BF2C was an outgrowth of the earlier fixed-gear BFC produced for the USN, incorporating the manually operated retractable landing gear found on the Grumman FF. Despite its advanced features, including the solid Wright Cyclone R-1820 engine of 700 hp, the BF2C was plagued with technical problems that led it to be withdrawn from service less than a year after its introduction.

While the USAAC was operating liquid-cooled engines in its later Hawks, Curtiss decided to build an export Hawk based on the BF2C airframe. One of the major problems that had plagued the BF2C was vibration from the Cyclone engine. Curtiss solved the problem in the Hawk III with a revised wing structure. Other changes included a three-bladed propeller (the BF2C used a two-bladed prop), deletion of the tailhook, a new cowl, and other cosmetic revisions. The resulting aircraft saw service with China against the Japanese invasion, with Thailand against the French (and later Japan), and Argentina.

Classic Airframes continues to fill significant voids in aircraft lineage in 1/48 scale. This release was one of Classic Airframes' earlier releases that also included the BFC2 (reviewed here).

This kit is molded in light gray styrene with resin details (including the engine) and white metal parts. Two vacuformed canopies are also included in each kit, one to use and a spare in case of accident.

As with any limited production kit, the plastic will require a little fitting and trimming to get a smooth fit, but the work will be minimal. There are no ejector pin marks on any visible parts of the kit, and there is very little flash. All of the details are finely scribed, while the wings and tail surfaces are nicely molded to represent fabric over rib structures.

The resin parts are beautifully molded including the cylinders, exhaust manifolds, and core structure for the Cyclone engine, detailed wheel wells, and cockpit interior. The casting is intricate and free of flash, bubbles and other annoyances.

The white metal parts comprise the retractable landing gear struts and mechanism as well as the fixed tailwheel. The casting work on these parts is equally as nice as the resin.

Another nice touch in this kit is the inclusion of a color profile for painting and placement of decals. This solves the ambiguities that even the aftermarket decal makers sometimes confront us with, trying to represent colors and markings in shades of grey, then copying these instructions for production. The results are sometimes frustrating!

The Hawk III kit provides markings for a Chinese Air Force machine as it appeared in 1937, or a Royal Thai Air Force machine circa 1940/41.

This kit will look great next to the other between-the-wars biplanes that Classic Airframes has produced as well as with the F3Fs currently available from Accurate Miniatures. If you are a 1/48 scale post-WWI biplane builder, this is a great addition for you! If not, you might want to give one of these kits a try for a change of pace – you might become a convert!

My sincere thanks to Classic Airframes for this review sample!

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