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MS.406 Kit

Hobbycraft 1/48 MS.406 Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review September 2008 Manufacturer Hobbycraft
Subject MS.406 Scale 1/48
Kit Number HC1587 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Neat WWII French fighter subject Cons Sparce interior & solid wing flaps. White marks on decal may be translucent
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

MS.406 Kit
MS.406 Kit
MS.406 Kit
MS.406 Kit

The MS 406 was a French Armee de l’Air fighter aircraft built by Morane-Saulnier starting in 1938. Numerically, it was France’s most important fighter during the opening stages of WWII, but was under-powered, weakly-armed and lacked full armor protection when compared to it’s contemporaries. Most critically, it was out-performed by the Messerschmitt Bf 109E during the Battle of France. The MS 406 held it’s own in the early stages of the war (the so-called Phony War), but when the war restarted in earnest in 1940, 387 were lost in combat or on the ground (for various reasons) for 183 kills in return. The type was more successful in the hands of the Swiss and Finish air forces, who developed indigenous models.

In 1934, the Service Technique Aeronautique (Aeronautical Technical Service) of the Armee de l’Air issued a requirement for a new and completely modern single-seat fighter (what they referred to as a C1 design), with a monoplane layout and retracting landing gear.

Morane-Saulnier’s response was the MS 405, a low-wing monoplane of mixed construction, with fabric-covered wooden tail, but bonded metal/wood material (Plymax) fitted to duralumin tubing. Plymax consisted of a thin sheet of duralumin bonded in a thicker sheet of plywood. Morane-Saulnier had a long history of producing warplanes dating back to pre-World War One years, but in the inter-war period, they had concentrated on civil designs. The aircraft was a departure for them, their first low-wing monoplane, first enclosed cockpit and their first with retracting gear. Prior to this, their most modern designs were fixed-gear parasol winged monoplanes.

The new 860 hp (640 kW) Hispano-Suiza HS 12Y-grs engine, driving a two-pitch Chauviere propeller, powered the first MS 406-1 prototype, which flew on 8 August 1935. Development was very slow, and the second MS 406-2 prototype, with a 900 hp (670 kW) HS 12Y-crs engine didn’t fly until 20 January 1937, almost a year and a half later. With the new engine, the fighter reached 275 mph (443 km/h), which was fast enough to secure an order for a further 16 pre-production prototypes, each including improvements on the last version.

The result of these changes was the MS 406. The two main changes were the inclusion of anew wing structure that saved weight, and a retractable radiator under the fuselage. It was powered by the production 860 hp (640 kW) HS 12Y-31 engine. The new design was over 5 mph (8 km/h) faster than the 405, at 405 mph (489 km/h). Armament consisted of a 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS-9 or 404 cannon with 60 rounds, which fired through the piston banks in the engine, and two 7.5 mm MAC 1934 machine-guns on each wing with 300 rounds each. A weakness of the MAC 34 was it’s operation at high altitudes. It was found that at altitudes past 20,000 ft the guns had a tendency to freeze-up. Heaters were added to the guns to allow high altitude use.

Hobby Craft of Canada is based in Ontario, Canada.

The kit comes in a tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a MS406 dog-fighting with a Bf 109. It is in the markings of pilot Sergent-Chef (Chief Sergeant) Pierre Le Gloan, with GC III6, Chartres, France 1940. He had 18 victories. The aircraft is in a camouflage of light gray (FS36329), chocolate brown (FS30108) and light gray green (FS34201) on the upper surfaces and light blue (FS35526) below. The propeller spinner is black. The aircraft carries a black monster face on the sides of the fuselage, just behind the roundel and in front of the tail. The rudder carries the French tri-color vertical stripes of blue, white, red.

On the rudder is black lettering that says: S.N.C.A.O. above “Boug (rest of word blurred) FRANCE”. Above this, also on the rudder, is a blue circle with the white number 6 in it. The French roundels appear at the extreme tips of the wings, above and below them and large white code letters L5 36 appear below the wings too.

Inside the box are 2 medium gray parts trees and a clear parts tree in a sealed cello bag. The decal sheet, instructions, a small sheet of “Cautions” (in 9 languages, including English) and a pre-paid post card to send to Hobby Craft with any suggestions for subjects for future kits.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 6 pages of 8 ½” x 10 ¾” format.

Page one begins with a black and white repeat of the boxart. This is followed by a very abbreviated, 3 sentence history of the MS406 (in 5 languages, including English). The bottom of the page has international assembly symbol explanations and Hobby Craft’s address.

Page two begins with “Read before you begin” instructions in 3 languages. This is followed by the first 2 assembly step drawings.

Pages 3 and 4 give a balance of 5 assembly steps.

Page 5 has three 2-view (left and right side profiles) for 3 marking and painting schemes.

  1. Is the boxart scheme, already described above
  2. Is a MS406 with the Turkish Air Force, 1940. It is in the same camouflage as the boxart scheme. It has a red rudder with a white crescent and star on it. It has a white fuselage number of 25 just in front of the tail. There are the Turkish red squares, outlined in white above and below the wings. The rudder has the same black lettering S.N.C.A.O. etc. that the boxart scheme also has
  3. A captured MS406 with the Luftwaffe, 1941. This is camouflaged the same as the other two schemes. It carries the German national crosses in rather large size on the fuselage sides, just below the cockpit and above and below the wings. It has a yellow fuselage band, immediately behind the cockpit. The tail has the normal swastika. However, on the decal sheet this symbol is cut in two diagonally and you have to assemble it. Low on the fuselage sides, just in front of the tail is the black lettering No. 648

Page six has three 2-views showing the top and bottom camouflage patterns for these three schemes. Colors are called out in only Federal Standard numbers (FS). This is a bad move by Hobby Craft, as not every modeler has this publication to reference the colors to. However, the colors can be brought up on the internet.

The largest of the medium gray trees holds: the fuselage halves, wheel wells, horizontal tail surfaces, main wheels, tail wheel, landing gear doors and legs, alternate Bronzavia flame damper exhausts (used on an unknown number of 406’s), propeller and it’s spinner, cockpit floor and seat, instrument panel, cowling panel, standard exhaust pipes, joy stick etc. (44 parts).

The second medium gray parts tree holds the wing halves. The lower wing is full span. (3 parts).

The clear part tree holds the cockpit transparencies (2 parts). The center section is separate, so this can be posed open or shut.

The decal sheet completes the kit’s contents. I tried everything I could think of to get the white markings on the sheet to appear against the white backing paper, but –alas- I was un-successful at this. Believe me though, they are on there.

I have been told by some fellow modelers that Hobby Craft’s decals tend to be translucent, where they are printed white and allow colors underneath them to bleed through. This will have to remain to be seen, once I build the kit. There are some after-market sheets around for this aircraft I understand.

The kit is now out of production for Hobby Craft.