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SMER 1/72 Curtiss H.75-A3 Hawk Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer SMER
Subject Curtiss H.75-A3 Hawk Scale 1/72
Kit Number SR841 (159) Primary Media Styrene
Pros Great popular subject Cons Mad riveter detail on fuselage
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $9.98

First Look


The Curtiss P-36 “Hawk”, also known as the Curtiss Hawk Model 75, was a U.S. built fighter aircraft of the 1930’s. A contemporary of the Hawker Hurricane and Messerschmitt Bf-109, it was one of the first fighters of the new generation – sleek monoplanes with extensive use of metal in construction and powerful piston engines. Obsolete at the onset of WWII, and best known as the predecessor of the Curtiss P-40, the P-36 saw only limited combat with the United States Army Air Forces, but was extensively used by the French Air Force and also by British Commonwealth and Chinese air units. Several dozen also fought in the Finish Air Force against the Soviet Red Air Force. With around 1,000 aircraft built, the P-36 was a major commercial success for Curtiss.

The Curtiss Model 75 was a private venture by the company, designed by former Northrop engineer Donovan Berlin. The first prototype, constructed in 1934, featured all-metal construction with fabric-covered control surfaces, a Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine developing 900 hp, and typical U.S. Army Air Corps armament of one 0.30 cal. and one 0.50 cal. machine-guns firing through the propeller arc. Also typical of the time was the total absence of armor or self-sealing fuel tanks. The distinctive landing gear, which rotated 90 degrees to fold the main wheels flat into the trailing portion of the wing, was actually a Boeing-patented design for which Curtiss had to pay royalties.

The prototype flew in May 1935, reaching 281 mph at 10,000ft. during early test flights. On 27 May 1935, the prototype was flown to Wright Field, Ohio, to compete in the USAAC fly-off for a new single-seat fighter, but the contest was delayed because the Seversky entry crashed on the way to the contest. Curtiss took advantage of the delay to replace the unreliable engine with a Wright XR-1820-39 “Cyclone” producing 950 hp and to rework the fuselage, adding the distinctive scalloped rear windows to improve rear visibility. The new prototype was designated Model 75B with the R-1670 version retroactively designated Model 75D. The fly-off finally took place in April 1936. Unfortunately, the new engine failed to deliver it’s rated power and the aircraft attained only 285 mph.

Although it’s competitor, the Seversky P-35, also underperformed and more expensive, it was declared the winner and awarded a contract for 77 aircraft. Then, on 16 June 1936, Curtiss received an order from the USAAC for three prototypes designated YIP-36. The USAAC was concerned about political turmoil in Europe and about Seversky’s ability to deliver P-35’s in a reasonable time frame and therefore wanted a backup fighter. The YIP-36 (Model 75E) was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine producing 900 hp and further enlarged scalloped rear canopy. The new aircraft performed so well that it won the 1937 USAAC competition with an order for 210 P-36A fighters.

Even before the P-36A entered production, the French Air Force entered negotiations with Curtiss about delivery of 300 aircraft. The negotiating process ended up being very drawn-out because the cost of the Curtiss fighters was double that of the French Morane-Saulnier M.S.406 and the Bloch MB.150, and the delivery schedule was deemed too slow. Since the USAAC was unhappy with the rate of domestic deliveries and believed that export aircraft would slow things down even more, it actively opposed the sale. Eventually, it took direct intervention from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to give the French test pilot Michel Detroyat a chance to fly the YIP-36.

Detroyat’s enthusiasm, problems with the M.B.150, and the pressure of continuing German rearmament finally forced France to purchase 100 aircraft and 173 engines. The first Hawk 75A-1 arrived in France in December 1938 and began entering service in March 1939. After the first few examples, aircraft were delivered in pieces and assembled in France by the Societe Nationale de Constuctions Aeronautiques du Centre. Officially designated H75-C1, the aircraft was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC-G engines with 900 hp and had metric instruments, a seat for French parachutes, a French-style throttle which operated in reverse from U.S. and British aircraft (full throttle was to the rear rather than to the front) and armament of four 7.5 mm machine-guns. The aircraft evolved through several modifications and by the time France fell to German occupation, the air force had 291 Hawk 75A’s in service.

On eight September 1939, aircraft from Groupe de Chasse II/4 were credited with shooting down two Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf-109E’s, the first Allied air victory of WWII on the Western Front. During 1939-1940, the French claimed 230 confirmed and 80 probable victories in Hawk 75’s, against only 29 aircraft lost in aerial combat. On the 11th, French aces of the early part of the war flew seven Hawks. The leading ace of the time was Lt. Marin La Meslee with 15 confirmed and five probable victories in the type. H-75-equipped squadrons were evacuated to French North Africa before the Armistice to avoid capture by the Germans.

While under the Vichy government, these units clashed with British aircraft over Mers el-Kebir and Dakar. During Operation “Torch” in North Africa, French H-75’s fought against U.S. Navy F4F “Wildcats”, losing 15 aircraft to seven shot down American planes. From late 1942 on, the Allies started re-equipping French units formerly under Vichy and the H-75’s were replaced by P-40’s and P-39’s.

Hawks were used by Argentina, Brazil, China, Finland, Norway, Persia, Peru, Portugal, Siam (Thailand), the U.K. and USA. There were 32 variants.

SMER is a model company based in Prague, Czechoslovakia who re-boxed a lot of the older Heller aircraft models (Heller was based in France). This kit is a re-pop of one of Heller’s molds.

The kit comes in a sturdy tray and lid type box. The box art shows a Curtiss H.75-A3 flying over what appears to be North African desert. It is in a three color wave pattern camouflage of dark green, dark brown and medium gray over a pale gray bottom. It has a horizontal white stripe running down the sides of the fuselage with a yellow running figure with a scarf streaming from his helmet on the forward end of the white stripe, and a diving gold eagle on the stripe just behind the fuselage French roundel. There is a white number six on the rudder. The no. 267 appears over the French tri-color stripes on the tail. This aircraft was with GC II/4.

This scheme is repeated, with two profile paintings on side panels. It is the only scheme offered on the decal sheet. Here is where a problem arises as the decal sheet does the number six in black. This is the third time I have run into decal problems, with omissions and changes on decal sheets in SMER kits. The other two being their kits of the Dewoitine D.500/D.501 and their Dewoitine D.510. I cannot understand these mistakes at all.

Inside the box is a single large cello bag that holds one white tree of parts, a loose lower wing half, a loose fuselage half and a two part clear desk stand (found in all SMER 1/72nd scale aircraft kits).

There is a tiny cello bag that is stapled and taped to the side of the large cello bag. It holds the clear parts for the cockpit and the pilot figure, which is loose.

The decal sheet and the instructions complete the kit’s contents.

The instructions follow the same layout SMER uses in all their 1/72nd scale kits.

These instructions consist of a single sheet folded into four pages.

Page one begins with a color repeat of the box art, followed by the history of the H.75A-3 in Czech only.

The left side of page two has blow by blow instructions, in Czech only, of how to proceed with assembling the kit.

The right side of page two and the left side of page three has six assembly steps shown.

The right side of page three has a list of the names of all the kit parts, again only in Czech.

Page four has a 3-view illustration of the only marking provided in the kit. There is some more Czech language describing this scheme and a customer service coupon at the foot of the page.

The one white parts tree in the kit holds: the cockpit floor and seat, propeller and it’s retaining washer, the engine front, one fuselage half, horizontal tail surfaces, cowl gun fairings, upper wing halves, wing machine-gun barrels, pitot tube, ring site, radio mast, main landing gear and tire parts, tail wheel, landing gear doors etc. (34 parts).

The other half of the fuselage and the bottom half of the wings (full span) are loose.

Detail is of the raised panel type, with Mad Riveter work on the fuselage. Flaps are all molded solid. Years ago, rivets were considered DETAIL on aircraft model kits. However, if one were to enlarge these to life-size they would turn out to be the size of watermelons. Purists may want to sand these off and do rescribing. There was also a little bit of flash present on some parts. Easily removed with the trusty X-acto knife.

The clear two part desk stand and the clear cockpit parts (3 parts) and the loose pilot figure, along with the decal sheet (markings on it already described above) complete the kit’s contents.

The Curtiss Hawk was an important aircraft in WWII and the grand-daddy of the P-40 Warhawk, famous with the AVG “Flying Tigers”. It deserves a place on any modeler’s shelf. This kit is an easy build for any modeler and recommended.