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  1. Morane-Saulnier MS.406C.1 (DW48031) 1:48 Dora Wings distributed in the UK by Albion Alloys Ltd Developed in the years before WWII, the MS.406 was one of France’s mainstay fighters, although it suffered from some shortcomings, most notably its speed, which was found lacking by the time war broke out, topping out at around 270mph – far short of the more capable Bf.109 that they would face. A talented pilot could still make his presence felt however, as the aircraft was manoeuvrable and could take plenty of punishment before it fell from the sky, which was just as well under the circumstances. During the phoney was this wasn’t yet an issue however, but its weaknesses started to show once the level of fighting reached a higher pitch during the Battle of France, where its comparatively weak armament was also a disadvantage, particularly as the pilots needed to make every time on target count. They still gave as good an account of themselves as they could, racking up a total of almost 200 confirmed kills and another 80 probables to slow the roll of the Blitzkrieg. Poland made an order of 160 airframes, although they weren’t delivered before they were invaded, but the Finns and the Swiss took a number on charge and developed them to better suit their own needs. Powered in French service by a Hispano Suiza engine, it began a lengthy development process as the 405 in the mid-30s. The changes were substantial, including lightening and strengthening of the wing, plus the installation of its retractable radiator equipment, so the designation 406 was chosen instead. While the radiator could be tucked away for speed under suitable conditions, the mechanism that was used to facilitate this was heavy and complex, adding extra weight that was not always beneficial, and make the difference between success and failure in a high-intensity dog-fight where the engine would need all the cooling it could get. After delivery of the first 1,000 airframes, production was diverted to other aircraft types that were deemed by the ministry to be more worthy under the difficult and changing circumstances. The attrition rates once the fighting started in earnest were unsustainably high, resulting in whole flights being downed during one encounter with 109s at times, and those that survived suffering such heavy damage that could not be repaired. Although its ruggedness often allowed it to fight on after the first pass, it could benefit them little if their single 20mm cannon and two 7.5mm couldn’t penetrate the armour of the enemy before they the next pass. Although the pilots fought bravely, they were doomed to failure by having too few fighters, and those that they had were lacking in performance. The Kit This is a new tooling from our friends at Dora Wing in the Ukraine, who continue to work under difficult circumstances to bring us interesting and unusual model kits in various scales. The MS.406 has been tooled in my favourite scale, and as I mentioned to him at the time, I’ve finally got a model to glue my aftermarket pitot probe and guns to! Whether I’ll need those though, is another matter. The kit arrives in a diminutive top-opening box with a painting of the subject matter on the front, covered in their usual signature glossy highlight, which gives the model a quality feel straight away. Inside are eight sprues of greenish-grey styrene parts, a clear sprue in a separate Ziploc bag, a small sheet of Photo-Etch (PE) brass parts, a sheet of vinyl masks for the canopy, two decal sheets, and an A5 instruction booklet that is printed in colour on glossy paper, and has pages of painting and decaling profiles on the rear. Detail is good, which is what we have come to expect from Dora, including the ribbing on the wings, the cockpit and sculpted gear bays, plus the scalloped rear of the fuselage that harks back to its mid-30s origins in a similar manner to the British Hurricane. Construction begins the with cockpit, bonding the PE instrument panel fronts to the plastic supports, followed by applying the dial decals, then mating all three facets together, arrayed around the pilot’s eyeline, creating the lower panel by choosing one of two back plates, adding the centre console to the front, and applying one or two decals to depict the dials as appropriate. This lower panel is attached to the front bulkhead, while the rear bulkhead is joined to the floor along with an inverted-V roll-over bar around the moulded-in head cushion. Behind the bulkhead is another bar that is sloped to the rear, and rests on a ribbed shelf that has another small triangular bulkhead behind it. The pilot’s seat is fitted out with PE four-point seatbelts that are folded to shape and glued into position, allowing it to be perched on top of a short support and a cup on the bulkhead behind it, mounting a PE trim-wheel on a styrene base to the port side, and the control column in the groove between the two foot boards, then gluing the front bulkhead into place. The inner sides of the fuselage each have two raised vertical ribs moulded-in, which are augmented by a series of sidewall inserts and consoles, whilst adding backing plates to the rear of the exhaust slots that carry the internal splitters that will be seen from the outside. After painting, the fuselage halves can be closed around the cockpit, inserting a small grille under the front as you do, mounting a flat plate behind the prop, and a cowling panel over the engine bay, then plugging-in the two-part tail fin the rudder, which has an insert in the lower portion to achieve thickness without the risk of sink-marks due to thick plastic. The lower wings are full span, as with many low-wing monoplane fighters, and this part is prepared by adding the wheel bay inserts with V-struts placed across the roof for extra detail, gluing them into position using the raised ledges around the openings as a guide. There is a small bay for the radiator module between the main gear bays, which is made from two parts that are installed and painted before the upper wing halves are mated along with the elevators in their cut-outs, allowing them to be deflected if you wish. The fuselage is lowered into position in the gap between the upper wings, the elevator fins are slipped into each side of the tails, then finished by adding the flying surfaces, and rudder panel, all of which can be deflected at your wish. The elevator fins are supported by diagonal struts from above, the upper end mating with a faired socket at the side of the fin root. The three-part canopy is laudably clear, gluing the windscreen to the front, the fixed rear canopy over the shelf, and the opening central portion can be posed closed, or pushed back over the rear section in the open position. There is a choice of three windscreen parts, so be sure to choose the correct one for the decal options in this boxing, and don’t forget the two wingtip lights that are found on the clear sprue. The radiator module is built from four styrene parts into a thick, stylised T-shape, covered front and rear by PE skins that depict the radiator cores, adding a three-part zig-zag frame to the front, and mating it with the roof of the shallow bay on two pegs later. You have a choice of two styles of prop, both made the same way, but one with the muzzle of a cannon moulded-in. The blades are moulded as one part, adding an axle through the centre, glued to a styrene washer that is hidden away under the spinner you choose, finished by the back-plate, through which the axle slots. This is slipped into the front of the fuselage at the end of the build. The main gear legs are single struts with a retraction-jack added near the bottom, and gluing them both to a captive bay door. The two-part wheels are fitted to the axle, and during installation, another retraction-jack is added, along with a tiny additional door at the base of the strut. An aerial is glued under the fuselage in flat or extended position depending on whether the aircraft is airborne, adding a tail skid under the fin, and a pop-up landing light that is set flush or extended by using a different part for each option. Righting the model, an aerial is added on the spine behind the cockpit, an optional small PE part is glued to the canopy opener, a tubular sight with back-up PE ring sight is fitted on the deck in front of the cockpit, plus the prop, two machine gun barrels in the wing leading edges, and finally a pitot probe around mid-span on the port wing. Markings There are four decal options included on the sheets, three wearing a grey/green/brown camouflage scheme over a light blue lower, while the other has black uppers and pale grey lowers. A sheet of vinyl masks are included for the canopy, and while their locations aren’t documents in the instructions, it should be within the grasp of the most novice modeller to decipher. From the box you can build one of the following: No.906, Pilot Cpl. Eduard Uchto, Fighter Training Flight, DIAP Lyon-Bron, June 1940 No.1019, ‘Le Pirate’, Personal Aircraft of Général Amand Pinsard (27 Victories in WWI), Commandant Groupment de Chasse, May 1940 No.966, Pilot Capt. Robert Williame, Commander of 1st Sqn., GC1/2, Damblain, April 1940 No.101, Pilot Sgt. Miroslav Jiroudek, Groupe de Chasse III/1, 6 Esc., Norrent-Fontes, June 1940 Decals are by Decograph, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas. Conclusion A new tooling of this type in 1:48 is long-overdue, and the level of detail that has been included is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from Dora. How they manage it with everything that’s going on is beyond me. VERY highly recommended. Dora have their eShop suspended presently, but you should be able to get yours in due course via their UK distributors. Available in the UK in all good model shops. Review sample courtesy of
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