FIRST LOOK: Italian Regia Marina Motor Torpedo Boat, M.A.S. 568 4a serie
(taken from the photographic reference manual provided in kit).
Original conceived in 1915, as a little torpedo boat early prototypes were a failure due to the heavy weight of the torpedo. Soon afterwards, Italy entered WWI and more of the boats were ordered. Development never ceased, and by the end of WWI over 244 MAS's were in service. The first true torpedo MAS gained considerable fame by sinking the Austrian Battleships Wien and Szent Istvan.
Development of the boats continued thru the 20's and 30's. Speed was essential and improvements were made to the hull and more powerful engines installed. Finally the much sought after 40 knots was achieved in MAS 424 in 1928. Three 500 hp Isotta Fraschini Asso engines powered the boat.
Several experimental crafts were based on these improved boats and these became the "500" series. A 17 meter long by 4.4 meter wide, planing hull with two steps, powered by twin 1,000 hp ASM180 enginesmoved these boats at a respectable 45+ knots. An order was placed for 24 (MAS 510-525) of these wooden boats in 1936. The boats were armed with two torpedoes and two 13.2 mm machine guns which made them fast and potent.
The 2a series (MAS 526-550) was slightly longer and wider, with improved Asso engines and more powerful auxiliary engines. Ironically the boats did not have a reverse gear in their main engines. They relied on the aux engine to move backwards and to approach the "Target" in a 'silent mode'. The added 2 tons lowered the speed but stability was improved.
The 3a series (MAS 551-564) were ordered in 1940. Similar to the 2a they included a flying bridge and upgraded weapons. Four of the boats had metal hulls.
The 4a series (MAS 566-576), in which this model is based on, only had minor detail differences compared to the 3a, and featured wooden hulls. The final boat MAS 570 was delivered in October 1941.
Performance of the boats at war was limited by sea conditions. High speed, which was necessary for torpedo operations, required a smooth surface. This limited the combat record for many of these vessels. On August 12th and 13th, 1942, thirteen boats plus six heavier MTB's and four German E-Boats attacked a convoy bound for Malta. The resulting attack left two transports sunk, both by MAS's and two more damaged, again by MAS's.
By 1942 most of the boats went to the Eastern Front, where they met ideal operating conditions. Being deployed on the vast Lake Ladoga operations against Russian shipping resulted in several transport and other auxiliary craft sinking's. The cruiser Molotov was damaged and a submarine was also sunk. By 1943 all surviving boats went to the Kriegsmarine and later to the Romanian Navy.
The kit comes in an attractive box with some very nice box art. The end and side panels show some detail and painting options. Opening the box reveals a VERY well packaged model which nearly eliminates any possible damage due to shipping. The hull and deck are in a separate section held in place by cardboard cutouts in the container. The parts are in another section each in its own plastic wrap.
The hull is a single piece, so I guess if you want to make a waterline version some cutting and major surgery will be required. An attractive stand is provided for displaying the finished model. The deck is also a single unit so NO deck seams to fill or sand. Halleluiah! The deck and hull measure out to be around 18" long so it's not too big of a model, but still large enough to impress someone. Test fitting the hull and deck showed that they do go together very nice and are held together with screws provided in the kit (no screw driver provided).
You also get a stern plate that fits like a glove. A flying bridge is also included and looks fairly detailed. The enclosed main bridge looks like it can be seen when the kit is completed and the detail again seems quite adequate.
Included are four Sprues of plastic with all the detail parts. Two are labeled "F" and these include the torpedoes. They look nice and seem like they will go together with very little trouble. Also included is a photo etch sheet which I'm sure will only enhance the detail even more. You get a couple of "Rope" pieces which are called “Thick” and “Thin”. These are used for antennas, steering gear and railings.
A feature I found different is a clear parts sheet the already has the windows and portholes cut out with frames pre-painted. A very nice addition and we'll only see how well they work and look when finished.
The instruction sheet is packed full of information. The assembly sequence seems logical and the diagrams are very easy to read and understand. There are thirty eight steps with two painting guides. Also included is a very nice "Photographic Reference Manual". This is a twenty page booklet packed with some very nice photos (most never before published) showing lots of details. A history is included and a color painting guide for the two versions you can build. Paint colors are called out in Italeri numbers giving both numbers for Model Masters and Model Masters Acrylic paints.
A detail that struck me as unusual was the Italian Design for an external steering control. Cable and controls are provided. It should look different and an interesting detail that stand out. Another item is a template for bending the photoetch brackets for the life rings.
The machine guns looks very detailed and so do the depth charges and rack. A smoke generator is also provided and it too looks very nice.
You get decals to do two different boats. Option one, MAS 568, a 4a series, is dated for Garzuf (Yalta), Black Sea (Russia), summer of 1942 which has a light gray hull and dark gray deck. This was a fairly common paint scheme. The second option is MAS 563, a 3a series, stationed at Mazara del Vallo, Italy, 1943. This is the one I'll probably do. Same colors as option one but with the red and white aircraft identification stripes on the bow.
According to the instruction sheet a Crew Set (Italeri set number 5611) will be available shortly to man your MAS "500".
All in all I would say that this kit looks and should build into a VERY nice looking model. I can't wait to start and it should be an entertaining project during the Holiday break. This kit is HIGHLY recommended.
Thank you IPMS USA for the review kit and thank you, Bob Lewen of MRC/ Italerifor providing the kit for us to review.