MS-406C.1 "Battle of France" and MS-410C.1
- Azur MS-406C.1, Stock #A109, $27.00
- Azur MS-410C.1, Stock #075, $27.00
The Morane Saulnier MS-406 series of single seat fighters originated in 1934 after a design competition, with the MS-405C.1 eventually being ordered into limited production in 1937; only 16 were produced. During that year, minor modifications were made, with subsequent Morane fighters receiving the designation MS-406C.1. Initially, 50 and 80 MS-406’s were ordered on different contracts, and with the threat of war looming, an additional 825 were ordered from the SNCAO factory during May, 1938. Production ended in March, 1940, with 1079 MS-406’s being produced. A number of developmental aircraft were considered, using different armament and engine combinations, but the only one to enter production was the MS-410C.1, which featured a revised radiator and additional armament. After the surrender in 1940, 11 MS. 410’s were provided to the Finns, and several more to Croatia. These were produced after the surrender, and no MS.410 is known to have entered service with the Armee d’le Aire.
Operationally, the MS-406 series was not spectacular, and although it could match the Bf-109D, it was outclassed by the Bf-109E which was coming into use by 1939 and 1940. Many French units used the MS-406C.1 during the Battle of France with some success, but by the end of the campaign the French were converting MS-406 units to the Bloch MB-152 and Dewoitine D.520. Some surviving aircraft were captured and flown by the Germans, while others were used by the Vichy Air Force. When some French units went over to the Allies later in the war, a few MS-406’s were used by these organizations in support of Allied operations.
Some MS-406’s served in foreign air forces, including those of Switzerland, Turkey, Finland, and Croatia. The Finns used them throughout the war, and modified a few with Russian M-105P engines; these were known as “Morko Moranes”. In addition, the Germans sent 46 ex-Vichy aircraft to Croatia in 1943, but their service there has not been documented.
There is some reference material available on the MS-406 series, but not as much as for other World War II fighters. The Squadron/Signal French Fighters of World War II In Action publication gives a good account of the aircraft’s career, while the old Profile No. 147, The Morane Saulnier 406, has some good photos and information. The French publication, French Aircraft from 1939 to 1942, Fighters, Bombers, and Reconnaissance Types Vol. 2, from Dewoitine to Potez, by Histoire and Collections, has a wealth of color schemes. The usual books on fighters of this period have good accounts, and there is, of course, some information online.
A number of kits of the Morane have been issued over the years, beginning with the old Frog kit from the fifties. Later, Heller released a pretty good kit (except for the lack of cockpit detail), and this one is still useful today Recently, Hasegawa produced an excellent Morane, and even more recently Hobby Boss came out with a “quick-build” version. Maquette issued a kit of the Morko-Morane, an MS-406 with a Russian engine, but this kit is to be avoided, as from personal experience I can state that it would be easier to take a standard MS-406 kit and make the engine conversion rather than to try to revive the Maquette kit, which is a combination of new parts and some old Frog parts. The Heller, Hasegawa, and Hobby Boss issues are all acceptable, however, so don’t throw them away.
The kit instructions are similar, but specialized for each variant. The MS-406 instructions consist of 8 half-sized sheets, including a history, sprue diagram, color guide, 2 pages of assembly drawings, and 4 color pages showing four different color schemes of aircraft used in the Battle of France. The color guides are useful, although it was difficult for me to distinguish the dark brown from the dark green on the color drawing. Color drawings are also shown on the back of the box. Decals are provided for 4 aircraft, including aircraft from the 3rd Escadrille, GCII/7; Gen. Armand Pinsard’s black-topped fighter; an MS-406 of GCIII/7; and one from 3rd Escadrille, GC II/2. Except for the General’s plane, all carry standard French camouflage.
The instructions for the MS-410 consist of 10 pages, including a history, sprue diagram, 3 pages of exploded assembly drawings, and 5 pages of three-view color scheme drawings, although they are black and white. Color drawings are show on the back of the box. Decals are provided for 5 aircraft, including one MS-410 captured by the Luftwaffe while in French markings, and four Finnish examples, including aircraft from 2/LeLv 28, 1/LeLv 28, 2/TLeLv 14, and E/LeLv 28.
The Azur issues are two different but related kits, and each kit has the same styrene moldings and parts, although there are a few additional parts for each variant. Molded in medium grey styrene, the kits have excellent surface and interior detail. The MS-406C.1 includes resin wheels and exhaust stacks for a flame-hider version, and a PE sheet for seatbelts, instrument panel, and radio antennas. The MS-410 kit includes the same PE sheet and a set of resin tailwheel parts. Each kit has a different decal sheet, and there are many extra parts not used, including the propeller, wings, canopy, and a few other detail parts.
In general, the kits went together in a similar manner, the only differences being the parts used. I looked at the sprue diagrams and removed the unused parts and put them in a plastic baggie, as these parts may be useful later on. The wings had mold marks on the interior that needed to be removed, and the small landing light part is better replaced with a drop of white glue. The first step was assembling the cockpit interior, which is probably better than any other MS kit. The cockpit assembly fit was not great, but I managed. It also was too wide, requiring some trimming after it was attached to one side of the fuselage. Otherwise, it was the best cockpit assembly on any Morane kit I’ve seen.
Once the painted cockpit assembly was installed, the fuselage halves were joined. I waited until this stage to install the PE seat belts, which are very nice, although the shoulder harnesses are a bit long. Then the wings were glued together and joined to the fuselage. The dihedral angle came out perfectly. The horizontals attached easily, but don’t put the struts on until after painting and assembly are almost complete. The radiator is very detailed and should be painted but not installed until after the main airframe is together. I masked off the airframe and after attaching the canopy, began painting. The landing gear was a bit wobbly, but went in okay, although the instructions say to cant it outwards at an angle greater than any photo I’ve seen. The gear doors looked good but were a bit fiddly to install. There is very little difference between the MS406 and MS410 assembly, and painting is probably the thing that separates them. Very little filler was required. The prop is just glued into the forward cowling, so it won’t spin.
Painting and Finishing
Once the models were assembled and masked, painting began. I usually go from light to dark colors with my airbrush, starting with white and yellow and ending with black. I chose to do the snow-camouflaged MS-410 and the black-topped MS-406. These were easy, and I had the airframes painted within a couple of hours, even allowing for drying time.
Decals were easy to apply, although the clear ones with letters sometimes wanted to curl. I use some Micro-Sol to set the decals in place. I don’t know why they do it, but the Finnish swastika decals are printed in two parts, probably because the politicos are reluctant to print a swastika of any color for whatever reason. It’s been over 60 years, guys, and the Finnish blue swastika was in use long before the Nazis appropriated it. They do line up, but a one-piece decal would have been a lot easier. These decals are very thin, and although they don’t need to be trimmed to the color lines, they do need to be carefully handled. I used a coat of Glosscote, followed by the decals, another coat of Glosscote, and then a final coat of Dullcote. There was a little sheen on some of the clear decals, but not much.
After paint and decals, I assembled the landing gear and props. These went on easily, as did the tail bracing struts, guns, and pitot tubes. The wheels are a bit of a problem, as they are resin and need to be super glued on to the landing gear struts. I kept some superglue accelerator handy, and applied the accelerator as soon as I had the wheel on the strut in the right position. They need to be splayed outwards, but the instructions provide a drawing that helps here.
Upon completion, I had a couple of very nice models of airplanes that certainly should be in any good collection of World War II 1/72 scale models. I have built all of the different 1/72 scale kits of the Morane, and believe that this one is equal to the best of them, although probably a little more of a challenge than the Heller, Hasegawa, and Hobby Boss kits. The interior is the best of any, and the PE parts certainly add to the realism. Highly recommended.
Thanks to MMP and IPMS USA for the opportunity to spend some enjoyable hours building these models.