April 2023

Hawker Hurricane Mk.1

Fiat CR.42 Falco

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Fiat CR.42 Falco

97 Squadriglia, 9 Gruppo, 4 Stormo, Comiso Airfield, Sicily July 1940.

Italeri 1/72

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Background - Evidence of bomb damage remains visible on most buildings in Valetta to this day

The Fiat CR.42 Falco ('Falcon', plural: Falchi) was designed by Celestino Rosatelli (hence CR.42) as a single-seat sesquiplane fighter. Produced by Fiat Aviazione it also served in small numbers with the Belgian, Swedish and Hungarian Air Forces. With more than 1,800 built, it was the most numerous Italian aircraft in World War II.

Falchi served in large numbers across the Mediterranean theatre.  Although obsolete by the start of the war, Italian pilots liked it because of its exceptional structural strength and manoeuvrability.  It was fast for a biplane, although not heavily armed - due to a shortage of weapons some aircraft did not even mount their intended armament.  

97 Sq, 9 Gruppo, 4 Stormo was the first  Italian unit to receive the new MC.200 Saetta fighter in 1940.  However, the pilots preferred their familiar CR.42 biplanes. and quickly swap with 1 Stormo, who were delighted to acquire the latest fighters .  After a period of operations over the Alps until the French surrender, during July 1940 they flew escort to bombers over Malta, then 11th July, 9 Gruppo were redeployed to Libya and replaced by 23 Gruppo, another CR.42 unit also operating out of Comiso airfield in Sicily.

In a strange twist of irony, the high speed modern MC.200s that had been outmanoeuvred in June 1940 by the antiquated but agile Sea Gladiators of the Hal Far Fighter Flight, were replaced by the agile and antiquated CR.42, but immediately found themselves operating against the faster and modern Hurricanes, who suffered the same mismatched performance difficulties that their opponents had faced the previous month.

Building the Italeri CR.42 Falco Kit:

One of Italeri's greatest strengths, for obvious reasons, is its excellent range of Italian WW2 aircraft.  Sometimes they are the only kit available of a specific type, but even when not, they are usually the best kit of a specific type.  The Fiat CR.42 Falco was one of the most successful of Italian WW2 fighters.  Like the British Gloster Gladiator, it was obsolete almost as soon as the war began, but its strength and agility allowed it to continue in combat service for many years. Unusually, the CR.42 was a "Sesquiplane", with lower wings much shorter than the upper ones.  

Italeri's kit was first issued in 2006 and has seen several re-issues in different markings and sub-types (there is also a 1/48 version). On opening the box you immediately notice how little plastic is in it, but the quality and detail of that plastic is superb, from the detailed cockpit interior to the multi-part engine, it is very clearly a modern and well thought out kit. The cockpit has some impressive detail, including sidewalls that are perhaps a little bit of overkill;  the limited detail that they add could easily have been moulded into the fuselage parts and just complicates assembly. Fit is generally excellent; Italeri normally do quite well in this respect and this kit is fairly typical.  I had a tiny amount of flash on my kit, most noticeable on the fuselage joints, but it was easy to remove with a sharp knife. The plastic used is fairly soft, which also helps when removing the more delicate parts from their sprue.

As with any Biplane, assembling the wings can pose a few challenges.  The ribbed fabric effect on the wings is a little disappointing, with the ribs badly overdoen, although this is not too obvious when complete and a little sanding would help.  The diagonal struts  are a problem, as they provide little guidance as to the wing position. The modeller needs to follow the kit instruction diagram very precisely to ensure the right strut is in the right position and trust that the final fit an wing stagger will work out as intended!   I assembled the struts to the upper wing then attached the fuselage cabane struts first, then bent everything until the wing struts fitted.  In retrospect, I would have left the outer struts off until the cabane and first interplane ones were attached.  This would have given a little more working room and some flexibility in attachment.  

The kit engine merits particular mention; it is very nicely moulded in 8 delicate parts.  Determining which way the block fits on the after cowling/cooling flap section is a little tricky - use the exhaust ring to work out which way is up, then place the main engine block carefully in the three small recesses in the correct orientation. I then left my assembled engine unattached until late in the painting stage to give me better access underneath the wing.  These two steps (wing struts and engine) will definitely challenge the inexperienced modeller and require some patience, observation and prior planning to get right.

For my kit I am building as an aircraft that flew over Malta, so the otherwise superb kit decals have been used as a basis for change.  As supplied, this recent "Battle of Britain" issue of the Italeri kit provides 6 options, with colour placement diagrams for 2 aircraft that flew from Belgium during the Battle Of Britain and a set of 4 Libyan-based aircraft, the latter being the theatre where the CR.42 made its most significant mark.  Fortunately for my project, one of the units depicted also operated briefly over Malta, based out of Comiso, Sicily in July 1940.  With the simple omission of the white North Africa theatre wingtip markings (introduced in 1941), it fits my needs !  

Painting Italian schemes is always a challenge for the brush-painting hairy stick modeller.  Most of the schemes require you to depict a soft real life airbrushed edge.  I added a light sand yellow filter over my kit to tone down the colours and make the edges look a little softer. Colours were Humbrol 63 Sand yellow for the base coat, 149 Grn and 133 Brown for the mottles, plus 166 Light Grey and 27002 Aluminium  for the undersides.

This is a pleasing kit, with some difficult steps, but one that is well worth the effort.  It definitely makes an interesting comparison with the Sea Gladiator and contrast with the Hurricane!

Link to many more Axis aircraft kit builds on my “Other Side” pages

Part 1

Link to April 2023 Part 1 (Hawker Hurricane) >>

April 2023 - Part 1