Italeri Fiat CR.42 Falco Aces – Review

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Kit: 2702 Italeri 1/48 scale Fiat CR.42 Falco

Price: £24.99 available from Spot-On Models UK.

Decals: 6 options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Flying Colors Aerodecals FCA 48103 “Swedish Warriors” were used to complete a Swedish Air Force/Flygvapnet example.

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History

The Fiat CR.42 Falco (Falcon) was the last biplane-era aircraft to enter service in May 1938. The CR.42 was produced in greater numbers than any other Italian type, with manufacturing and production ending in 1943.

The Falco represented the apex of biplane fighter design. It was fast, maneuverable, robust and agile. However, by the time it entered service it was an obsolescent aircraft, becoming superseded by faster, more modern monoplane fighter types. Nevertheless, the Fiat saw service throughout the Second World War.

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The Fiat CR.42 was an export success, seeing service with Belgium, Hungary, Germany and Sweden. It fought in many theatres of combat; most notably the North African campaign, the Mediterranean and the Battle of Britain.

On the 30th of November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. The Swedish volunteer unit Flottilj F 19 fought with distinction with Gloster Gladiators and Hawker Harts in the North of Finland where there were no aircraft to defend against Soviet attacks. An in-depth report on this operation can be viewed on this site by clicking on this link: Flygflottilj 19, Finland’s Swedish Defenders.

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The Fiat CR.42 was ready for service with F 19 Squadron in April 1940, too late to see combat in the Winter War which had ended on the 13th of March. Finland was offered the aircraft, but curiously declined preferring instead to receive the equivalent in cash. The Swedish Air Force took delivery of the 12 Fiats, using them as reconnaissance aircraft at F 3 Squadron based at Linköping.

In the meantime, the United States Government cancelled the delivery of the P-35 aircraft (see the article on this site at: Seversky J-9/EP-106 ‘Swedish Defender’), Sweden received 60 of the 120 aircraft that were ordered. This resulted in a shortage of fighters for the Flygvapnet. Sweden, uncertain of German intentions, especially in light of Swedish ball-bearing and ore mining production, desperately needed fighters.

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Sweden ordered an additional 60 Fiat CR.42 Falco’s from Italy, bringing the total number of aircraft in Flygvapnet service to 72, making the Swedish Air Force the third largest operator of the type. The Falco received the designation J 11. Part of the package included the purchase of 60 Reggiane Re.2000 (J 20s) from Italy.

Sweden resolved not to be disadvantaged by relying on foreign aircraft in future and set about developing an indigenous aircraft industry, producing aircraft types such as the FFVS J 22 a single-engine fighter aircraft, The SAAB 21 which was a Swedish fighter/attack aircraft and the Saab 17/B 17A.

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The J 11s were initially assigned to the F 9 wing, responsible for the air defence of Gothenburg, but were transferred to the newly established F 13 wing in Norrköping in 1943 when F 9 received more advanced J 22 fighters.

The J 11s operating from Kiruna, in the north of Sweden, were equipped with ski undercarriage. In spring 1942, the J 11s of 1 Division were moved to Luleå airfield. The J 11s scrambled several times to intercept German aircraft violating Swedish borders, but usually failed to make contact. The J 11s of 2 and 3 Divisions based in Gothenburg managed to intercept intruders a few times, forcing them to leave Swedish airspace.

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During their service in the Swedish Air Force, the CR.42 suffered many accidents, sometimes because of the poor quality of materials used by the Fiat factory. By the end of 1942, eight had been lost, and 17 more by the end of 1943. In all, over 30 CR.42s were lost due to accidents and mechanical failures. Swedish pilots appreciated the J 11’s formidable close-in dogfighting abilities; however, they complained about low speed, insufficient armament and the open cockpits that were unsuited for the severe climate of Scandinavia.

The remaining J 11s of the F 13 wing were decommissioned for good by the Air Force by 14 March 1945. A total of 19 aircraft were sold to a civilian contractor, Svensk Flygtjänst AB, who used 13 of them as target tugs for one season, although the type was not well suited for the role. Another six J 11s were delivered to Svensk Flygtjänst AB as a source for spare parts. The aircraft were given Swedish civil registrations. The last J 11 was removed from the register in 1949.

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One surviving Swedish “Falco” was preserved. It was stored at the F 3 wing; the aircraft was “hidden away” for a future museum. Number NC.2453, marked as 9 9, is today on a permanent static display in the Swedish Air Force Museum (Flygvapenmuseum) in Linköping.

The Kit

The kit is comprises 2 large sprues in soft grey injection moulded plastic with an additional clear sprue for the windscreen. A decal sheet is included for four Reggia Aeronautica, one Hungarian and one Belgian Air Force aircraft. The instruction sheet is a comprehensive 9 step “exploded view” booklet in A4 format.

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Construction

The parts were washed in a warm soapy solution and dabbed dry before construction commenced. Stage 1 deals with the cockpit construction. All of the parts are well detailed. The instrument panel is moulded into the forward bulkhead, the cockpit side-walls are separate items which fit neatly to the cockpit floor and once detailing has been added the entire unit fits neatly into the fuselage halves which are joined together in stage 2.

Stages 3 to 5 deal with the wing assembly. I encountered few difficulties here as the instructions are clear and precise. I would nevertheless recommend dry-fitting the struts and checking the upper-wing for the correct alignment before cementing the upper-wing to the lower-wing struts.

The engine in section 6 is an extremely well detailed four piece unit with push rods supplied, the cowling covers were the only minor difficulty which required small amounts of green putty, that said, the engine, with the addition of some HT leads would certainly benefit from leaving the engine covers off.

Stages 7, 8 and 9 focus on the undercarriage and the propeller assembly as well as fitting the final accessories.

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Camouflage and Markings

Despite the excellent decal sheet provided with this kit, I decided to model a Swedish Air Force aircraft in keeping with the theme of this website. The aircraft was primed with grey auto-primer from a rattlecan, once dry the undersurfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol satin 129 grey. This was masked off with Tamiya tape before the upper-surfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol matt 84. Thinned matt 105 green was applied next, using a small soft brush, allowed to dry overnight before matt 186 brown was applied using the same technique. The decals supplied by Flying Colors Aerodecals were excellent; these were applied with micro-set and micro-sol setting solutions to ensure that no “silvering” would occur.

Once dry, the J 11 was post shaded and given a wash of Windsor & Newton ivory black oil paint.

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Final Construction

0.2mm wire was used on the outerplane struts; this was the only rigging that was required on this late-model biplane. Once the decal setting solution had dried, the entire model was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear.

This kit comes highly recommended.

Review sample kindly supplied by Bob & Chris Hext of Spot-On Models and Hobbies, Swindon.

GALLERY

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References

Richard Reynolds.

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