Special Hobby 1/32 Hawk 75A-4 'Mohawk'

KIT: Special Hobby 1/32 Hawk 75A-4 'Mohawk'
KIT #: SH32016
PRICE: 8,650 yen at www.hlj.com (about $80 at the current rate)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES:  

HISTORY

     Don Berliner, Chief Designer of Curtiss-Wright, first set pencil to paper to create the Hawk 75 in 1934, the same year that saw the birth of the Messerschmitt Bf-109, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.  The design was as revolutionary for Curtiss - at the time the premier supplier of fighter aircraft to the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Navy - as were the other designs for their respective creators.  It was the first all-metal, retractable-gear, enclosed-cockpit fighter produced by Curtiss.  While the XP-36 lost the 1937 Fighter Competition to the Seversky P-35, the P-36 came back - powered by a better engine - to obtain the largest production order from the Army for a fighter since the First World War, and went on to spawn the P-40.

      Curtiss had always been known for maximizing the export potential of their designs, and the Hawk 75 was no exception. The largest export order went to the Armee de l’Air just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Numerically second only to the Morane-Saulnier M.S. 406, the Hawk 75 equipped four Groupes de Chasse at the time of the German invasion on May 10, 1940. French Hawk pilots shot down over 150 German aircraft in the five weeks they fought the Luftwaffe.

      Following the Franco-German Armistice, almost all of the 200 Cyclone-powered Hawk 75A-4s on order for the French were taken on charge by the RAF, since they had not yet been delivered from the manufacturer. While the previous Hawk 75s had been powered by the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp, the Hawk 75A-4 utilized the Wright GR-1820 Cyclone 9. The Cyclone-powered Hawk was the fastest of all, with a top speed of 323 mph, though the Cyclone was a much more troublesome engine than the Twin Wasp, with constant trouble with the oil pressure.

      The 200 ex-French Hawk 75A-4s, along with 12 similar Hawk 75A-8s originally sold to Norway, as well as 12 Hawk 75A-9s sold to Iran, were known as the Mohawk IV in RAF service. After being assembled in the UK and kept at Maintenance Units while there was danger of a German invasion, the Mohawks were sent overseas beginning in late 1941.

      72 Mohawk IVs were used as fighter trainers in South Africa, though at least one SAAF squadron did use them for air defense of Capetown until 1943, when the likelihood of an Axis air attack was remote.  Portugal invoked its ancient treaty of defense with Great Britain and 12 Mohawk IVs were supplied to the Portuguese Air Force where they equipped one fighter squadron in the Azores.

      The remaining Mohawk IVs were eventually sent on to India, where 5 Squadron RAF began equipping with the Mohawk IV in December 1941, providing the sole fighter defense of north-east India until May 1942. In March 1942, 146 Squadron equipped with Mohawk IVs. The two squadrons were joined by 155 Squadron in  September 1942, forming the Mohawk Wing.

      The Mohawk IVs were used for bomber escort, standing patrols and close support over the eastern India front and Burma. In January 1943, the squadrons began “Rhubarb” operations, sending flights of 2-4 fighters free-ranging over enemy territory at low altitude in bad weather,  strafing whatever enemy activity they came across.  The maneuverability of the Hawk 75 was put to good use on these operations, which frequently constituted the only offensive RAF operations during the monsoon season which began in May and lasted through October.

      The Mohawk Wing was heavily engaged in ground-support operations during the heavy fighting following the Japanese invasion of Imphal in February-March 1943. 5 Squadron turned in their Mohawks for Hurricanes in June 1943, followed by 146 Squadron that October. 155 Squadron was the last Mohawk operator, exchanging their Mohawks for Spitfire VIIIs in January 1944.

      At least six JAAF Ki.43 Hayabusa fighters were shot down by Mohawks during their escort and rhubarb missions, including two credited to the Mohawk IV “Joe Soap II,” which was operated by 155 Squadron.

THE KIT

     Following the basic P-36A in November 2005, and the “high-tech French Hawk 75A series in 2006, this Hawk is one of two released by Special Hobby.

      This kit differs from the previous kits in having parts for the Cyclone-powered H-75A-4/8.  This is accomplished through an additional sprue containing the parts for the Cyclone engine and the different forward fuselage/cowling.  The kit reverts to an all-plastic cockpit, which is actually superior to the resin cockpit provided in the Azur “high-tech” kit, since these parts actually fit. A pre-painted photo-etch instrument panel is also provided, along with RAF-style seat belts and other cockpit details in photo-etch.

      Decals are provided for two Mohawk IVs with differing national insignia, one being the early SEAC roundel in which the red center of the standard insignia was overpainted with white, while the second - the well-known “Joe Soap II” - has the later dark blue/light blue SEAC insignia.

CONSTRUCTION

      The kit breaks down into two major sub-assemblies: the engine/cowling/main fuselage with cockpit, and the wings. 

      As with the Finnish Hawk, I started by gluing each half of the cowling to the proper fuselage half, and then painted the interior of the fuselage and cowling, and all the interior parts, with Interior Green, and painted the details in the cockpit parts. 

     I then built the very nice R-1820 Cyclone, attached it to its bulkhead, then tacked that to one fuselage half and began test-fitting.  I had to sand down the engine bulkhead a bit to avoid a large gap between the fuselage halves.  When this was accomplished, I glued the cockpit side panels in position and glued the fuselage together.  I took this time to attach the part that forms the tail wheel wall.

     I then test fitted and reshaped the forward cockpit bulkhead.  It is essential that this part fits perfectly inside the fuselage.  I also test-fitted and modified the rear cockpit in a similar manner.

      When that was accomplished and those parts were correctly glued in position, I assembled the fuselage weapons, the instrument panel and rudder pedals, and attached that in position.  I then glued the cockpit floor in position.

      I then attached the lower wing to the fuselage.  After that, I test-fitted and reshaped each upper wing so it would fit to the fuselage and the wing correctly.  When that was done, I assembled the bulkheads for the main gear well into each upper wing and glued the wings in position.  I also finished off main assembly by attaching the horizontal stabilizers.

     I then applied liberal amounts of cyanoacrylate glue to all seams, sanded them down, reapplied more cyanoacrylate, sanded that down, then applied and reapplied Mr. Surfacer, followed by more sanding, and more Mr. Surfacer where necessary, the model was finally in shape and I then rescribed the panel lines that had been lost.

COLORS & MARKINGS

 Painting:

      The kit instructions say these airplanes were painted in the European Temperate Scheme of Ocean Grey, Dark Green and Sea Grey Medium.  However, all SEAC aircraft I know of were painted in the Tropical Land Scheme of Dark Earth and Dark Green uppers and Sea Grey Medium lower surfaces.  I painted over the areas where the earlier markings would have been on the upper surfaces with Dark Green. Utilizing the instructions from the Cutting Edge sheet for the airplane I was doing, I first pre-shaded the model with flat black over the panel lines, then painted the Sky Band and then the Trainer Yellow ID markings.  When these were dry I masked them off and applied the camouflage freehand, using the Cutting Edge painting diagram.  All colors used were Xtracrylix.  All the camouflage colors were “sun faded” by adding in white to each color and going over the area painted a second time.  When all this was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix “Gloss” varnish.

 Decals:

      I used the kit decals to do “Joe Soap II.”  These went down without problems.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

      I washed the model and then applied a coat of Xtracrylix Flat varnish with a couple brushfulls of Tamiya Flat Base to flatten it more as it would have been under the tropic sun.  I “dinged” the airplane with Tamiya Flat Aluminum, then applied exhaust staining and mud streaks around the gear wells.

      I then assembled the landing gear.  I decided to use the rubber tires from the old Dragon P-51D - they look good but modifying the kit hubs to take them was ultimately more trouble than they were really worth and I wouldn’t recommend this.  The tires were “muddied up” and the landing gear attached.

     I unmasked the clear parts and positioned the canopy in the open position.  I attached the wing guns, the pitot tube (I had to scratch this, since the kit does not include the RAF-style pitot the Mohawk IV used.  I finished off by attaching the “dinged” prop.

CONCLUSIONS

     

This kit makes up into a far more accurate model of the Mohawk IV than did the Cutting Edge conversion for the Trumpeter P-40B I did four years ago.  The engine is right (not the case with the CE set) and the correct exhaust pipes are supplied.  If you like the P-36/P-40 series, this is an important sub-type of the series and looks good sitting next to the Finnish, French and pre-war US Hawks in my collection.

Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.  Get yours at www.hlj.com  

August 2008

Tom Cleaver

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