|KIT:||Eduard 1/48 Avia B.534 series III|
The last fighter of purely indigenous design to be produced and used operationally in Czechoslovakia, the Avia B.534 was one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world at the time of its first flight in 1933, having significantly better performance than either the British Hawker Fury or the German He-51. Unfortunately, the B-534 appeared just at the outset of what would later be seen as the most revolutionary period of aircraft development. Five years later, when it came very close to entering combat, the B-534 was obsolete, as were all other fighter biplanes.
The B-534 was designed by František Novotný, and developed from his B-34 single-seat fighter biplane flown the year previous. While the prototype was powered by an imported French-produced Hispano-Suiza HS-12Ybrs engine, the production aircraft were powered by a license-built HS-12Ydrs. The influence of Sydney Camm’s Hawker Fury biplane can be detected in the smooth lines of the B-534.
The Ministry of National Defense ordered 147 B-534 fighters on July 17, 1934, with the first deliveries of operational aircraft arriving in the squadrons in 1935. By the time of the Munich Crisis in September 1938, 445 B.534s had been delivered to the Czechoslovakian Air Force. Following the German partition of what was left of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 into the German-controlled Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia and the German-allied state of Slovakia, the B-534s came under the control of the Luftwaffe, where they were utilized as fighter trainers throughout the war.
Approximately 100 B-534s were allocated to the Slovakian Air Force, where they saw combat against Hungary in the summer of 1939, and then participated in the invasion of Poland in alliance with the Germans that September. In 1941, the surviving B-534s equipped two Slovakian squadrons that were used in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. 78 B-534s sold to Bulgaria in the summer of 1939 also participated in the invasion though they were primarily assigned as air defense for Bulgaria, where they proved themselves thoroughly obsolete when sent against the American Air Forces in the summer of 1943.
In the fall of 1944, three Slovakian B-534s took part in the Slovak National Uprising, during which one of them shot down a Hungarian-operated Ju-52, which was the last air-to-air victory by a biplane.
While several kits of the B-534 have been produced by Czech model companies in 1/72 scale, this is the first injection-molded B-534 in 1/48 scale. During the 1980s, MPM (which later gave birth to today’s MPM as well as Eduard) produced a really excellent 1/48 vacuform kit of this airplane. This current kit represents the B-534 Serie III, with an open cockpit. The later, “definitive” B-534 Serie IV with enclosed cockpit, will be released in June.
The kit comes on two sprues of light tan plastic and features crisply-molded parts as one has come to expect of Eduard in the 12 years since they stopped producing limited-run kits. There is also a fret of photoetch detail that includes instrument panels, seat belts, and other small details for the cockpit. The decal sheet has markings for three aircraft - two flown by the Czechoslovakian Air Force pre-war, with the second one also done in the markings it carried when flown during the war by the Slovakian Air Force.
Production design is excellent, with the parts fitting precisely in test-fittings. Those who have difficulty doing biplanes should find the design of this kit will facilitate ease of construction, while the rigging is minimal compared to other biplanes.
While perhaps not well-known outside of what is today the Czech and Slovakian Republics, the Avia B-534 is nonetheless an historically-significant airplane, and anyone interested in “golden age” aviation will want these excellent kits in their collection. Highly recommended.
Review kit courtesy of Eduard.
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