Special Hobby 1/32 Hawk 75A 'Sussu'
KIT: Special Hobby 1/32 Hawk 75A 'Sussu'
KIT #: ?
PRICE: 9500 yen at www.hlj.com (about $90.00)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


      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 end of the Winter War, Germany worked hard to make Finland an ally for what the Germans knew would be a war with the Soviet Union. In October 1940, Germany agreed to sell captured French Hawk fighters to Finland, and a total of 44 captured aircraft of five subtypes were sold (at commercial prices higher than those the French had complained of when they purchased the airplanes from Curtiss-Wright!), with three deliveries between June 23, 1941 to January 5, 1944. The French aircraft included Twin-Wasp-powered H-75A-3s and Cyclone-powered H-75A-4s. Additionally, some Twin Wasp-powered H-75A-6s and Cyclone-powered H-78A-8s initially sold to Norway and captured in their wooden crates were sold to Finland in early 1941.

      After originally being assigned to Lentolaivue 14 and 16 to be used for high-speed reconnaissance, the Hawks were eventually flown by Lentolaivue 32 throughout their wartime service and were popular with Finnish pilots, who called it Sussu ("Sweetheart"). The Finns were the most successful operators of the Hawk 75 in combat, scoring 190.33 kills by 58 pilots, between July 16, 1941 and July 27, 1944, for the loss of 15 Hawks.  After the Armistice, the surviving Finnish Hawks  remained in service with HLeLv 13, HLeLv 11 and LeSK until 1948.

      Though only 1,100 Hawk 75s of all types were produced between 1937-41, the aircraft was used on all operational fronts against all three Axis powers at one time or another, and was flown by air forces on both sides!

 Kyösti Karhila:

      With 13.5 victories scored while flying the Hawk 75, Kyösti Karhila is the second-highest-scoring Hawk 75 pilot of the war.

     Karhila’s father had fought during the Liberation War of 1918-19 that founded modern Finland, and the son felt it his duty to also serve.  At age 16 in 1937, Karhila joined an Aero Club founded by the National Aviation Association and obtained his A and B glider licenses over the course of a month.  In the summer of 1939, he completed 35 hours of powered flight training and became a reservist in the Finnish Air Force, where he began advanced flight training that fall, tarting his military service on December 6, 1939, Finnish Independence Day.  With 84 other students, he trained while the Winter War raged, completing his training and receiving his wings just too late to see combat service. 

     In March 1940, Karhila and 34 others were selected for a secret mission.  They were to be sent to the UK for more training and then would ferry Hawker Hurricanes to Finland. The mission was aborted when the Armistice was on March, 13, 1940. As Karhila recalled to me in an interview I conducted with him in 2004, “Everything was ready, we even had our civilian clothing sent from home.”


      In April 1940, Karhila was posted to Lentolaivue 34, which was equipped with Fokker D.XXIs that were handed down from  Lentolaivue 24, the unit that had flown them in the Winter War when that squadron re-equipped with the recently-received Brewster B-234s.

     Karhila completed his 18 months of compulsory service by being promoted to Ensign and sent home the same day, June 4, 1941. Two weeks later, on June 20, 1941,  he was recalled to active service and posted to  Lentolaivue 32.  On June 21, the squadron flew their Fokkers to Hyvinkaa, where they were assigned to the air defense of Helsinki and the Riihimaki railway crossing.  Ten days later they were transferred to Utti. During this time, Karhila recalled, “I did fly some interception missions, but I did not see a single enemy. One of our flights shot down a couple of bombers east of Helsinki, however.”

      Karhila was assigned as wingman to his Flight Commander, Captain Pate Berg.  Berg had fought in the Winter War and passed on his knowledge of air combat to his young charges.

      Karhila remembered that “Our task was to defend the town of Kotka and its harbor, and also the railway crossing at Kouvola. However, we found our Fokkers were totally obsolete. Our Squadron Leader, Major Ehrnrooth, complained to the Air Force Headquarters that our squadron could not fulfill our task.”  In mid-July, Lentolaivue 32 traded their Fokker D.XXIs for the Curtiss Hawk 75s flown by Lentolaivue 14 and 16.

      Karhila had good memories of the Hawk.  “The CU was 50km/h faster, and had retractable undercarriage, along with a better armament. Performance - agility, climb - was better than the Fokker and the CU was maneuverable.  Technically, it was the state of the art in those days, in our opinion.”

      Karhila finally saw combat on July 31, 1941. As he remembered, “Major Ehrnrooth was going sight-seeing and asked for a volunteer wingman and he selected me. We set off to the air base of Suur-Merijoki, which was now in enemy hands.  When we crossed the front, we were shot at by heavy AA, which was the first time for me.  He was flying a Cyclone-powered airplane, and suddenly his oil temperature went up and he had to decrease power. We didn’t have radios and I wondered why he flew so slowly.  I kept a sharp lookout and spotted two dots behind us. I kept watching, and they were Russians - two Tchaikas, I-153's. Since our radios weren’t working, I added power and went ahead of the Major and signalled him ‘follow me.’

      “I turned against the enemy - they were diving on us from higher altitude.  We turned against them heads-on and fired. That is the most unpleasant situation, since neither pilot knows which direction to dodge. If you do not dodge, you will be rammed, but if you dodge too early, they will get a chance to shoot at you. My Russian did not dodge and the Tchaika nearly rammed me. We both banked around and came back at each other. After the third turn he was gaining on me and I knew I was going to be in trouble.  At about 2000 meters. I pushed over and dived.  I looked behind to see the Tchaika tried to follow, but he was left behind. Then I returned to find my leader.

      Major Ehrnrooth had shot down the second Tchaika and shot it down. I joined on his wing, thinking I was in trouble, that I had  abandoned my leader in the face of enemy. When we landed, I went to him and attempted to report. He slapped me on shoulders, and said, ‘That's the way, you saved us both!” He had no idea those Russians were near till I saw them, and he praised me to heaven.”

      On August 10, 1941, flying the Hawk CU-560 that became “his” airplane, and in which he scored 8 of his 13.5 victories in the Hawk.  Karhila recalled, “We met a two plane patrol.  The leader opened fire as he turned toward us with 20mm cannons -  the muzzle flashes were tremendous. We both turned for a second  head-on pass, after which I got behind him. He dove vertically and I followed.  I got off a burst and realized we were too low.  I pulled the stick back so hard I passed out.  When I came to, I didn’t see the I-16 anywhere. It was likely he crashed, but I did not see that.

     By early 1943, Karhila was an experience flight leader.  On February 9, 1943, with the unit based at Nurmoila west of Lake Ladoga, he took part in the ambush of a reconnaissance mission flown by a Pe-2.  The Pe-2 was so fast that a Hawk could only catch one if it had an altitude advantage sufficient to build up speed in a dive.  As he remembered, “I managed to surprise a lone Pe-2.  I hit a fuel line in the cockpit area, a fire broke out in the cockpit and two men bailed out while the Pe-2 crashed in a bog.”

      In March 1943, with 13.5 victories scored in the Hawk 75, Karhila was transferred to HLeLv 34, commanded by Major Eino Luukkanen, where he transitioned to the Bf-109G.  A week later the second flight was transferred to HLeLv 30 at Malmi for the defense of Helsinki.  In June 1944, Karhila returned to HLeLv 34 and flew with the unit until the end of June when he was posted to command HLeLv 24 after Hasse Wind was wounded.  By the time of the Armistice on July 27, 1944, Karhila had scored 34 victories, though the last one - gained the day before the armistice = was not confirmed.

     Karhila became a pilot for Finnair in 1947 and flew until he retired in 1973, working as a charter pilot until he stopped at age 65 in 1986.  Recalling the two airplanes he flew in combat, he said “I always liked the way the Hawk flew.  The Messerschmitt was faster and had heavier armament, but the Hawk was a better flyer.”


     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 both the Pratt and Whitney-powered H-75A-3/6 and 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 seat belts and other cockpit details in photo-etch.

      Decals are provided for a Hawk 75A-6 flown by Kyösti Karhila with LeLv32 and a Hawk 75A-4 flown by LeLv12.


      I chose to do the H-75A-6 flown by Kyösti Karhila.

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

      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 (Hopefully Tom meant R-1830 as CU-560 was Wasp powered, thus the 'w' in the serial. Ed), 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.

      Having learned my lesson the hard way on the other two P-36/Hawk 75 kits I’ve done, I then attached the lower wing to the fuselage.  I then 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.



      The instructions with the kit recommended an upper surface color of RLM71 and a lower surface color of RLM65.  This is the scheme the Hawks were originally delivered in by the Germans, and in which they fought for the first 18 months of the Continuation War.  To tell the truth, I only realized this fact after I had decided the instructions were wrong and that I would paint it according to the instructions and color call-outs in the now-OOP Cutting Edge decal sheet that includes Finnish Hawks.  As it turns out, that later black/green/light blue scheme was applied to the Hawks after 1943.  It is likely that the black was field applied over the RLM71 green, and the RLM65 was also applied over that color on the fuselage sides. If you are doing a Finnish Hawk 75 in this later scheme, I recommend you use RLM71, black, and RLM65.  If you want to do the early scheme, the kit instructions are in fact correct.

      I chose to use Tamiya paints throughout on this project.  I applied Flat Yellow to the nose, lower wings and fuselage, then masked off those areas.  The lower fuselage was done with Tamiya “Light Blue” which is actually RLM65, with the upper surfaces done with “NATO Black” and “NATO Green.”


      I used the kit decals for the serial number and aircraft number, and used the national insignia decals from the Cutting Edge sheet.  These include a smaller insignia for the upper wing, which is right for the later scheme.  If you are doing the original early scheme, the national insignia in the kit decals is the correct size.


      The photos in the Squadron book on the Finnish Air Force show the Hawk 75s in this scheme to be pretty clean, other than lots of dings on the wingwalk area (the factory-supplied “wing walk” appears to have been removed from the Finnish airplanes by the time they were repainted).  I applied Tamiya “Mud” to the wheels and gear wells, and applied exhaust staining.  I then unmasked the cockpit and installed the canopy in the open position.


      I like these MPM Hawk 75/P-36 kits.  They are not for the beginner due to the fit problems, but the result is a nice-looking model of an airplane that was almost never-disliked by any pilot who flew it and performed far better than the “conventional wisdom” would have one believe.  I am currently doing a Mohawk IV and a P-36C in the “1938 National Air Races scheme,” which should tell you how much I like the model.


 Information on Kyösti Karhila from an interview conducted by telephone on November 18, 2004 by Tom Cleaver.

(An excellent reference on Finnish Hawk 75s is Suomen Ilmavoimein Historia #5 available at www.kolumbus.fi/kari.stenman/   Ed)

Tom Cleaver

July 2008

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

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