Special Hobby 1/48 Fiat G.50 "Finnish Version"
KIT #: 48086
PRICE:  5850 yen at www.hlj.com 
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Short run with resin


     The G.50 Freccia (Arrow), the first all-metal monoplane fighter to see service with the Regia Aeronautica, was designed by Giuseppe Gabrielli.  The first prototype flew  February 26, 1937. The G.50 was the first Italian fighter with retractable undercarriage, but its maximum speed was only 33 km/h faster than the C.R.42.  Both were powered by the 840 hp Fiat A.74 RC38, 14-cylinder, air-cooled radial engine, which was at least a generation behind the powerplants in use by the air forces of the major powers. 

     The initial production order was for 40 G.50s, of which 12 were sent to Spain in 1938 for testing under operating conditions with the Gruppo Caccia Sperimentale (Experimental Fighter Group). The G.50 proved to be one of the fastest and most maneuverable fighters used during the Spanish Civil War, with the result that a further 200 were ordered.

     As a result of operational experience, the enclosed cockpit canopy was deleted, due to the dislike on the part of pilots. A two seater trainer was built and designated G.50B, with the first one flown April 30, 1940, followed by 100 more. The G.50bis flew September 9, 1940, and was distinguished from the G.50 by a shorter vertical fin and rudder and a fuselage lengthened by 10 inches.  A total of 250 G.50 and 450 G.50bis fighters were ordered before production was ended in 1942, of which at least 780 were actually produced.

     When Italy entered the Second World War on June 10, 1940, 48 G.50s of the 20th Gruppo Caccia Terrestre were part of the  Corpo Aero Italiano sent by the Regia Aeronautica to Ursel, Belgium in October of 1940 for operations in the Battle of Britain. The G.50s did not participate in any of the limited missions flown over Britain before the retirement of the Italian force.  In early 1941, when the Italians attempted to invade Greece, the Regia Aeronautica received a rude shock when the G.50 units finally encountered modern fighters in the form of RAF Hurricanes, and discovered that their mount was seriously underpowered and underarmed.  450 G.50bis fighter were produced, 10 of which were supplied to the Croatian Air Force.  While the airplane was universally condemned as underpowered, all pilots commended its finger-light controls and maneuverability.

     In November 1939, Finland purchased 35 Fiat G.50s from Italy, these being serialed FA-1 to FA-35. It was completely ironic that the Italians - whose invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 had demonstrated the inability of the League of Nations to deal effectively with international aggression - would take a position in support of the League in its final international effort; of course, the fact it was aimed at the Soviet Union was the reason why so many countries that were fighting each other elsewhere, such as France and Great Britain and Germany, would cooperate on this issue.

     Only 14 of the 30 G.50s that were delivered before the end of the Winter War in March 1940 were in operational condition. These aircraft were assigned to three flights of Lentolaivue 26 and replaced the unit’s Fokker XXIs and Gloster Gladiators. 13 aerial victories were gained in the short time they were operational before the armistice.  Captain O. Ehrnrooth, Lt. O. Puhakka and Sgt. L. Aaltonen were the most successful with 2 victories each. 

     The remaining five G.50s were delivered in April 1940, and all aircraft were serviceable by the time of the outbreak of the Continuation War in June 1941.

     During the Continuation War, the G.50s operated by LeLv26 saw their greatest  success during the attack phase of 1941, when they scored 52 victories for the loss of two G.50s.  Unfortunately, the arrival of better and newer Soviet types on the Northern Front during 1942-43, coupled with the lack of spares for the G.50s, resulted in reduced operations. The most successful pilots were O. Tuominen with 23 victories, O. Puhakka with 11, N. Trontti with 6, with O. Paronen, U. Nieminen and L. Lautamäki each scoring 4. Throughout their service, LeLv 26 scored 99 aerial victories with the Fiat G.50 for a loss of 4 in combat.

     The Finnish Fiats were finally phased out of front line operational service in the summer of 1944, shortly before the Finnish surrender. (Editor's Note: it has been pointed out to me by several readers that Finland did not surrender but signed an Armistice with the Soviets that provided some concessions, both in terms of territory and materiel, but left Finland independent.)


     Special Hobby’s 1/48 Fiat G.50 is the second kit of this airplane in this scale, the first coming from Secter about 16 years ago, but being better-known in its release by Hasegawa following the demise of Secter, and now released by Pacific Coast Models with additional resin parts for a fully-detailed cockpit.

     The Special Hobby kit is not as detailed as the PCM release of the old Secter kit, but it is better as regards surface detail.  Additionally, the Special Hobby kit provides parts to make either the G.50 or the G.50bis, as well as the G.50bis A.S. tropical version used in North Africa.  The cowling is a one-piece resin part, with a resin engine that comes with separate cylinders.  The cockpit is nowhere near as detailed as the resin cockpit in the PCM kit but it looks acceptable if one does not lower the side flaps.  Both the early, taller, vertical fin and rudder and the shorter, broader, later fin and rudder are provided in injection plastic.

     Decals in this version are provided for four different G.50s in Finnish Service, including multiple markings for three different airplanes at different stages of their service.


     Construction is simple.  I assembled the cockpit and determined after looking at it that I would keep the side flaps up, which look better anyway. 

     The upper part of the fuselage doesn’t fit very well, but it succumbed to a coat of cyanoacrylate glue to fill the seam and then a thick coat of Mr. Surfacer to cover it.  I also needed Mr. Surfacer for the centerline of the fuselage and the upper join of the wing to the fuselage for gap-filling.  Once this was dry, I sanded it smooth and rescribed panel detail as necessary. 



     The kit painting instructions indicate that these airplanes were only repainted on their upper surfaces, with the lower surfaces remaining in Italian light grey.  After applying Tamiya “Flat Yellow” and masking it off, I painted the lower surfaces with Tamiya “sky Grey” and the upper surfaces with Tamiya “Olive Green” and “Flat Black.”  When all was dry, I unmasked the model and gave it a coat of Future.


     I used Finnish insignia from the decal dungeon, since I didn’t want to deal with the multi-part decals provided to get around the European prohibitions on display of the swastika.  The kit decals were used to portray FA-1 as it was seen in the summer of 1942, following its repaint from Italian to Finnish camouflage.



     I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish with a brushful of Tamiya “Flat Base” to get rid of the slight sheen I get with Xtracrylix done “straight.” 

     I then attached the landing gear and prop, and the cockpit windscreen.


      This is an extremely simple kit that will present no problems to any modeler, and would be a good first limited-run kit for anyone who hasn’t done one before.  The G.50 will never win any contests for aeronautical pulchritude, but it is historically important and worthy of a presence in any collection of Finnish Air Force or Italian Air Force types.  At a price approaching US$50, it’s a model many will think twice about buying nowadays, but those who do will not be disappointed with the result.

Review Kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan. 

Tom Cleaver

February 2009

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