Hasgegawa/Greymatter 1/32 Ha-1112-M1L "Buchon"

KIT #:  
PRICE: about $40-50 or so for the Hasegawa kit
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: GreymatterConversion set £32.50 outside of Europe (about $50) - includes two markings options.


            Spain became one of the first foreign users of the Bf-109 when the Condor Legion departed Spain after the civil war leaving behind their Bf‑109Es.  During the Second World War, the Spanish received a number of Bf-109Fs and in 1942 Hispano of Spain negotiated an agreement with Messerschmitt to license‑manufacture 200 Bf-109G-2 fighters. The consequences of this would be lengthy, complicated, and confusing.

            Hispano was supposed to receive 25 disassembled Bf-109G-2s to begin production, but deliveries faltered as things went from bad to worse for the Third Reich. By late 1944, Hispano had 25 Bf-109G-2 airframes and no DB‑605s.  Deciding they would never see the engines, Hispano engineers re‑engineered the airframe to use the Hispano‑Suiza 12Z 89 engine, providing 1,300 h.p.  Performance was not appreciably better than the aging Bf-109Es.  The first of these flew on March 2, 1945,

            The Hispano‑Suiza engine was an upright V instead of an inverted V, which demanded airframe changes.  It also rotated in the opposite direction which gave problems on takeoff since the airfoil of the vertical fin had been designed to counteract opposite torque; here engine and tail wanted to go the same direction. The first of the 25 modified Bf-109Gs with the Hispano‑Suiza engine was flown July 10, 1947, designated HA‑1109‑J1L; the remainder of the 25 were completed to a similar standard.  Performance was unsatisfactory and the Spanish Air Force (Ejercito del Aire) did not accept them.

            Hispano tried again with the Hispano‑Suiza 12Z 17, which was no more powerful than the 12Z 89, but had many improvements, including fuel injection, and was generally regarded as more satisfactory. Production of the HA‑1109‑K1L began in 1951 and was accepted into service as the "C‑4J".  One of the HA‑1109‑K1Ls was fitted with the intended armament of a Breda‑SAFAT 12.7 millimeter machine gun in each wing, while another was fitted with twin Breda‑SAFAT guns in the cowling and underwing launchers for eight 80 millimeter Oerlikon rockets to test its usefulness in the close‑support role. A third was equipped with rocket rails but no guns.  A fourth was fitted with one Hispano HS‑404 20 millimeter cannon in each wing, plus rocket racks, which was found acceptable; most of the rest of the HA‑1109‑J1Ls, which were then redesignated HA‑1112‑K1L by Hispano, though they were still designated C-4J by the Air Force. Two prototypes of an unarmed two‑seat conversion trainer were also built, with the designation HA‑1110, which were also designated C-4J. Even with the desired armament, the air force only used the HA‑1112‑K1L as an operational trainer.

            Hispano‑Suiza abandoned production of the 12Z engine in late 1952.  In 1953 Hispano engineers turned to the British Rolls‑Royce Merlin 500‑45 engine, with 1,610 h.p. The British had earlier refused to provide Merlins as the result of the  arms embargo on Franco Spain, but it was lifted in 1952.

            The first Merlin conversion, designated the HA‑1109‑M1L, flew on December 30, 1954 and demonstrated much improved performance, even with the rocket racks and wing cannons.  A large wing fence was added to provide maneuverability even with the rails and cannons in the wing. The Merlin‑ powered aircraft went into production is the HA‑1112‑M1L and entered service in 1956 as the C‑4K. 171 were delivered, some being upgrades from Hispano‑Suiza powered aircraft. The HA‑1112‑M1L, armed with either a Hispano HS‑404 or HS‑808 cannon in each wing, had a four‑bladed Rotol propeller and a cowling with a "deep‑breasted" appearance to accommodate the Merlin, and was known as the "Buchon (Pigeon)". Both of the HA‑1110 two‑ seaters were re‑engined with Merlins, and were redesignated HA‑1112‑M4L.

The Ifni War:

            The last war in which a Bf-109 derivative saw combat was The Ifni War, also known as The Forgotten War (la Guerra Olvidada) in Spain.  The war was the result of a few hundred years of Spanish colonialism - going back to 1475 A.D. and the colonization of the Canary Islands - at the expense of Morocco.  Now independent of France, Morocco determined it wanted Spain to return what was now known as Spanish West Africa. Violent demonstrations against foreign rule erupted in Ifni on April 10, 1957, followed by widespread murder of those loyal to Spain. In response, Franco dispatched two battalions of the Spanish Legion to El Aaiún in June.  A series of armed incursions into Spanish West Africa by Moroccan insurgents and Sahrawi rebels began in October 1957, culminating in the abortive siege of Sidi Ifni. On October 23, two villages on the outskirts of Sidi Ifni, Goulimine and Bou Izarguen, were occupied by 1,500 Moroccan soldiers.  On November 23, 1957, the Spanish lines of communication were cut, and 2,000 Moroccan soldieers stormed Spanish garrisons in and around Ifni. 

            On November 25, 1957, a relief attempt was authorized.  By this time, Spain had negotiated a modernization of its armed forces with the United States and had begun to receive F-86 Sabres, C-47s and T-6 Texans.  The United States refused to allow Spain to use these aircraft in any colonial wars, so the EdA was operating their old German aircraft in Spanish West Africa, with a squadron of CASA 2.111 “Pedro” bombers, the Spanish‑built version of the Heinkel He‑111H, a squadron of CASA 352 T-2 “Pava” transports, the Spanish designation of the Junkers Ju-52-3m, and the 71 Escuadron of Ala 7 Caza de Bombardeo, equipped with the Ha-1112-M1L “Buchon”.  These aircraft had been based at Tenerife in the Canaries before being transferred to the mainland. Five CASA 2.111 bombers escorted by HA-112-M1Ls bombed enemy positions, while five C.A.S.A. 352 transports dropped a force of 75 paratroopers into the outpost.  The HA-1112-M1Ls provided close air support for the Spanish and stopped the Moroccan advance.

            On December 3, 1957, the Spanish Legion 6th battalion arrived, breaking the siege and retaking the airfield. All military and civilian personnel were then evacuated overland.

            Supplied from the sea by the Spanish Navy and surrounded by trenches and forward outposts, Sidi Ifni, had 7,500 defenders by December 9, and proved impregnable. The siege lasted until June 1958.

            In the meantime, Spain and Morocco both concentrated their resources on Saharan theater. On January 12, a division of the Saharan Liberation Army attacked the Spanish garrison at El Aaiún. Beaten back by Spanish ground forces with close air support from the Buchons, the Moroccans turned their efforts to the southeast.  The next day at Edchera, two companies of the 13th Legion battalion were ambushed.  The Legionaries drove off attacks with mortar and small arms fire. Notable fighting was seen by the 1st platoon, which stubbornly denied ground to the Moroccans until heavy losses forced it to withdraw. Bloody attacks continued until nightfall, when the Moroccans retreated.

            In February 1958, a French force of 5,000 joined the Spanish force of 9,000, supported by 150 aircraft,  launched a major offensive that dismantled the Saharan Liberation Army.  Supported by the Buchons flying close support, on February 10, the 4th, 9th, and 13th Spanish Legion battalions drove the Moroccans from Edchera while the Spanish army at El Aaiún, in conjunction with French forces from Fort Gouraud, struck the Moroccans on February 21, destroying Saharan Liberation Army concentrations between Bir Nazaran and Ausert.

            On April 2, 1958, Spain and Morocco signed the Treaty of Angra de Cintra, in which Morocco obtained the colony of Cape Juby, between the river Draa and the parallel 27º 40', excluding Sidi Ifni and the Spanish Sahara.  With this, the combat career of the Bf-109 finally came to a close.   

            Spain retained possession of Ifni until 1969, when it returned the territory to Morocco. The Spanish kept control of Western Sahara until the 1975 Green March, when a Moroccan invasion prompted a withdrawal.  A Saharan rebel group, the Polisario Front, has fought against Morocco since 1976 for the independence of Western Sahara on behalf of the indigenous Saharawis. Morocco and the Polisario Front agreed in September 1991 to a UN‑negotiated cease‑fire. In 2002, Morocco's present King, Mohammed VI, stated he would not “renounce an inch” of Western Sahara. Abundant phosphate reserves appear to be the true reason for Morocco's land claims.  In June 2012, King Mohammed VI offered autonomy to Western Sahara, with no further mention of independence and no referendum, a breach of the United Nations cease‑fire agreement.

            While 1958 saw the end of actual combat for the Bf-109 in all its variants, one final “battle” remained to happen ten years later. 

            In 1967, the movie “Battle of Britain” was heading into production.  The producers hoped to restage the aerial battles of that fight with actual aircraft.  However, 22 years after the end of the Second World War, the problem was obtaining the Spitfires, Hurricanes, Bf-109's and He-111's that were to feature in the film.  Ex-pathfinder bomber pilot Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie now specialized in buying aircraft for film work, and his task was to track down the aircraft needed.  For the Luftwaffe aircraft, Mahaddie negotiated with the Spanish Air Force who were still using the HA-1112‑M1L and CASA 2‑111D.  Thirty Heinkel bombers were loaned to United Artists by the Spanish Air Force in return for a donation by United Artists of £1000 to the Spanish Air Force Widows Fund.  Mahaddie bought 28 HA-112-M1Ls that were in the process of being de‑commissioned . Nearly all the pilots were Spanish, though four came from the Confederate Air Force in exchange for the aircraft when filming was complete.  On March 13, 1968, Adolf Galland, who was military advisor for the German side, visited Tablada airfield. Pedro Santa Cruz, an old friend from the Spanish civil war, was the chief Spanish pilot.  Someone asked Galland how long it had been since he had flown a Bf-109, to which he answered 26 years.  Santa Cruz climbed into the back seat of one of the two 2-seaters while Galland climbed in front.  He took off and proceeded to give a fabulous aerial demonstration. (General Galland confirmed this legendary tale to me when I met him at the AFA convention in 1984.)

            Today, there are some 12-14 of the HA-1112-M1Ls still flying, with others still in existence.  Two have been modified back to original Bf-109G configuration with DB-605 engines and original cowls.  The airplane is still the hairiest Bf-109 to fly due to the fact that the Merlin's prop and the vertical fin want to go the same way, and it wants to “swap ends” on takeoff and when making a power-on approach.  Steve Hinton, perhaps the best warbird pilot in the world, nearly killed himself in one when it ground-looped on takeoff while being used in the movie “Pearl Harbor.”  In 1974, I made the acquaintance of one of these airplanes and found out why there are no six-footers who claim to be Bf-109 pilots: the seat is non-adjustable and the cockpit is designed for a pilot between 5' 3" and 5' 7".  When I tried to shoehorn myself into the cockpit, it was impossible to move the stick between my knees with my feet on the rudder pedals, not to mention if I closed the “coffin lid” canopy I couldn't see out with any ease and my face was 6 inches from the instrument panel.


            There has been one injection-molded kit of the HA-1112-M1L, a 1/48 model made by Hobbycraft. (In 1/72, one of Pegasus' first kits, if not kit #1, was this aircraft, but it was rather crude. Ed) I am unaware of any other conversions, and this is certainly the only conversion in 1/32 scale.  Like the ARBA conversion for the S-199, it uses a solid resin nose.  Additionally, the lower center section of the fuselage is replaced with a resin part that has the rear section of the lower cowling.   The cannon fairings are also provided in resin, as are the exhaust stubs, the rocket launch rails and the 80mm rockets.  The prop spinner and the four propeller blades are also in resin. A photoetch fret provides the wing fences and other panels, as well as an instrument panel “sandwich” and seatbelts and the fins for the Oerlikon rockets.  Decals are provided for an HA-1112-M1L in overall medium blue flown by Escuadron 71 of Ala 7 de Caza Bombardeo, operating from Tenerife in the Canary Islands in 1958 and likely a participant in the Ifni War, as well as an HA-1112-M1L of Escuadron 71 at Tablada Air Base in Spain in 1964 with aluminum lacquer upper surfaces and azure blue lower surfaces, which is the airplane on display today in the Spanish Air Force Air Museum in Madrid.  The conversion set was designed by Vincent Kermorgent, using engineering drawings provided by Hispano Aviation, today a part of EADS.

            The conversion kit is designed to be used with the Hasegawa Bf-109G-4 or Bf-109G-6 kit.


             This is an excellent conversion set that anyone could do as a first conversion.  The resin parts are cleanly cast without mold blocks to cut off.  The instructions are clear and if you commit the radical act of following them, you will have no problems.  I especially recommend that you do sand off the spar guides inside the upper and lower wings of the donor kit as the instructions suggest.  You also should follow their suggestion about modifying the attachment holes of the lower fuselage center part, which will insure a good fit of that part.

             The major part, the nose piece, is designed as a drop-fit part, requiring only that you cut the kit along panel lines to set up the conversion.

            There was one problem encountered, which may not be the case with all kits, since I think it might be related to a molding problem.  That is that if you simply assemble the parts as instructed, the lower cowling profile line may be too shallow, with a “flattened” look in comparison with photos of the real thing.  I found this the case with my kit.  I applied Tamiya white putty over the area from just forward of the vents at the rear of the lower cowling on the center part, to just behind the opening for the waste gate.  I then sanded that down to get a smooth, convex curve along the lower profile, and discovered (as you can see in the accompanying photo) that the parts “dipped” at their join.  Once I did this, the profile was accurate.  There was no other difficulty encountered and this “difficulty” wasn't that difficult to solve.  These kits do say “some modeling skill required.”

             The wing cannon parts are easily attached and only need some putty to cover over the joint seam.  I used cyanoacrylate glue to attach the wing fences and fill in the gap along the attachment to the wing.

             Past that, the entire model assembled as easily as a standard Hasegawa kit.

             The rocket rails, which come in a small bag, may be damaged in transit.  I found that mine were bent and that the forward attachment had broken on two of them.  I dipped these in hot water to straighten them, and glued the forward attachments back in position before removing the mold casting.  Do be certain to sand the attachments so that the rocket rails hang straight down from the wing; they are not attached at 90 degrees to the lower wing surface.


             I wanted to do the blue Buchon, since my research had revealed these airplanes were the ones that had participated in the Ifni War.  Lynn Ritger and I had an e-mail discussion about whether the interior of the gear doors, gear legs and wheel wells were overall exterior blue or RLM02 grey.  We finally decided they were overall blue, as if it was a “naval fighter.”  Later I realized these were “naval” fighters since they were based on the Canary Islands to provide defense against any invasion from mainland African states, so they would be mostly operating over the ocean.

             The “Peugeot Blue” was mixed using Tamiya “Royal Blue” and “Azure Blue.”  I applied it, then went back over the model and “post shaded” with lightened paint to simulate tropical sun-fading, which would likely have happened pretty quickly in the western Sahara of Spanish West Africa.  I then applied the light blue “overpaint” areas, then gave the model a coat of Future.

             The kit decals are from Fantasy Print Shop.  They come off the paper quickly and are very thin, so handle with care.  They need water on the surface they're being applied to in order to move them into position because they want to settle quickly.


             I gave the model several coats of Xtracrylix Flat varnish to get a “sun faded” finish.  I then attached the landing gear and the rocket rails.  I screwed up one of the rockets, so left them off - most photos of these airplanes show them with the rockets unmounted anyway.  I unmasked the canopy and attached it in the open position.  I “dinged” the model with Tamiya Flat Aluminum per the photo of the original airplane supplied in the instructions.

             I did have problems fitting the exhaust stubs, which are a butt-fit inside the cowling opening; after several attempts to get perfect alignment, I concluded I would follow the John Clark Rule: “good enough is good enough, and perfect is a pain in the posterior.”


            With this kit, the late Dave Thompson's marvelous S-199 conversions, and the Alley Cat Bf-109B, I have now done the Bf-109 in 1/32 in all its various versions from first to last.  This will make a great display now out at Planes of Fame.  This conversion is highly recommended to those who want a similar completeness to their 109 collection.

Tom Cleaver

July 2012

Review kit courtesy of Greymatter Figures.  Order yours at  www.greymatterfigures.com

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