Fonderie Miniature 1/48 Vautour IIB

KIT #: 6025
PRICE: $60.00 when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: Short run multimedia kit

The Sud-Ouest Aviation (SNCASO) Vautour was an early 50’s mid-sized combat jet, typically employed in the bomber and attack roles, but also having some usage as an interceptor.The type sported a shoulder mounted swept wing and an all-moving tail, with power provided by a pair of powerful SNECMA Atar 101 turbojet engines carried in underwing located pods. It was equipped with a (fashionable for those times) bicycle-type landing gear with the main wheels located at the fore and aft fuselage undersides, augmented by smaller stabilizing units fitted into the engine pods. A quite sizable weapons bay was located at the central fuselage, along with substantial internal fuel tankage to feed the fuel thirsty Atars.

The dedicated IIB bomber version lacked any sort of radar arrangement or many of the contemporary navigational aids and attack systems that were installed upon several aircraft performing the same role during this era, with aiming performed via a WWII era Norden bombsight, with the bombardier sitting within the glazed nose section.

 Both the Vautour IIA and IIB were restricted to performing missions only under clear-weather operations during daylight, with the IIN "all weather" interceptor, having been furnished with a radar, being not as restrictive, having some capacity to conduct both nighttime and adverse weather operations .

While the Vautour’s lack of advanced targeting and navigation equipment was found not to be a crippling limitation during its service in Israel (the only other customer of the type), where the weather of the local climate was generally favorable and daylight missions commonplace, when operated in Europe, these restrictions were considered to be a major disadvantage. As a result, the Armée de l'air never deployed their single-seat Vautour IIA fleet in a frontline capacity and the majority of its IIB bombers were quickly converted to the improved Vautour IIBR standard, which was used to perform photo reconnaissance missions instead.

The Vautour IIA was capable of carrying various armament, including 30 mm cannons, up to four removable underwing rocket pods or 4,000lb of bombs and up to 3,000lb of bombs or alternatively a maximum of 232 68 mm rockets in the bomb bay.  The Vautour IIB bomber could be used to carry and deploy nuclear weapons in addition to its conventional arsenal and was indeed utilized as a nuclear weapon platform, being replaced by the more potent Dassault Mirage IV as soon as it became available.

 Seeing combat with Israel, the type undertook various missions and roles during the Six-Day War and the War of Attrition, among others. Only one air-to-air kill was recorded, with the Israeli Vautours replaced by the A-4 Skyhawks in 1970.

Though not uncomplex and with a number of limitations (something not too uncommon for many aircraft types of the era), the Vautour was a potent platform that could have in fact fared much better than it did, should it have not been hampered by the deleterious combination of budget limitations and political factors which, to take Tom Cleaver’s words, “created a domestic political fight over what was the right place to invest: either in proven products, such as those of Dassault - producer of the Mystere IVA, then developing the Super Mystere and designing the Mirage -  or to risk purchase of an "unproven" aircraft in such quantity” (such was the Vautour). The subsequent deluging of the Armée de l'air with F/RF-84s and F-100D/Fs offered by the U.S. at “bargain prices" that took place by that time practically eliminated the need for any version of the Vautour, essentially giving the kiss of death to this ambitious, potent project.

Of the initial order for 480 units issued by the Armée de l'air, only 149 were built (including the three prototypes and six pre-production machines), with 31 of them purchased by Israel and for a comprehensive presentation and operational use of the plane, you need to read no further than Tom’s excellent review and ditto build of the  
cousin IIN kit.


Fonderie Miniature came in 2001 with their quarter scale vautour IIN and IIA kits, followed by the IIB bomber version in 2005, all of them being one-off releases, never reissued ever since (and I suppose this mainly has to do with those short run molds’ life limit). These were by all means complex kits, very challenging to build, but, on the other hand, the only viable offerings for a detailed 1/48 Vautour. The specific kit is the IIB bomber version and for an in depth look at its contents you might read its preview found at the ever growing MM archives.

Well, it was 2006, when I saw up close and personal an aluminum doped Armée de l’air Vautour as a static display outside the SNECMA Moteurs factory in the French Bordeaux area. Getting immediately hooked by its unconventional looks, a love affair was born. Of pure lack, I found a copy of the even by then hard to find FM kit at the definitive Maurice Verdeun Modélisme hobby shop in Bordeaux the same afternoon, offered at the normal (for an F-M kit and for the time) price of around $60. Having no other choice than grabbing it, I then let it mature in my shelf of doom for a good 15 years, with only recently deciding to give it a go.


Knowing from Tom's article the challenges of the kit, what I did first was to perform the radical act of deeply studying the instructions (which, in essence, is merely a “building and painting suggestions” leaflet), in order to establish some sort of construction sequence. Upon getting a more or less clear idea of what goes where I began removing all styrene parts from the sprues and cleaning them from the large amounts of flash present. No mold agent was present in my example, so no washing was necessary.

After having all styrene parts detached from the sprues and cleaned from flash, the two fuselage halves were joined with the resin cockpit tub, instrument panel, bombardier’s rear bulkhead and the two main wheel bays trapped in between. This was an operation easier said than done, as all resin parts needed multiple sessions of trimming and test fitting. Since pure cyanoacrylate provides strong but fragile bonds (meaning the resin bits might detach if mishandled during building (Yours Truly pattern), I decided to use a 1:1 home brewed mix of cyanoacrylate and liquefied styrene, hoping the later agent will partially melt the styrene surface and provide a more flexible, durable bond, something that seemed to work.

Both seats had their nice PE frames added to their resin main bodies (a not too easy operation for the bombardier’s one, as it is molded onto the rear bulkhead). Seats’ main frame color was Revell 365 Patina Green (for the “apple” color instructions stated), whereas the cushions were painted black. The equally nice PE seat belts were painted French blue with silver buckles and affixed by judicious bending, with a drop of cyanoacrylate securing them in place.

Basic interior color was Hu32 (a black gray shade - close to RLM66), with black instrument panel, consoles and various boxes, which were then dry brushed with silver and had some red and white “knobs” done with a fine brush. To beef up the instrument panel looks, I could not resist the temptation to add a more or less suitable leftover instrument decal on it, which, with the help of decal softening solution, succumbed onto the molded-on instruments, offering a charming (though not accurate) result.

A sort of ventilation hole featuring a splitter in the middle is located down the starboard fuselage side (the Israeli IIBs contain two) and was created by opening a hole at the fuselage and gluing a thin sheet styrene piece the middle to look like the real thing.The two arc runners where the stabilizers slide onto are supplied in PE and were attached to the fin with CA glue. The bland cooling air entry located at the fin base was drilled out for extra realism, whereas the drag chute empty rear opening was rendered more realistically by inserting a bulbous shaped styrene piece, painting it a linen shade, to represent the packed-in chute.

The two engine/auxiliary gear pods were next assembled by joining their left and right halves, trapping the resin compressor faces and the side wheel bays in between, again using the improvised liquefied styrene/cyanoacrylate mixture (and, again, the operation was easier written than done - fit was very challenging). The assembled pods were then attached under the top wing halves, followed by the inner and outer lower wing halves. Engine compressors were painted steel, whereas the nice resin exhausts were painted Testors Burned Metal (and left off, to be attached after painting).

An immense filing and sanding session took place before attaching the wings to the fuselage, since otherwise access between the engines and the fuselage would be difficult. Once satisfied, the wings were attached, where I strengthened the butt joints with two metal pins at each root, to make sure the heavy wings would not sag over time (yes, the stabilizing wheels would help, but, believe it or not, I have experienced models with bicycle type landing gear having their wings sagged, raising the rear main wheels to the air!). The wing filets were thinned down and attached during this time, as well.

Not sure If I was going to use them, I then went on assembling the 5-piece wing tanks. By studying net pics, I found out that the kit provided wing tanks' pylon locating holes are wrongly offset, meaning they were filled and sanded smooth.

Overall fit was nothing less than challenging, presenting various gaps at most joints, the wing-to-pod ones being the most challenging. Also, all resin parts needed judicious trimming in order to fit in place, without interfering when their corresponding subassemblies were put together. A plus in the above tedious procedure was the workability and overall quality of the plastic itself.

Treatment of gaps was initially done with multiple applications of liquefied styrene, followed by "normal" filling and sanding. Faithful to my "El Cheapo" approach, I then "primed" the model with some leftover black paint that remained in the airbrush after painting my 
1/72 Revell (MPM) P-70. That priming revealed a few more discrepancies. After a final filling and sanding session, I blanked the cockpit and bombardier’s office with wet tissue and took the Vautour to the paint shop!


I gave the complete model a coat of Hu11 Silver, including the doors’ both sides and wheel bays. The wing tanks and tail planes received the same silver, as well. Though Hu11 is, by specification, non-buffable, I went on buffing it with a soft lint-free cloth, which gave the model a deeper, more shiny look. After some masking, (and consulting net reference, since coloring varied, depending on the example and date), the ventral fin, the fin top and a small front sector on it (the latter two being the VHF2 and VHF1 antennas respectively) were painted a medium gray, whereas the spine was painted a light gray. The French tricolor rudder flash was next, painted red, white and blue after successive masking.

As a note on the overall shade, though pure unpainted metal might be a strong candidate, I believe french Vautours, at least from a point onwards, were painted in some sort of silver gray or polished aluminum shade, but, of course, this is just an assumption, not claiming accuracy.

I then went on applying the decals, which, to my pleasure, behaved excellently, with the good amount of stenciling provided adding realistic looks to the model. A coat of Future sealed them.


Feeling motivated after painting and decaling, I went on assembling and fitting the main gear legs with their wheels and doors into their resin bays, a challenging procedure, as the “structural” parts were white metal, the oleo scissors and door hinges PE and the wheels resin. Carefully studying the instruction drawings and using net available “detail” pics I systematically managed to attach everything in place, with the bird proudly standing on its main feet!

Legs, wheel rims, door innards and wheel bays were painted “steel” (zinc, green zinc or even “ochre” shades have also been observed for the latter two, but, to my understanding, all-steel is an equally safe choice) and tires were black. Instructions advised that PE wiring and scratch built plumbing can be added, but, feeling my sanity envelope already pushed beyond normal limits, I decided not to take further action and not only leave everything “as is” (which nevertheless looked reasonably busy), but also to put the project to sleep, in order to recharge and figure out a practical way to attach the white metal side gear units onto their inclined bays (which, in reality, were the engines’ turbine frames…).

After almost a year’s hibernation (and, truth be told, a number of less complex modeling projects completed), the Vautour awoke and had its side gear struts assembled and attached in position with slow setting cyanoacrylate (which allowed some corrections, in order to obtain a reasonable alignment). Since the aforementioned legs were not molded straight, they were prior straightened by bending them to shape by hand. Pieces of stretched sprue represented their actuators.

The auxiliary resin wheels had their PE rims attached and, after lightly filed to look weighted (as was witnessed in reality), were glued in position (again with slow setting cyano, which allowed positioning them in order for all wheels touching the ground). The doors were finally attached in position, with small pieces of stretched sprue representing the tiny rods that connected them with their bays. Painting approach was exactly the same as with the main units and this concluded the landing gear saga.

Waffling back and forth whether to attach the wing tanks or not, I finally voted on attaching them, since, to my eye, the overall result is overall more aesthetically pleasing (though, undeniably, the looks of those side wheel units hanging out of the wing mounted engine pods are definitely distinctive). As a side note, the wing tanks were used but seemingly not that frequently (I guess it had to do with the opposing factors of endurance versus performance for the specific mission - those fuel-thirsty Atar engines definitely did not lack thrust, but the bird was heavy…). The tail planes, which could not be attached prior to painting of the tricolor fin flash, were carefully glued at this time, as were the exhaust nozzles.

I decided to apply some black wash all over, which accentuated all panel lines and also gave the landing gear area an oily, more realistic look. Some dark brown and dark pastels were also used to offer some shade variation at the monotonous NMF (translation: I was lazy applying different shades of NMF to create “paneling” effect”), with a final satin coat giving the bird its final finish.

The vac transparencies were next, where the bombardier’s glazing was easily trimmed to shape, but the main canopy was a real mis-match: not only it sat too high (this was quite uneventfully fixable), but also its rear part was angled narrower than the corresponding fuselage section. Since the canopy angles looked correct, compared with net available drawings, the only plausible explanation is that I might have filed the fuselage section at too wide an angle during construction. Nevertheless, I trimmed the canopy to shape as much as I could, then attached it and faired the gap (and, in fact, all transparencies’ gaps) with white glue (Tom Cleaver’s life saving advice). All frames were hand painted (and being well defined really helped here).

The ventral fin located rear navigation light (not present on all Vautours - faired over at cases) was rendered by a piece of clear styrene attached to the opening and filed to shape, then polished. The quite sizable wing tip lights were represented by applying red and green clear paints, before calling the distinctive looking bomber done!


This is a definitely complex, demanding kit, which will put the modeler’s skills to good use. The styrene parts present a lot of flash, feature a pebbly surface and fit is challenging in most areas, this being further complicated by the use of resin, PE and white metal parts, with instructions being a mystical experience by themselves, requiring deep study, in order to figure out what goes where.

That said, by looking at the finished model, general shape looks spot-on, the details provided by the resin and PE are really superb, the white metal parts are acceptable (despite some of them requiring straightening, not that big a deal), the vac formed transparencies are nice, clear, and with well defined frames, not showing the slightest hint of yellowing after all these years (that the main canopy’s fit was below average at the rear can be almost certainly be avoided during fuselage construction, by test fitting the canopy) and the decals are really superb.

Translation of all the above is that, though this is a challenging kit to build, all the ingredients are there, in order to come up (after a lot of work) with a detailed and accurate 1/48 Vautour. This kit has become a rarity to find nowadays (as of 2023 and I doubt we will ever see a more mainstream one in 1/48, not even a rebox of it, as the FM molds are likely past their “service life”) and is offered at high prices (to the region of $100 or even higher), but is your only viable option, since the “other” option, the Heller 1/50, is ancient, simplistic and practically impossible to find, having to pay an astronomical price for it anyway.

Happy Modeling!

Spiros Pendedekas

5 December 2023

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