FreMs Aermacchi MB-339A PAN






Frecce Tricolori (any one of the 10 display aircraft)


Andrew Abshier, IPMS/Oklahoma Historical Modelers Society (OHMS)


First kit from this manufacturer





In 1972, the Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI) awarded a contract to Aeronautica Macchi to develop a new jet trainer to replace the company's MB-326K trainers.  The resultant aircraft, the MB-339A, first flew in 1976 and entered service  with the AMI in 1979.  The type has enjoyed some export success, and can be found in the air arms of New Zealand, Eritrea, Dubai, Ghana, Nigeria, Peru, and Argentina.  MB-339As of the latter country were the first to see combat, and were instrumental in the sinking of the British frigate HMS Argonaut during the Falklands War.

Editors Note:  Contrary to the above information on the HMS Argonaut, she was badly damaged but not sunk. After refit, she went on to many more years of service and was decommissioned only few years ago. Thanks to Gareth Mollard, an ex-crewman aboard the Argonaut for providing the additional information.

In 1979 the MB-339A was evaluated by the Italian national aerobatic squadron, the Frecce Tricolori (Tri-Color Arrows) as replacements for their Fiat G-91s.   The nimble trainers were a success, and flight demonstrations with modified MB-339As began in 1982.  The aircraft, designated MB-339A PAN, differed from the trainer/light attack variants in having provisions for flight with no tip tanks and an integral smoke oil system.  The type continues to serve the team to this day.  I had the priveledge of watching a Frecce performance at the 1986 Abbotsford Air Show and talking with some of their pilots; they were magnificent flyers and great gentlemen, and could teach our U.S. teams a thing or two about being both!



FreMs is a brand-new Italian kit manufacturer.  I had not even heard of them before finding this kit on a vendor's stand at the Fort Worth Modelfiesta back in August.  It took me about 20 seconds of scanning the sprues to convince me to buy one.

Molding, overall, is superb.  No flash was found, and only light mold marks were visible.  The surfaces of the model have a very subtle texture, not unlike paper; it should disappear under paint.   The only molding flaws were some slight flow marks on the horizontal stabilizers, which can be fixed with about a minute's sanding with 600 grit paper, and a sink mark on a cockpit bulkhead, also a quick fix.

Surface detail consists of engraved lines, which seemed a bit heavy to my eye but, again, should look fine once paint is on the model.   Other than that, the kit excels in external detail; the NACA inlets and louvers are some of the best I've seen in 1/48th scale.  The molded-on wing fences--which include the outer fences carried only on the Frecce aircraft--are of virtually scale thickness.

Underwing stores are limited on Frecce aircraft, but the kit provides travel tanks in addition to the smoke oil tanks normally carried.  Pylons have excellent detailing.  No tip tanks are provided; granted, the MB-339s do not carry them in performances, but they are fitted for ferrying, so it would have been nice to have gotten them.  Still, that's a niggle at most.

The cockpits include some very nice ejection seats, each built up from 8 parts.   You'll need to provide harnesses by your favorite method but you WON'T have to scrape off molded-on harness detail.  The two instrument panels and cockpit tubs each show the subtle but distinct differences between the two cockpits.  Switch detail on all is exquisite, and all that the side panels need are some throttle handles to dress things up.  However, there is no raised detail inside of the instrument bezels--some Reheat instrument decals should put this right, though fiddling with those little things always gives me a headache!

The canopy is a bit thick but very clear, and is molded to the correct 210 degree bubble shape via a three-part mold.    The canopy can be displayed open, and a part to represent the hinge is provided in this case.  The canopy jack is also given, along with instructions for cutting down the jack piston if you choose to display the canopy closed.   Nearly all of the other lights on the aircraft are represented as clear parts.

Landing gear struts on the MB-339A are of the trailing-beam type.  All of the beams holding the tires (or, for our UK readers, tyres) are seperate parts.  Some care will be needed in construction here to ensure strong joints.
Tire and hub detail are excellent, as is the wheel well detail.

The speedbrake and flaps can be displayed in the down position.  Normally this isn't seen on a parked MB-339A, but it is a nice detail to have nonetheless.

Dry fitting of the major parts revealed excellent component fit, so it looks like this kit will be an easy one to build.  What will seperate the men from the boys (and the women from the girls)  is painting and decaling the Frecce Tricolori scheme--lots of gloss paint and lots of big decals to position!    The basic scheme is dark blue over silver, but all of the leading edges are white--and the white leading edges will have to be painted on.  Ouch!  Those not wanting to tackle the Frecce scheme might want to wait for the military trainer/light attack boxing of this kit.  If you're wondering about matching the Frecce Tricolori blue, Xtracolor has just come out with a gloss blue enamel, X374 in your Xtracolor catalog, that is a match for the Frecce blue.   For the undersurface silver, Floquil Bright Silver, with a Future overcoat, should duplicate it nicely.  

Decals are very sharply printed and are thin.  All pilot names are given, and any serial number can be constructed.  Unfortunately, they left out a cross-match for serial numbers to individual aircraft number from the instructions--hopefully I (or someone) can put this right via some Italian spotters' information.

The painting instructions have one error.  The smoke oil tanks should have a thin white stripe seperating the blue upper surface from the silver undersurface; this isn't mentioned in the instructions.



This is FreMs first kit, and if the MB-339A kit is any indication,  we are in for some beauties from this new manufacturer!  Not even Accurate Miniatures did as well on their first kit.  If you have the slightest interest in Italian aviation, display team aircraft, trainers, or great injection molding, this kit is a must buy, even at the steep price of US$39.95. (I got mine for much less, thanks to a 20% off coupon given by the vendor where I first saw this kit--that was worth the 30 mile drive to his shop to buy one).  I plan to build mine as soon as I can get some confidence up in my gloss-painting techniques!

A regular MB-339A trainer/light attack version of this kit is forthcoming.



Koku-Fan November 1986: great photo coverage of the 1986 Abbotsford Air Show, including some inflight close-ups of the Frecce MB-339s by the incomparable Katsushiko Tokunaga.

Personal photo archives

Scale Aircraft Modeling International Vol. 5, Issue 7: extremely useful article containing profile drawings of the MB-339 plus drawings that illustrate variant differences.