Special Hobby 1/32 Nieuport 11 'French Aces'

KIT #: 32015
PRICE: $57.00 SRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES:  Multi-media: resin gas tank, engine, cockpit details, photoetch seat belts, instruments, windscreen, control horns and turnbuckles; injection plastic air frame.


            Designed by Gustave Delage, the Nieuport 11, known as the Bébé for its small size - being a single-seat development of the two-seat Nieuport 10 - first appeared as a prototype in 1915 and became famous as one of the aircraft that ended the “Fokker Scourge” in 1916.

            The design was known as a “sesquiplane,” having a standard two-spar upper wing, and a single-spar lower wing with less than half the wing area of the upper wing.  This was originally developed in the Nieuport 10 to provide the maneuverability of a biplane with the downward visibility of a “parasol” monoplane.  The primary drawback of the design is the likelihood the lower wing can twist under aerodynamic forces and break off unless strongly built.  Powered by an 80 h.p. Gnome-LeRhone rotary, the Nieuport was constructed as lightly as possible to give it the performance it had.   

            The Nieuport 11 was provided to the French Aéronautique Militaire, the Royal Naval Air Service, the Dutch Air Service, Belgian Air Service, the Imperial Russian Air Service, the Serbian Air Force and the  Italian Air Force, where 646 were produced under license by the Macchi company. 

            Ordered into production in December 1915, the first Escadrilles de Chasse equipped with the Bébé in January and 90 were at the front by February 1, 1916.  The small, lightly loaded sesquiplane outclassed the Fokker Eindecker in all respects.  It was more accurately maneuverable due to is use of ailerons instead of wing-warping, and the fact that its elevator was attached to a conventional tail plane rather than the balanced "Morane type" elevators.  Additionally, it was marginally faster in level flight and could outclimb its opponent.  Its only real drawback was the lack of a synchronizer for the machine gun, which was thus mounted above the wing to fire over the prop, which made clearing a jam and reloading difficult, since the pilot had to stand up in his cockpit with his hands off the controls in order to accomplish these tasks, a dangerous situation in an airplane as unstable as the Nieuport.  By mid-1917, French Nieuport fighters from the Nieuport 17 onward were equipped with the Alkan synchronization gear, allowing the gun to be mounted on the fuselage directly ahead of the pilot.

            The Nieuport 11 saw widespread service after the Battle of Verdun began in February 1916.  The Escadrilles equipped with the Bébé inflicted heavy losses, forcing a radical change in German organization and tactics, which ultimately led to the organization of Jagdstaffel - units equipped like the Escadrilles de Chasse with single-seat fighters for the purpose of achieving and maintaining air superiority.  Some Nieuport 11s were modified in service to fire Le Prieur rockets from the struts for attacks on observation balloons and airships. 

            Such was the pace of development, the Bébé was being replaced by the first of the improved Nieuport 17 by March 1916, with the last ones leaving the Western Front that summer, though they remained in Italian and Russian service till the end of the year. 

            Among the first French pilots to achieve success and become an ace flying the Nieuport 11 was Paul Albert Pierre Tarascon of Escadrille de Chasse N62.  Tarascon had entered the French Army in 1901 at the age of 19, serving with the Colonial Infantry.  He became interested in aviation and started learning to fly in 1911; he was involved in a bad crash and his right foot was amputated.  When the war broke out in 1914, Tarascon volunteered for the Aviation Militaire and completed flight training in January 1915, after which he was assigned as an instructor.  With the losses that came from the “Fokker Scourge” in late 1915, he managed to be reassigned to combat flying, first with N31 and then N3, on Nieuport 10s. In April 1916 he  was assigned to N62, where he “found his eye” and began his successful career flying his first “Zigomar,” a Nieuport 11. By September, Tarascon had eight victories and was awarded the Medaille Militaire and Legion d'Honneur. The unit re‑equipped with the SPAD VII in early 1917 and by mid-1918 he raised his score to 12. Known as the “ace with the wooden leg,” Tarascon survived the war, later rising to the rank of Colonel.  During the Second World War he worked in the Resistance, and received the Grand Cross to the Legion d'Honneur in 1955 for his wartime service. Paul Tarascon died on June 11, 1977, at age 94.


            The first kit of a Nieuport 11 was released in the late 1950s by Aurora, which has been re-released over the years by Smer.  Eduard later released a Nieuport 11, which is currently available as a “Weekend Edition” kit.  Both of these kits are 1/48. 

            This kit by Special Hobby is the first 1/32 scale kit of the Nieuport 11.  It is a multi-media kit, with a limited-run injection plastic airframe, resin engine, gas and oil tanks, and cockpit details.  The  photoetch seatbelts, instrument faces, windscreen, control horns and turnbuckles are done by Eduard.  Markings are provided for three Nieuport 11s flown by Paul Tarascon, Escadrille N62; Pierre Dufaur de Gavardie, Escadrille N12; and Jean Navarre, Escadrille N67.


            Since this is a limited-run kit, the first thing I did was clean up the flash off the plastic parts, and then cut the major resin parts off their molding blocks.

            I then cut the ailerons off the upper wing and glued them in “dynamic” positions, and also cut off the elevators and glued them in the “drooped” position to the horizontal stabilizer.

            I painted the fuselage interior and the cockpit parts to simulate wood.  I also drilled out the pilot’s seat in the Nieuport style.  When I assembled the cockpit, I made sure the flying controls were positioned to match the ailerons, elevators and rudder. 

            There was a noticeable seam along the centerline, which I only conquered eventually with cyanoacrulate glue sanded smooth, with an application of Tamiya “Mr. Surfacer” to get rid of it.  I left the model further unassembled while I proceeded to paint it.


            I “pre-shadowed” the model along the ribs of the flying surfaces, and then gave “depth” to the fuselage by darkening the areas between the airframe.  The model was then painted with Gunze-Sangyo “Sail Color,” while the landing gear and cabane struts were painted with Talon acrylic Aluminum along with the cowling, and the interplane “Vee” struts were painted in my “Ash” color of yellowish-brown, then painted with Tamiya “Clear Yellow” for varnish.  When dry, I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Clear Gloss varnish. 

            The kit decals went on without problem under an application of Micro-Sol.  Once set, I washed the model and gave it a coat of Xtracrylix Clear Satin varnish. 


           I attached the engine and cowling, and then applied exhaust stains over the airframe with Tamiya “Smoke.”  Rotary engines threw oil everywhere, so there is really no such thing as “too much.”

            I then attached the cabane struts and the upper wing. I attached the Vee interplane struts to the upper wing and then attached the lower wings to the fuselage and the interplane struts, which insured the lower wing had the correct dihedral.  I then attached the horizontal stabilizer and the rudder, posing it canted.  I finished off with the main landing gear, after “muddying” the wheels with Tamiya’s weathering set 

            I made a gun mount using wire, which gave a more petite and accurate look than the clunkier plastic parts did, and mounted the gun.

            I finished off by rigging the model with .008 wire for the flying rigging and .006 wire for the control wires to the elevators and rudder.


            I really like the Nieuport sesquiplanes, and this kit by Special Hobby comes out looking as petite as it should when it sits next to the Roden SPAD VII and Nieuport 28 models.  I have an Academy Nieuport 17 that will soon join these.  1/32 scale is really nice for the little Bébé.  The kit presents no problems to anyone experienced with “limited run” kits and the rigging is simple enough for someone to use this kit as their first biplane model.  Highly recommended.

 Tom Cleaver

June 2011

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