Heller 1/72 LeO 451

KIT #: 389
PRICE: $14.95 when new
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Initial tooling in 1968


Lioré-et-Olivier LeO 45 was a French medium bomber that was used during and after the Second World War. It had been designed for the new Armée de l'air as a modern medium bomber capable of performing independent strategic operations, unlike the majority of previous French bombers.

The LeO 45 was a low-wing monoplane, all-metal in construction, equipped with a retractable undercarriage and powered by two 1,060 hp Gnome-Rhône 14N engines. The prototype, which made its maiden flight on 15 January 1937, had been fitted two 1,100 hp Hispano-Suiza engines. The LeO 45 had been developed as a modern and advanced bomber for the new Armée de l'air, which had gained its independence on 1 April 1933. Introduced to operational service in 1938, it was a very effective and capable bomber.

As only a handful of aircraft had been introduced into the French Air Force by the outbreak of the Second World War, the LeO 45 was too late to provide a substantial contribution during the Battle of France in the face of an invasion by Nazi Germany. As a result of the Armistice of 22 June 1940, the type continued to be manufactured and operated by occupied Vichy France as Free France forces operated the aircraft. The LeO 45 participated in combat missions throughout the remainder of the war and continued to be used for some time after its end by the post-war French Air Force. The last examples in active service were retired in September 1957.

This kit was initially released as the Loire 45 in 1966. This boxing came out in 1967 and the kit has been reissued from time to time over the years with the last release being in 2018. I bought this kit in the late 1970s at what was then a pretty exorbitant price for a 1/72 bomber. However then, as now, it was the only kit of this type that was fairly available.

Raised panel lines and rivets were the norm and so it is with this one. An unusual feature is that the gear doors are partially molded closed with large open areas so that the modeler only has to cut a few small attaching areas and then bend the doors to the open position. There is a fairly complete (for the time) interior with generic seats and a fairly well done bombardier's position. The kit's transparencies are nicely done though fairly thick. All the bracing detail for the nose piece is internal as on the real deal. All of the fuselage transparencies are installed from the inside so either pre-painting or some careful masking will be needed. I know of no masking set available for this one.

Thanks to the fairly large spinner, there is no engine detail. The large upper fuselage defensive cannon is such that it can be swiveled upward if you so desire. Wings are an upper and lower half with the upper part of the wing having a sparate trailing edge while the lower one is molded in place, which I found a bit odd. Probably the most complex part of the build, assuming the parts fit well, is the main landing gear. There are a lot of small parts that attach to the main struts, but fortunately, Heller has provided a nice detailed drawing to help with building these. The main gear do, however, need to be attached prior to attaching the upper and lower wing halves.

Instructions are standard fare for the day with a single large exploded view and detail images of some of the interior bits and the landing gear assembly. There is a lone marking option of an early VIchy plane in the standard four color camouflage. A small two view is provided to help with painting. The decal sheet is probably past its usability date, but there are aftermarket for this plane. Note that the instrument panels are a decal so you'll have to salvage what is provided to use when building the kit. I would hope that the 2018 release has a usable decal sheet with it.

Though this is a fairly old kit in terms of when the tooling was done, it is still the best (and only) one around . I've seen these built and they really don't look bad at all. A kit that those who want a collection of French bombers really need to consider.



November 2021

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