|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Aermacchi or Macchi MB-326 is a light military jet trainer designed in Italy. Originally conceived as a two-seat trainer, there have also been single and two-seat light attack versions produced. It is one of the most commercially successful aircraft of its type, being bought by more than 10 countries and produced under licence in Australia, Brazil and South Africa. It set many category records, including an altitude record of 56,807 ft (17,315 m) on 18 March 1966. More than 800 MB-326s were constructed between 1961–1975.
The MB-326 had been developed and ordered during a period in which "all-through" jet training was considered by many air forces to be the most cost-effective model for training of military pilots. It was intended to provide a single type of aircraft that could be used to perform both elementary and advanced training right through to a near combat-ready standard. In practice, it was soon discovered that the simplicity and economy of scale of operating just one type for all training purposes was outweighed by the purchase and operating costs of a large all-jet training fleet. Many operators soon switched to operating the MB-326 in conjunction with a cheaper piston-engined type for basic training purposes. Over time, the MB-326 found its primary role as a lead-in trainer to prepare pilots for transition to very high performance fighter aircraft.
The aircraft was developed into the single seat MB.326K light attack aircraft for the South African Air Force, which at the time found it impossible to buy updated equipment from the usual sources. The type was license built in South Africa and proved to be very successful. The single seater was also operated by many other nations that operated the trainer version. I'm not sure if Embraer also built it or not but they certainly flew it in Brazil.
This is not a new kit. In fact, it may well be an original Supermodel mold. I don't know. I do know that the molding has raised panel lines and fairly clean with no flash and no immediately noticeable sink areas. There are ejector pin marks on the landing gear and inside of gear doors, but all are fairly easy to take care of.
Typical of kits of this era, they are fairly simple to build and free of the fiddlyness we get with some modern kits. There is a piece to install behind the front cockpit that blanks off the back one. The cockpit itself is your standard tub with a four piece seat, control stick, and instrument panel. There are decals for the panel and side consoles.
The cockpit, blanking section, and tailpipe piece are trapped between the fuselage halves. No indication is given of weight, but you will need some. If you wish to use the wing pylons, holes need to be opened before joining the wing hales. These and the tailplanes simply slot in place.
Outer main gear doors are normally closed so are molded shut. The landing gear all have the wheels molded in place. A speedbrake can be posed lowered if one wishes. Unlike the trainer, the K model has two cannon bulges on the lower forward fuselage. Tip tanks are normally carried. For the pylons you have fuel tanks and rocket pods. A separate windscreen and canopy are provided and you can pose the canopy open.
Instructions are well done and provide FS595 and Italeri acrylic paint information. There are six options. Two are South African with the old and newer insignia. Two are Italian both flying with the test unit as this type never entered IAF service. A plane from the UAE and Brazil help to even out the markings options. The decal sheet is superb for this scale and makes choosing an option a difficult task.
By and large Italeri kits are well engineered and fairly trouble free builds. These smaller aircraft are not parts intensive (though by no way snap kits), and can be built by most modelers with little issue. If you like the type, model in 1/72 and aren't squeamish about raised detail, this is pretty much it for you. I doubt if you'll see any other mainstream kit produce one.
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