For those of us who are in the little planes biz, mention assembling biplane miniatures and what will follow is a torrent of anecdotes spiced with obscenities and promises to never do it again. Famously, I did the same when putting together Fairey Swordfish miniatures several years ago. They were by Heroics and Ros and MSD and both were vile, bad, patooey. I’ll never do it again (except David Sullivan gave me a couple he’s been hanging on to, so that’s a lie.)
Unfortunately, the Malta campaign involves biplane miniatures. The British had a handful of Gloster Gladiators. There were odd numbers of seaplane scout bombers that made their way over the little island. But, most importantly, the Italians used large numbers of Fiat CR 42 biplane fighters until well past their pull date. These served as escorts to the SM 79 trimotor bombers and fought with Gladiators, Hurricanes as well as the odd Fulmar and Skua until well into 1941.
Why, might you ask? Didn’t the Regia Aeronautica have something better? The answer is yes. The Fiat G.50, while not a super duper plane, was available, but it’s short range made it unhandy flying from Sicily. However, the Macchi MC 200 was a pretty good, if under-armed, monoplane. Unfortunately a series of accidents kept the plane out of service until pilots felt more confidence flying it, and the CR 42 remained the main Italian fighter for an unseemly long time.
That means my Malta project needs CR. 42’s. Dave Schueler already agreed to take on the Gladiators and half of the dozen Fiats I thought we needed. I, blessedly, only had to paint six.
The good news is that Raiden released the Gladiator and the CR. 42 in the last year or so. They are easy models to assemble, with the struts molded into the kit, instead of mal- formed bits of lead that aren’t clearly part of miniature. The kit comes in three parts, with fuselage, lower wing with wheels and struts, and upper wing with struts.
Are things absolutely perfect.. No, but pretty easy. You simply have to make sure the struts are reasonably straight and semi-aligned before dragging out your CA glue bottle. Otherwise, they go together quite nicely. If you, like me use a pin in the fuselage of the plane, it’s very important to be sure the lower wing and fuselage are aligned properly or it will A) look askew, and B) you pin won’t fit right.
Painting is very Italian. That means a sand color with green and red-brown blotches. I don’t mean to make it sound ridiculously easy, it’s not. I primed mine and painted the under surfaces Vallejo Light Gray. Then I painted the upper surfaces with Vallejo Desert Tan. The tricky part is the blotches. if your paint is too thick so it can’t spread a little bit, you’ll end up with polka dots and you don’t want that.
I began by using the Vallejo RLM 75 from their Air Master set, which is thin to begin with. I added just a little bit of water to thin it out more and applied with a small brush. It kept the color green but transparent enough so it didn’t overwhelm the base color, and thin enough to spread it around a little bit. I wanted irregular patterns. I used Vallejo Mahogany for the red-brown color. This is much thicker and I didn’t get it watered down quite enough.
The whole biz just requires some patience and willingness to spread things out a bit. Overall I’m pretty happy with the paint job except the numbers. The white squadron numbers were fine, but the red/black aircraft numbers were almost impossible to see as I was painting them, so they aren’t so great. Excellent Italian decals from I-94.
Generally, this was a fairly painless process and I highly recommend these miniatures.