Hobbycraft 1/48 Morane Saulnier MS.406
Italian Moranes
by Vince Tassone
Technical Data:
Morane-Saulnier 406
Manufacturer: SNCAO
Year: 1938
Engine: Hispano-Suiza 12 Y, 12-cylinder V, liquid-cooled, 860 hp
34 ft 10 in (10.65 m)
26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)
9 ft 3 in (2.82 m)
6,000 Ib (2.720 kg) (Loaded)
Maximum Speed:
302 mph (486 km/h) at 16,400 ft (5.000 m)
30.840 ft (9,400 m)
497 miles (800 km)
1 x 20 mm gun; 2 x machine guns

Additional Images:
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This was the first modern fighter to be assigned to units of the Armee de I' Air  and was the most famous French combat airplane of the Second World  War. The Morane-Saulnier could not  match the performance of the Dewoitine D.520, the finest French  fighter plane of the Second World War,
but it was a first-class aircraft.  Its performance was very similar to the Fiat G.50 flying at about the same time.  More Morane-Saulniers were produced than any other French airplane of the  period, except for the twin-engine Potez 630.  A total of 1,081 Morane-Saulniers were manufactured.  The 406 prototype was built in 1935 and made its maiden flight on August 8 in great secrecy.  It  was an all-metal airplane with a covering of aluminum, plywood, and fabric, and the cockpit was completely closed. The aircraft was powered by  an 860 hp 12-cylinder Hispano-Suiza engine (the Fiat G.50 was powered by a Fiat A.74 RC 38 870hp) . The airplane carried a 20 mm gun firing through the propeller hub and two machine guns in the wings. It  proved to be capable of very high performance in its first flight, and flew  at 303 mph (487 km/h) at an altitude of  13,200 feet (4,000 m) (Fiat G.50 294 mph (473 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6,000 m) ). It was  the first French fighter to break the  250 mph (402 km/h) limit.  After its test  flights, the Morane-Saulnier was widely publicized.  In 1937 it was shown at the Brussels Air Show and advertised as the 'best fighter airplane in the world'.   By September 1939, some 600 had come off the production line.

The first unit to become operational with the new fighter was the 6th Escadre de Chasse, which received its first Morane-Saulnier 406s in December 1938.  By August 1939, just before the war, a total of 12 fighter units were equipped with the 406 and when war broke out the 406 saw continuous activity, as the French airplane headed off its direct rival, the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. Although the 406 was not as good an aircraft, it was a tough adversary and often beat the German airplane and in the hands of an expert pilot the 406 could stand up to most enemy aircraft.  On June 8, 1940, for example, a Morane-Saulnier piloted by Captain Wuillame shot down three Bf 109s in 15 seconds! Nevertheless a total of 150 Morane-Saulniers were shot down during the Battle of France, against 191 enemy craft , and 89 probable kills; about 100 Morane-Saulniers were destroyed on the ground, and another 50 were damaged beyond repair by their own crews to prevent the aircraft from falling into enemy hands. After the armistice several 406s served with the Vichy forces. Some aircraft were handed over to Finland by the Germans. Finland had already acquired 40 of them in 1940. One example was acquired by the Regia Aeronautica for evalution purposes and is the subject of this article.
March, 2007
STORMO! © 2007

This is the Hobbycraft 1/48 MS.410 kit no. HC1588 and can be turned into a MS.406.  The kit is a little rough around the wing routes but otherwise goes together simply.  The wheel wells assemble separately and putty is needed to fill obvious gaps against the lower wing.  The cockpit canopy is thick and sits awkwardly against the rear canopy; a vacuum formed canopy is suggested.  I chose to model MS.406 MM.1060 at Lonate Pozzolo, summer 1943.  The plane was requisitioned by Italian personnel from the Centre d'Entrainment et de Perfectionnement (CEP) and was transferred to Lonate Pozzolo for evaluation purposes. The exhausts are of the 410 type however the 406 apertures are easily added by drilling holes with a pin vise.  The kit comes with retractable radiator and is modeled here in the lowered position.  Paints used were Polly Scale Fr. Earth Brown (30140), Fr. Khaki (34127), Fr. Dark Gray (35164) and Fr. Lt. Blue Gray (36230).  The plane in its French markings carried the 'slave stripes' and 'Italianization' was achieved by applying Grigio Azzurro Chiaro  (or use dark grey) over the tail and nose areas.  The plane was completed by applying the white cross of Savoy and the white theater band.  Interestingly, the side profile of this plane reveals a sloping nose and a raised cockpit, reminiscent of the characteristic Fiat G.50 hump.  Overall, I very much enjoyed this build of a very interesting aircraft with an equally interesting history.  The final model looks every bit a MS.406 and will make a great addition to one my favorite collections, famous French aircraft.

1 ) Garello, G., Aerei Francesi nella Regia Aeronautica, No. 5, La Bancarella, Torino, 2005.
2)  Angelucci E. and P. Matricardi, World Aircraft, World War II Part I, Sampson Low Guides, 1978.