When it first entered service in 1936, the Fiat BR.20 was among the most advanced bombers anywhere in the world and was publicized heavily by Mussolini's Fascist government as a symbol of Italy's might and advanced industry. Although always somewhat in the shadow of the better-known SM.79, BR.20s nevertheless served successfully in the Spanish Civil war, where they exhibited better bombing accuracy than their tri-motor rival, and were exported to Japan (although they were soon replaced there by Ki-21s).
By 1939 though, the Fiat bomber was beginning to show its age, and the BR.20M (M for Modificato
) differed from earlier versions in having an entirely new nose section with a smoother outline, along with other improvements to maintain its combat worthiness in a fast changing field. 80 factory-fresh 'Ms were allocated to the 13° and 43° Stormo and sent to Belgium to participate in Italy's effort against the UK mainland as part of the Corpo Aereo Italiano
, supporting the Luftwaffe in the closing stages of the Battle of Britain. The venture was ill-starred from the beginning; 5 aircraft crash-landed and a further 17 became lost en route
from Italy. Operations began on the night of 24th October, when Fiat bombers raided Harwich, and continued with largely ineffectual day and night raids against East Coast targets until December, when the expeditionary force was withdrawn back to Italy in preparation for operations in the Balkans and North Africa. 264 examples of the BR.20M were built before production ended in 1942.
Special Hobby first released their BR.20 last spring and it was reviewed excellently by Jean-Luc HERE
. For me though, the aircraft is always somehow synonymous with Italy's participation in the Battle of Britain, so I was delighted to see the initial version followed up by the BR.20M. As with the earlier version, the model arrives in pretty substantial box with all the sprues and accessories neatly bagged for protection in transit. The kit comprises:
110 x grey styrene parts
21 x clear styrene parts
40 x resin parts
8 x etched parts
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The moulding is generally very good for a short-run model. As you'd expect there's a bit of extra clean-up required compared with a mainstream kit, but there's no serious flash in the review sample and I haven't come across any sink marks. There are a few ejector pin marks that need shaving off before assembly, but overall clean-up shouldn't really take long. The surface finish is excellent, with finely engraved panel lines and an excellent representation of the extensive fabric areas. I found one problem with my kit: the trailing edge of one wing arrived slightly damaged. It's possibly the oddest problem I've ever found in a kit, almost as though sliced with a knife. I can't imagine it happened in transit, so I can only guess someone slipped when packing the parts. Luckily it shouldn't be a difficult fix, but maybe someone at MPM needs to be careful handling the parts. (Note: MPM have always offered a good spares service in my experience.)
The fuselage is constructed in a modular way to allow for multiple versions to be produced from the same core set of parts. Now, many mainstream manufacturers come a cropper doing this, so for a limited-run model it's really quite ambitious. The nose and tail sections are separate, along with the area around the dorsal turret and I've read of a few concerns over the original kit, in particular the nose being a poor fit.
This time the parts breakdown for the front end is a little different. Rather than clear sections to add to a normal nose, now we have the entire section moulded in transparent styrene. At first the fit looks dreadful, but closer inspection shows that's because the open forward fuselage sides have a tendency to flex outwards (note: that's without the benefit of the interior floors and bulkheads to stabilize everything). Add a bit of pressure to the sides to flatten them and suddenly the nose section fits quite nicely.
As supplied, the tail section isn't a great fit because the ends of the fuselage halves aren't square. Be careful and don't just dive in and sand them flat, because you'll need to match the chord of the horizontal tail, so the area may alternatively need a spacer. Either way, it won't trouble anyone used to short-run kits. The same is true of the dorsal section, which needs a bit of coaxing to fit neatly (oddly, it doesn't join along panel lines). On the plus side, the fuselage halves are nice and straight and, taped together, form a good solid basis for the rest of the build.
Jean-Luc found warped wings in his example of the first release. The good news here is that they are perfectly straight in the present sample, and have commendably thin trailing edges. The wings are a good fit to the fuselage and include wing-root inserts for short plug "spars" (more on these later).
A few details
The interior is built up from 41 parts. That sounds quite an impressive figure, but the parts are actually spread a little thin in a model this size. The main cockpit is reasonably well detailed, but I can't help feeling there must have been a lot more equipment throughout the real interior, such as radios and engineering consoles. The main instrument panel is moulded in styrene with nicely depicted bezels, but an etched alternative would have been nice. The nose section is essentially empty except for a well cast resin machine gun and mount. Photos of the original nose interior show quite a few items that can be added to busy things up - not least a seat and bombsight.
As with the original release, there are no seat harnesses, which really does seem odd as Special Hobby include suitable harnesses with their other Italian subjects. I agree with Jean-Luc - the seats are rather strange in that they don't match photos I've found online of the originals which show a tubular framework, so I don't know what Special Hobby based their versions on.
Looking at the layout of the interior, you'd expect a pair of wing spars to run through the centre area. The position just about matches where the designers have placed the chunky locating pins, so it's tempting to run girder-section spars right through on the model both as some extra support and for appearances' sake - but whether these or any other interior additions in the main fuselage section would actually be visible once the halves are closed up is questionable.
A useful online reference for anyone wanting to add detail to the interior is Foti di Guerra
With the wings and tail attached, the instructions turn to the undercarriage. The main landing gear is straightforward, with quite sturdy styrene forks. They should look fine after cleaning up to remove mould-lines, but I think a couple of reinforcing pins will be a good idea to beef up the simple butt-joints where they attach. The wheels are unweighted and come with separate resin hubs. The kit's wheel wells are empty and not boxed in. I've not come across any shots of the originals, so any extra detailing I add will be purely guesswork.
The resin engines should look excellent. Beautifully cast, they are virtually kits in their own right with 18 separate cylinders to attach to each detailed crankcase. There are holes marked for push-rods, but these aren't mentioned in the instructions. The exhausts are also all-resin and should look very good when assembled. Finishing off the engines are propellers made up from nicely detailed hubs cast in resin with separate styrene blades. A simple jig will help ensure consistent angles and pitch for the blades.
The kit's clear parts are very good quality, quite thin with excellent clarity and neatly defined frames.
The one real disappointment in the kit is the meagre number of etched items. What's there is fine - there are trim tab actuators, a pitot head and propeller for the wind-driven generator, but why more use wasn't made of the opportunity to provide the aforementioned seatbelts, along with maybe ignition harnesses for the engines, and a control panel, throttles and consoles seems a bit of a mystery.
Jean-Luc has reviewed two sets produced by Eduard for the original kit some parts of which will still be appropriate for the new version:
Hopefully, Eduard will release new details specific to the BR.20M.
Instructions and decals
The assembly and painting guide is provided as an A-4 booklet illustrated with very clear diagrams. The construction sequence looks logical and I can't see any obvious stumbling blocks for experienced builders. Gunze Sangyo paint matches are keyed to most details.
A quartet of interesting Battle of Britain colour schemes are offered. Each offers quite a challenging mottled camouflage on the topsides, and two of the machines have black undersurfaces and partially over-painted markings for night operations. The schemes are illustrated in B&W, but the colour versions used for the review are available at CMK kit's E-Shop
A. Fiat BR.20M, M.M. 22630/5-10, 5a Squadriglia, 43° Gruppo B.T.,13° Stormo B.T., Moelsbroek, Belgium, October 1940.
B. Fiat BR.20M, M.M. 21907/242-5, 242a Squadriglia, 98° Gruppo B.T.,43° Stormo B.T., Chievres, Belgium, October 1940.
C. Fiat BR.20M, M.M. 22254/3-9, 3a Squadriglia, 43° Gruppo B.T.,13° Stormo B.T., Moelsbroek, Belgium, October 1940.
D. Fiat BR.20M, unknown M.M., CAI, Belgium, November 1940.
E. Fiat BR.20M, unknown M.M., CAI, Belgium, end of November 1940.
The quality of the sample decals looks excellent, with pin-sharp registration on the thin, glossy items.
There's little doubt that Special Hobby's Fiat BR.20M is going to build into a very impressive model in experienced hands. It's not overly complicated, but I still think the short-run moulding means it's unsuitable for anyone who hasn't successfully tackled a few kits of a similar nature. That said, it fills an important gap in the ranks of quarterscale Italian WW2 subjects and will potentially take pride of place in any Regia Aeronautica collection. Recommended.
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