The company founded by Émile Salmson was originally best known as an aero-engine manufacturer, introducing one of the earliest radial (as against the then commonplace rotary) engines for aircraft. The company's first in-house aircraft design met with little success, but they gained much useful experience in building the Sopwith 1 & ½ Strutter under licence. The Salmson 2 grew from a need for a larger and more robust aircraft, the prototype 2-A2 flying in April 1917, and it soon attracted orders for over 3,000 machines. The Salmson 2-A2 served with some distinction with French and American units during WW1, and was also adopted by a number of air forces in the post war period. Around a further 600 airframes were built under licence in Japan as the Type 1 Otsu Reconnaissance Aircraft (although rumours suggest approximately 1,000 were constructed in total) - one of which survives in the Kakamigahara Aerospace Museum.
In kit form
After years of unjustified semi-obscurity as a model, the Salmson 2-A2 has stepped firmly into the limelight with highly detailed new-tool kits appearing in both 1:32 and 1:48. Wingnut Wings' 1:32 stunner is first to reach Aeroscale - a beautifully presented model that builds on the success of their ground-breaking series which has set new standards for mainstream kits of this genre.
The sturdy and stylish top-opening box is packed to the brim with individually bagged sprues and accessories. The '2-A2 comprises:
158 x grey styrene parts (9 spare)
5 x clear styrene parts
12 x etched brass parts
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The moulding throughout is, essentially, perfect – with barely a trace of flash, and ejector pin marks kept well out of sight as far as I can see on first inspection. The only hint of a sink mark that I've found is at the base of one of the cabane struts (more on them later) where it will be hidden anyway.
The surface finish is beautiful, with the main airframe parts showing a silky texture and a very effective taught fabric effect. The flying and control surfaces have delicately depicted rib tapes. The metal panels on the forward fuselage are very impressive, with open-moulded louvres and deeply hollowed chutes thanks to slide moulding.
Test fit and general layout
Obviously, there's only so much one can dry-fit on a biplane like this, but initial impressions are very positive. The fuselage halves clip together neatly and show no signs of flexing. The cockpit surround / top-decking is moulded as a single drop-in section, which fits perfectly, and so avoids what would otherwise have been a very awkward centre-line seam running through the gunner's position and the cockpit coamng.
The wings and tail are nice and straight with sharp trailing edges. It's immediately clear the solid wing panels are pretty heavy, so it's good to see they have very substantial mounting tabs. Those for the lower wings will be trapped under the cockpit floor, which acts as a brace to support them. The upper wing panels are joined by a small two-piece centre section, so allow plenty of glueing time to ensure the completed wing is totally solid before attaching it. The supporting cabane struts are moulded integrally with the cockpit side frames, which should ensure both a very rigid assembly and easy line-up.
A few details
Construction begins with a beautifully detailed 42-part interior. The flying controls are delicately moulded, and the side frames are quite superb, with a number of control boxes and their cabling moulded in situ
, further enhanced with additional separate items such as the trim wheel and radiator controls. The side frames attach to a one-piece floor section, plus fuselage formers and a firewall to form a very sturdy cradle for the upper wing and undercarriage at the heart of the model.
On the rear of the firewall is the instrument panel, which features nicely moulded bezels and decal faces. There's no excess carrier film at all on the decals, so they should sit perfectly in the bezels with a drop of varnish to give a realistic glazed look.
The comfortably padded pilot's “armchair” has etched seatbelts, but the observer/gunner was not so fortunate, having to make do with a little fold-down seat sans
harness. Perhaps he had a safety lanyard as part of his flying suit? (or else soon learned to hold on tight...)
Filling the space between the pilot and observer/gunner are a pair of finely textured self-sealing fuel tanks (a technological development which must have been a comfort, situated as they were, right in the middle of the cockpit!) and a vertically mounted 50cm reconnaissance camera. There are some tricky seams to fill on the camera, but to be fair it's hard to see how else it could have been moulded while retaining this level of detail.
The interior of the fuselage sides features very delicate stringers to pick out in brown against the linen surface, so masking could be the order of the day for a neat finish.
Moving up front, the Salmson 9z radial engine is a 20-part assembly – and it won't all be lost from view thanks to removable cowl panels (omitted entirely on the Japanese Otsu 1). The engine parts are beautifully moulded, with delicate push rods and pipework, and finely detailed magnetos for the rear of the engine. There's a choice of open or closed radiator shutters, while the radiator core itself has a convincing pattern. The exhausts are deeply hollowed out, but arguably the stars of the show are the superb open louvres in a choice of styles. Compared with the usual solid “lumps” for louvres in most kits – WNW's depiction is eye-popping.
A simple but effective 3-piece Vickers gun comes with a choice of spent shell chutes (again, impressively deeply moulded), followed by gunsights, mirror, and propeller etc., before crystal-clear windscreens complete the main fuselage assembly.
Turning to the wings, the ready-aligned cabane struts will be a real blessing to help less-experienced biplane modellers. The interplane struts are all individual and have neat locating pins moulded in such a way that they can only fit the correct way round. The ailerons are separate.
The undercarriage attaches to very substantial locations and looks suitably sturdy to support the weight of those solid wings. There's a choice of tyres – Palmer Cord Aero and Persan Aero Standard – and a very welcome touch is that the latter have been moulded weighted to avoid a “standing on tip-toe” look. I'd have liked to see both types of tyre moulded this way, but I realise it's a very subjective matter, so offering a choice is a fair enough compromise to keep modellers in both camps content. The undercarriage has a choice of ribbed or plain wheel covers and is rounded off with a delicate little generator that just needs a cable adding from wire or stretched sprue.
The tail assembly looks very straightforward, designed to be fitted in the neutral position, which seems the norm for aircraft on the ground in reference photos.
The observer's armament completes the “basic” construction of the kit, with a delicately moulded “Tourelle” ring (French-built Scarff) that has etched mounts to fold to shape. The twin-gun Darne/Lewis array is offered in two forms to cater for the colour schemes and, going by the accompanying reference photo in the instructions, just needs some cabling and an extra bracing-stay to really look the part.
If the overall construction of the airframe looks quite straightforward, the rigging will certainly challenge newcomers and veterans alike. The 2-bay construction obviously means extra rigging, and the flying and landing wires are all “doubled”, although this was seen in two forms – joined “baton” pairs, or individual streamlined “RAF” style wires. The “batons” present an ideal opportunity for an enterprising aftermarket producer to release an etched bespoke solution, but in the meantime thin strips of plastic card would suffice.
Instructions and decals
The assembly guide is printed as a 26-page A4 booklet in WNW's now familiar attractive “vintage” style. It's packed with useful reference photos and – something sadly almost a lost art these days – combines the extra information of a well-written guide with clear diagrams for modellers who may not read English. So, while the generous notes all but negate the need for further references, I think one could
build the model quite successfully with the aid of the diagrams alone.
Colour notes are included throughout, and these are keyed to Tamiya, Humbrol and F.S. matches, so one should be able to find suitable paints worldwide.
A quite superb decal sheet, custom-printed by Cartograf, is provided for five very interesting colour schemes:
a. Salmson 2-A2, Col. Hamonic?, SAL 122, late 1917 / early 1918
b. Salmson 2-A2, 251 “4”, SAL 16, 1918
c. Salmson 2-A2, 381 “4”, SAL 28, 1918
d. Salmson 2-A2, 602 “Le Gone”, SAL 61, late 1918 – early 1919
e. Type Otsu Model 11, No.1123, mid to late 1920s
The first option is silver-doped, while the last is clear-doped linen. The remainder are finished in classic French 5-colour topsides. The instructions suggest clear-doped lined undersides, but Stephen Lawson has pointed out that they were, in fact, finished in an opaque yellowish dope known as Ecru
. In modelling terms, while the colour may be similar, it would be a mistake to highlight the internal structure as is popular when representing clear-doped linen.
The decals are beautifully printed – thin and glossy, with no excess carrier film except where it has been used to join elements. The registration is perfect on the sample sheet, and the photo-realistic unit artwork for option “c” is simply gorgeous.
Wingnut Wings' new Salmson is a superb kit from every angle, combining excellent design and great attention to detail with what should be quite straightforward assembly (notwithstanding the rigging). The inclusion of a Japanese option (combined with the welcome decision to simultaneously release a U.S.A.S. version with some more spectacular unit markings which should also really pay dividends in the important North American market) should ensure the kit is a hit worldwide. Unreservedly recommended to all WW1/ Golden Age enthusiasts.
ReferencesWindsock DataFile #109
is probably the most readily available English-language reference, and is still in print at Albatros Productions
Also well worth reading is Salmson Aircraft of World War 1
from Flying Machine Press (a division of Paladin Enterprises), which has a large section devoted to the 2-A2. Although it seems to be out of print, remaining copies can still be found quite easily - but prices may well rise sharply with the 2-A2's new popularity.
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