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KIT REVIEW


Kitty Hawk # KH80137 Étendard IV/IVP “2 in 1”
1:48 Scale

 

During the Cold War, France joined the United States and Great Britain as a NATO operator of aircraft carriers, projecting power far from their borders.  The French Navy has operated many well-known aircraft over the years such as the F-8 Crusader, E-2C Hawkeye, and Dassault Rafael-M.  Yet, the foundations of French naval aviation during the jet age can be said to rest on the shoulders of the Dassault Étendard.  Kitty Hawk has released a pair of two Étendard kits in 1:48 scale, and here, we’ll take a look at their Étendard IV/IVP “2-in-1” kit.”

In the early 1950s, the French navy was building its carrier capability in the wake of the Second World War.  However, at this point in the early jet age, the French Air Force and NATO were both shopping for a light fighter.  The engineers at Dassault designed two corresponding versions of a single-seat, swept-wing jet (which in some ways took a few cues from the aerodynamics of the F-100 Super Sabre) that was designated as the Étendard II and Étendard VI (Étendard translating to “The Standard” as in reference to a standard-bearer or a battle-flag).  The subsequent lack of interest by the French Air Force and NATO was a major disappointment, but Dassault was independently developing a larger and more capable design with the in-house designation of Mystère XXIV.  Soon, this came to be known as the Étendard II, and the French Navy saw an opportunity to field a light fighter and attack aircraft aboard its new carriers.

The first Étendard II prototype flew on 24 July 1956, and the day after, the Étendard IV flew.  This navalized version was larger as changes via the "area rule" increased the wing area to offset heavier weight from a beefed-up airfame (to withstand cat shots and traps) and the addition of arresting gear and foldable wings.  It was a nimble jet and also performed well at low airspeeds thanks to the double-slotted flaps and spoilers, powered ailerons, and leading edge drooped flaps.  A SNECMA Atar-8 engine (common to the Mirage III minus the afterburner) powered the Étendard IV into the high subsonic range.  The French Navy insisted the Étendard would not only have an air-to-air refueling capability, but that it should buddy-tank from other Étendards, so a probe-and drogue system was adopted.  It was armed with a pair of internal 30mm DEFA cannons and two hard points per wing could carry a range of air-to-air missiles, rocket pods, bombs, and drop tanks.

The Étendard IVM light attack prototype flew 21 May 1958.  It also had a ventral nose fin that helped resist departure and spins.  It went to sea trials in 1960, and the first production airframe was completed in 1961.  The French Navy procured a total of 69 Étendard IVM airframes and 24 Étendard IVP reconnaissance jets.  Flotille (Squadron) 15.F was the first to make the transition to the Étendard, trading in their F4U-7 Corsairs in early 1962.  Later that same year, Étendards were first deployed aboard the French carriers CLEMENCEAU and FOCH.  The original Étendard IV was retired from carrier service between 1980 and 1991.  IVP airframes suffered a greater attrition rate, and by 1977, only 11 were left.  As the Super Étendard replaced the IVMs by the 1970s, Étendard IVM aircraft were converted into Étendard IVPM recce jets to make up the shortfalls in the inventory.  These flew combat sorties over Lebanon in the 1980s and Yugoslavia and Kosovo in the 1990s.  The final IVPM flight occurred in concert with the decommissioning of the FOCH in 2000 marking the close of the Étendard IV era. 

Kitty Hawk’s Étendard IVP/IVM kit consists of 394 injection molded parts across five sprues (234 parts for the airplane and 95 parts for weapons and pylons), 29 clear parts on one sprue, 14 photoetched metal parts on one fret, and two decal sheets.  The instruction booklet is standard Kitty Hawk, with their no-frills black-and-white line drawings and color fold-out marking guides.  The decals provide options for five Étendards (but see below for variant clarification; there’s three IVPs in here):

Strengths:  As it has been so long since I had the Airfix/Heller Étendard kit, it’s a little hard for me to make the direct comparisons with the Kitty Hawk kit that I would like.  But digging deep into my memory, the Kitty Hawk kit strikes me as indeed more complicated (and see below) but the fidelity of detail (particularly the cockpit and wheel wells) and building options also appear better and more diverse.  To me, that’s appealing.  The kit features very nicely executed recessed detail and some raised detail (i.e., the bolts along the wing roots).  In many cases, I have been critical of Kitty Hawk kits for soft or oversized cockpit details, but here, there’s a definite improvement from their earlier efforts.  The photoetched metal ejection seat restraints are also a nice touch.

The kit provides both the IVM and IVP noses and a positionable canopy, refueling probe, auxiliary intake doors, speedbrakes, and tailhook.  Further, the leading edge slats, flaps, ailerons, horizontal stabilizes, and rudder are all separate parts.  The locating tabs will need to be removed to position them extended, dropped, or deflected, respectively.  I also really like the use of the photoetched parts in the speedbrake assembly – the right kind of material for the job.

For an injection molded kit, the complete Atar 8 powerplant is rather well detailed, and for most builders, I suspect it will be a good starting point for extra detailing if one decides to open up model at the maintenance break between the middle and aft fuselage sections of the kit.  Of course, that would also involve scratchbuilding a maintenance stand for the tail, since one is not included in the kit.  There are parts for a boarding ladder, too.       
The two weapons sprues are the same as those included in Kitty Hawk’s Jaguar kit, and feature two Magic 2 air-to-air missiles, two AS-30 air-to-ground missiles, two 250kg bombs, two BL755 bombs, one Barracuda ECM pod, one Phimat chaff dispenser pod, two 68mm unguided rocket pods, and two drop tanks. For the IVP, there are also parts for the centerline recce gondola.

The five schemes the builder can choose from are all awesome and really attractive choices, especially the retirement schemes.  The decals appear very well printed and are crisp, high-resolution markings in perfect register.

Weaknesses:  A number of people (including during a random conversation I had with a scale modeler last week) have argued that the Kitty Hawk Étendard kits are over engineered in the parts breakdown, especially the eight-piece fuselage.  I can understand the nose as a separate element to allow building different Étendard variants out of the box, but I wonder from a tooling point-of-view why the forward and mid-fuselage sections were separate assemblies.  Regardless, just take your time in building and joining the fuselage subassemblies, and I would also recommend maybe fabricating a few of your own mounting tabs to assure a proper circumferential fit particularly between the mid- and aft fuselage sections.  

Just a note of caution – some of the clear and gray plastic parts are extremely fine, so use caution when handling.  Paradoxically, the ejection seat’s face-curtain’s handles struck me as grossly over-scaled and are best replaced by an aftermarket or scratchbuilt part.

Kitty Hawk’s instructions and markings guides sometimes contain errors, and here, it looks like their proofreaders slipped up in terms of presenting conflicting information in the markings guide.  It gets a little tangled here: the instructions designate three IVM paint schemes on Flotille 16F aircraft, but they are illustrated as IVP airframes with the recce nose and gondola.  A little research indicated Flotille 16F indeed operated the IVP (not the IVM!). It’s the drawing in the markings guide that are the correct indications of which variant matches which paint scheme.  Disregard the title on the top of each heading in those drawings.  Also, consult your references if you want to display the aux intake blow-in doors open, since the instructions just show the door in the closed position but my references don't clearly show their open configuration.

Here’s the weirdest thing about this kit: the IVP had three cameras in the nose and others located in a gondola just forward of the speedbrakes and main gear wells.  The instructions have you place four clear camera windows into the lower fuselage and then, the gondola is suspiciously placed to partially cover two of these “windows.”  Again turning to internet resources and photos, I can find no evidence these “windows” were for cameras at all.  Michael Benolkin at Cybermodeler also picked up on the same thing, so it might just be that these four extra windows (GP 25, 26, 27, and 28) are bogus and should just be painted over.   

Further, if the Flotille 16F airplanes are indeed the retirement schemes (one is given as the year 2000), these would not be an IVP or an IVM, but the final Étendard variant: the IVPM (described above).  Almost identical to the IVP, they only lacked the wingtip radar warning receivers on the IVP (for more, see HERE: http://www.ffaa.net/aircraft/etendard/etendard%20UPG.htm). If this is the case, you’ll have to sand off those wingtip receivers if building the late Flotille 16F scheme). Again, check your references.

Overall, this is a promising 1:48 scale kit of the Étendard.  While it has a few issues, the positive qualities outweigh the negatives, to be sure.  Since this is a new kit, aftermarket details will likely be coming soon.  Sincere thanks to Glen Coleman and Kitty Hawk Models for the review sample.  You can find out more and see their current and future releases at www.kittyhawkmodel.com

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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