Author Topic: Kit Review - Kovozávody Prostějov (KP) 1/72 Nieuport N.11 Bebe “French Aces”  (Read 441 times)

Offline Brad Cancian

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Kovozávody Prostějov (KP) 1/72 Nieuport N.11 Bebe “French Aces”
Reviewed by Brad Cancian



Item: KPM0449

Scale: 1/72
Price: 12.40 Euros each, direct from Kovozávody Prostějov


Review kit kindly provided by KP Models at https://www.kovozavody.cz/produkt/nieuport-ni-11-bebe-french-aces/

Nieuport’s Little Bebe

The Nieuport N.11 “Bebe” was a single seat development of the earlier N.10 two seater, which utilised a lower wing far narrower than the top wing, known as a ‘sesquiplane’ layout. The N.11 was smaller than its predecessor, which gave it the nick name of “Bebe”, or “Baby” in French.

The sesquiplane layout reduced drag and improved the rate of climb, as well as offering a better view from the cockpit, while being substantially stronger than contemporary monoplanes. The narrow lower wing could experience aeroelastic flutter, but at air speeds beyond which the Nieuport 11 was capable. The aircraft was powered by an 80Hp Le Rhone 9C, and lacked gun synchronisation, requiring the single Lewis gun to be mounted on the top wing, clear of the propeller arc. Clearing gun jams and replacing ammunition drums in flight were challenging though, and the drums limited ammunition supply.

The Nieuport 11 reached the French front in January 1916, and 90 were in service within the month. The aircraft outclassed the Fokker Eindecker in every respect, including speed, climb rate and maneuverability, and played a significant part in ending the famous ‘Fokker Scourge’. During the course of the Battle of Verdun in February 1916, the combination of the Nieuport 11s technical advantages and its concentration in dedicated fighter units allowed the French to establish air superiority. The impact of the Nieuport was so dramatic that in mid to late 1916 several captured examples were repaired, rearmed with a synchronised "Spandau" gun, and flown at the front. Others were supplied by Idflieg to several manufacturers with the request that copies be built, and this had considerable influence on German fighter design, including the wing layout of the Albatros D.III and subsequent models.



Some Nieuport 11s and 16s were fitted to fire Le Prieur rockets from the struts for attacks on observation balloons and airships. By March 1916 the Bébé was being replaced by both the Nieuport 16 and the much improved Nieuport 17. Thereafter the Nieuport 11s continued to be used as trainers.[3]

Nieuport 11s were supplied to the French Aéronautique Militaire, the British Royal Naval Air Service, the Imperial Russian Air Service, the Belgian Air Force, and Italian Corpo Aeronautico Militare. 646 Nieuport 11s were produced by the Italian Macchi company under licence. It was flown by such legendary early war pilots such as Guynemer, Navarre, Ball and Nungesser, amongst others.

The Bebe in 1/72

Perhaps surprisingly, for such a well known aeroplane, the N.11 has seen relatively little love in 1/72, being overshadowed by its sibling, the N.17. The N.11 first saw mainstream release by Toko in 1997, which was later reboxed by Eastern Express. There have also been boxings by Classic Planes, HR models and Roseplane, but these were resin limited edition kits, which are not available or easy to find today. KP have joined the party with their 2024 release of this iconic little fighter.

The Bits and Bobs

Now, I have my suspicions that this kit is based off of the HR resin kit, but I have been unable to find pictures of that kit to confirm. This would be in line with KPs recent collaborations. There is also a very faint “KP 2022” inscribed on the inside of one of the fuselage halves, which is something that KP has done in the past with their releases, when base upon other kits.

In any case, what we get in the box is a single sprue of grey plastic, an instruction booklet, and a decal sheet, all nicely packed in KPs usual end-opening box. The box has some striking box art, and the colour schemes provided on the reverse side.



The plastic sprue contains just 34 parts, some of which are optional. We get alternative engines, guns, and propellers, which are intended for their N.16 release (which we will be reviewing here on this site at a later date also).

The surface detail is generally quite nice and crisp, with subtle wing ribs on the flying surfaces, which look good in this scale.



We also get petite fuselage stitching, crisp panel lines, wheel hubs and engine parts. Sadly, however the sprues do have quite a bit of flash on them. This should pose no issues for the larger parts, however care will need to be taken in removing and cleaning up the seams on the smaller and more details parts, which are a bit fragile.





There are some suggestions of the pedigree in the kit when one examines the leading edges of the lower wings; we see what looks like the typical ‘scarring’ from resin pour stubs.



Engine details are adequate for this scale; the 80hp Le Rhone for the N.11 is moulded in two pieces, one for the cylinders and the other for the forward mounted induction pipes. This engine is a bit blobby. Another engine is provided for the 100hp Le Rhone with its rear mounted induction pipes. This engine is quite a bit nicer (and looks like it might have its origins in one of the Roden kits), but is not used for the N.11. We also get a left and right handed airscrew.




We also get a Lewis gun and drum (which again looks Roden-esque), and a Vickers gun, not used on the N.11 or N.16 (though interestingly it is listed as an alternate part).

Cockpit detail is adequate, if not a bit inaccurate. We get a seat, floor, stick, and what looks like an under-seat fuel tank (which the N.11 did not have). The kit also has an instrument ppane;, which the N.11 also did not have. There is nice sidewall detail on the fuselage interior. Ejector pins should not get in the way here.

There is no resin or etch; we do however get seat belts on the decal sheet.

Instructions

The instructions are printed on a single folded A4 sheet, and are printed in black and white. The instructions contain a short description of the aircraft’s history, a parts breakdown, and construction sequence consisting of 7 steps (the last, presumably being rigging… though no rigging diagram is included, sufficient detail for the rigging can be gleaned from the three view general arrangement drawing at step 7).






Colour schemes for three machines are provided (see more below in regards to the accuracy of the schemes provided). We get some colourful machines here, given the ‘aces’ nature of the boxing:

•   Nieuport 11 N.836 “Le Vieux Charles”, flown by Georges Guynemer, France 1916
•   Nieuport N.11 N.576, flown by Jean Navarre, Verdun, Frane 1916
•   Nieuport N.11, flown by Paul Tarascon, France 1916



Decals

The decals are produced in house and are very nicely printed with solid colour and good register. Seat belts are included as decals. The decal film looks nice and thin, with minimal carrier film.



Accuracy

I have decided to delve a little bit deeper into the accuracy of this kit. Whilst I don’t have the Windosck Datafile on this little beastie, I do have the general arrangement drawings contained within the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces number 33, “Nieuport Aces of World War 1”, by renowned author Normal Franks.

In comparing to these general arrangement drawings, there are some positives. The fuselage dimension looks spot on, and the general outlines of the wings and tail feathers look pretty good. Well done KP. Here though, is where the good news starts to end.

The most significant error with the kit concerns the wings and strut locations. Firstly, there are insufficient wing ribs on both the upper and lower wings. There should be 11 wing ribs from the centre for each side of the upper wing; the kit only has 9. There are further errors with the lower wing; though it correctly has 9 wing ribs, these are not in the correct locations according to the drawings. The lower wings are also missing the small fairings on the undersides where the struts mount. Lastly, the interplane strut locations are about 2mm too far inboard. (As an aside, and as a point of comparison, the Toko wing rib locations and strut locations are generally correct).







These issues can be corrected by filling and re-drilling the strut mounting locations, sanding the wing ribs flat, and perhaps using tape or paint to recreate the rib tapes at the correct locations. Or, one could just live with it, given the general outline and shape of the wings are broadly correct.

Another error is noted with the fuselage exterior details. The nose panels are broadly correct on the port side, but incorrect on the starboard (both should be the same). There is also what looks like rib tape details on the aft fuselage at the frame locations; these should not be here and should be sanded off.



It also looks like the interplane strut also carries a spurious venturi air speed tube.

As mentioned above, the interior isn’t especially accurate. It contains an incorrect fuel tank under the pilot’s seat; in reality the tank was located ahead of the pilot behind the engine. The instrument panel is also incorrect; instruments were mounted on a bar in front of the pilot. There is a throttle on the port side of the fuselage interior. That being said, the cockpit opening is tiny, so one may decide if they can live with these errors.

In terms of the accuracy of the markings; there is some conjecture that Guynemer’s aircraft did not have the silver cowling. I see no issue with this interpretation, but feel free to make your own choice.



Navarre’s scheme also looks generally accurate in comparison to contemporary references.



Tarascon’s markings have a couple of minor errors; firstly, the number N.363 looks incorrect; it looks like it should be N.1159. The photo reference I have also indicates perhaps an unpainted metal forward fuselage panel, possibly a silver doped finish (which may be correct for a later N.11), and no wing roundels. Perhaps KP has another source of data, or this is a different aircraft? You be the judge…! Also, for some reason the “i” is missing in the “Zigomar” inscription on the decal sheet. This is a little odd, and unfortunate. Perhaps this will be fixed in later releases.



Buildability

This model looks to be a relatively straightforward build, thanks to the smaller parts count, and generally simple layout.

Conclusions

This is a very welcome release of the famous “Bebe”. What is presented may be considered by some as a bit of a mixed bag; we get some very nice crisp details in places, and nice surface details and representations as positives. As negatives, we get some flash, and some accuracy issues. None of the issues are insurmountable by any means. The model should build up into an attractive little representation of this important fighter, and KP should be commended for its release. I for one will be adding a few of these to my stash for future projects.

Our very sincere thanks to KP for the review samples!
« Last Edit: June 02, 2024, 06:48:20 PM by Brad Cancian »
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