Kit: Special Hobby 1/48 SH48086 Fiat G.50 “Finnish Version”
Price: £27.99 available from Hannants UK.
Decals: 8 options.
Reviewer: Richard Reynolds
Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts.
The Fiat G.50 Freccia (“Arrow”) was a World War II Italian fighter aircraft. First flown in February 1937, the G.50 was Italy’s first single-seat, all-metal monoplane with an enclosed cockpit and retractable Undercarriage to go into production. In early 1938, the Freccias served in the Regia Aeronautica (the Italian Air Force), and with its expeditionary arm, the Aviazione Legionaria, in Spain, where they proved to be fast and, as with most Italian designs, very maneuverable. However, it had inadequate weaponry (two Breda-SAFAT 12.7-mm machine guns). The Fiat G.50 was also used in small numbers by the Croatian Air Force and 35 were flown to Finland, where they served with distinction with the Finnish Air Force (Suomen Ilmavoimat), with an unprecedented kill ratio of 33/1.
The contract for 35 Fiat G.50s between the Italian and Finnish Government’s was ratified in 1938. Finnish pilots and engineers were dispatched to Turin later that year to inspect and assess the G.50. The evaluation proved positive and the purchase of 35 aircraft was agreed in 1939.
Finnish test pilots evaluated the Fiat G.50 in Rome. On one of these test flights, Lt. Tapani Harmaja, performed a dive from 3500 m, reaching a speed of 830 km/h, which would be claimed as the highest speed achieved by an Italian aircraft under test conditions during World War II.
The first group of 14 aircraft were delivered to Finland in January 1940. The aircraft were assigned to LeLv 26 at Utiju. Conversion training began on the Fiat G.50 in February 1940. By June 33 aircraft had been delivered, two were lost on the ferry flight between Italy and Finland.
It was discovered that the Fiat G.50 was quite unsuited to the harsh winter conditions experienced in Finland. Sweden experienced similar problems with their Fiat CR.42s. As a result, landing gear covers and carburetor intake covers were removed, in addition propeller caps were introduced to stop the oil in the propeller pitch mechanisms from freezing and the cowlings were kept warm with the use of blankets. All Finnish aircraft operating in winter conditions were kept warm with oil heaters which greatly increased the start-up procedure and subsequent take-off to intercept enemy aircraft.
The Fiat G.50 was christened “Fiju” by its Finnish crews. The G.50 arrived in the latter stages of the Winter War and performed admirably in the Continuation War that followed.
In the hands of trained and experienced Ilmavoimat pilots, the G.50 achieved great success. The first victory was recorded in January 1940 when Captain Ehrnrooth shot down an SB-2 bomber of the Soviet Air Force. The top-scoring Finnish G.50 pilot was Oiva Tuominen who scored 23 victories and was awarded the Mannerheim Cross on August 1 1940. The “Fiju” took part in many operations, often fighting against Soviet air regiments with an air-combat ratio of 10:1.
The first demonstration of the Finnish Air Force’s effectiveness came on 25 June 1941, when the G.50s from HLeLv 26 shot down 13 out of 15 Soviet SB bombers. Thirteen aerial victories were achieved altogether.
During the Continuation War, the G.50s were most successful during the Finnish offensive of 1941, after which they became ever less effective due to the introduction of newer and faster Soviet fighters. In 1941, HLeLv 26 claimed 52 victories for the loss of only two fighters. By 1941, the Fiats were becoming old and run-down and the lack of spare parts meant that pilots were restricted to a minimal number of sorties. Nevertheless, between 30 November 1939 and 4 September 1944, the G.50s of HLeLv 26 shot down 99 enemy aircraft, including aircraft more modern than the G.50, such as the British and American fighters sent to the USSR. In the same period, Finnish squadrons lost 41 aircraft of several types. But the number of Fiats lost in combat were just three.
The most successful Finnish G.50 pilots were Oiva Tuominen (23 victories), Olli Puhakka (11 or 13), according to other sources, Nils Trontti (6), Onni Paronen (4), Unto Nieminen (4) and Lasse Lautamäki (4). The Finnish G.50s were finally phased out of front-line duty in the summer of 1944. There were no more than 10 or 12 examples of the type left in service, and even as trainers, they did not last long, since they lacked spare parts. Unlike the older MS.406, there was no effort to upgrade or replace the engine to improve the aircrafts performance, due to the limited number of airframes left in service, and it is probable that by the end of the war they had already been taken out of service.
The Special Hobby 1/48 Fiat G.50 “Finnish Version” consists of 5 sprues in soft injection moulded grey plastic, one sprue of clear canopy parts, one fret of photo-etched parts, a clear film containing the instrument panel, 9 polyurethane parts, a 7 page ‘exploded view’ instruction booklet in black and white consisting of 17 steps, and finally a 6 page full-colour camouflage and markings guide with 3-views of 8 examples of finnish Air Force Fiat G.50s, printed on high quality glossy paper.
The parts were carefully washed in a weak warm soapy solution to remove the mould release. Once dry, the contents were primed with grey auto primer from a rattle can. The insides of the fuselage, cockpit floor, bulkhead, seat and frame were airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 80 interior green. The reverse of the instrument panel film was painted white to pick out the instrument dials, cut out and fitted behind the black photo-etched instrument panel.
The interior was given a wash of heavily thinned Windsor & Newton Ivory black oil paint to pick out the detail before the seatbelts, which were pre-painted in WEM WEMCC 09 Deck Tan were added to the seat with cyanoacrylate. The fuselage halves were then joined and taped, which completed stages 1 to 4.
Stage 5 consisted of fitting the forward upper cowling and the rear upper fuselage immediately behind the pilot’s head. The instrument panel must be added before the forward cowling is affixed in place.
Stages 6 to 10 are concerned with gluing the wings, tail and horizontal tail surfaces; these were taped and put to one side to dry overnight. Step 11 entails the engine build. This requires some care as it consists of a central cylindrical block in polyurethane and no less than 15 cylinders. All of these parts need to be removed from the casting blocks with a hobby saw, only one spare cylinder is supplied in the kit.
After the Engine assembly had dried, I sprayed the entire unit with Humbrol Matt black from a rattle can. This ensures that paint gets into all of the hard to reach areas. I added my own push rods using copper wire painted silver and the HT leads from 0.1mm wire from ‘Little-cars’. A photo-etched push-rod/HT lead unit is supplied in the kit; however, I found the part to be overly fussy.
The wings were now joined to the fuselage, as were the horizontal tail surfaces and the tail. The airframe was then filled using green putty along the wing-root joins and tail assembly joins. These were left overnight to dry thoroughly before being rubbed down using 600 grit wet and dry paper. The kit was once again sprayed using grey primer from a rattlecan and set aside whilst the skis were constructed.
The skis required very little filler and were a good fit. The airframe was now ready for the paint-shop.
Camouflage and Markings:
I chose ‘CAM F’ from the 8 options supplied in this kit. The Italian desert scheme appealed to me as did the fact that this particular aircraft was fitted with skis. I guess I rather enjoyed the paradox of an aircraft intended to fight in the desert ending up on skis in combat in the snow. This aircraft was Fiat FA-33, LLv 26, Zàkladna Kauhava, Ùnor 1942; this aircraft saw service in the continuation war.
The aircraft was prepared by pre-shading with Humbrol 33 Matt Black before being given three coats of Humbrol 129 light grey. Once this had dried, the underside was masked off before Humbrol Matt 84 was airbrushed on the upper-surfaces. The cowling, fuselage band and outer under-wings were then masked off and the Continuation War identification yellow was applied using White Ensign Models WEMCC ALCW21 RLM 04 Gelb. Next, the upper surfaces were ‘mottled using a combination of Humbrol Matt 186 and Humbrol Matt 105.
The canopy, aerial wires and minor peripheral accessories were added. The decals were then applied with decal setting solution; these were in register, clear, opaque and free from carrier film. Lastly, the kit was given a final coat of Johnson’s Klear.
This kit proved somewhat of a milestone for me as it represents the last ‘main’ fighter type in my collection that the Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) used during the Second World War. There are many other examples of Finnish aircraft yet to build, the latest of which is sitting patiently on my desk.
This kit comes highly recommended.
- Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 23; Finnish Aces of World War 2. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen. 5th impression 2008.
- Suomen Ilmavoimen Historia 23; SOTAMAALAUS/WARPAINT. Kari Stenman and Kalevi Keskinen. 2003.
- The Fiat G.50 Freccia “Arrow” 2013 – http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=611
- Fiat G.50 history Published by Srecko on April 28, 2008; http://www.letletlet-warplanes.com/2008/04/28/fiat-g50-history/