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Reviewed by Dave Williams
In 1972, the Italian Air Force requested a design study of an advanced trainer to replace the Aermacchi MB 326 and Fiat G-91(T) in the coming decade. Aermacchi studied a number of designs under the designations MB 338 and MB 339, with many of the MB 338 designs featuring more powerful engines and increased performance, but also higher cost. For reasons of cost, the simpler MB 339 design was eventually selected for development.
The MB 339A used many components of the proven MB 326K, including the Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet of 4,000-lb thrust.
The principle external difference from the MB 326 is the new humped cockpit with a raised seating position for the instructor in the rear. The MB 339 also has a slightly larger vertical tail and twin ventral strakes to improve handling.
Like many European trainers, the MB 339 can be armed for weapons training and light strike. A load of 4,000 lb. can be carried on six underwing pylons.
The Italian Air Force (AMI) purchased approximately 100 MB 339s, of which 15 were MB 339PANs for the Frecce Tricolor aerobatic team. The PAN aircraft differed in the deletion of the wingtip tanks and the installation of a smoke generating system.
The MB 339 has scored some export success with aircraft being purchased by Peru, Nigeria, and Malaysia, among others. Argentina also bought MM 339s for their Navy and a few were captured at Port Stanley in the Falklands. New Zealand has purchased the MB 339C version with additional nav/attack avionics for the strike role.
This is the second MB 339 kit from FREMS, the first being the MB 339 PAN (Kit #0198). That kit appears to be the same except for the decals, addition of wingtips, and deletion of the ordnance sprue. The manufacturer has a web page at http://www.frems.it that is heavily geared to the PAN kit, but also shows a completed picture of this kit.
The first thing you notice about the kit is that it comes in a flip-top box, however unlike the recent flimsy Revell-Monogram boxes, this one is made of sturdy cardboard. In the box are three sprues of dark grey plastic, one clear sprue, and a bag containing two brass gun barrels. All the sprues are individually bagged. The molding quality is quite good and the kit features crisp detail and recessed panel lines, although they are on the heavy side on the wings and fuselage. The parts are flash free, although there are a couple of easily repaired sinkmarks on the ejection seats and rear bulkhead. The canopy and windscreen are crystal clear and made from a multi-part mold for the correct bubble shape, leaving a faint mold seam along the top.
The cockpit is fairly detailed and has good console and instrument panel detail. Strangely, the instrument panels are built up from 3 pieces, a center portion and two side panels. The ejection seats are composed of eight parts each and only require the addition of seat belts. Hannants has a listing for a company called Sky Models which makes a set of resin seats and other details for this kit.
Underwing ordnance in the form of 30mm cannon pods, drop tanks, and rocket pods is included in the kit. Brass barrels are included for the gun pods. Two styles of wingtip tanks are also provided for the Italian machines.
Other options include open or closed canopy, positionable speed brake, and dropped flaps. The flaps option isn't well explained in the instructions, though. Step 11 shows the flaps just plugged into the wings in the up position, while step 15 shows tabs on the leading edge of the flaps plugging into holes in the wing at an angle. Looking at the kit parts, there are long tabs pointing forward from the leading edge of the flaps and recesses inside the wings. The tabs have somewhat of a flexible attachment so I presume they can be bent to set the proper angle, although they are fragile (read - I broke one off removing it from the sprue). Strangely, there is no guide for the angle of the flaps in the instructions, although this apparently is included in the instructions for the PAN kit. The PAN instructions show the flap angles as 28 or 66 degrees.
Color information is denoted letters in circles keyed to a comprehensive chart on the marking guide that lists the colors in Italian, English, and by their FS numbers. A quick dryfit of the fuselage and wings reveals an excellent fit, with the panel lines on each fuselage half matching up exactly.
This may be the most impressive part of the kit. Markings are includes for 7 aircraft. Three are from Italian (orange/white trainer scheme, grey/green camo scheme, and new overall grey scheme), and one each from Argentina, Daubi, Malaysia, and Peru. Complete stenciling for one aircraft is included. Decals are even provided for the ejection seat headrests. The decals are thin and glossy and registration is quite good.
Overall, this is a very nice little kit. Something a little different from the run-of-the-mill Hornet or Eagle kit. Highly recommended!
Dave Williams IPMS/USA 19050
Review Copyright © 2000 by Dave