The threat of war in Europe led Vought to outfit an extra SB2U-2 airframe as a company demonstrator to seek export sales for the SB2U series in Europe. The aircraft was sent to Paris in October of 1938 where it was demonstrated for French officials. This demonstration led the French government, on February 22, 1939, to place a contract for 20 aircraft under the company designation V-156-F.
While based on the earlier SB2U-2, the V-156-F featured a number of changes to meet the needs of the French Navy. The throttle was reversed so that it operated in the opposite way from U.S. standards (full power in the rearmost position) and metric instrumentation replaced U.S. instruments. French radio equipment was installed in place of American radios and French Darne 7.5-mm machine guns replaced the U.S. .30-caliber machine-guns. The French were not allowed to use the Vought bomb displacement gear (for security reasons) and it was deleted with the understanding that French Alkan equipment would be installed after the aircraft were delivered. By May of 1940 this equipment had still not been installed so most French V-156-F combat missions were carried out using only the underwing bomb racks. One other feature of the V-156-F was that wing-mounted fence-type dive brakes (rejected by the U.S. Navy) were installed on the V-156-F.
The V-156-F received its baptism of fire on May 20, 1940 when Escadrille AB1, the first to be equiped with this machine, was ordered to bomb a number of vital bridges that crossed a canal near Origny-Ste-Benoite on the Oise River. This attack was made in an attempt to slow down German armored units, even though the Navy pilots had no training or experience in attacking land targets. During this attack, the squadron was caught by a flight of Messerschmitt Bf-109Es and lost five aircraft. The surviving V-156-Fs of AB1 participated in covering the Dunkirk evacuation that enabled some 338,226 British and Allied soldiers to reach the safety of England. From May 26 to June 4, AB1 attacked German armor and artillery with their remaining six V-156-Fs, with a loss of one aircraft.
Escadrille AB3 was based in the south of France and was attacking Italian targets during the waning days of the French war against the Axis powers. AB3 hit several targets in Northern Italy on June 14, 1940 when the squadron took off in two groups looking for targets of opportunity. The first group sighted an Italian submarine on the surface some twenty miles off Albenga. The four V-156-Fs made a perfect bomb run and scored two hits, sinking the submarine. The next day, six V-156-Fs were lost when Italian Fiat CR-42 biplane fighters attacked their base. On June 17 the surviving aircraft attacked Porto San Stefano Liguria. This was their last operational mission. After this mission the squadron was evacuated to Corsica and by August 30, 1940, the V-156-Fs were history.
(Source = www.voughtaircraft.com
Azur's 1:48 scale V-156F comes in a medium sized top opening cardboard box. The kit is composed of 4 sprues of injected plastic parts, Two sprues made of transparent styrene, one bag filled with resin parts, one photo etched fret, one acetate film, one decal sheet and an instruction booklet.
When examining the parts in detail, one soon realises that most of the plastic parts originate from the excellent Accurate Miniatures SB2U Vindicator which was first released in 2005. This is good news because the level of detail of the original kit is simply amazing. Please refer to the initial review of the kit by Rowan Baylis for more informations and photos (see here
). However, if everything written in this review still holds true for the Azur kit, there is one area were Accurate Miniatures have ameliorated their kit: the dreaded fuselage sink marks. In the new kit they have disappeared! I've checked my other Vindicator kit from the "Marines at Pearl Harbor" Limited Edition boxing (kit 0251) and they were gone as well. I suppose Accurate Miniatures have dealt with the problem with their Korean plastic part manufacturer, to the benefit of the modeller!
Anyway, let's concentrate on the Azur kit and let's take a look at the new items provided in this boxing:
- New injected plastic wing parts. These are copies of the original Accurate Miniatures parts (not included in this kit), modified so to represent the different wings of the V-156F. The latter featured fence-type dive brakes, two Darne 7,5 mm machine guns instead of the single U.S. .30 caliber machine-gun and underwing bomb racks which carried French 150 kg bombs. The quality of the Azur wings is good but the detail is a bit softer than on the original AM parts. However, I really don't think the difference will be noticable on the finished model.
- New injected clear plastic part for the windscreen which wasn't equiped with the telescopic sight of the US machine.
- Several resin parts including a highly detailed Darne 7,5 mm machine gun for the rear gunner, an arrester hook, two bomb racks and the bombs that go with them.
- A photo etched fret with detail parts for the already very nice Accurate Miniatures cockpit, the seat belts for the crew, the fence-type dive brakes for the wings etc...
- A small acetate film for the instrument dials.
- A nicely printed decal sheet by Aviprint with markings included for three aircraft:
A - V-156F n°13, "AB1-12", Escadrille AB1, Boulogne-Alprech.
B - V-156F n°7, "white 6", Escadrille AB1, as seen during the tests on the aircraft carrier Béarn.
C - V-156F n°10, "white 9", Escadrille AB3, Hyeres, 1940.
The first two aircraft are painted in overall Blue Grey while the third aircraft is believed to have been the only exemplar that was painted in a mottle camouflage of Dark Green and Dark Earth over Blue Grey. The painting guides are in black & white but you can download color versions at www.cmkkits.com
- A 12 pages black and white A5 sized instruction booklet featuring a history of the aircraft, a part layout diagram, a color references chart for Gunze paints, a 12 step assembly guide (quite complex in some places) and 3 pages of painting and marking guides.
This is a great package and for the price, very good value for money. There was a Techmod conversion set to do this variant of the Vindicator, but you had to do a lot by yourself (Darne machine gun, modified windscreen, interior detail, arrester hook etc...) and no decals for the camouflaged aircraft were present on the sheet. The Azur kit is much more complete since everything is provided to build an accurate and highly detailed model of the V-156F. Therefore, I can recommend this kit to experienced modelers who have a soft spot for unusual variants of well known aircraft or Armée de l'Air subjects of WWII.
Azur's 1:48 scale V-156F kit is available from www.cmkkits.com.
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