In 1934, Regia Aeronautica requested Italian aviation manufacturers to submit proposals for a new medium bomber. Accepted amongst other successful proposals was the BR.20 Cicogna designed by Celestino Rosatelli, thus gaining the prefix BR for "Bombardiere Rosatelli".
The BR.20 was designed and developed quickly and the first prototype (serial number M.M.274 ) flew at Turin on 10 February 1936. Production orders were quickly placed and initial deliveries being made to the Regia Aeronautica in September 1936.
The BR.20 was a twin-engine low-wing monoplane. Its robust main structure was made of a mixed-construction of welded steel tube structure with duralumin and fabric skinning. The engines were two Fiat A.80 RC 41s, rated at 1,000 cv at 4,100 m, driving three-blade Fiat-Hamilton metal variable-pitch propellers. The aircraft was fitted with several 7.7 mm Breda-SAFAT defensive machine guns and it's payload was carried entirely in the bomb bay.
The main task of the BR.20 was medium-range bombing and it was used in operation during the Spanish Civil War as well as in the Second Sino-Japanese War. During WWII, the BR.20 saw service over France for a short period in June 1940 and later against Great Britain (BR.20M) though the Italian contribution to the Battle of Britain was both minimal and a substantial failure. During the further course of the war, BR.20s were used in North Africa, Albania, Greece and Malta. They were also used extensively in Yugoslavia against Tito 's partisans. By 1943, when the Italian armistice was signed, many had been relegated to training , although 81 were with operational units, mostly in the Balkans and Italy.
The BR.20 was a good overall design, but it soon became obsolete, and the lack of improved versions condemned it to be only a second-line machine, underpowered and lacking in defensive firepower.
Special Hobby's 1:48 scale FIAT BR.20 kit comes in a rather large top opening cardboard box with a nice artwork showing the bomber during a mission over Malta, chased by a Fairey Fulmar. The plastic sprues are bagged in several bags and fill the box to the brim. Separate items (clear parts, resin parts, Photo Etched parts and decals) are fastened on a special cardboard tray. The packaging is therefore very effective and nothing was damaged in my sample.
The kit's content is the following:
- Seven sprues of rather soft light gray injected plastic.
- One plastic sprue with transparent parts.
- One bag with several resin pieces.
- One small PE fret.
- Two decal sheets.
- One instruction booklet.
The overall quality of the plastic parts is good. There is some flash and it seems as if the molds have suffered a little in some areas but apart for some minimal cleaning it won't represent too much of a problem. This is a short run kit after all. I was quite impressed by the rendering of the fabric, which is subtle, and the few panel lines (engraved), which are nicely done.
The wings are in two pieces each and are rather big. I found they were warped a little so extra care will be needed here. Maybe glueing them together will be sufficient to get them straight. Otherwise it will be necessary to include a spar of some sort. Actually, I believe this was planned in the kit since round openings are present at the wings' ends, but for some reasons this feature was abandoned. Good news is that the fuselage is alright.
The smaller parts will require some cleaning work but apart from the Machine Guns which are over simplified they look good. The shape of the seats is an other story though, especially when compared to reference pictures. They have the typical bulged back to accommodate the parachute but somehow they don't look right. In general, the cockpit interior is the area which will require the most work as it could benefit from more detail. They are no seatbelts provided for example and this is a shame. The instrument panel is made of injected plastic but I've seen at the Nürnberg Toy Fair that Eduard is working on an additional PE set for the kit. No doubt the interior will be the point of focus of it.
The typical framework of the BR.20 has been reproduced inside each fuselage halves and though it does not show the full volume of the steel tubing it is acceptable I think. Once the model is finished, not much will be seen from the interior anyway. But I'm sure a lot of modellers will simply erase the relief detail and do the inner framing with plastic rods for a more realistic appearance. If you need some good reference photos of the interior, I recommend the book "Le Fiat BR.20" by Yves Domange (Lela Presse - French text).
One area that is also simplified are the wheel wells. In fact the inside of the engine nacelles are devoid of any detail. Unfortunately, in the above mentioned book there are no photos or drawings which show how this part of the aircraft looked like. I don't know if the designers of the kit had the same difficulties founding some useful references but maybe this is an explanation.
The resin parts are splendid and the engines will look very nice inside their cowlings (see accompanying photos of the completed model at the Nürnberg Toy Fair). Exhausts and air intakes are also provided as resin parts, as well as the wheel covers.
The small PE fret only holds 8 parts and is almost superfluous. Why Special Hobby didn't included seatbelts is beyond me.
The clear parts are very good with a good transparency. I've heard that the nose portion is a poor fit to the fuselage. Extra care and dry fitting will be necessary here.
Decals printed by Aviprint are provided for the following marking options:
- Fiat BR.20, MM2124, 9-5, 9a Squadriglia, 25° Gruppo, 7° Stormo B.T., Cameri, february 1941.
- Fiat BR.20, unknown serial no., 5-3, 5a Squadriglia (La Malledeta), 1940.
- Fiat BR.20, MM2124, 9-5, 5a Squadriglia, 43° Gruppo, 13° Stormo B.T., Lonate, 1936.
- Fiat BR.20, unknown serial no., 47-3, 47a Squadriglia, 37° Stormo, 18° stormo B.T., Aviano, 1939.
The markings are interesting in that they show three different camouflage styles. All silver for the 1936 machine, three tome splinter camouflage for the 1939 machine and three color Mimetico sheme for the 1940/1941 machines.
The instructions are made of 4 pages folded so to make an A4 sized 14 pages booklet. Included are an history of the aircraft, a part's layout, A 13 step building sequence and 4 pages dedicated to the painting and decalling of the kit. It is to note that the instructions are black & white only but color marking guides can be downloaded at the www.cmkkits.com website
It is to note that the kit is available in a Classic Airframes boxing which includes Japanese markings and that it has been designed in a modular way (nose and tail) for a possible BR.20M variant, though new parts, which are not included in this box, will be needed.
While somewhat simplified in places (cockpit interior and wheel bays), Special Hobby's 1:48 scale BR.20 will nevertheless make into an impressive model. The most visible features of the real plane have been faithfully reproduced (rendering of the surfaces, engines, overall dimensions etc...) so I think most of the people will be happy with what is in the box. There is some room for extra detail though and the more demanding builders will wait for the extra PE parts from Eduard. Due to the short run nature of the kit and it's size, I would only recommend it to experienced modelers.
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