Curtiss Hawk III

Curtiss Hawk III by Classic Airframes
1/48 scale
Cost: $24.00

Decals:  Two versions by Microscale - both Fuerza Aerea Argentina (Argentine Air Force)
Comments: Engraved and raised panel lines, white metal parts for landing gear, resin cockpit and engine

History
The Curtiss Hawk III was designed as an export version of the U.S. Navy's BF2C-1 Goshawk.  The BF2C was based on the Curtiss F11C-2 design, with the added refinement of manually operated retractable landing gear.  The protype of the Hawk III was designated XF11C-3, and was delivered to the U.S. Navy in May 1933.  The new Hawk had a Wright R-1820-80 radial engine rated at 700 horsepower (522 kW).  Trials revealed a 17 mph (27.5 km/h) increase in speed over the F11C-2, and the extra weight caused a decrease in maneuverability. The Navy felt the handling degradation was more than offset by the increase in speed.  During testing the XF11C-3 had its wood wing replaced by a metal-framed airfoil wing used in production and soon after was redesignated XBF2C-1 (Model 67A) in keeping with the new Bomber-Fighter category. 

The Curtiss Hawk III includes white metal parts for the landing gear, seen here at lower right.

 Although an attractive and advanced design, the BF2C-1 was plagued with vibration problems from the metal-framed wings.  When Curtiss modified the design for an export version, the wing structure was redesigned to use wood frame wings which eliminated the vibration problem.  Other changes were the deletion of the arresting hook, and modified cowling and exhausts.  139 Hawk III's were built, 12 going to Argentina (including the sole example of the Hawk IV, which had a fully enclosed canopy), where they saw active service until 1954.  Hawk III's were also operated by China, Thailand and Turkey.

102 Hawk III's went to China where they were widely used against the Japanese from August 1937 on, with great success against Japanese bombers, but once outclassed by the introduction of Japan's A5M Claude, they were replaced by the Russian I-15 biplane and I-16 monoplane fighters.  They were mostly relegated to trainer duty until, in the summer of 1940, 9 Hawk III's were pressed into service as night fighters to defend the Chinese wartime capital Chongqing from Japanese night bombing runs with the 22nd Squadron of 4th Group.

One of the kit's best features is the resin accessories, which include wheel wells, engine components (right down to individual cylinder heads), a cockpit floor and an instrument panel.

The Kit
Classic Airframes' Curtiss Hawk III is molded in light grey and consists of 86 parts -- 41 injection molded plastic, 36 resin, 7 white metal and 2 clear vacuform.  It has a detailed cockpit featuring a resin seat, floor, instrument panel, rudder pedals, control column and other controls.  The instructions feature a cross-section drawing of how the cockpit assembly should be positioned inside the fuselage once complete, as well as clear, exploded illustrations giving guidance on positioning the various struts for the wings and landing gear.  Most impressive is a detailed resin engine block with 9 separate individual cylinder heads and exhaust pipes, and 2 resin machine gun barrels mounted on either side of the engine inside the cowling.  There is a scope mounted just forward of the cockpit to assist bombing, and a rudimentary rigging diagram with a note to refer to photographs as the best reference.

Resin cockpit seat and engine exhaust valves are also included.


Conclusion
Classic Airframes has given us a nicely detailed kit embodying American aviation at the height of the Golden Age -- highly recommended.

Color plates depicting two different versions of Argentinian Air Force fighters are provided -- the Hawk III was specifically designed by Curtiss for export.

The decals are in register and have rich color; two vacuform windscreens are also provided.

The Hawk III's instruction sheet is beautifully illustrated and very detailed.

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