PZL P.24 by Mirage

1/48 scale
Kit No. 48107
Cost: $25.00
Decals: Two versions by Techmod – both Greek Air Force
Comments: Engraved panel lines, detailed radial engine, detailed 20mm gun pods, resin and photo-etch details, film instruments insert

History

The Panstwowe Zaklady Lotnicze (PZL) P.24 was a Polish-built fighter developed in the 1930’s as an export derivative of the PZL P.11, a gull-wing all-metal monoplane designed by Zygmunt Pulawski for the Polish Air Force. PZL fighters first drew the attention of the world’s major military powers at the 1930 Paris Air Show with an impressive aerobatic display. The P.11 was powered with a license-built Bristol Mercury engine, originally manufactured in Great Britain. When the P.11 began to generate serious interest by potential foreign buyers at international exhibitions and air shows, inquiries about purchasing export versions of the fighter began to come in. Between 1930-33, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Portugual, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, and Yugoslovakia all expressed an interest. But Poland did not have the capital to finance large-scale production for export orders, and many countries wanted to pay via in-kind exchanges of goods rather than cash in those early years of the worldwide Great Depression.

Another problem was that the ten-year license agreement with the Bristol Company, under which the Mercury radial engines were built in Poland, prohibited exports of any Bristol-powered aircraft. To free itself from this limitation, PZL decided to design an advanced fighter powered by an engine of a different make, aimed specifically at export markets, and designated the PZL P.24. Ultimately in June 1932 PLZ chose the French Gnome-Rhône 14Kds 14-cylinder, double row, supercharged radial engine of 769 hp (570 kW) for the P.24 prototype, which flew for the first time in May 1933. The first flight was brief, cut short after severe vibrations damaged the airscrew, engine bearings and fuel tank attachments. After the forward fuselage was rebuilt and reinforced, flight testing resumed in October 1933. Flight tests led to 150 modifications, which were incorporated into the second P.24/II prototype, named the “Super P.24”, which set an international world speed record for radial engine-powered fighters of 257 mph (414 km/h) on June 28, 1934.

In July 1934 an improved, more powerful Gnome-Rhône 14Kfs of 900 h.p. was installed in the third prototype, the P.24/III, also called the Super P.24bis.  It flew for the first time in August, and in October 1934 it was demonstrated to Polish officials and members of foreign missions residing in Warsaw. In December 1934 it was exhibited at the Salon de l’Aeronautique in Paris (known to English speakers as the Paris Air Show), attracting great interest from the participants. With its high (for the time) top speed and two 20mm cannon, two 7.92mm Colt-Browning machine gun armament, it was regarded as the fastest and best armed interceptor in the world. The French Armee de l’Air continued to show interest, but there was strong resistance within the French government to foreign aircraft, and a number of French manufacturers had developed copies of the PZL, so no sales to France were ever made.

The P.24 was conventional in layout, with high wings and all-metal construction. The gull-wings had a thin profile close to the fuselage, providing the pilot with good visibility. This configuration was developed by Zygmunt Pulawski and called “the Polish wing.” The canopy was closed (apart from prototypes). An internal 360-liter fuel tank in the fuselage could be jettisoned in case of emergency. It had conventional fixed landing gear, with a rear skid. The armament was a combination of 20 mm Oerlikon FF cannon and 7.92 mm Colt-Browning machine guns in the wings.

Operational Record

As the P.24 was developed specifically for export, only a single machine, most likely a prototype, fought in the 1939 Polish campaign against the Luftwaffe. On September 14tn and again on the 15th, this P.24 flown by a Lieutenant Szczesny shot down two German aircraft. The P.24’s of the Hellenic Air Force, however, had an impressive record. Greece was one of the export customers, and at the time of the October 1940 Italian invasion of Greece, the Greek fighter force consisted of 36 P.24’s, 9 Bloch MB-151’s, and two Gloster Gladiators. The MB-151 squadron was still in training, so the defense of Greece against the Regia Aeronautica fell almost entirely on the P.24’s. In the first air combat on November 1st, a P.24 shot down an Italian aircraft north of Ioannina. In the coming days, P.24s fared well against Italian formations attacking Salonika.

In one such action, Lt. Mitralexis of No. 22 Squadron, out of ammunition, smashed the tail of a Savoia-Marchetti S.M. 79 bomber with the airscrew of his P.24, forcing the enemy crew to bail out. Over the next four months, despite diminishing numbers and lack of spare parts, P.24’s, aided by RAF aircraft, continued to frustrate the Italians’ efforts to achieve air supremacy, embarassing Mussolini and the Italian brass. Only 20 P.24’s remained when the Germans invaded Greece in April 1941, and continued to fight until the final surrender on April 23rd. On that day the last airworthy P.24s flew to Crete.

The P.24 was roughly 80 mph slower than the Messerschmitt Bf109, but was far more manueverable, and used this to good advantage in air engagements. In time, Luftwaffe pilots learned not to get into a turning fight with the agile P.24, and instead exploited their speed advantage. Most official war records were lost or destroyed following the German victory, but it is estimated that one-third of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the Greek Campaign fell to the guns of the agiel and robust PZL P.24 with their distinctive Pulawski wings, earning the lasting admiration of Greek pilots.

Specifications (P.24C)

Length: 7.81 m (25 ft. 7 in.)
Wingspan: 10.68 m (35 f.t 1. in)
Height: 2.7 m (8 ft 19 in)
Wing area: 17.90 m² (192.7 ft²)
Empty weight: 1,330 kg (2,930 lbs.)
Loaded weight: 1,915 kg (4,220 lbs.)
Max. takeoff weight: 2,000 kg (4,400 lbs.)
Powerplant: 1 × Gnome-Rhône 14Kfs 14-cylinder double row radial engine, 900 hp / 930 hp (max) (671 kW / 693 kW (max))

Performance

Maximum speed: 430 km/h (270 mph)
Range: 550 km (340 miles)
Service ceiling: 10,500 m (34,449 ft.)
Rate of climb: 11.5 m/s (2,260 ft/min.)
Power/mass: 0.376 kW/kg (0.230 hp/lb)

Armament

Four 7.92mm machine guns or two 20mm Oerlikon cannon with two 7.92mm machine guns, 2 x 50 kg (110 lb) bombs

The Kit

The Mirage PZL P.24 is injection molded in light grey and consists of 75 plastic parts, 5 resin parts, a two-piece clear plastic canopy, and a photo-etch fret (which includes a gun sight) for detailing the cockpit and landing gear. There is a well-detailed double-row radial engine, as well as cockpit side wall detail on the interior of both fuselage halves. A two-part resin seat with photo-etch details, a photo-etch instrument panel face with a film instrument insert, and resin radiators make for a well-detailed fuselage interior and exterior. Beneath the wings, there is a small blister for the wing-mounted machine guns, and a much larger gun pod for each of the 20mm cannon. The gull wing is very finely corrugated with engraved panel lines on the upper surfaces and raised ribbing in additon to the corrugated surface on the undersides. The same ribbing appears on the tail and rudder for a very accurate look. Finally, there is a two-part resin exhaust manifold which covers the circumference of the engine and is fitted just behind the cowl.

Decals

Markings are provided for two Hellenic Air Force machines: Black 106 of No. 22 Mira Dioxe (Fighter Squadron), based at Great Micra Airfield, Thessalonika, September 1940; and Black 129, also of No. 22 Mira Dioxe (Fighter Squadron), based at Sedes Airfield, 1940.

Reference

  • Profile Publications Number 170: The PZL P.24
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