Kit Review: Italeri 1/35 Scale Kit No. 5605; S.L.C. 200 "Maiale"; 68 parts (47 parts in grey styrene, 20 etched brass, 1 sheet of clear styrene), one 36-page book, one box art reproduction on heavy card stock; price US$33.00
Advantages: a kit of probably the most successful "midget submarine" of WWII; figures give a museum-like presentation to the model; book very useful to understand the purpose and function of the vessel
Disadvantages: seemingly very expensive for a small model (about 17 cm long when finished)
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: to 1/35 scale ship and naval item modelers and dioramists as well as anyone wanting to do a totally different subject
The Second World War saw a new class of weapon introduced - midget submarines, which came in different varieties based on national views of the weapon. The British, Japanese and Germans saw them basically as miniaturized versions of the larger vessels with crews of two to about six men and some way to deliver their payloads by either drop charges or actual torpedoes. While all were tried, only the British and Japanese ones had any effect but for the most part it was minimal.
The Italians had a different approach, basically using a vessel which was a cross between a torpedo with human guidance and what is termed today a "swimmer delivery vehicle."
According to the very handy and useful booklet provided with this kit, in 1935 the Italians began seeking a way to clandestinely attack enemy shipping using what they termed a 'siluro a lenta corsa" or "slow running torpedo" - the S.L.C. for short or "Maiale" (pig) to sum up its handling qualities. Armed with a standard 230 kilogram 533mm torpedo warhead, the S.L.C. was used to manually bring a warhead next to its victim at a very slow speed while the victim was moored. The crew of two was responsible for attaching the warhead underneath the keel of the victim and setting the timers, and then leaving the area.
The S.L.C. was carried Japanese-style on the back of a "mother" submarine and released when close enough to reach its target on its own. The concept was successful and during the war (through 1943 for Italy) three warships and twelve merchantmen were attacked and either sunk or damaged, including HMS Valiant and HMS Queen Elizabeth. Since only about 50 were built, this is a remarkable achievement.
Equally remarkable is the fact that the crew did not have modern- style SCUBA tanks and had to use a rebreather device. These were less sophisticated than SCUBA in some ways, but did have the advantage that they left no trail of air bubbles to give away the swimmers.
I recall seeing a movie about these vessels as a kid in which the heroes - the S.L.C. swimmers - attacked the two British battleships and were being interrogated on board one of them when the warhead detonated. Since I think it was a British film, obviously they were impressed by the courage of the Italians for pulling this off.
Italeri's new kit follows several of their recent armored vehicles as it is an effort focused more on the "home market" and as such seems to be about two notches above many other recent Italeri kit efforts. The inclusion of not only etched brass, figures and a "frameable" artwork print but also a book on its subject is unique for them and a very impressive way to present the model.
Based on the research carried out to produce the booklet, the kit may be used to produce either a single-warhead "standard" model or a later double -warhead version; a set of extension parts is provided to increase the length of the S.L.C. The warheads are interchangeable so no cutting is involved.
The kit is actually quite simple and even comes with a five-piece display stand/rack for the S.L.C. when complete. This appears somewhat conjectural as an actual dolly is shown in the book and perhaps the kit would have been a bit better off to provide the dolly and a second of handling track for the actual S.L.C. If you don't want to do that, just leave the nameplate off the stand.
The kit consists of very simple components - the torpedo hull, the seats and controls, and the air cables for pressure adjustment. The instrument faces are provided by decals and there is a section of clear styrene to create the waterproof covering for the instrument panel with an etched brass frame.
Most of the rest of the assembly is pretty straightforward - seats, combings, component boxes - but the propeller will take care and forethought. The propeller and most of the other elements are etched brass and very tricky to fit. For example, in order to ensure that the crew does not do an "Isadora Duncan" there is a very sophisticated guard around the propeller blades, which Italeri provides as a single piece. It consists of a ring and four truncated cone sections which have to all fit together, so it will take care and skill.
Also requiring some care are the four stirrup assemblies for the swimmers which are also all etched brass.
The crew figures are quite nice but a bit statically posed, sort of like museum mannequins. This appears to be due to the fact that Italeri has done them up to show the use of their Modello 49/bis rebreather suits. One has the suit on and the helmet off and the other is fully suited for action. The first man has his helmet in his arms and only requires the helmet (attached to his left arm) and oxygen tanks to be attached. The other one has his helmet in place and requires his fitment hose and tanks (with the man's right hand molded to the tank valve) to be cemented in place.
A small decal sheet provides for the instruments and limited tactical markings. Painting directions are slim but then again the color "black" seems to be the main one used for the basic reason that stealth at night was the goal. The only thing not provided is thin wire or thread for the control cables running to the rudder/elevating planes controls.
Overall this is a very impressive (if expensive) kit and a super achievement for Italeri.
Thanks to Bob Lewen of MRC for the review sample.