Mirage 1/400 U149 Type IID
Despite the efforts of Admiral Dönitz to expand the U-boat fleet, the Type II was the mainstay of the Ubootwaffe at the outbreak of World War II. These boats were small, with a maximum displacement of 460 tonnes, an overall length of 43.97 meters (144.25 feet) and a maximum breadth of 4.92 meters (16.14 feet). Because of the small size, they had only three torpedo tubes and capacity for only five "eels". Yet they were pressed into war service because the scarcity of ships and only the D variant had legs long enough to reach the western coast of the United Kingdom. This due to the use of saddle tanks, like those found on the Type VII, which increased the bunkerage and Kort nozzles (which were a sort of shroud around the propellers) which attempted to improve propulsive efficiency. Descendants of the UF Type of World War I, the Type II were regarded as training boats, and as such employed when better submarines became available in numbers, but they saw operational employment in the Black Sea up to 1944.
The Mirage model is an interesting little kit, but one has to wonder why such an enormous box (measuring 25cm x 18cm) was used to package a model which is barely 11 centimetres overall. The kit is moulded in a somewhat thick, but soft, creased, grey plastic, which results in some overscale issues with are somewhat offset by a more than adequate grade of detail for such a little model. Parts are provided to give the modeller the option of building the boat as either pre- or post-1942 (addition of snorkel and suppression of net cutter).
There are 28 pieces, among them 2 for the hull, one for the deck and two for the conning tower. They are trouble free, except for an ejection pin in the inside of the bridge parts and in the stand, and a sinkhole in part D 7, which appears to be the snorkel. There is a discrepancy in stage III of the instruction sheet, which mislabels part 10 as part 15. Also, piece 6 is not used. As noted, some parts are overscale, such as the 20mm gun and the net cutter (the former is also a little short-barrelled). The propellers are moulded flat, as is very difficult to give an adequate pitch in such a small item in this scale (they measure about 3mm in diameter), but they are nearly hidden by the nozzles when mounted. The bulged torpedo tube doors are missing and the limber holes are rounded, not rectangular as in the original. The prominent rails around the bridge are not provided. Examples of the detail include the life preserver and navigation lights that are moulded integrally into the tower. While the limber holes are the wrong shape, the kit has a neat depiction of their complex layout as well as an adequate representation of the deck planking and fittings. The model scales to the right overall length but it is about 80 scale centimetres narrower than the maximum breadth.
Decals for U137 and U 149 are provided, which are very tiny but neat, and includes boat's crest; however the flag's swastika is substituted for a cross and a series of points. The instruction sheet is provided only in Polish, but it is easily followed and includes a brief historical background. A colour chart is provided for Humbrol, AGAMA and RAL ranges.
Regarding assembly, the biggest trouble appears to be the lacking of alignment tabs between hull halves and deck, and between tower parts, the addition of tube doors, the smallness of items such the propellers and the need of thinning others, like the propeller's nozzles.
It is a nice and easy kit of a "minor" but important weapon of the German Submarine Force, which could be built into a beautiful model with a little effort (but maybe with the help of a magnifier!).
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