Heller 1/400 Commandant Riviere
Review by Felix Bustelo

 The Commandant Riviere was the class leader of the nine Type E-55 ships designated as aviso escorteurs. These ships were designed for escort duties and provided both anti- aircraft and anti-submarine functionality. Originally built in the late 1950's and early 1960's, these ships served the Marine Nationale into the early 1990's. I have seen a photo of one of these ships from about 1975 and she had been upgraded with two Exocet MM38 launchers just aft of the funnel. Three of these ships were sold to Uruguay, where I believe they are still in commission.

 This particular kit is currently out of production and is an example of a typical Heller kit. It is molded in a medium gray plastic and is comprised of 128 parts. According to the box, the kit will measure 257mm (a little more than 10 inches). The hull comes in two halves that must be joined along the keel. The molding is very clean with no flash and the only sinkholes that need to be corrected where on the cabin roofs of the two lifeboats. The few others I found are fortunately on the reserve side of the part and would be hidden from view once assembled.

 The detail found in this kit varies and seems almost haphazard. There are no molded on watertight doors, but some piping, vertical ladders and even the faint circle representing a porthole are present. What I did find surprising was the presence of rectangular grids on the horizontal deck surfaces, which I assume is supposed to represent plating. These grids bring to mind similar molding in Lindberg kits, but thankfully it is not as heavy as that. Whether this is accurate or not I cannot tell at this point, as the limited photographic evidence that I have seen doesn't shed light on this.

 As is the case with most injection-molded kits, some of the parts, such as the lattice mast and radars, are adequate but somewhat out of scale. A trademark of Heller kits is the plastic railing that is provided, which should be discarded and replaced with photoetch versions.

 The decal sheet provided with the kit contains the hull number for the starboard and port bow, the transom and the roof of the bridge and the ship's name for the port and starboard stern.

 While this kit has some very minor problems, they are certainly not insurmountable and should not prevent you from buying this kit if you come across one. The Commandant Riviere and the other Type E-55 ships were handsome and would make an interesting addition to your collection of models. Photoetch sets from L'Arsenal or Gold Medal Models will provide you with most of what you need to detail this model.

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