Heller 1/400 Maillé-Brézé
Review by Jean-Paul Binot

The Maillé-Brézé was an escorteur díescadre (i.e. a large DD) of the T47 program (ten ships, plus an additional seven in the T53 program, and one more in the T56 program). Three of the T47 were converted into command ships, four into Tartar AAW destroyers, and the remainder into ASW destroyers. Maillé-Brézé was part of the ASW batch and served in the Atlantic fleet until being withdrawn from service in 1988 to be turned into a museum in Nantes. 

The kit is molded in light gray plastic, with 206 parts in 4 sprues. The general appearance is good, with some flash and fine detail. Overall length is 321 mm. As in all Heller kits, plastic railing is supplied in a special sprue. It is hopelessly overscale and should be discarded.

The kit depicts Maillé-Brézé in her original state as an all-gun destroyer, with a strong 127mm and 57mm battery. The instructions in the box mention that Maillé-Brézé was fitted with a Malafon missile launcher, but obviously the box does not include any part for the rebuilt ship, although in a Heller catalogue, the box art for the Maillé-Brézé kit shows the ship firing such a missile.

The hull is made of two full-hull halves, to be joined and reinforced by strips of plastic, as with all Heller kits except the Foch and Clemenceau. The two-level main deck fits the hull well, but some small gaps will need to be filled. Contrary to normal Heller practice, the basic elements of the superstructure are molded in with the deck, which can make conversion difficult. Overall the superstructure is accurate, but some detail is missing (doors, hatches, etc.) The kit includes three 127mm and three 57mm turrets, plus four torpedotube batteries. Detail is minimal but the general shape and proportions are good. The masts and radar aerial are too heavy and should be replaced by scratchbuilt and PE elements, using the parts provided with the kit as examples.

The kitís instructions provide a guide to Heller and Humbrol paints. As for all modern French warships, Maillé-Brézé should be painted light blue-gray, with all horizontal surfaces dark gray. The decal sheet is nicely done, although the motto plates should be replaced by the GMM PE equivalent.

The potential for conversion of the kit is extremely high. The T47 class can be built in four variants:

  1. As originally built as an all-gun destroyer. This is the easiest option since the Heller kit portrays Maillé-Brézé in that state.
  2. As a command ship. This implies simply extending some of the superstructure and modifying the bridge. Some gun turrets and torpedo tubes are not to be fitted.
  3. As a Tartar AAW destroyer. This is a significant conversion, in which the superstructure must be extended and some gun turrets and torpedo tubes not fitted. The funnels must be heightened and an ASW mortar added. In addition, a Tartar single-arm launcher and two radar directors need to be scratchbuilt, together with a SPS-39 radar on top of the main mast.
  4. As an ASW destroyer. This is the most complex conversion, in which the superstructure needs to be entirely scratchbuilt and all the armament changed (using 100mm gun turrets and directors, a Malafon launcher and a towed-array sonar from a Duguay-Trouin or a Duquesne kit). The installation of a bow sonar will involve a reshaped clipper bow with a stem anchor. However, all these modifications are reasonably simple to carry out and would result in a very different ship.
In addition to the above, the kit can also be modified to portray one of the seven T53 destroyers, that were very similar to the T47, with extended superstructure and a slightly different weapon fit. The T56 (La Galissonière) can also be built from the Maillé-Brézé kit, but with even more alteration.The kit of the Maillé-Brézé is a good rendition of the original all-gun destroyer. As with all Heller kits, this one should receive a considerable amount of super-detailing, including PE accessories and additional parts, but there are no obvious mistakes to be corrected. One can only regret that there is no manufacturer of PE material to have produced a set specifically for French warships in 1/400 yet.

There is one books that I suggest should be used when building Hellerís Maillé-Brézé : Escorteurs díEscadre, Robert Dumas and Jean Moulin, Marines Editions, ISBN 2-909675-29-7. This 280-page book outlines everything one needs to know about the T47, T53 and T56 destroyers. It provides an in-depth coverage of the design and history of each of the eighteen ships, with many pictures and diagrams of the refits and reconstruction they went through. Also included is information on colors and markings.

In conclusion, I very strongly recommend the purchase of this kit, since it provides excellent value for money. Its amazing potential for conversion makes it a must for all serious modellers of modern warships.

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