Reviewed by Sean Hert

Surcouf was built in response to limitations imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty. This treaty had no restrictions on submarines, and led the French Navy to designing a "corsair submarine," armed with many torpedos but more importantly, she had twin 203mm (8") guns. These two guns cruiser-sized guns were placed in a turret built into the forward section of the conning tower. A floatplane hanger was built into the after section- the floatplane to aid in search and targeting. Surcouf was commissioned in 1934, one of the largest non-nuclear submarines ever constructed. Two sister submarines were planned, but never constructed.

The design of Surcouf was also influenced by the aftereffects of unrestricted submarine warfare conducted during World War 1. After the War, many navies were considering banning submarines, or some restrictions place upon their conduct. One of the many issues that consistently arose was the demand that submarines conduct themselves via the "cruiser rules of warfare" which state, in part, that if a belligerent warship commander felt it necessary to sink a merchant ship he had to take the crew on board as prisoners. This led Surcouf to being equipped with a motorboat and a cargo area setup for easy conversion to brig for up to 40 detainees.

Surcouf had a short wartime career, and her loss is shrouded with controversy. On 18 February 1942, Surcouf was patrolling in the Caribbean en route to Tahiti ( a Free French Possession) when she was struck by the US freighter SS Thompson Lykes. It is likely Surcouf was only damaged in the encounter with the Lykes, and was later successfully attacked and sunk by US 6th Heavy Bomber Group on the 19th.

Heller's re-release of this venerable kit comes with some upgrades this time; a small fret of phot etch and a resin conning tower upgrade. This allows the model to be built in either of 2 versions; a 1934-36 or 1937-1942 appearance.

The 2-piece full hull, deck piece and the parts for the Besson MB.411 floatplane are here. The hull has some minor flash but nothing major. There is some intermittent raised lines on the hull, making for some good detail on a kit of this age. The deck has some very fine engraved planking.
A larger portion of the kit's parts are on sprue B. The stand, the conning tower, nameplate are all here. In addition, both of the 203mm guns, the turret and hull fittings; props and shafts, rudders and dive planes are also present. Most of these parts are simple in detail by today's standards, but serviceable. The guns, both large and small, are very basic.

This updated reissue of Surcouf includes a resin replacement for the conning tower, to show the changes in Surcouf after a 1936 refit. There were 2 obvious changes in appearance, both reflected on this part; the optical gun director for the twin 8" guns was replaced with an armored enclosure, and the conn was rebuild and raised. These changes are necessary to reflect Surcouf's correct appearance in the 1937-1942 time frame.

The resin part has some slight flash, and is solidly cast with no apparent voids or other casting defects. It looks like this part is an easy drop in replacement.


A decal sheet is included, which has markings and flags for the Surcouf and markings for the Besson MB.411 aircraft.


A small fret of photoetched railings with a ladder is included.


A 12 page instruction book is included; 6 basic pages, folded and stapled. In addition to the assembly steps, there are 2 pages of history in six languages, a page of modeling techniques, 2 pages of painting instructions and a page of small forms to order missing or additional parts.


This is a fun little reissue with a some nice upgrades. While the kit is dated, the additional parts and upgrades and inexpensive price would make this sub a great transition kit for someone looking for a slight challenge. This model retails for about $24.95. Kit provided by my wallet.