L'Arsenal 1/400 Tripartite Class Minehunter
Review by Felix Bustelo

 During the 1970's, the French, Dutch and Belgian navies collaborated on the design of a new mine countermeasures vessel. The result of this effort is the Tripartite Class of minehunters, of which 10 very originally built for the Marine Nationale, 15 for the Dutch Navy and 9 for the Belgian Navy. France purchased three Belgian ships and the Pakistani Navy has three ships in service while the Indonesian Navy has two. During the Gulf War, Belgium contributed two Tripartite class mine hunters, Iris (M 920) and Myosotis (M 922) to the Allied mine countermeasures force.

 This kit is the latest offering from L'Arsenal and possibly their most finely cast kit so far. The one-piece full hull and main superstructure is nearly flawless. My sample did not have a casting block (which is normally found on full hull resin kits) but some light cleanup and sanding is needed along the keel. The bilge keels on the bottom sides of the hull are so wafer thin that you must carefully handle this main part. While examining and scanning this part for this review, I broke one off and another two are precariously hanging on. There is a high level of detail, such as watertight doors, vent grills, and portholes cast into the hull and superstructure. The Tripartite ships have unique series of, for lack of a better term, grooves that run up and down parallel along the superstructure. These are beautifully reproduced in this model. Previous kits from L'Arsenal have the waterline is faintly etched into the hull, which I find very useful. For some reason, this kit does not have the waterline demarked. Two resin stands are provided to hold the model while building and can be used as actual display stands if you like.

 The remaining resin parts are stored in a ziplock bag. These include the main mast, funnel exhaust cap, crane components, rudders, 20mm gun and gun platform, rubber dinghies, bollards, the PAP 104 submersibles and other small parts. The casting of these smaller parts is also excellent and crisp. Care must be given in removing parts from sprues, especially the mast components. 

The photo-etch parts come in one brass fret. The fret contains 3 lengths of 3-bar rails, 2 lengths of railing for the rear deck and special railing for the 20mm gun platform. The fret also contains a variety of details, such as ladders, main and rudder propellers, machine guns, shields and platform, fins and trolleys for the PAP 104s, French Navy motto plaques, Dutch and Belgian ships name plaques and other parts. The detail photoetch fret has part numbers etched into the brass, which makes identification very easy and matches the kit instructions. The quality of the photoetch brass is top rate, with scored bend lines and relief etching.

 A decal sheet is included which contains the hull numbers and names for all ships in this class in service with the French, Belgian and Dutch navies. For those wishing to model one of the minehunters in service with the Pakistani and Indonesian navies will have to seek out a separate source. National flags and ensigns are not provided on the decal sheet. Also not present on the decal sheet are the bridge windows, which was a staple in previous kit releases. I liked this feature on the other kit's decal sheets, as it eliminated the tedious task of painting them in.

 The six pages of instructions are very well illustrated and detailed and are available in English as well as in French. My sample of course came with the English instructions and they are very good. Background information on the class, tips and things to do prior to construction, Humbrol and Tamiya color suggestions and reference sources fill up page one. The next five pages contain written and illustrated assembly instructions. Some reference photos are even included with the instruction sheets. I did notice that on page 4, the illustration for rear deck hoist placement references the wrong photoetch part; it should say part 28 and not 26. One omission in the assembly instruction is a diagram showing the how to properly bend and place photoetch parts 29 and 30, which are the command gangway shields. You will need to refer photographs to help you with this part. I highly recommend acquiring issue number 5 (December 2000) of the French magazine Navires et Histoire, which has an in-depth article on the Tripartite minehunters with many color photos.

 L'Arsenal has another winner with this great kit. I am very, very tempted to shelve my current project, or at least try to work on both concurrently, to get started on mine. My thanks to Jacques Druel, of L'Arsenal, for supplying this review sample.

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