Background - The Curtiss C-46 Commando was a military transport aircraft used during World War II by the United States Army Air Forces and also by the U.S.
Navy/Marine Corps. The
C-46 served a similar role to its counterpart, the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, but was not as extensively produced. A total of 200 C-46
airframes were ordered in 1940, but only two were actually delivered by December 7, 1941. At this time, more powerful 2,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double
Wasp engines replaced the two Wright Twin Cyclones originally fitted to the aircraft. Additional military contracts for the
C-46 extended the production run to 1,454
airplanes, of which 40, designated
R5C-1, went to the U.S. Marine Corps. The airplanes were fitted with double cargo doors, a strengthened floor and hydraulically
operated cargo handling winch. To accommodate passengers, 40 folding seats were installed. The
C-46 Commando was most famous for its operations in the
China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) and the Far East. The
Commando was a workhorse, flying in a wide range of adverse conditions to transport desperately needed
supplies to troops in China from bases in India. The
C-46 had the power to fly over "The Hump", which was the nickname given to the Himalaya Mountains by
Allied airmen, its powerful engines enabling it to climb satisfactorily with heavy loads. After World War II, a few surplus
C-46 aircraft were briefly used in their
originally designated role as passenger airliners, but the large numbers of surplus
C-47 Skytrains were better suited for this role. As a result, the C-46 was soon
relegated to primarily cargo duty, continuing service in U. S. Air Force service in a secondary role until 1968. However, some
C-46s remain in operation as a rugged
cargo transport for Arctic and remote locations with its service life extended into the 21st century.

The Kit - Earlier is 2016, SSN-Modellbau of Germany released a kit of the C-46 Commando comprised of resin and photo-etch parts to build one aircraft. Decals
and paint masks are included to build the model in one of five marking options. The airframe is one resin part with the fuselage and all of the wings. The remaining
resin parts are the wheel/landing gear sets. The resin parts are done well with a good amount of detail. Some excess resin needed to be removed from the fuselage
and wings. The wings are not warped, which is a problem that I have seen with some other airplane kits in this scale. The small photo-etch fret includes 3-bladed
propellers, landing gear doors, an alternate tail landing gear strut and a variety of really tiny antennas. The photo-etch is adequate with relief etching to denote the
folds in the landing gear doors and tail strut and parts numbers in the fret. To use the alternate tail landing strut will require removing that portion from the resin part,
leaving just the wheel. A decal sheet is provided with markings for U.S. Army Air Corps, U.S. Marine and U.S. Air Force airplanes with numbers identifying each
decal which are referenced in the assembly guide. The decals appear well done with good color and clean markings. For the post-war USAF livery, some painting
masks are provided to block out the areas where the decals are to go.
The kit comes with a 13-page assembly guide which may appear to be a lot of pages for such a small model, but it is well done. The cover page has a color image
of one the paint schemes explain further into the guide. Page 2 some general information about working with the kit parts and a brief history. Page 3 has a photo
of the resin parts with part numbers and a table describing each part and Page 4 gives the same treatment for the photo-etch parts. The top of page 5 has an
image of the decal sheet and the first in a series of color photos detailing step-by-step the assembly of the aircraft. Each photo has a caption with instructions for
each step. Pages 11 through 13 have painting and decal placement instructions with color illustrations for five different airframes. The paint references are for
Vallejo paints, and in most cases also for Life Colour, but the color names are provided which should help you cross-reference to your preferred paint line.

The Build - I decided to build my C-46 Commando in the “Smiley’s Airline” scheme used by the U.S. Army Air Corps 4th Combat Cargo Group, Burma 1945.
The first step was to clean up the excess resin on the airframe and to smooth out some of the uneven surfaces along the main wings with a little putty and light
sanding. Once that was done, I washed the airframe with dish detergent and warm water, using a toothbrush to lightly scrub the part. After drying, I glued on the
landing gear doors and the proceeded to paint the model by hand with a brush. I marked of the wavy demarcation line between the upper and lower fuselage
colors with a pencil and then used Testors Model Master Olive Drab and Neutral Gray respectively. Since the model was small, masking off this paint scheme to
airbrush would have been too tedious in my opinion. I did mask the aircraft to paint the leading edges of the wings and tail black, using a rattle can. I then filled in
the windows using a black mechanical marker. The next step was to apply gloss coat to the model for the decals. The decals went on well but reacted too quickly
to MicroSet, which made it difficult to apply the “Smiley’s Airline” decals as they got soft while I was settling them into place. I then added the landing gear,
using the alternate PE parts for the tail gear. I painted the landing struts and wheel hubs Testors MM Aluminum and the tires Aircraft Interior Black (which is an
off-black). Attaching the really, really tiny antennas was admittedly nerve-wracking and I managed to lose one or two in the process (thankfully extras are
provided). I used .004 steel wire dipped in Blacken It for the little bit of rigging. I airbrushed a light coat Testors Dullcote to finish off the model.
I wanted to place the
C-46 in a vignette with some activity. I went with a scene with a fuel truck, a Jeep, some cargo and ground personnel getting the airplane
ready for the next flight. The fuel truck is
Niko Model’s Studebaker US6 tanker and the Jeep, cargo and personnel are from L’Arsenal (the latter are combat
pose naval figures with uniforms painted olive drab).
Overall this is a very well done kit which is a simple build and looks good when completed. Aircraft in 1:350 scale really belong in a diorama and this is a perfect
subject to build a scene around. With the different marking options, you could also place a
C-46 in a Marine airstrip on an island or in post-war Alaskan setting. My
thanks to
SSN Modellbau for the review sample.
Felix Bustelo
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