1:72 Heller MD450 Oragan – Israeli Airforce

Dassault MD450 Ouragan, Israeli Air Force, 31 October 1956 and Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim El Awal – The Battle of Haifa – 1:72 Heller 80201, 1:700 Hunt II 70005

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The background

During the Suez Crisis (Sinai War/War of Tripartite Aggression) on 31 October 1956 the Egyptian destroyer Ibrahim El Awal under the command of 29 year old Captain Shmuel “Samek” Yanai was tasked with the shelling of the Port of Haifa. He successfully evaded the British, French and Israeli patrols and was shelling his target the when the French Destroyer Crescent arrived in the bay and returned fire driving the Egyptian off (although scoring no hits).

3 Israeli ships (the INS Destroyers Eilath and Yaffo) along with the Frigate INS Miznak were diverted from their nearby patrol area to intercept at 30kts (although the Miznak was soon left behind) and at 09:00hrs open fire on the solo Egyptian ship before air cover from the Egyptian Air Force can arrive.

The naval battle resulted in hits to the bow of the Egyptian vessel (the shell passed through the hull damaging a chain locker) and more seriously damage to the ship’s generator resulting in disruption to electrical power. A flight of 2 MD450 Ouragans from the Hornet Sqn (under the command of Cpt. Jaacon Agasi in ‘white 29″ as shown on the model) were called up and also attacked with Air to Ground rockets which resulted in damage to the Egyptian’s steering gear.

With the 2 Israeli ships closing either side to fire torpedoes and the expected return of Israeli aircraft (they were actually mostly committed to operation on the Sinai peninsular) Captain Yanai decided to save further lives and surrendered his ship. His crew members that had already started abandoning ship were retrieved from the water and life boat and the destroyer was taken under tow to port.

No long term stigma seems to have attached to Captain Yanai for his actions, as after repatriation he seems to have served a normal naval career.

The Ouragan

The Dassault MD450 Ouragan (French for Hurricane) was France’s first military jet design.

Designed a s private programme by Dassault in 1947 it was taken up by the French government and achieved its first flight in 1949 powered by the Rolls Royce Nene turbojet engine. After 3 prototypes (the 2nd of which was written off in a landing accident) 12 pre-production aircraft were ordered by the French government to aid in development now powered by a licence built Nene engine.

A firm French order for 150 production aircraft followed in October 1950 with 2 further orders for 100 aircraft each, these additional orders were cancelled however in favour of orders for the more advanced Dassault Mystere II. The additional 100 aircraft built found service with Israel, India and El Salvador generating much needed export income.

Broadly similar in size to the NA F-86 Sabre the Ouragan had a maximum speed of Mach 0.83, a cruising speed of 405 kits and a combat radius of 245 miles. It was armed with 4x 20mm cannon under the nose and had 4 underwing hard points which could carry ferry drop tanks, unguided rockets or bombs.

In home service the Ouragan didn’t last long, being phased out in the mid-50s by the Dassault Mystere IV, but in Israeli revoke they saw extensive use in the Sinai War where they were particularly well used in the anti-tank role and later again in the 6 day war of 1967. In 1975 Israel sold the 18 remaining Ouragans on to El Salvador where they continued to fly until the late 1980s.

The Indian service of the MD450 was also short but busy, named locally as the Toofani (Hindi for Hurricane) they were used in the ground attack role in 1961 against Portuguese forces and later against anti-government rebels in Assam and Nagaland. They were relegated to the recon role by the time the Sino-Indian war started in 1962. They also soon started to be phased out of front line service being fully replaced by the Mystere IV by 1965.

The Ibrahim El Awal

First commissioned in 1940 into the Royal Navy as HMS Mendip the Hunt Class I destroyer initial served as an escort in the North Sea until 1943 when she was transferred to the Mediterranean fleet and took part in support for the Sicily landings before returning to home waters in 1944 in time for operations supporting the Normandy landings. She finished the war back where she started as an escort in the North Sea.

The Hunt I was the initial design response to the lack of escorts available to Great Britain at the outbreak of WWII, the initial design caused some worry as to their stability to topside armament was reduced to 2 2x4in turrets (rather than the designed 3) to improve matters. The soon to follow Hunt II class addressed these issues and the armament return to the as-designed 3 2x4in turrets.

Disarmed in 1946 the old Hunt Class I ship was sold off to Nationalist China as the Lin Fu in 1947 where she remained until May 1949. Very briefly returning to the Far East Fleet she was again sold off, this time to Egypt, in November of the same year, initial being renamed the Mohamed Ali el Kebir and then later in 1951 the Ibrahim El Awal where she famously took part in the “Battle of Haifa” described above.

After repair the new captured ship (with a complete lack of subtlety) was renamed the INS Haifa (after the port it was shelling when captured) and remained in Israeli service until 1968 when she was decommissioned, her final task was as a target for Gabriel missile tests in 1972 when she was sunk (or damaged and scrapped according to some reports).

The models

The Ouragan kit actually dates back to 1981 and has been in production from Heller ever since. This was the latest 2011 boxing of the kit – the kit itself builds up nicely with subtle raised panel lines (expected for its age), the decals however were a nightmare! Despite being new printed these proved to be very thick (even MicroSet/Sol would touch them) with poor adhesive even when persuaded to fit! I junked them and fitted a set from Isradecal with painted “Suez Stripes”, the kit contains no underwing armament to I scratch built the pylons for the 8 Air to Ground rockets (which were liberated from an Airfix Typhoon kit that will be built carrying bombs). Paints came from Hataka’s HTK-AS34 set “Israeli Air Force (Early Period)” and were HTK-A171 Grey Blue, HTK-A172 Medium Brown and HTK-A173 Silk Grey (the yellow on the stripes was HTK-A707 Colza Yellow).

The Hunt class II which the ship is based on comes from IBG and is a brand new 2016 tooling. So far (May 2017) this has been issued in 6 boxings, 3 Polish vessels and 3 Royal Navy (ORP Slazak, ORP Kujawiak, ORP Krakowiak, HMS Badsworth, HMS Middleton and HMS Zetland). As a new tooling the fit and detail is very nice indeed and the small photo-etched brass sheet adds some lovely detail (if somewhat eye-banding to fold and fit at 1:700 scale!). I have the HMS Middleton boxing but this was somewhat modified as HMS Mendip was a Hunt I class deter rather than the boxed Hunt II – removal and modifying of some blast shields and bulkheads along the replacement of the upper rear torrent with a repositioned pom-pom along with a  couple of small tweaks definitely gives the look of a Hunt I (there are a few discrepancies I found later on that haven’t been addressed but these are fairly minor compared to the armament  and lifeboat moving). I finished the vessel in the standard post-war RN colours of 507C Light Grey (Hataka HTK-A504) with a Corticene bridge (HTK-A524), the main deck was a shade of green picked as it looks close to the mid-brunswick shade in use at that time. Although I can’t find any colour images of the Imbrahim El Awal this seems a likely colour scheme for when it was in action off Haifa. The staining on the port side has been applied to match that seen in post-action images of the vessel when captured and is likely smoke stains from the hits by the naval shells that hit the bow and generator and the rocket that damaged the machine space containing the steering gear.

The display bases are from Coastal Kits, the large seascape one has been extended digitally for the “Attack Run” photo but the original base can be seen on other photos of the ship.