The Acharné was one of the twelve 1,000 horsepower class of coastal tugs that served in the French Navy since the early 1960s.  The Acharné served the longest of all the tugs in this class when she was decommissioned in December 2010 after 37 years of service.  During her time of service, she completed 1,600 tows, assisted or rescued 80 ships at sea and traveled about 145,000 nautical miles. L’Arsenal has earned a reputation for producing excellent quality detail and upgrade sets in 1/350 scale with a focus on the World War II era US Navy.  However, L’Arsenal’s roots lie in producing Marine Nationale 1/400 scale kits and accessories and they continue produce kits for that niche market.  The latest kit in the 1/400 scale line is the Acharné.

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The Kit
My first impression of this kit was that there are a lot of parts for such a small model - the hull measures only about 2.75 inches.  But the end result is a very detailed model. The larger resin parts include the full hull, the main deckhouse and the pilothouse/funnel which are all very nicely done with excellent cast details, such as some skylights, vents and bridge windows. The hull and main deckhouse require very little cleanup and the pilothouse needs the bit of casting overflow to be removed from the bottom.  The pilothouse roof as the running light frames molded in which is a very nice touch and requires adding a bit of plastic rod painted red and green to complete.  The deckhouse bulkhead has the rail cap molded into it which is also a nice little detail. The numerous smaller parts include the capstans, various styles of vents, small skylights, bumper tires, Zodiac raft, the Kort propeller/nozzle and other details.  Again all are well done and some require more cleanup than others.  The tires, Kort nozzle, and tow rope bitt need casting film removed to open the parts up. A small radar is provided but it is not referenced in the parts listing.  However photos show that it goes on top of the pilothouse where there is a base provided. The main deck has recessed areas that help with the placement of some of the parts such as deckhouse and capstans.  I needed to remove a little bit of resin from the forward part of the deckhouse recess where it comes to point to accommodate the part properly.  The deckhouse also has a recessed area for the pilothouse.

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The photo-etch fret provides pre-measured railings, vertical ladders, doors in two styles, masts, antennas, row rope bars, tow hook, crane, propeller and various other parts.  Bear in mind that the two types of doors (PE parts 14 & 16) are mislabeled in the parts list and the descriptions need to be swapped.  The correct part numbers are used when referenced in the assembly diagrams.  Also the handwheels (PE part 7) are not referred too at all in the assembly instructions.  The material used for the etched parts is a special alloy that is a mix between copper, zinc and nickel and I have seen it used in some other L’Arsenal kits. The material is not too soft, not too hard and very easy to work with. One important item that I found missing from both the resin and photo-etch parts is a pair of anchors.  I think that I ship without anchors somehow does not look correct, especially when they are somewhat prominent in photos.  To remedy this omission I used that smallest anchors from the Gold Medal Models 1/700 scale anchor set and even then I had to trim them down a bit to fit into the recesses in the hull. A small decal sheet is included which contains hull numbers and ship names for all 12 tugs in this class.  The decals are well done and react well to Microscale decals setting solutions.  I recommend trimming hull numbers a bit to remove some of the clear transfer film since where they are applied is a rather tight space.  A French flag would have been a nice addition to the decal sheet. Since one was not provided I used the tricolor from the Gold Medal Models flag decal sheet. The instructions are provided on five sheets of paper.  The first two pages contain an inventory and part number key for the resin and photo-etch parts.  As noted above there are some minor errors and omissions.  The assembly diagrams are very well done and clearly show how the parts go together.  The last page is a decal placement and painting guide. Reference photos can be found on Netmarine (http://www.netmarine.net/g/bat/acharne/index.htm)to help with some details.

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The Build
I am not going to go through each step of the model assembly as it pretty much a straight-forward build with no real surprises.  There were a couple of nit-picks as I mentioned above but those did not really diminish the overall quality of the kit and ease of build. While I usually like to build water lined models I decided to build it full hull to show off the Kort propeller/nozzle system.  After cleaning the parts up removing casting film and filling some small air bubble holes I washed the resin parts in dishwashing liquid and warm water.  I then painted the main resin parts separately to eliminate tricky masking and painting in tight spaces and then glued the parts together using two-part epoxy to give me some time to align the parts.  Before gluing the main deckhouse into place I attached the forward skylights and piping (resin parts 4 and 5) since I thought it may be harder to do so with the deckhouse in place.  The rest of the smaller parts and photo-etch all went into place with no problems. I did make some substitutions:  I used a bit of plastic rod for the etched lamp (PE part 4) since it was more 3-dimensional than the etched part.  I lost the two resin life rings (the perils of working with such small parts) so I used some photo-etch rings that I had and ended up adding two more towards the aft of the deckhouse based on reference photos.  Also based on reference photos, a small searchlight was fitted where the small mast (PE part 12) is supposed to go so I used one of L’Arsenal’s 1/350 scale 12” lamps from set AC 350-64.  I added a hand wheel attached to a bit of wire to the towing winch.  Finally I used blackened 40 lpi modeling chain instead of the etch versions. Reference photos show the tugs in this class with and without the bumper tires.  When the tires were removed, a bumper was added to the ridge that runs the side of the hull which was painted black like the forward bumper.  The kit allows you to model either way but I opted to use the tires since it gave the model more of a tugboat look.  I glued them into place along the hull and used off-white sewing thread infused with CA glue to stiffen it to make the ropes from which the attached to.

Painting
I used White Ensign Models Colourcoats Modern French Hull and Deck Gray for the main colors, Valspar Oxide Red Primer from a rattle can for hull bottom and Tamiya NATO Black for the bits painted black.  The skylight windows were filled in with a fine black marker and bits of black stripe decal were used for the pilothouse windows.  L’Arsenal boot-topping decals (AC 400 22) were used for the waterline.  Reference photos show that the doors to the pilothouse are what appears to be mahogany as does the rail cap on the top edge of the deckhouse bulkhead.  For these parts I used Colourcoats Mahogany Flight Deck Stain.

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Conclusion
This was a fun model, generally easy to build but with enough detail to provide a bit of a challenge at the same time.  It is good to see a working boat to add to the fleet of sleek French warships and there are numerous diorama scenarios that could use a tugboat.  I think I am going to get another kit to use in a diorama that I have been wishing to do for a while now.  So if you want to add something different to your Heller and L’Arsenal 1/400 scale Marine Nationale fleet then this kit will fit the bill.

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