400 scale always seems like a side-hobby for Herpa, who have dabbled for over two decades but never produced more than a relative handful of models. The majority of their 400 scale moulds are less than impressive by modern standards and there's not really any reason why your 400 scale collection should have a lot of Herpa in. Having said that, one thing they have done is produce moulds for some more obscure types such as the A318, 737-600, 767-400, Concorde, Catalina, An-124, An-225 and Tu-144. Although they aren't all gold there is still some real quality to be found if you know where to look. This Tu-144 release dates from 2020, but in the time since it was made there have only been 5 other releases by them and I don't often get the chance to explore Herpa - so here I go.
Each review is to split into three key areas:
This mould represents the Tu-144S or later Tu-144D versions, not the Tu-144 proper for which there was only a single aircraft built and which bore very little commonality with the later production examples. There are few aircraft as impressive in appearance as the 'Charger', which oddly never got a Soviet name (Charger was the NATO codename), so it is grand to see it feature in 400 scale.
Herpa seem to have a knack for supersonic transports as their Concorde is excellent and this Tu-144 is also impressive. It represents the aircraft in 'clean' configuration with the nose raised and the canards, aft of the cockpit, stowed.
The fuselage lines are very nice and I have no complaints about this. The small bulges where the carnards are fitted are present on the mould, the nose is pleasantly pointy and the proportions are good. The wings attach via a long, but almost impercetible, seam line and their form is also great. They show the camber of the wing well and droop towards the wingtip. They also have the outer pair of bulges on the upper side and large flap track fairings on the underside.
The vertical stabiliser shape is good. It includes the assymetric distribution for the rudder actuators (the lower pair on the port side and higher pair on the starboard). It also includes the extra detail of the small outlet just above the tailcone. As is typical with Herpa moulds the stabiliser attachment to the fuselage isn't perfect as it clearly attaches only at the forward quarter of the length but the fit is tight so it isn't very noticeable.
The nosegear is correctly tall and delicate, but the nosegear doors are a little too large. The maingear is also well reproduced and the tyres have been reduced in size compared to earlier versions. Even so, the Tu-144 had a very obvious tail-down stance, which isn't strong enough on the model as the maingear legs are too tall. The spacing of the maingear tyres is also too narrow.
Another area where the mould isn't 100% is the engines. The intakes are good but the engine nacelles should not be slab-sided and should curve outwards towards their rear. Fortunately it isn't obvious but it is incorrect.
The model also lacks the solitary aerial fitted between the canards and the small tailbumper is not shown in deployed fashion as it probably would be when the undercarriage is down.
Overall this is a very nice mould and one that we are very lucky to have in the scale. Obviously it would be nice to have a version with the nose drooped and canards deployed, however I think that an interactive version is too difficult to achieve so that would have to be a separate mould variant. This variant is very pleasing and but could do with some tweaking of the main undercarriage and engine nacelle form.
SCORE - 8
PAINT & LIVERY
This aircraft CCCP-77144 was the aircraft that was presented at the 1975 Paris Airshow and signalled the return of the type after the dreadful crash of 1973. For that event it wore an early variant of the standard 1973 Aeroflot scheme with 361 numbering and a grey belly. It was one of 5 development aircraft and never actually flew with Aeroflot. In fact, it only amassed 265 flights totalling 431 hours before it was scrapped in 1987. For more details about this aircraft see: Tu-144 Aircraft 02-2.
Because it was seen at the Paris show there are more photos of this aircraft than of many of its sisters. The dark blue cheatline looks good forward but curves too high towards the rear. On the real aircraft there appeared to be a kink at the last passenger door after which the line curved upwards. On the model it is just one unbroken curve.
The tail flag and registration look good as does the Tupolev logo forward of the cheatline. The 361 numbering below the cheatline could perhaps be slightly taller.
SCORE - 8
PRINTING & QUALITY CONTROL
Herpa have printed the major elements on the model well but it lacks some of the detailing that would give it extra realism. Forward, the canards have just a rudimentary outline and there is no attempt to show the control surfaces on them, which were obvious in real life.
The small doorway under the canards on the portside is also completely missing. Likewise the wings and engines are almost solid blocks of colour with only the moulds etched control surfaces giving them any detail. It would be nice to see some fine printing to replicate the frame lines on both the wings and tail. The engine exhausts are very silvery too.
Build quality is excellent and despite the undercarriage being long and potentially very breakable it is surprisingly strong.
SCORE - 8
Herpa have tended to excel in 400 scale when they have attempted unusual moulds such as this one, whereas many of their more standard moulds are inferior. The Tu-144 is a wonderful looking aircraft and Herpa have done it justice with this mould. Given their disinterest in the scale, asking for a droop nose / canard deployed version is asking for a miracle but I am sure it would be a hot seller. As it is the Tu-144 is probably the crowning glory of Herpa's 20+ year history in 400 scale.
FINAL SCORE - 24/30
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I'm Richard Stretton an aviation enthusiast and major collector of 400 scale models. On this page I take a detailed look at new releases.
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