29/07/2016 North American P-51D Mustang US Army Air Force, Academy

The Head of the Luftwaffe, Hermann Göring, was once quoted: „As soon as I saw the first Mustangs over Berlin, I knew it was over“. Indeed, there is no doubt that this fighter aircraft changed the course of WWII in Europe. The enormous range and superior performance made it a perfect escort for the Allied Bomber squads. Now they could fly all the way of their mission with fighter cover, something that was not possible with other fighters of the time. And when the American escort fighters changed their tactics from passive-defensive to preemptive attack, it broke the Luftwaffe backbone.

But the story of the Mustang started relatively unspectacular. In 1940 the Royal Air Force needed a replacement of the P-40 and North American Aviation had spare capacity to build an all-new fighter aircraft. It had very refined aerodynamics but was limited by its Allison Engine, the same engine used in the P-40 (single-stage turbocharger and poor performance at high altitude). The early Mustang perfomance was decent but not outstanding. This all changed however when the P-51B type was introduced, with an American license-build Rolls Royce Merlin engine, the Packard V-1650. With a powerful engine and efficent aerodynamics, the Mustang was a big success. With the P-51D type introduced in early 1944, the appareance of the aircraft changed dramatically. The “Razorback” rear fuselage was removed and replaced by a bubble canopy that allowed maximum visibility and reduced aerodynamic drag.

Performance-wise, the Mustang was at least equal or superior to the latest versions of the Bf 109 or Fw 190. It could even hold its own against the Me 262 jet fighter as it was more agile. The last version, the lighter P-51H arrived shortly after the end of WWII but the career of the Mustang was far from over, the last ones were operated by the National Air Guard and retired in 1957 – it still remained in service with some Middle-American countries and was the last prop figher aircraft ever in service, only retired by the Dominican Republic in the early 1980s ! Quite a lot P-51s are still airworthy and can be seen in air shows all over the world.

When it comes to the Mustang, there is plenty on the market in 1/72 scale. I think only the Spitfire has more kits in this scale ! This kit is from Academy, a relatively new one and quite good detailed. Decaling options are endless and I choose aftermarket decals from Peddinghaus. I decided to build P-51D B6Y “Glamorous Glen III”, flown by Cpt. Charles “Chuck” Yeager of the 363rd Fighter Sqd. in late 1944.

Chuck Yeager named this aircraft after his girlfriend and later wife, Glennis. Yeager scored 11 ½ victories during the war, including one Me 262 jet fighter. Yeager, born 1923, stayed in the Air Force after WWII and made it to the rank of Brigadier General until his retirement in 1975. Maybe one of the most-known pilots of all time, he made history in 1947 when he was the first human to break the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 rocket aircraft. He remained in the public eye since then and worked also as a consultant, speaker and lent his name for several Flight Simulator computer games.

29/06/2016 Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi Japanese Army Air Force, Special Hobby

Kamikaze Attacks – Heroism or senseless acts of desperation ? A controverse subject that is still discussed today, mostly in Japan of course. Poorly trained pilots (many of them still teenagers) with obsolete aircraft were sent against the Allied fleet – the Kamikaze attacks had little military value but it was hoped to destroy the morale of the enemy – as this concept, deeply rooted in Japanese military and Samurai rituals – was unknown to Western culture.

In the final months of the Pacific War, with the Japan mainland already in sight of the Allies, Kamikaze attacks increased. Potential Pilots were still avaiable but the Japanse Army had to face the fact that they did not have enough obsolete aircraft left for these attacks. Therefore an order was given from the Japanese Army Air Force to design a purpose-build Kamikaze aircraft. It should be easy and cheap to produce by unskilled labor, with minimal use of strategic materials, and easy to fly. It was planned to be build in huge numbers for large scale Kamikaze attacks.

Nakajima responded and the first Ki-115 Tsurugi (“Sabre”) prototype was ready for flight testing in Spring 1945. As requested, the aircraft was of rough and simple design; basically build from wood and steel, it could be equipped with any radial engine avaiable. The stiff welded-tube landing gear was jettisoned after take-off as there was no landing. Only arnament was a fixed-installed 800kg bomb under the belly.

The flight tests, however, did not went well. The aircraft was difficult to handle on ground and in the air, visibility was bad, and with the bomb installed it suffered severe in performance. Several deadly crashes occured in flight testing. Improvements were made with shock absorbers for the landing gear and trailing-edge flaps, but the overall design was unsatisfactory and not well thought out. It was unarmed and easy to catch for Allied fighters. What if the pilot could not locate a target or had technical problems ? Trying to crash-land with the bomb installed was futile, ditching in water was not an option as Japan had no sea rescue. Pilot and plane would be lost in any case.

Anyway, mass production of the Ki-115 was started and all these issues were planned to be adressed in an improved design that was on the drawing board. About 100 airframes were produced until the war was over – not a single plane was ever used in combat. Only one Ki-115 is known to exist these days, stored in the Garber Facility of the National Air & Space Museum in Washington D.C.

The kit is another short run kit, this time from Special Hobby. It went to together suprisingly well, maybe because it was rather simple, much like the prototype aircraft.

05/06/2016 Messerschmitt Bf 108 Luftwaffe, Heller

The Messerschmitt Bf 108 “Taifun” could be considered as the grandfather of the modern general aviation plane. Introduced in 1935 as a racing aircraft, the 4-seat Bf 108 was technologically very advanced for its time and broke a lot of aviation records. The later versions were used as luxury travel or sports aircraft.

Designed by the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in Munich (the company was later re-named Messerschmitt, after their chief designer Willy Messerschmitt), the all-metal Bf 108 was so sophisticated in it´s design , even most contemporary fighter aircraft of the time looked obsolete next to it. Featuring a lightweight monocoque fuselage, retractable gear and automatic leading-edge slats, it foreshadowed the Bf 109 fighter in many ways. In fact, both aircraft systems were so similar that the Bf 108 could be used as a trainer for the Bf 109.

Although the Taifun was foremost a civilian aircraft, it found use in WWII as a liasion aircraft by the German Luftwaffe and other Air Forces as well. This particular Bf 108B KG+EM belonged to the “Sonderkommano Blaich” and was based in Sicily and North Africa in 1942. It was owned by Theo Blaich, a German adventurer and businessmen who, with Feldmarschall Rommels blessing, operated a small special air unit (this Bf 108 and a He 111 bomber) that was involved in attacking allied fuel supplies in Libya. There are a few good photos of this aircraft avaiable so this particular Bf 108 is often seen as a model. As in my case, the kit is from French manufacturer Heller. It is rather old, not very detailled and has some inaccuracies, but is Ok for me as I´m not a “rivet counter”. But a new up-to-date tooling would be fine. Build straight out of the box.

07/05/2016 Reggiane Re 2000 Falco Regia Aeronautica, Italeri

Of the 186 Reggiane Re 2000 Falco build, only a handful served in it´s Homeland Air Force, the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force). The type proved to be more popular as an export model. When it had it first flight in 1939, it was the most advanced Italian fighter aircraft at the time, outperforming the rival designs from Fiat (G.50) and Macchi (MC.200) and it could hold its own against the Bf 109 and Hurricane. However, the Regia Aeonautica rejected the design at first – having concerns about the integral fuel tanks in the wings (not self-sealing) and the unreliable Piaggo radial engine.

But the new fighter received interest from other countries, and fix orders were received from Sweden und Hungary, the later one having the largest contingent of Re 2000 fighters during WWII. Later a licensed modified version was built in Hungary, called the Héja. Even the Royal Air Force showed interest in the model for operations in North Africa, but the order fell through when Italy allied with Nazi Germany. The design problems of the Re 2000 –the wing fuel tanks and the engine- still remained and caused trouble.

12 of the later Re.2000 GA models (with longer range) were accepted finally by the Italian Air Force and organised into an experimental squadron, the 377a Squadriglia Autonoma based in Sicily, where they were used for bomber escort missions in the Mediterranean Sea. Missions included bomber escorts against Malta or targets in North Africa, where the long range of the Re.2000 GA was an advantage. The service record was rather unspectacular though; no kills were recorded and the planes were phased out soon.

To rectify the Re.2000 engine problems, Reggiane engineers installed the German DB 601 in-line engine into a prototype and a new version, the Re.2001 was born; it was much more succesful and went into full production soon, with the DB 601 engine built in license by Alfa Romeo.

This models represents the “red 4” of the 377a Squadriglia Autonoma, based in Sicily in early 1941. The kit is from Italeri and build out of the box. A nice kit for a rather obscure aircraft.

20/04/2016 Kyushu J7W1 Shinden Imperial Japanese Navy, Hasegawa

Towards the end of WWII, not only the Luftwaffe was developing so-called “wonder weapons” or “special attack weapons”, but the Japanese as well. Some of these kits are on my pile and will show up here sometime. Dealing with high-altitude bombers was a challenge for the Japan Air Forces as well, and unless in Europe, the B-29 bomber was deployed on a regular basis in the Pacific War. To counter it, the small Kyushu aircraft works developed an highly unusual and radical interceptor aircraft, the Kyushu J7W1 “Shinden” (“magnificient lightning”).

The brainchild of Lt.Cmdr. Masayoshi Tsuruno, a technical staff officer of the Imperial Japanese Navy, the Shinden was a canard-design aircraft with a propeller in the back, used in a pusher configuration. This concept promised a clean, aerodynamic fuselage with 4 autocannons in the nose, providing powerful concentrated firepower, and high agility and speed – the perfect combination for a bomber interceptor. Top speed was calculated at ca. 470 mph.

The first short test flight took place on August 3rd, 1945, followed by two other test flights. While the flights were successful, there were a lot of serious design shortcomings that had to be fixed. The aircraft was difficult to fly, with longitudinal instability and strong vibrations in the driveshaft due to the powerful engine. It has a tendency to pull to starboard due to engine torque, and one big problem was cooling the radial air-cooled engine on the ground as it was installed in the rear. The whole canard concept was new and untested and the Japanese really had to do pioneering engineering work here. Could they have solved all problems ? We will never find out, as they war ended only a few weeks later and the Shinden never flew again. Two aircraft were build, one was scrapped and the other taken to the United States. It is now stored, in unrestaurated condition, at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

In the end, three test flights were performed with a complete flying time of about 45 min. The aircraft was never tested at high altitude or at high speeds. A real performance evaluation was not possible. This Shinden configuration was an intermediate solution anyway; later types were supposed to have a turbojet engine installed. This version, of course, never left the drawing board.

“Exotic” aircraft models are usually reserved for the short run kit makers, so it´s nice to see that a major manufacturer, Hasegawa of Japan, released this kit a few years ago. Nice kit. Not much to do in terms of paint variation or weathering as there were only two prototypes. I still cannot believe this aircraft is over 70 years old – it still looks futuristic today, don´t you think ???

28/03/2016 Focke Wulf Ta 152 H-1 Luftwaffe, Aoshima

Introduced only a few weeks before the end of WWII in Europe, the Focke Wulf Ta 152 was the most advanced prop fighter aircraft of the Luftwaffe; in fact it was one of the most sophisticated fighter aircraft overall designed during the war. Based on the succesful Focke Wulf Fw 190 design, the Ta 152 (named after it´s designer, Prof. Kurt Tank) was supposed to be a new family of multi-role fighter aircraft, but only one version, the Ta 152 H (high altitude interceptor) ever went into limited production.

During late 1944, the Luftwaffe expected that the US Army Air Force would deploy the B-29 high altitude bomber to Europe (it did not happen after all), and there was no adequate Luftwaffe aircraft to engage it – all German fighters at the time experienced a dramatic decrease in performance at very high altitudes. The Focke Wulf Fw 190-D9 was an interim solution, but Prof. Kurt Tank felt there should be a more radical approach to the problem. Therefore the Fw 190 fuselage and wingspan were stretched considerably and a more powerful engine developed, a pressurized cockpit was installed and three autocannons should take care of any enemy bomber. This was the basic design outline for the Ta 152 H.

Pilots testing the prototype aircraft were impressed by the superior performance. It was able to reach a topspeed of 472 mph at an altitude of 41.000 ft; even at sea level it could outperform any other fighter at the time. But Germany´s manufacturing capabilities and resources were in chaos in early 1945; it is estimated that overall 49 Ta 152 were build and only 16 aircraft were ever delivered to JG 301, a Reich defense unit and the only squadron operating the Ta 152 H. Ironically they were never used in high altitude operations during the few weeks they were in the field.

This Ta 152 H-1 (the only production version), “green 9”, was flown by Oberfeldwebel Willi Reschke of Stab/JG 301. Reschke claimed 27 victories during the war, and his last three were with this aircraft in April 1945. Reschke, now 94 years old, wrote a book about the history of JG 301 and his experiences as a fighter pilot, I´m currently reading it – quite an interesting book.

The kit is from Japanese manufacturer Aoshima, a rather nice one but a little hard to get – once again I bought one from Japan on Ebay. A few decals are used from the kit and a few from the aftermarket. The German mottle camouflage is always a hard one for me to paint or airbrush but it should look Ok enough in this scale although this could be done much better (by a more skilled modeler…)

13/03/2016 Grumman F6F Hellcat US Navy, Academy

With the arrival of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, the tides finally turned for the Allies in the Pacific War. Now they had an fighter aircraft that was equal, and in most cases superior, to the Mitsubishi Zero. While the Zero still had an advantage in lowspeed dogfighting and range, the Hellcat was better in performance, speed, firepower and ruggedness. Its basic design was so good that only very few modifications and variants were introduced in the production; this was rather rare for a combat aircraft at the time. The basic version F6F-3 was followed by the F6F-5, it had a more powerful engine, a few cowling design changes and a modified cockpit glazing. There was also a nighter fighter version, and that was it basically.

But the time as a frontline fighter was rather short for the Hellcat. Introduced in 1943, it was replaced by the Bearcat in late 1945 (shortly after WWII ended) and it was relegated to secondary and Reserve duties. 12.275 aircraft were build between 1943 and 1945.

For this model I used an aftermarket decal set from LF Models. It shows F6F-5 Hellcat #76 from VBF-87, delivered to the USS Ticonderoga in May 1945. It was the 10.000th Hellcat build and had a special sticker on the cowling. It was flown by the CO of VBF-87, Commander Porter Maxwell. The kit is from Korean maker Academy and a really good one. I used Tamiya glossy dark blue paint and I think it turned out rather well. The Navy dark sea blue can be hard to match at times.

24/02/2016 Yakoklev Yak-1b Red Army Air Force, ZTS Plastyk

The Yakoklev Yak-1 was the first modern fighter aircraft by the Soviet Union at the beginning of WWII. A composite wood/metal design with wooden wings, it was fast and well-armed and a good match for the early Messerschmitt Bf 109 versions it encountered during the German invasion. The Yak-1 was the first aircraft in a series of Yak fighters; it was followed by the similar-looking Yak-3, Yak-7 and Yak-9 versions. All in all over 37000 aircrafts of this family were manufactured, making it the most produced Soviet fighter design in WWII.

The original Yak-1 was later succeeded by the Yak-1b version with lowered rear fuselage and a bubble canopy as seen on this model. This Yak-1b from 73th GIAP, “White 23” was flown by Lydia Litvyak, the top women fighter ace of all time, in Summer 1943.

The Soviet Air Force was the only air power at the time allowing women to become fighter pilots; Lydia Litvyak was one of only two women to gain ace status with 14 victories. A rather famous person in the Soviet public at the time, she was shot down by a German aircraft and killed August 1, 1943, aged 21, during the Battle of Kursk. But her fate was unclear for quite some time. The crash site was only found in 1979 and it was concluded she was not captured after the crash; therefore she was eligible for the highest Soviet decoration, the Hero of the Soviet Union. She received the award posthumously in 1990.

Yak-1 kits are rare in 1/72 and this one is from Polish company ZTS Plastyk. It ist really old and dates back to the Eastern bloc era, maybe that is the reason why the moulding is so bad, probably the worst I have ever seen until now. Almost no details, brittle plastic and misaligned parts all over the place. The canopy broke and I replaced it with a vacuform one for a Yak-3 (they look the same). Decals are aftermarket from Balkan Decals.

24/01/2016 PZL P.11 Polish Air Force, Mistercraft

It is astounding how fast Aviation technology advanced in the 1930s and 1940s. Literally within a decade aircraft evolved from biplanes to jets. This also had the effect that once state-of-the-art aircraft designs were obsolete only a few years later. This is what happened to the P.11, a monoplane fighter build by the Polish state-owned aircraft manufacturer PZL in Warsaw.

When it was introduced in 1934, it was considered one of the most advanced fighter designs in the world. Based on the similar-looking P.7, it was an all-metal construction and featured the distinctive, high-mounted inverted gull wing design (named after its designer, Z.Pulawski). It was very fast for it´s time, highly maneuverable and sturdy. This basic design was also used for later Polish designs, such as the P.24 with a closed canopy. Unfortunately Pulawski died in 1931 and this was a big blow for PZL as they lost their most talented aircraft designer – a loss they could never compensate. New aircraft designs were in development but not ready when WWII broke out.

The P.11 was still on active duty and the main fighter of the Polish Air Force when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. By this time, the P.11 was hopelessly outdated and worn out from long service use. Nevertheless the P.11 was able to score considerable kills, mostly against German bombers but also against the much better armed and faster German fighters. This was remarkable as the P.11 was so slow it could rarely catch up with German aircraft, as they were much newer designs. But in the end Polish losses were heavy. Some captured aircraft were later used for training purposes by the German, Soviet and Romanian Air Forces. Only one aircraft survives and is now displayed at the Aviation museum in Krakow.

This kit is from Polish manufacturer Mistercraft and the mould dates back to the 1980s. It´s not very detailled and a really quick build. It depicts a unit from the 111th Fighter Sqd based in Warsaw-Okecie in 1939. A nice model I think, and i´ts fun do so something “exotic” rather than another Mustang or Spitfire.

01/01/2016 Curtiss P-40 Warhawk US Army Air Corps, Airfix

Happy new year ! It starts off with another new build.

The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk (and the subsequent versions) was the standard fighter aircraft of the USAAC at their entry into WWII in 1941. The lack of a powerful supercharger made it unsuitable for high-altitude operations; therefore the P-40 was rarely seen in the European theater but it was widely used by US and Commonwealth Air Forces in North Africa, Asia and the Pacific, where it was the first American fighter to encounter the Japanese Zeros – at the raid of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Although the Warhawk was outclassed by the nimble Zero in low-speed dogfights, it was faster and superior in highspeed aerobatics. A very tough design that could withstand a lot of damage (unlike the fragile Zero) it proved itself in combat, although it never received the fame of the Mustang or Thunderbolt.

This kit is a new mould from Airfix (a very good one) with decals from AML. It depicts the P-40B 155-15, 15th Pursuit Sqd, based in Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. It was flown by Kenneth M. Taylor, (1919 – 2006) one of the few American pilots to get airborne during the attack. He scored two confirmed and two unconfirmed kills.

Taylor and his friend and fellow pilot George Welch (both had a long partying night before !) were able to take off under fire and engage the Japanese attackers. They had to land again soon to get new ammunition; the were able to take off again although the Japanese were already strafing the airfield. Taylor was wounded in the arm but continued fighting. In the end, he scored two confirmed kills and Welch four. Considered as some of the earliest WWII heros for the Americans, they received high military honors – but not the Medal of Honor, the highest of all, because they took off without orders.

There is a sequence in the movie “Pearl Harbor” were Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett engage the Japanese attackers after racing to their airplanes. This event is loosely based on Taylor´s and Welch´s story. Taylor himself was not a fan of the movie though, he called it “a piece of trash”.

20/12/2015 Douglas SBD Dauntless US Navy, Airfix

The dive bomber Douglas SBD Dauntless is mostly known for it´s crucial role in the Battle of Midway in 1942; this large naval battle was the turning point in the Pacific War. While the torpedo bombers failed in their task, the daring Dauntless pilots delivered the deadly blows that sunk most of the Japanese carriers in this battle; a loss the Japanese Navy never recovered from. In fact, the Dauntless was responsible for sinking more Japanese ships than any other Allied aircraft in the war.

The crews liked the Dauntless; it was sturdy, nimble and easy to fly. For a dive bomber, it carried a respectable offensive & defensive arnament that even could engage enemy fighters, if necessary.

It stayed in active service longer as anticipated – the successor, the more powerful Curtiss SBC Helldiver, experienced serious teething problems and entered service with much delay. Even then many crews preferred the Dauntless over the troubled Helldiver. A land-based version for the US Army Air Force, the A-24 Banshee, was introduced later and also delivered to the Free French Air Force in Europe.

This kit is from Airfix. The mould is from the 1960s and has been re-issued many times. It´s pretty basic for today´s standards so I decided to “pimp” it up a bit. One of the prominent features of the SBD are the large dive brakes; I spend a few hours drilling out the holes (what fun !) and cut the brakes out to display them in raised position. I applied rather heavy weathering and paint chipping to get a battle-worn look. I discarded the decals from Airfix and used different ones from Printscale. The model represents an SBD-3 that was stationed on the USS Lexington, a carrier that was sunk in the Coral Sea Battle im May 1942. Apparently the pilot recorded seven kills. The kit itself is OK and it looks like a Dauntless; of course there are more detailled kits out there but the Airfix costs around 8-10 Euro. Cannot do wrong with this one.

18/11/2015 Mitsubishi A5M Claude Imperial Japanese Navy, Fujimi

Before the „Zero“, there was the „Claude“. Introduced in 1935, the Mitsubishi A5M was the first aircraft carrier-based monoplane figher aircraft in the world and the predecessor of the famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

Like the Zero, the Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” (“Claude” was the allied reporting name) was designed by Jiro Hirokoshi. It was similar to other first-generation fighter monoplanes of the time; a fixed gear was used to save weight and the cockpit was still open – a version was build with closed cockpit but this was hated by the pilots and abandoned soon. The all-metal fighter was one of the first aicraft to be equipped with an external drop tank, a new innovation at the time.

The Imperial Japanese Navy used the A5M with considerable success in the Sino-Japanese War. The nimble Claude was superior to most of the Russian designed- aircraft it encountered during the conflict; only the Polikarpov I-16 was somewhat equal. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor the Claude was already outdated and largely withdrawn from frontline service and replaced by the Zero. The Allied only had brief encounters with the A5M; by 1941 it was used primarly as a trainer aircraft. No surviving aircraft is known to be in existence today.

The model depicts the rather colorful A5M4 W-102 flown by Petty Officer Matsuo Hagiri of the Soryu carrier group in summer 1939. Hagiri ended the war as an ace with 14 victories.

The kit is from Fujimi and a really good one. Too bad Fujimi kits are somewhat hard to get outside Japan as they have no worldwide distribution. Ebay of course is always a good source.

01/11/2015 Heinkel He 280 Luftwaffe, RS Models

The Heinkel He 280 was the first jet fighter aircraft in the world, but it never reached operational status due to ongoing technical problems. In August 1939 the first jet aircraft ever, the Heinkel He 176, made it first flight. Realizing the potential of jet propulsion, the Heinkel works immediately began development of a two-engine fighter aircraft. It was a very ambitous and prestigious work for the company, as it was known at the time that other German companies (Messerschmitt, Junkers, BMW) were also working on jet aircraft and engine designs and Heinkel wanted to be the first to have it ready.

The airframe was finished in the summer of 1940 but it could only be used for unpowered gliding tests at the time – the jet engines, the He 8s (developed in-house by Heinkel) were not ready for flight testing. It was March 1941 when the first powered flight of the He 280 took place (a full year before the Messerschmitt Me 262 !). It was a success but the plane and the engines were far from combat ready. The engines still lacked power and hat serious reliability problems. Re-designs were necessary and it took almost another year until the next test flights could be performed. Heinkel´s technological head start now had completely vanished. By this time the RLM (the German Air Ministry) lost patience with Heinkel and demanded that the He 280 should be tested with other engine designs, namely the Junkers 004 and the BMW 003 jet engines. But these new engines were also not ready yet for field use and adapting the He 280 to these much larger engines was difficult. In the end, after many delays by Heinkel, the RLM cancelled the Heinkel He 280 in late 1943. Messerschmitt was now in the run for the first operational jet fighter, the Me 262.

In direct comparison, the Me 262 was the better aircraft as it had superior flight performance. The He 280 experienced tail vibrations at high speeds and a new conventional tail would have to be designed for a serial production. In the end, nine He 280 were build and some of them were later used as test platforms. By the end of the war all airframes were broken up and is it believed the Russians picked up what was left of them.

While the He 280 was ultimately a failure, it was also one important milestone in aviation: it was the first aircraft ever equipped with an ejection seat. This model depicts prototype aircraft V3, first flown by Heinkel test pilot Fritz Schäfer in the summer of 1942.

Another “exotic” aircraft so this has to be a short run kit, of course. This time from RS Models. The usual fitting & molding problems of these kits aside, I had one annoying issue with this one, no info about the needed nose weight was provided so I installed not enough weight and the aircraft ended up as a tailsitter I re-opened parts of the front fuselage and filled it with little metal pellets.

20/09/2015 Hawker Hurricane Mk I Royal Air Force, Airfix

Always in the shadow of the famous Spitfire, the role of the Hawker Hurricane for the Royal Air Force was nevertheless a very important one; especially in the early part of the conflict and the Battle of Britain.

Designed in 1935, it was one of the first modern fighter monoplanes in the world with advanced features like rectractable gear and a closed cockpit. Although the internal structure of the aircraft was still very much like the older Hawker biplanes; with tubular metal/wood bracing covered by a fabric skin – the earliest Hurricane variants even had fabric-covered wings. So it was quite heavy and the thick wings limited top speed. The Hurricane was rugged, reliable and easy to fly; and usually novice pilots prefered the Hurricane over the Spitfire as it was easier to handle and a better weapons platform.

During the Battle of Britain the Hurricane was slightly outclassed by the German Messerschmitt Bf 109; although in the end the pilots made the difference as the performance gap was really not that big. The Hurricane was responsible for 55% of the German losses during the Battle of Britain. Later in the war, the design limits of the Hurricane became more apparent and later variants were used as fighter-bombers or night fighters.

This particular Hurricane Mk I belonged to 242 Squadron based at RAF Base Duxford, Cambridgeshire and was flown by Douglas Bader (1910-1982), one of the most popular WWII aces. His career is quite remarkable as he was a double-amputee – he lost his lower legs in a flying accident in 1931. Nevertheless he returned to RAF service with new prosthetic legs and was a very prominent leader during the Battle of Britain and scored many of his 20 victories with the Hurricane. In 1941 he was forced to bail out over Germany and spend the rest of the war as a POW. As he lost an artifical leg during his escape from the stricken aircraft, German Luftwaffe officials arranged delivery of a new leg that was parachuted by a British bomber a few days later !

This is a new mould from Airfix and it is really great; one of the best kits I have build in recent times. Really recommended. Decals are from Techmod.

09/09/2015 Piper L-4 Grasshopper US Army Air Force, Kovozavody Prostejov

Liaison aircraft and their pilots did not receive a lot of attention in WWII or later years but they were crucial for the war efforts of every participating nation. Using small, rugged and usually unarmed planes, they were used for many roles like reconnaissance, artillery spotting, courier & VIP transport, and air ambulance. Today the helicopter has taken over many of these tasks so liasion aircraft could be considered a thing of the past.

Many liaison aircraft were derived from civilian aircraft designs, so was the Piper L-4 Grasshopper, developed from the Piper Cup light aircraft, one of the most popular aircraft designs of all time with over 20.000 build. The only real difference to the civilian Cup was the extensive canopy glazing of the L-4.

One of the the primary training aircraft of the US Army Air Force before WWII, many pilots experienced their first flying lessons with the Cub. A simple and easy to maintain aircraft, many L-4 were surplus after the war and ended up in private hands. Replicas of the Cup are still build today.

This particular L-4 was the personal transport aircraft of famous (and controversial) US Army General George S. Patton in France, 1944.

For such an important airplane it is somewhat amazing that there is no mainstream plastic kit in 1/72 avaiable, so once again I put my hands on the infamous short run kit, this time from Kovozavody Prostejov. This was such a frustrating build I considered putting it away a few times. When you cannot find a photo of a finished model on the internet you should be warned, I guess. In the end the finished model look quite Ok. But I really lack the ultimate skill and patience for these tricky builds. I definetly should stick with Airfix or Tamiya…

09/08/2015 Aichi D3A Val Imperial Japanese Navy, Fujimi

The Aichi D3A „Val“ dive bomber was responsible for sinking more allied warships in the Pacifc conflict than any other Japanese aircraft type. Developed in the 1930s, the Val had some resemblance to its German counterpart, the Ju-87 “Stuka”. Although already outdated by the time the war started, it was one of the main aircraft types used in the attack of Pearl Harbor and the following raids. It was later relegated to secondary duties but as the successor aircraft, the Yokosuka D4Y, was delayed, it remained in service until the end of the war. The Val was then used as a land-based unit, for training duties, and sometimes even as a fighter aircraft as it was quite maneuverable without the bomb payload.

This D3A Val type 11 was stationed on the flagship aircraft carrier Akagi and participated in the second attack wave on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Flown by officer Takashi Ono, it was painted in the standard IJN grey scheme.

This kit from Japanese company Fujimi is build out of the box. It is not the newest mould but I like it much better than the ancient kit from Airfix.

30/07/2015 Grumman TBF Avenger US Navy, Academy

The Grumman TBF Avenger (or TBM Avenger when build by General Motors) was one of the largest and the heaviest single-engine aircraft in service during WWII. Developed as an carrier-based Torpedo bomber, it saw extensive action for the US Navy in the Pacific Theatre. It had a three-man crew, with a pilot, a rear gunner and a bomb operator/ventral gunner in the lower fuselage.

The design was succesful and and it remained in service until the 1960s and was also used by other Naval Forces in the World. In commercial service, modified Avengers were still used in Canada as firefighter/water bombers until this decade. Many still can be seen flying at air shows.

Some prominent names served their duty on the Avenger; actor Paul Newman was a rear gunner during WWII but for sure the most notable Avenger pilot was George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. He entered service 1943 aged 19, and he was the youngest navial aviator at this date. He was transferred to the light aircraft carrier USS Jacinto were he was promoted to Lt. (Junior Grade) on August 1, 1944. Photos of his aircraft are very hard to find but he must at least flown two different Avengers, “White 2” and “White 3”. Both aircraft were named “Barbara” for his future wife, Barbara Pierce. “White 2” was probably the aircraft lost during the attack on the Japanese island of Chichjima in September 1944. Bush survived but the other crewmembers perished.

The Kit is a rather old one from Academy with mediocre detail, although I think it looks reasonably good. Decals are from Print Scale.

03/05/2017 Boulton Paul Defiant Royal Air Force, Airfix

Although it was often dismissed as a failure, the Boulton Paul Defiant is still a very interesting subject to model. Designed for the Royal Air Force in the late 1930s as a bomber interceptor, the Defiant was a so-called turret fighter, with no fixed forward firing arnament, and solely armed with a hydraulically powered rotating turret featuring 4 machine guns. The idea was that this configuration should cause havoc among enemy bomber streams, and also enabling the Defiant to defend itself against fighter aircraft. A concept that proved to be ultimately flawed.

During the first weeks of the Battle of Britain the Defiant was quite succesful, as many Luftwaffe fighter pilots initially believed they were encountering the Hawker Hurricane (which looked similar) only to be surprised by heavy machine gun fire when sneaking up from behind. But soon the Germans changed their tactics, and the lack of forward firing equipment proved to be fatal when attacked from the front. Also the Defiant was overweight and not as fast and agile compared to the Bf 109. By the summer of 1940 losses were becoming unacceptable for the RAF, and the Defiant was removed from daylight operations. The air gunners were especially endangered as they could often not leave a stricken aircraft due to the cramped turret.
As as night fighter the Defiant fared much better until it was eventually replaced by more advanced designs like the Beaufighter or Mosquito. All in all it had a rather short service life. Only one complete aircraft survives, and is displayed in night fighter livery at the RAF Museum London.

This model depicts a Defiant Mk.I Nightfighter from No. 151 Sqd, RAF Wittering in February 1941. The Defiant has been in the Airfix catalogue since the 1960s, but earlier this year they released a completely new tooling that is up to todays standards. And it is really good ! Details are great, fitting is perfect, nothing to complain here. Highly recommended.

19/04/2015 Caproni-Campini N.1 Regia Aeronautica, Valom Models

When test pilot Mario de Bernardi took the skies with the experimental Caproni-Campini N.1 jet aircraft on August 27th 1940, this was considered the beginning of the jet age. Unknown at the time was the fact that exactly one year earlier, the Germans successfully tested the Heinkel He 178 jet aircraft. But the German project was kept secret – the Italian facist regime of the time, however, hailed the flight of the Caproni as a great propaganda victory and the aircraft was even presented to Mussolini himself. Goverments all over the world sent their congratulations to Italy.

But technically, the N.1 jet aircraft was not powered by a turbojet/turbofan engine as we use it today. The engine, designed by Ing. Secondo Campini, was called a “motorjet” or “thermojet” engine – it used a conventional V12 piston engine to drive a three-stage compressor in the front. The compressed air was forced into the rear over an aerodynamic exit cone where it was accelerated. Fuel could be transferred to a combustion chamber in front of the exit cone, where it ignited and delivered extra power, in a way this was the first type of afterburner used in a jet. The entire propulsion system was similar to a ducted fan design.

Two Caproni-Campini N.1 prototypes were built and used over a time period of two years to test the efficency of the thermojet engine, but performance was very poor. In fact, even with activated afterburner, the aircraft was much slower than the Fiat biplanes still used by the Italian Air Force at the time ! The thermojet proved to be a technical dead end and the project was quietly abandoned in 1942. One prototype survived and is now displayed at the Vigna di Valle Aeronautical Museum in Rome. Design curiosities of the N.1 included dual flight controls and a pressurized cabin.

Another Czech short-run kit and this had it all: Plastic parts, PE Parts, Resin Parts, Vacuform canopy, horrible instructions and fitting from the 1950s (although this kit is from 2013). A lot of small detail parts for the cockpit (which you cannot see at all with closed canopy !) and these parts seem to be molded in 1/48, not 1/72. Whatever. I think I´m finally done with this sort of kit, not my taste and a little bit out of my skill range. I´m not so happy with the final result, but see by yourself:

04/04/2015 Mitsubishi A6M Zero Type 52, Imperial Japanese Navy, Hobbyboss

I did not plan to model aircraft from the Pacific War but there is something brutish about the Mitsubishi A6M Zero that fascinated me. For quite some time in the early 1940s the Zero could be considered the best fighter aircraft in the world. Designed to be the ultimate dogfighter, it combined a lightweight but sturdy construction and excellent maneuverability that caught the Americans by surprise. But later, with better aircraft and tactics, things changed for the Allies as they exploited the Zero´s apparent weaknesses: little or no armour, lack of selfsealing fuel tanks, insufficient engine upgrades and a general decline of the quality of Japanese pilots.

This aircraft, a Zero Type 52, was flown by ace Takeo Tanimizu in June 1945. Japanese aircraft usually had a very worn out look late in the War; chipped paint was a common sight. For the first time, I tried a technique to simulate chipped paint and it worked quite well. After brushing a base coat of aluminium, salt is applied to the locations were chipped paint patches should appear. After that, the finishing coat of paint is applied, and the salt removed after drying. And I used a sawfile to remove some additional paint, all in all it looks quite good and I believe it is not overdone after checking some prototype photos – in fact, the real ones looked even worse !

The kit itself is another quick-build from Hobbyboss.

15/03/2015 Messerschmitt Me 328 A Luftwaffe, HUMA Models

Originally conceived as a „miniature“ or „parasite“ fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 328 design went through a lot of changes until the project was finally terminated. The tiny fighter was initially designed to be launched airborne to escort bomber formations. It would have to land on a skid as no landing gear was provided. It was powered by two Argus-Schmidt pulsejets engines, the same engine used for the V-1 flying bomb. These engines were a lot cheaper to build compared to piston or turbojet engines, although their lifespan was very limited.

The Me 328 A, as depicted here, was planned as a fighter, and the Me 328 B as a fighter-bomber. Unpowered glider tests were succesful, but powered tests revealed that the Pulsejets were unsuitable – the airframe could not withstand the excessive vibration and heat of the engines, and they were inefficient at medium and high altitudes. Different engine layouts were tested without success and the project was finally cancelled in 1944.

This is a short-run kit produced in the 1990s by the now defunct German manufacturer HUMA. For a short-run kit, it went together surprisingly well. The set also included the Me 328 B fighter-bomber, I will build this one later.

15/02/2015 Fieseler Fi-103R Luftwaffe, MAC Distribution

The Fieseler Fi-103R (codename "Reichenberg") was basically a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, intented for suicide bombing runs. In a desperate move to change the tide of war, several "Kamikaze" aircraft projects were researched by the Luftwaffe; it was finally decided that the V-1 could be converted for piloted flight. The basic design was largely unchanged, including the Argus pulsejet engine, and a volunteer squad of pilots, the Leonidas squadron, was selected.

Fitted with a 850kg warhead, the aircraft would be launched airborne from bombers near the target site. Pilot escape before hitting the target was explicitly planned but this would almost be impossible (800 km/h dive speed, a cramped cockpit and the engine directly behind the cockpit...). Powered test flights were succesful but the project was very controversly discussed within the Luftwaffe, and eventually cancelled. The Mistel concept was regarded as a better solution.

This is another Czech short run kit (from MAC Distribution) with few parts; it can be completed on a rainy afternoon. Fast and simple.

08/02/2015 Petlyakov Pe-2 Red Army Air Force, Hobbyboss

The Petlyakov Pe-2 was a Soviet Dive Bomber and one of the must succesful Soviet designs during WWII. Over 11.000 were built and they were also used in other roles as Nightfighter oder Heavy Fighter. This one was operated by the Russian Gards, 40th BAP, Black Sea Fleet in Summer 1944. The crewmembers were E.Stupin (pilot), P.Glevatsky (radio/gunner) and A.Rodinov (navigator). The lettering means "For Boris Sofanov", a dedication to the famous russian ace that was shot down in 1942.

The Hobbyboss kit was a quick build, although it has some accuracy issues and only basic detailing. I added a pilot figure, antenna mast, and two guns.

17/01/2015 Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-14 Luftwaffe, Academy

Now a "mainstream" kit from Academy for a change.

With 352 victories, Erich Hartmann is the most successful fighter ace in aviation history. In February 1945, he took temporarily command of I./JG53 squadron in Hungary. The aircraft he used there, a Messerschmitt Bf109 G-14, is shown here. It had the famous Hartmann "tulip pattern" on the nose and was painted in a white winter camouflage.

30/12/2014 Blohm & Voss Bv 40 Luftwaffe, Brengun

Another short run kit from Czech maker Brengun. These kits are quite a challenge (at least for me), tiny PE parts, bad fitting, inconclusive instructions, but they make quite interesting models not offered by mainstream manufacturers.

The Blohm & Voss Bv40 was an attack glider prototype by the Luftwaffe in early 1944. It was supposed to be towed in pairs above an allied bomber fleet and then released for an attack. The pilot, lying prone in the heavily armored cockpit, had two MK 108 cannons provided. The small dimensions of the glider would have to be a challenge for the bomber gunner crew. But it never saw combat, after testing six prototypes the project was cancelled. Would probably be a deathtrap like the Natter.

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