Friday 8 August 2014

Airfix 1/72 Scale Mersserschmitt BF109-E3a - Royal Yugoslav Air Force

Here's the latest build completed. It's another Airfix 109-E, but this time in the markings of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force.

The RYAF had bought about 70 Bf109's paid for with an exchange of minerals/metals. The Bf109E3a was the export version of the same E-3 the Germans flew. Apparently the Germans were less than forthcoming with spares etc, and provided an after-sales package that would have no chance of winning any sort of customer service awards anywhere.

The RYAF flew a selection of modern fighters and bombers at the start of the war, and was much stronger than (for example) the Belgian or Dutch Air Forces. However, they were outnumbered about eight to one on paper by the Axis forces, and in practice due to serviceability issues, the RYAF couldn't put their entire force into the air when the Germans attacked. Despite being short of spares, fuel and even machinegun ammunition, and lacking thecombat experience of their enemies, the Yugoslav pilots' morale was unaffected, and there were occassions when there were more aircrew wanting to fight than aircraft for them to fly.

Obviously this is not an out of the box build. The Airfix kit depicts an E-4 or E-7, which had a differently shaped canopy with a lighter frame, and (according to photos) no head armour for the pilot.

Here's obligatory shot of the cockpit before it got closed up. The detail provided by Airfix is pretty good, and once the canopy is closed, almost invisible, so there's little need to add much else. I went with straps on the rudder pedals (the seat has harness moulded on), trim wheels, throttle/mix levers and a seat adjustor from stretched sprue. The undercarriage legs/doors were hotted up with brake pipes added from fine wire.

The alternative canopy was a vacform from Pavla. I bought it on Ebay, as a pack with a second canopy from a 109-K - goodness knows when I'll use it! It was a very long time back when I last did anything involving vacforms, so I was a bit nervous starting this.

I followed the usual practice of carefully cutting out the part. Pavla mould the canopy including some pieces of rear fuselage and canopy, so it's easy to cut out the proper part, and probably it allows the canopy to fit on different manufacturers' kits. Sanding, checking, more sanding and more checking eventually gets the fit OK.

A little bit of filler around the canopy blends the join, but a little bit of sanding on the fuselage behind the canopy is necessary to deal with a slight width mismatch.

Once sanded, the canopy is a treat. It's very much thinner and clearer than the kit offering, and allows more of the cockpit to be seen. I drilled out the machinegun  and cannon barrels, and the exhausts which improves their look no end, and added a vertical reinforcement bar in the underwing radiators.

The paintwork was simple: RLM70 over RLM65, both out of the pot Tamiya acrylics which airbrush beautifully, followed by about three coats of gloss ahead of the decals.

The decals are from a company called Kora (set  7234). They are thin, flexible and in perfect register, but the white is a little bit thin over RLM70. They're absolutely fine over the RLM65, but if I had a do-over, I would underpaint the upper wing markings and the tail stripes in white. After this, it was another coat of gloss to seal and then detail painting. Guns, trim tabs, landing lights and the like were done with a brush, as was the panel line wash, using acrylic ink.

The wheels are resin extras that come in with the decals, and the detail is superb.

Here she is after the final addition of things like pitot tube, aileron balances and the radio aerial from stretched sprue, and a coat of matt to flat things down.

L-10 was part of the 142. Lovacka Eskadrila, from 32. Grupa at Krusedol airfield. Second Lieutenant Miodrag Aleksic flew the plane to score an aerial victory over a German Bf109-E (and at least one other kill) during the invasion in 1941.

Merry meet again!

Monday 4 August 2014

Airfix 1/72 Scale Messerschmitt Bf109-E7/Trop

Here's a departure (or a return, if you like). My route to wargaming was via model aircraft. I can remember how it happened: my dad and I built an Airfix Junkers Ju88 - he built the fuselage with me watching to show me how, then I bodged up the wings! I carried on until my early twenties, picking up AFVs, figures and wargaming on the way. I dropped it around then, but got bitten by the bug again early this year. I suppose, like wargaming or some bacteria, it never really leaves you: it just lies dormant, and you can relapse at any time...

Well, here's my first completed build, Airfix's Messerschmitt Bf109-E7/Trop.

Cockpit detail as provided by Airfix is pretty good - vastly better that I remembered from the earlydays of a misshapen pilot sat on peg! I added straps on the rudder pedals from tape and trim wheels from stretched sprue. Here's a quick shot of the cockpit before closing up the fuselage.

Assembly is quick and easy, and the aircraft goes together without difficulty, and minimal filler! The kit includes the additional tropical dust filter for the supercharger.

Detail in the wheel wells is nice, and shows up nicely with a bit of washing and dry-brushing. The underfuselage drop tank fitment is one of the things that visibly makes this an E-7 rather than an E-4. I added the vertical strengtheners in the underwing radiators from stretched sprue.

I fitted the canopy at this stage, and it needed a touch of filler to makeit fit perfectly. After masking up, a quick coat of RLM02 will give the sense of the internal colour of the cockpit framing. 

Next thing was a coat of white primer from a spray can. My experience with miniatures makes me gravely suspicious of how well acrylics straight onto plastics will last!

I masked the wheel wells with cotton wool, then blew on a coat of RLM78, mixed from Tamiya acrylics. I had a try out with Humbrol's aircraft acrylics and had a total disaster. I couldn't get on with them at all, and 
 came close to abandoning the airbrush. Luckily, Tamiya paints thin perfectly and spray effortlessly.

The RLM79, againmixed from Tamiya, went on next. The high demarkation line was normal.

The RLM80 mottle was sprayed by finding a "skin" from a videogame, and after printing it off to scale, using it to cut a set of masks or friskets. I put on a couple of coats of Kleer to give smooth surface for the decals, and also to give an easy-clean surface to go with detail painting.

I sprayed in the white fuselage band, then added the decals. These are Airfix's out of the box offering, an aircraft of the legendary JG27. There is an alternative in the form of a Bulgarian Air Force 109-E4, in dark green over light blue, with extensive yellow trims, which also looks pretty nice. The decals are easy to apply. They didn't silver, except in a couple of barely noticeable stencils. Propellor, spinner, guns etc were hand-painted and added as late as possible, to avoid breakage.

The very last pieces were added at the very end: the radio mast and aerial, aileron balances and pitot. Here's an effort at an "in action" shot.

The last shot is an effort at a sepia-toned versionThis aircraft, Schwartze 8, is sometimes described as the mount of Leutnant Werner Schroer, the famous Luftwaffe Expert who was Hans-Joachim Marseille's commanding officer. Although Schroer did fly Schwatze 8, it was literally only a couple of times, and the regular pilot was a chap called Franz Elles.

Franz Elles began operations in 1940 with 1 Staffel, I./JG-27 and saw action during the battle of Britain under the command of Edu Neumann. Transferred in early 1941 with I./JG-27 to North Africa, he flew as wingman to the famous Knights Cross holder Karl-Wolfgang Redlich. Elles amassed five "kills", four Hurricanes and a Douglas Boston. Elles was shot down, defending his leader's tail in a close air combat with P-40s on 11 December 1941, 40 km SE of Ain-el-Gazala. He was flying Bf 109F-4/Trop WNr.8537, "Rote 9" of 2./JG 27. He spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Canada. After the war, he joined the German diplomatic service and rose to become German Ambassador to the Central African Republic.

Merry meet again!