Friday 29 May 2020

ICM Bf 109 Friedrich 1:48 - build review finished

Finished in the markings of Kommodore Balthasar of JG 2 as seen in late May 1941 in the three greys, but being an early F-2, there’s a chance it could have been finished in BoB Emil 71/02/65. Decals assembled from various remnants, including the rudder ‘kill’ markings. Balthasar was one of the leading Luftwaffe aces during the campaign in the West and the Battle of Britain. He was killed in his new Friedrich during July 1941.

I am currently considering whether or not to repaint the port wing, as the pattern is not consistent with the splinter pattern vaguely discernable on the photo of this machine (he says now!)... overall I like the kit. I found it a little tricky in parts -especially the cowl - but the detail is reasonably good..

Saturday 23 May 2020

ICM Bf 109 Friedrich 48 scale - build review (1)

 I had the idea to do a comparative build of 48th scale Bf 109s but having already built the Eduard and Hasegawa Gustavs and paid a small fortune for the 'new' Tamiya kit I quickly went off the idea as being a little pointless. How come ? ...well it occurred to me that I had paid four times as much for the Tamiya kit (around £32.... ) as I had for any of the ICM Bf 109s in the stash ( around £8.99 ..) Yes, 4x. I can't imagine that the Tamiya kit is four times as good or is four times as easy to build for example ..or is it? Now the ICM Bf 109s seem to be nicely detailed kits - you get a reasonable engine and cockpit - but I've read a few horror stories about fit and so on so here is my attempt to assemble one as neatly as possible.

The ICM Bf 109 kits feature a nice representation of the DB engine, so why not build this with the cowl open?  However adding the engine to the cockpit firewall before inserting into the fuselage seems to be asking or trouble. Best perhaps to assemble the cockpit and close up the fuselage in the normal way. Once that's done add the engine to the firewall ..

When fitting the engine to the firewall you will need to test fit the various cowl parts at the same time - you may find that the locating holes for the engine mounts will need drilling out. Once glued in, the the whole engine assembly is pretty solid. You should find that the two banks of cylinders just rest on the forward part of the fuselage. These are angled  so that when the exhaust stacks are fitted they sit level to the rest of the assembly. Some more detail parts still to add to the engine here  - eg the coolant tank and valve and a bit of wiring to 'busy' the space up a little...Plenty (!!) of test-fitting of the multi-part cowl is required throughout..

Elsewhere the locating tabs on the flaps will need to be cut down to enable these parts to be positioned other than at neutral. Unfortunately the rounded wing-tip parts do not fit well and much sanding and filing is necessary. Recessed panel lines are well done. The plastic has a nice 'feel' to it.

Painting underway using Humbrol and Xtracolor enamels over a coat of (Halfords) grey acrylic primer. I always have 'trouble' painting exhausts - this time I went with a metallic silver base coat - after all these things are made of metal - and then went over this with an acrylic brown, drybrushed so that the 'metal' just shows through.

The kit decals by the way look incredibly matte on the sheet - I've decided not to use them.
More soon.....

Sunday 17 May 2020

Book reviews - Profiles of German tanks, Panzer book III, Claes Sundin - Tigers in Combat III - Schneider, Helion & Co

Claes Sundin’s latest profile book is here - Panzer book III features the entire range of German AFVs and has taken some ten months to research, write and illustrate. As Claes states in his Foreword, this new volume represents the ‘pinnacle’ of his work on German tanks. Each artwork is more detailed and more accurate than ever thanks in part to the team of ‘experts’ behind the book, most notably camouflage and markings specialist David E. Brown who has supplied a detailed overview of German Panzer camo development and evolution that opens the 65 profile artworks. A large format landscape volume, each artwork - one tank per page - is accompanied by a detailed text setting the context and relating the action in which the tank was involved. Highly recommended.

Although only 1,347 Tiger I tanks were built between August 1942 and August 1944 the Tiger remains one of the iconic tanks of World War II. Although many of its design antecedents were somewhat outmoded - thick slab-sided non-sloping armour for one -  and it was deployed in some ‘hopeless’ theatres (Tunisia February 1943) the huge 88mm gun was unrivaled on the battlefield and the Tiger quickly acquired a reputation that made it the most feared German AFV on all fronts. Schneider’s  third book in the “Tigers in Combat” series is a massive volume of over 500 pages with 1,200 photographs as a tribute to this colossal vehicle. This third volume complements the previous two books in the series by looking at all aspects of Tiger operations - not so much through a unit-by-unit chronology as in the first two volumes but by considering in-depth aspects of Tiger operations - crew training, deployment and tactics. While concentrating primarily on the Tiger I - there being far fewer images of the King Tiger - you could say that everything is here; organisation charts; great details of how the crews trained and operated the tank; a comprehensive outline of how the tanks were deployed and a review of the tactics used by Tiger units, including details of how the tank featured as part of the Nazi propaganda machine with a good number of (untranslated) facsimile reproductions of period newspaper articles.

The book is based around an archive of well over 1,000 photos. Clear and well-chosen to complement the text most are in black and white – although there are a few in colour. (These colour pictures are mostly of captured Tigers from American archives.) There are hundreds of high quality  photographs of the Tiger, that cover every aspect of the tank in service and there are also numerous pictures of support vehicles of all types as well as many pictures of crewmen both at work and at play. There is an enormous amount of detail in these photographs, many are either previously unseen or little known. One of my favourites is in the short section that shows the visit by the Japanese military attaché that includes a wonderful photograph of unmistakably Japanese crew manning Tiger 055 at the Senne military training ground.

One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is the attention to fine detail. Where else would you find several photographs of tank crews washing themselves and their clothes? There is even a picture of a bath tub stowed to the rear of one Tiger. This is an intimate view of the Tiger crews and many of the pictures will inspire model makers. There is a very interesting section devoted to food and eating and logistic resupply with plenty of images suggesting diorama possibilities - half-tracks and trucks and field kitchens set up alongside Russian village houses.

The book also covers other unusual aspects of the Tiger’s history. There is a nicely illustrated section that examines in detail the Henschel and Sohn factories at Kassel. The factory layout is shown and the accompanying photographs show Tigers on the production line as well as the banks of machinery necessary to build the tank. The text includes fascinating extracts from an unpublished memoir by Herr Pertuss concerning Tiger production at the Henschel Werkes. The section ends with details of the air raids that badly damaged the factory.

The chapter entitled “Operating the Tiger” covers the legendary “Tigerfibel” which was the illustration-based handbook for the Tiger. There are numerous drawings in this chapter which will prove invaluable to the model maker who wants to replicate fine detail particularly in the larger scales. There is a wealth of interior detail both in the form of sketches and photographs. For the diorama builder there are numerous photographs of repairs being carried out to the Tiger – particularly to the running gear. My favourite photograph features a platoon of around 20 men struggling to turn over one length of track.

The next chapter covers “Deployment” and many of the photographs show some of the hazards involved in moving a 56 ton tank. Many photographs show Tigers bogged down or incapacitated as the result of slipping off a road or track. Others record the Herculean effort needed by recovery teams to get the unfortunate vehicles back into service. There are several pictures of 18 ton “Famo” half-tracks being used to recover hapless Tigers, often several half-tracks were needed to affect a recovery. The chapter includes details of the work involved in preparing the Tiger for rail transport. It is well known that because the Tiger was so wide, the normal combat tracks (and the outer road wheels on the early versions) had to be removed and replaced with a special railway track. There are numerous photographs showing this laborious work and some of the disasters that occurred if the loading or unloading didn’t go according to plan. As with the other chapters there is much inspiration here for the model maker and diorama builder.

In the final chapter; “Tactics” we see the Tiger in action. Many of the photographs show Tigers being prepared for battle and some show the damage sustained after the battle. There is a series of pictures showing repairs being made to damaged Tigers using the “Straßenbock-Kran” (Mobile gantry crane - not 'portable' - one of several quirks in the translation throughout the book!) As with the other chapters there are numerous photographs here that will inspire the model maker. The Tiger was an awesome weapon but the extensive time and effort required in keeping the tank running and recovering and repairing damaged tanks is clearly shown in this book.

This review has only scratched the surface of this fascinating book. The author must be congratulated in bringing together all the pictures and providing informative text and captions that make this a captivating read. If you have even a passing interest in the Tiger this book is a “must have”. If you are only looking to acquire one single volume on the Tiger then it might as well be this one. If you already have an extensive library of Tiger books then this is still a 'no-brainer'. The original cover price will obviously have put many potential purchasers off ( no, I rarely if ever spend £70 on a book..) but if you look on ebay you can find traders (in the UK) currently -due to the Covid cancellation of all Militaria fairs - selling this at less than half price, hence my purchase now.

Monday 4 May 2020

Armament options on British RAF F-4 Phantoms

Above;  photographed at Coningsby in January 1974 this image of a 6 Sqn FGR 2 made the front cover of Airfix Magazine at the time and stimulated an interest that has lasted ever since..

British RAF Phantom squadrons were role oriented, with the early strike squadrons (6, 14, 17, 31, 41, 54 and later 2 Sqns) carrying 4 x AIM-7 E-2 Sparrows, 4 x AIM-9D and mixes of SNEB rocket pods, 1000lb or 750lb iron (GP) bombs, or BL755 CBUs. A B61 nuke could also be carried on the centreline rack, or the SUU-23 gunpod or an EMI recce pod (although only 12 aircraft were wired for that) or the 600 gall tank.

A strike camera could also be carried in the port Sparrow well. CBLS practice bomb carriers were another option.

When Jaguars and Tornados were introduced, the Phantom's role switched to Air Defence, so 111, 19, 23, 29, 56, 92 and later 74 Sqns would carry 4 x Sparrows or later Skyflash, 4 x AIM-9 D/G/L depending on the time frame and the SUU-23 or the centreline tank. 43 Sqn, being equipped with intended-for-another-FAA squadron FG1s and thus without the INS nav system, always performed the air defence role.

892 Sqn aboard Ark Royal could be fitted for either offence or defence (except for the SNEB pods - the Navy had their own rocket pods)

226 OCU (64 shadow squadron) would carry whatever it was training crews for in the period, either strike/ground attack or air defence.

No British Phantoms, including the F-4J(UK), ever carried active ECM gear, even those German-based machines at the height of the Cold War. The only regular ECM carried was the tail-mounted RWR, which was passive. It used audio, plus strobes rather than alphanumerics to alert the crew to threats. The FG.1 originally did not have SUU-23/A 20mm rotary cannon capability like the FGR.2. The RAF added this capability from around November 1974 at RAF Leuchars.

There were no ECM pods used as far as is known. The Westinghouse AN/ALQ-101(V)-8 "Dash Eight" was bought for Buccaneers and Jaguars, along with AN/AVQ-23 Pave Spike designators for the Buccaneers, in the mid-late 1970s, by which time Tornado was coming on line with its own special gear and the ageing Tooms were flying air defence.
Phantoms at Missile Practice Camp at Valley could carry a missile launch photo pod based on an AGM-12 Bullpup body, as seen with XV474 at Duxford.