Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hansa-Brandenburg D.I

This Austro-Hungarian fighter was developed in 1916 for the Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen or K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen, and it was the standard fighter of the remained in service with the Luftfahrtruppen until mid-1917. The Hansa-Brandenburg D.I was rather unstable, and recovery from spins were difficult while lateral stability was poor. The deep fuselage also limited the view of the pilot. There were also problems with armament synchronization within the Luftfahrtruppen, so the armament was limited to one Schwarlose machine gun firing above the propeller arc, which meant that the gun was inaccessible to the pilot. Nevertheless, several Austro-Hungarian aces used this aircraft successfully. most notably Godwin Brumowski and Frank Linke-Crawford. In all 122 Hansa-Brandenburgs were built.

The kit is painted as number 28.66, which may be fictuitous or undocumented. The figures are various WWI aviators, and the mechanic by the cockpit is loading the cockpit with flechettes - steel darts - that were thrown at ground targets.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

RAF Brewster Buffalo Mk. I (B-339E)

The Brewster Buffalo was originally intended to be used as a carrier-borne fighter by the U.S. Navy, and it did have some rather advanced features for the latter half of the 1930s. It was an all-metal construction - except for the control surfaces - and it had hydraulically operated split flaps as well as retractable landing gear. By 1941, the unfavourable weight-to-horsepower ratio combined with instability and low maneuverability made if fare poorly in US Navy hands against Japanese fighters. However, the Dutch did score rather well with the Buffalo against the very same Japanese, and the Finns used the Buffalo quite successfully against the Soviets.

The British B-339E was a land-based version of the Buffalo that lacked arrester gear and other equipment for shipboard use. Deliveries of this version began in July 1940. After trials with No. 71 Squadron, the Buffalo was found to be entirely unfit for service above Northwester Europe, but to Fleet Air Arm Squadrons (Nos. 805 and 885) used the Buffalo for support duties in the defence of Crete. The majority of the Buffaloes were sent to the Far East, where they equipped RAF Squadrons Nos. 67, 146, 243, 453 and 488 as well as RAAF Squadron No. 21 and tasked to defend Singapore and the Straits Settlements. After being mauled by the invading Japanse, the remnants of these units fought in Burma alongside the American Allied Volounteer Force (the "Flying Tigers"). Reflections of pilots on the Buffalo vary, with the RAF pilots apparently having slightly different opinions from their colleagues of the USN: Plt Off Marra RNZAF claimed that the Buffalo was "beautiful" to fly, but that added armor impaired the handling characteristics. Also, the ceiling was reduced to 22,000 feet in hot climate while the guns malfuntioned frequently. LAC Home of 242 Squadron described the Buffalo as "...an over-affectionate bulldog loath to leave its kennel". On the other hand, Kaptein Tideman of the Dutch Air Forces in Java stated that the Buffalo was a good, sturdy and fast fighter that could withstand quite a bit of punishment. There were also serious differences between the training standards of Commonwealth and Dutch pilots and Japaneses pilots in the Far East, although the tactics seem to have been comparable, especially since RAF units in the Far east seem to have used three-ship formations instead of pairs (Cull, Buffaloes over Singapore).

The model is a Matchbox specimen from the 1970s, and it is painted to represent aircraft W8168. This aircraft was initially with No. 67 Squadron, and it was flown by a Flying Officer J. F. Lambert when it crashed on landing on August 16, 1941. Lambert was unhurt, the aircraft repaired and transferred to No. 488 Squadron as NF-T. The aircraft was piloted by Pilot Officer F. W. J. Oakden RNZAF when it was slightly damaged in combat on January 20, 1941. Oakden was unhurt, but I have added battle damage to the Buffalo, mainly on the tail, wings and the cowling. The cockpit is scratch-built, and the canopy opened, although I could not make the center part of the canopy rest snugly against the back without cracking the transparency.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Yaketiyak yak - Yakovlev Yak-1

The Yakovlev series of fighters (Yak-1, -7 and -9) provided the Soviet Union with arguably the most important fighter aircraft of the Great Patriotic War. The development of the Yak-1 started in 1939, and just over 300 production aircraft had been delivered before Barbarossa. Sixty-two of these Yak-1s had been delivered to the 11 IAP (Fighter Regiment), which functioned as a form of familiarization unit for pilots from the 20, 45, 123, 158 and 91 IAP. Most Yak-1s were concentrated near Moscow, but 105 were available to the five western Military Districts, although a mere 36 pilots of the 20 IAP Sambora in the Kiev Military District had mastered the Yak-1 before the onslaught of Barbarossa.

One of six fighters defending Moscow were Yak-1s during the summer of 1941, and by July 10, 133 Yak-1s were defending the city. The first aerial victory claimed by the Moscow Air Defence Corps took place on July 2, 1941, when Lieutenant S. Goshko of the 11 IAP rammed a German reconnaissance aircraft after his guns seized. Despite the ramming, Goshko managed to land his Yak.

The Yak-1 was an outstanding dogfighter. and it was able to out-turn the Bf 109 E. It also had superior roll speed, considerably lower stalling speed and greater sustained turning ability due to low wing load. It was, however, slower than the Bf 109 F, especially at higher altitudes. The Bf 109 could also out-climb the Yak-1, but then the Bf 109 could out-climb most Allied fighters during the first half of the war. Some Soviet pilots also found the armament (two machine guns and one 20mm cannon) too light to deal with German medium bombers. As with many other Soviet aircraft, it was considered robust and reliable, especially after the end of 1941, when teething troubles with the engine had been overcome, although issues with landing gear retraction remained. The Luftwaffe considered the Yak-1 to be the best Soviet fighter, especially below 6,000 meters.

This Yak-1 is painted in the so-called "Symmetrical Meander" camouflage pattern of AII Black over Green that was developed at Zavod 292 in Saratov (Erik Pilawski, Soviet Air Force Colours 1941-1941), probably during the late spring or early summer of 1941. I opted to refrain from too much weathering, since the life expectancy of an air frame was short, and most of the Yak-1 was covered in a type of plywood.

The kit is an A-Model limited release, and the plastic itself was rather hard. The parts were endowed with generous amounts of flash that required quite a bit of cleanup. The accuracy is very good, and so are surface details, but the decals were outright wretched. They silvered despite being applied on a coat of Future Floor Polish and covered with Micro Sol, and they are also too thin, which means that the backround green and black shines through. I would have used other sets of VVS markings if I had known this, but other Soviet models had decals that were so much better, so I assumed that these decals were good as well.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Henschel Hs 123

This Henschel Hs 123 wears the insignia of a Staffelkapitän of a Schlachtgeschwader on the Eastern Front some time after the epic summer of 1941. The decals that came with the venerable Airfix kit did not indicate exactly what unit the aircraft may have belonged to, not to mention that the triangle is supposed to be black, not red, but that was discovered after decals were applied and the kit mounted. The kit itself has been modified with extra details in the cockpit, engine and a stretched sprue antenna. The very heavy ribs on the wings were sanded down, but the rivet details were kept intact, even if they seem a bit too conspicuous. The aircraft is carrying an auxiliary fuel tank, but I decided to not hang any ordnance on the underwing bomb racks, since the 50kg bombs supplied with the kit would have required extensive reworking.

The Henschel 123 was interesting in many ways. Close to an anachronism, it was supposed to have been withdrawn after the French campaign in 1940, but the need for WW2-style Close Air Support remained, even with the early successes of the Ju 87. The Hs 123 was in service until at least April 1944, when Schlachtgeschwader II were using a few Hs 123s alongside their FW 190s in the southern Crimea. It should also be mentioned that the top ten tank killers of the Luftwaffe knocked out more than 1,350 tanks, while the top ten air aces of the Schlachtflieger shot down approximately 437 enemy aircraft. The leading ace, Oberleutnant August Lambert, who flew in Schlachtgruppe 1, 2 and 77, shot down 116 enemy aircraft during his 350 missions. While on the topic of missions, Major Werner Dörnbrack flew 1,118 missions with LG 2, SchlG 1, 2, and 4. Dörnbrack also managed to shoot down 29 enemy aircraft while flying his many missions.

Morane-Saulnier MS.406 No. 101/34, 6e Escadrille, GC III/I Armee de L'Air

This fighter was based at Norrent-Fontes on May 10, 1940. GC (Groupe de Chasee) III was active from December 15, 1939 until it was dissolved on August 12, 1940. The unit scored 27 kills between May 10 and June 19, 1940, while losing five pilots. Another four were captured by the Germans (www.cieldegloire.com/gc_3_01.php). The group consisted of two Escadrilles, 5eme and 6eme, and it fielded in all 62 MS.406 shortly before the German invasion of France.

The MS.406 was heralded as the best fighter in the world at the Brussels Air Show in 1937, but it was sadly outdated by 1940. It was slow, unarmored and just not up to par with the Bf109E, but it was the most common fighter in the French Armee l'Air, with more than 1,000 equipping twelve Groups. After the end of the French campaign, the MS.406 continued to be used by Vichy France, the Free french forces (FFI), Croatia, Italy, and Finland. The fighter was also used by Switzerland.

The model kit itself is a Heller kit from what assume to be the 1970s. I added details to the cockpit, but besides that it is basically out of the box. The surface detail is nice for an old kit, but the landing gear and the wheels in particular lack detail.