Eduard 1/48 P-39 Airacobra






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Tom Cleaver




Alexander "Sasha" Pokryshkin:

The leading exponent of the Bell P-39 Airacobra in air combat was Alexander "Sasha" Pokryshkin, the second-scoring ace of the V-VS in the Great Patriotic War; his final score of 59 victories included 48 scored in P-39s, including four by ramming. The P-39 was Pokryshkin's favorite; he continued to fly his when the rest of the 9th Fighter Division he commanded in 1945 was re-equipped with Lavochkin La-7 fighters. Pokryshkin first modified his P-39 in 1943 to connect all three weapons - .30 caliber wing guns, .50 caliber nose guns and the 37mm centerline cannon - so all fired at once, providing a devastating blast at the enemy in his gunsight; he used this on all subsequent P-39s, and the modification spread throughout the V-VS units flying Airacobras.

Pokryshkin was one of the leading V-VS tacticians; he approached air combat in a scientific manner, having learned this attitude from reading "Mes Combats," the memoirs of French WW1 ace René Fonck. Pokryshkin was three times awarded Hero of the Soviet Union, flew 550 sorties, and participated in 139 air combats. Some historians believe his total score should be at least 62 - which would make him the leading Allied ace of the Second World War - for 13 victories scored in battles over the Kuban battlefield during missions over German territory; however, during that period the Soviet Air Force only confirmed victories scored over or behind the Soviet front line.

Pokryshkin began the war flying the dreadful MiG-3 with the 55th IAP. His first victory on the first day of the war was a Russian Su-2! The Su-2 at the time was still secret, and no notice had been given about this first mission being flown by the 211th BAP. Pokryshkin, leading the group of intercepting MiGs, spotted the formation of strange single-engine bombers and immediately attacked. Hit badly, his target fell from the formation. As he banked away he saw red stars on its wings. When the other fighters streamed in to attack the unknown aircraft, Pokryshkin became the protector of the Su-2s, forcing his comrades to break off their attacks by firing warning bursts and flying at them head-on. Only Pokryshkin's victim was lost that day. Fortunately, confusion on the opening day of the war was such that he was not court-martialed.

Pokryshkin scored his first victory over the Luftwaffe on June 23, when he and his wingman became involved in a low-level fight against five Bf-109s. The MiG-3 was at a real disadvantage in this situation, having been designed more for speed at altitude as a bomber interceptor than low-level dogfighting. Pokryshkin and his wingman attacked the lower three of the 109s, but the two on top cover attacked them. He managed to get away from his attacker and shot down the one on his wingman's tail, then made the mistake of watching his victim crash, which allowed one of the other 109s to get on his tail. With a 20mm hit in his right wing, Pokryshkin pulled out of a dive just above the trees and made his escape at low level.

Pokryshkin survived nearly nine months of combat in the MiG-3, during which he scored his first 11 victories. Once he was united with the P-39 - which was in its element in the low-level aerial combat of the Eastern Front - he was on his way to becoming the top Airacobra ace of the war.


I refer the reader to my full-build review of the P-400 release of this kit. The only difference is that this kit includes decals for a U.S. P-39L in New Guinea, a French P-39N, and Pokryshkin's famous #100 P-39N. (Editor's note: there is some feeling that Pokryshkin flew a P-39Q, at least for his later victories. If you go that route, you need to remove the wing guns as Russian P-39Qs didn't have them, and add the nose vent behind the spinner.)


My main note for construction of this kit as opposed to the earlier one is that I discovered the secret here to not having the little "ridge" around the rear of the canopy: be certain to glue all mating surfaces of the cockpit interior to the fuselage side it was not first attached to (something modelers don't always do); then hold the fuselage tightly while the glue sets up. The result is that the canopy will fit the fuselage perfectly. There will be a gap in the wing-fuselage joint to one side or the other - depending on how you begin gluing the upper surface of the wing to the fuselage. The gap was sufficient that I used a piece of Evergreen .020 x .010 strip to fill it and by doing so lost the need for putty. By so doing, I was able to obtain smooth joints and get rid of all seam lines using Mr. Surfacer 500.



I first "pre-shaded" the model with flat black airbrushed over all panel lines. The underside was painted with Tamiya "Neutral Grey," while the upper surfaces were done with Gunze Sanyo "Olive Drab". I lightened the OD, first with yellow and then white as I faded the wings, horizontal stabilizer, and upper surfaces of the fuselage; the fabric areas were where I used the "yellowed" OD, with the metal surfaces getting that shade with the addition of white, since these two materials were covered with different kinds of paint that faded in different ways.


I used the kit decals to do 29004, #100, the airplane Pokryshkin flew from the spring of 1944 till the end of the war. As were many Airacobras, this airplane was delivered to the Soviets with US National markings in the standard positions; red stars were applied over them, with the non-standard application of the stars to the upper wing surfaces. The decals are Cartograph and went down perfectly under a light coat of Micro-Sol.

Final Finish:

I chipped the model around the nose gunbay panels, the engine panels, and the wing area where crewmen would have worked on it, and the leading edges of flying surfaces. I applied mud smear to the lower wing surfaces, since this airplane would have always been flying from unprepared fields. I used Tamiya "Smoke" for gunfire and exhaust stains. The final finish was done with my "Flat Future" mixture of Tamiya Flat Base and Future.


The Eduard Airacobra is a beautiful kit, easy to assemble, and accurate-looking when completed, even if the cockpit doors are raked at "too great an angle" (maybe 2 degrees) according to those who obsess about such things. This is my second one, and with the recent arrival of the Profi-pack kit, I am sure there is at least one more in my future.

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