Accurate Miniatures 1/48 IL-2 on skis

KIT #

 

PRICE:

$36.99

DECALS:

One aircraft

REVIEW :

Tom Choy

NOTES:

 

HISTORY

Most WW2 boffins would probably recognize the Il-2 as the A-10 of that difficult era.  Large, heavily armored, armed to the teeth, kinda ugly, the Il-2 was produced in such massive numbers that its presence in the field was a significant contributor to pushing the Nazis back from the Eastern Front.  The Ilyushin’s brainchild also brought a new word into the aviation vocabulary – Bronirovanni Shturmovik (abbreviated as Bsh), or Shturmovik for short, meaning “armored attacker.”  The unfortunate Germans who had to take cover from its twin 20mm ShVAK cannons, 7.62 ShKAS machine guns, bombs and rockets, however, called it the “Black Death.”

 Originally planned as a two-seater (with a rear gunner sitting aft of the pilot), the Il-2 was a victim of what I call The Leader is Always Right Syndrome (TLARS) when Stalin insisted that the aircraft would do fine without a rear gunner.  Losses mounted when Luftwaffe pilots figured that they could just casually fly right behind an Il-2 and shoot the crap out of it, and the Il-2 was finally re-engineered to have a rear gunner.  Luftwaffe pilots would still fly casually behind them, until they realized that the Il-2s now had rear gunners and were subsequently getting the crap shot out of them.

 Produced in more numbers than any other combat aircraft in WW2 (over 36,000) the Il-2 has only 6 surviving examples today.  The Shturmovik spirit lives on, however, in the form of the Sukhoi Su-25 and -39 Frogfoot series.

THE KIT

            This beautiful kit is from the now defunct Accurate Miniatures, in a nice black box with a pretty good picture of the Il-2, landing in the snow.  The box has a false bottom with the clear parts, decals and instructions underneath.  Looking at the kit, it’s actually a regular Il-2 model with an extra sprue for the skis (so if you just want a regular Il-2, toss the ski sprue – the wheels are included).  There’s only one set of decals though – Number 6.  Initial dry-fitting shows that the kit fits fine in some areas, and iffy on others (see Construction).

CONSTRUCTION

            Of course, construction started with the cockpit.  The instructions suggest “Interior Grey-Green,” FS34226, and as I use Testor’s Acryl line, I matched it to RAF Interior Green.  The cockpit has 13 parts, if you include the gunsight, and is very nicely detailed – the only thing that looked funny on it was the trim wheel, but other than that, it looks pretty good.  I planned to use the decal seatbelts stuck on a piece of aluminum foil, but I had a little boo-boo with it and ended up using masking tape instead.  Oh well.  The instrument panel uses AM’s famous clear panel-with-a-decal trick, and the instrument panel decal lines up perfectly with the clear part – just remember to seal it in when it’s dry or it might fall out at some inopportune time – like when it’s all closed up.  One thing you’ll have to watch out for – the fit of the little fuel tank behind the cockpit (parts #16 and #17) and the fuel tank armor plate (part #47) is a bit iffy – you’ll want to put that down slowly.

                        Next is the fuselage, which looks like it doesn’t fit well, but it does!  The trick to this is to use a plastic welder like Ambro ProWeld or Tenex 7R.  Put the halves together and slather on the welder in sections.  Watch out for the flap/gear lever (part #87) and throttle control (part #86) – I couldn’t find a positive lock to fit it in.  Use some good CA and tweezers for that.

             Step three, which is the fuselage/tail/cowl/intake assembly, is a remarkable piece of engineering.  The tail is designed so that you almost can’t mess it up – I believe you should be able to get the tail surfaces perfectly horizontal 99% of the time.  Now, the intake/cowl assembly – that’s a pain!  Well, not really.  It’s actually a little iffy – you’ll want to test-fit and put the subassemblies together piece by piece – the cowling top also seems to not want to fit – you’ll have to slide it in, angle it, and slide it back – like a I said, it’s a little tricky, but looks real good when it’s done – AM did a good job here, as it gives the viewer the impression that there really is a radiator in there!  Watch out for the tail ski (part #57) – it’s fragile – I snapped it off when I was trying to adjust the angle.  Which reminds me – the skis are a sore point in this kit.  I’ll explain later.

             The wings assemble really well, and fairly easily.  The wing spars are a little tricky, as they seem to want to bounce out every time you try to press it in.  The cockpit is then placed on the lower center wing and then slotted into the fuselage.  It’s pretty nifty!  The final assembly of the wings are strange, though – the lower section of the port wing had a small gap when mated to the lower center wing, but the wing root fit perfectly with the fuselage, but the lower section of the starboard wing with perfectly with the center wing but had a poor fit on the wing root!   Maybe it’s because I’m ham-fisted – I plan to build several more of these Il-2s, so I’ll keep you guys updated on whether or not it happens again. 

            Next is the assembly of the skis and fairings, and this is where we hit the sore point of this kit.  In order to accommodate the skis, the fairings were redesigned so that the skis could retract into the wings.  AM provides for this in their additional sprue, along with the skis.  However, the fairings fit poorly, and left huge gaps in the wing.  I had to use some putty to cover up the holes.  The fairing halves themselves are poor fits, and you’ll have to glue one end, and wait for it to dry before attempting the other end.

        The skis themselves are another sore point – there are hardly any positive locks on the pins, and the main struts itself is attached to a hinge, which is prone to slipping out of place if the glue does not dry quickly enough.  The ski braces (part #56) had to be twisted 90 degrees in order for the bungee cords to be positioned, but I considered that reasonable given the molding limitations of injection plastic.  However, the instructions tell you to cut 5/32’ off the horizontal bar of part #56 – and that actually came up short – for one thing, I don’t understand why they couldn’t have had the length pre-trimmed before – it was irritating, and that little fiasco took me 2 hours to fix.  In the end, the parts barely fit, and one of the bungee cords was out of position.  I had to resort to covering up the ruined sections, which I’ll explain later.  Also, the rear ski is positioned in a different angle than on the main skis!  The time I wasted trying to get the skis on left a bitter taste in my mouth and also the impression that the skis were hastily done – it was more like a poorly engineered conversion set.

            The rest of the parts  - weapons, props, etc – fit well, and put together without any trouble.  There are a lot of small, fiddly bits though – like the blade sight and landing gear indicators – and wings have lots of things sticking out of it!  You’ll really want to be careful when handling the completed model. 

PAINT & DECALS

            According to the instruction sheet, the aircraft depicted in the kit represent one of the early models flown in Leningrad Front during the winter of 1942.  In order to depict the flakiness of the distemper paint, and also the “sloppy” look of the paint job, I first masked the glass, then painted it in factory colors (earth red (FS30117), dark green (FS34086) and F-15 dark gray (FS36176) top camouflage and RLM 76 undersides), applied the decals, weathered it, sealed it with a gloss coat, and then waited for it to dry.  After the kit was dry, I sloppily applied flat white paint over the surface with a q-tip, being careful to paint around the decals.  If any paint got over the decals, I would wipe if off with a finger, to represent a smudge left over with a grimy rag. 

            The white coat was applied thinly enough that one could see the original colors underneath.  Then, using a broad, flat brush, I drybrushed flat white front to back, being careful to follow the airflow.  This is also thin enough to be seen through, but also evened out the q-tip job.  Finally, I drybrushed gray, earth red and dark green on the leading edges of the wing where the underlying color would be, just slightly, and being careful to follow the demarcation lines of the original camouflage.  When I was happy with it I applied some chalk pastels to represent engine and gun exhaust stains.  Finally I weathered the panel lines again with a sludgy mixture of water, soap and black and brown acrylics (though pastels would have been better).  I wiped the surfaces slightly, causing the panel lines to be highlighted, waited for it to dry, applied a flat coat over it, and finally peeled off the canopy masking.  I also attached the antenna lines by drilling a small hole on the top of the tail, and attached the antenna (made out of 2-pound fishing line) into the hole with thin CA, and attached it to the top of the antenna mast with another drop of thin CA.

             Oh, and this is how I covered up the mess left by the landing ski SNAFU – I got some canned snow (y’know, the stuff you use to spray windows), mixed it with watered-down leftover sludge wash, and applied it with a brush over the offending areas.  I also applied it to areas that would catch snow while the plane was moving.  Ta-da!  Instant cover-up! 

            One last thing – Scott e-mailed me a day after submitting this asking if the snow in the background was real snow.  Yes it is – and in case you’re wondering how I managed to get 1/48 scale snow, here’s what I did:

             First off, get a mix of flat black, earth, water and some soap (the soap’ll make cleaning up easier later) – basically a sludge weathering mix, but watered down so you can sprinkle it.  Then, get a nice, hard surface of 2’ by 2’ (but the bigger the better).  Finally, grab a snow shovel and make yourself a cup of hot chocolate.  Set it down level on a large pile of snow, preferable some distance from a couple of trees.  Then shovel snow on top of this surface until it’s all covered up, then pack it down tight with the back of the shovel until it’s all nice and smooth, and not flaky like regular 1/1 scale snow.  Sprinkle the sludge mix liberally over the snow to simulate sludge and mud.  Set your model down (don’t forget to make tracks) and add diorama stuff as desired.  There ya go!  Diorama snow, and it’s all free and biodegradable!!! (Don’t forget to dig out the flat surface – you don’t want to trip over it if you forget you left it there)  Last but not least, drink the hot chocolate and feel good about yourself.

CONCLUSIONS

            I started this kit on the 26th, the morning after I completed my production model He-280 for the What-If website (which is cool – check it out at http://kithobbyist.com/whatif ) and completed it within five days.  I showed the completed product to my girlfriend, whom, for once, instead of saying, “pretty,” exclaimed, “cool!” which to me meant that it’s pretty darn good. 

             On a scale of 1 to 10 on the Super Tom Fun-O-Meter, I’d say it was a 9, modified to a 7, with two points knocked off on the account of the frustrating skis.  Other than that, I would suggest you drop everything, run off to your nearest store (or online store) and pick up one or two as they’re going for real cheap nowadays.  Have fun building!

REFERENCES

Wilson, S.  (1998).  Aircraft of WWII.  Fyshwick, Australia: Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd.

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