Airfix 1/72 IL-2 Sturmovik
Fighting in any war is a good way to get killed but in every war there are some
places more dangerous than others. One of those dangerous places in World War 2
was the back seat of the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik. Flying around at low level
trying to blow up German tanks, these planes were the targets for anti-aircraft
guns and fighters alike. They suffered heavily from the latter until a version
with a tail gun was introduced, but the poor tail gunners didn't have as much
armour as the pilots. Their death rate was close to double that of their front
This plane is famous for its tank-killing exploits as well as the huge numbers in which it was built - more than 42,000 if you include the later Il-10 variant. Stalin notoriously gave a bollocking to one Soviet factory manager who wasn't keeping the planes flowing out fast enough. He cabled the manager to express his disapproval and remarked that the plane was as essential to the Red Army as air and bread. I don't know about you, but that would have been enough to get me down to the production line with a screwdriver and a can of paint, just as quick as I could change into fresh overalls.
The Sturmovik showed another thing too - that women can fly planes just as well as men. Indeed, it's hard to believe the jibber-jabber that goes on about whether women should serve in combat. Just look at the exploits of some of the Soviet female pilots in those desperate times. One such woman, Anna Yegorova, flew something like 270 missions in an Il-2, as well as earlier missions in a Po-2. She was shot down a few times, badly burned, taken prisoner, interrogated upon release by her own side, and still managed to live to the ripe old age of 93. Get with the program, fellas!
There's been a bit of hoo-hah lately about the relative merits of Tamiya's new
1/48 Sturmovik compared to the older Accurate Miniatures kit.
This got me thinking. What if you're an average modeler, like me? What if you haven't got the inclination to do research, scratchbuild out inaccuracies, and hunt down diagrams and vintage photos to make an extremely accurate model? What if, like me, you find the high price off those kits a bit of a stretch?
Can you still get a decent looking Sturmovik on your shelf?
I decided to try. Because I must be a bit of a sucker for punishment, I went with the very old Airfix kit in 1/72. Recently re-released (mercifully with decent decals), it's still an old, old kit. Old school Airfix in every way: funny little pilots; raised rivets; moving ailerons and rolling main wheels.
Now, before reading on, remember the parameters for my build. I went out of the box, using the Airfix kit from the 1960s. I suspect it is way off in specific accuracy even if it generally looks like what it is supposed to be. Also, I hand-brush my models, just as I suspect many average modelers do. No preshading and post washing here.
Before you start anything, there's cleaning up to be done. This is an old kit
and the parts need a bit of attention. Once that was done, I painted my pilots
(who aren't Airfix's best little sculptures) and put together the very sparse
cabin area. You don't see much in the pilot's cabin because of that big blanked
off side canopy, and in fact the rear gunner fills his space too. The gun went
There is a lot of filling and sanding to be done on this plane, mostly around the underwing joints. I spent ages here and it still looks pretty ratty. Eventually I concluded that as this plane was going to sit on the shelf, I wasn't going to sand any more.
The fuselage goes together ok and overall construction is pretty easy.
After painting - see below - I put the underwing stores on (they are rockets, I think), added the tail gun (with partly drilled out muzzle) and the propeller.
The canopy isn't fantastic. I painted the rear window frame in a different spot to where it's moulded, mainly to try to cover up the location pins which stick out like sore thumbs. Fit of the canopy is pretty mediocre.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I struggled to decide what colours to use on this. I looked at every build I
could see on MM and a couple of other sites. I looked at paint conversion charts
and decided I wasn't sure that the Airfix suggestions were correct (not least
because they ended up looking like an RAF scheme).
In the end I went with a three tone scheme, plus a matt white tail. All the paints used on top were Tamiya, while the underside was Mr Color 20 light blue. The grey ended up being XF-20 medium grey, over an early coat of darker grey. The brown ended up a mix of XF-60 dark yellow and XF-64 dark brown (mostly the former) over an earlier coat of -64. And the green was XF-61 over an earlier coat of XF-26 deep green. None of the first coats looked remotely right.
In the end, I used a light dusting with some fine sandpaper and the surface looked a little abused, as some of the earlier shades came through.
Yes, I know, some of you are thinking "amateur hour", but I think it looks ok.
The decals, believe it or not, are excellent. They responded very well to Mr Mark Softer. The Mongolian ones I will keep for a possible future project (perhaps a Mig-21).
So, can you
get a decent looking Il-2 for under ten bucks if you are an average modeler?
Remember, I'm not asking this of people who have the motivation and skill to
turn out a fine replica from the more detailed, more modern kits. I'm asking it
of the average weekend warrior like me.
I am happy enough with this. It's not my best work, and it certainly isn't the best kit in the world. It probably isn't very accurate. But it looks as much like a Sturmovik as any of my other models look like what they are supposed to be.
You be the judge!
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