Airfix 1/48 Bf-109E

KIT #: ?
PRICE: $25.95 SRP
DECALS: Three Options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            The Bf‑109E series was developed in 1938, to take advantage of the DB 600‑series engine, which gave the aircraft a performance enhancement of 50 percent more power over the previous Jumo‑powered sub‑types.  Most importantly, the DB 601A had direct fuel injection rather than a carburetor, so that negative‑g maneuvers presented no problem and allowed the airplane to out‑maneuver adversaries such as the Spitfire or Hurricane that were equipped with float‑type carburetors.

            The first true Bf‑109E prototype was the Bf‑109 V15, powered by the DB 601A‑1 rated at 1,050 h.p. With the engine proven during tests in 1938, the Bf‑109E‑1 was approved for production in late 1938, armed with four 7.62mm machine guns, and began rolling off the production lines in January 1939 at the Regensburg plant.  As originally produced, the Bf‑109E‑1 provided no armor protection for the pilot, though later during the Battle of Britain pilots did attach armored headrests from the Bf‑109E‑3 and some had the external armored windscreen.  1,183 Bf‑109E‑1s were built during 1939, with production tapering off in 1940.  Operationally, the lightweight Bf‑109E‑1 was generally flown by junior enlisted men serving as wingmen to flight leaders in the cannon‑armed Bf‑109E‑3.

            Appearing in Luftwaffe Jadgruppen in February, 1939, the Bf‑109E‑1 was also sent to Jagdgruppe 88 of the Legion Condor in Spain, with 2/Staffel converting from the Bf‑109B in late February/early March 1939, just prior to the end of the Civil War. 

            The Bf-109E-3 appeared almost simultaneously with the Bf-109E-1.  It differed in wing armament, being equipped with a drum-fed 20mm MG-FF cannon.  The original concept was that the leader of a Rotte - four aircraft - would fly the more heavily-armed fighter, while his wingmen flew the lightly-armed Bf-109E-1.  By the Battle of Britain, as a result of combat experience in France, and with the introduction of the Bf-109E-4, which was also cannon-armed, the Bf-109E-1 was progressively removed from first-line service.

Heinz Bar:

            As an air‑minded teenager, Heinz Bar took up the sport of gliding and became a qualified pilot of powered aircraft at age of 17, with hopes of flying for Deutsche Lufthansa. Joining the Luftwaffe in 1937, and was trained as a fighter pilot.  Flying on the Western Front after the declaration of war, Feldwebel Bar scored his first victory, a French Hawk 75, on September 25th, 1939.  He flew with JG 51 during the Battle of Britain, first as Werner Moelders' wingman and moving up to Rottenfuehrer by the end of August.  On July 2nd, 1941, with a score of 27, he was promoted from Feldwebel to Leutnant and awarded the Knight's Cross.

            Flying combat from the first day of the war to the last, Heinz Bar completed more than 1,200 missions, entering combat 825 times. As a comparison, the most active Allied fighter pilots flew between 250‑400 missions; Richard Bong, the American Ace of Aces, flew 254 missions and opened fire at an enemy target 83 times, scoring 40 victories ‑ and this is the best record of any U.S. pilot.  Bar created three "aces" on the Allied side, having been shot down himself 18 times in the course of 6 years of combat.

     Placed in charge of sport flying in West Germany in 1950, Bar died April 28th, 1957, flying a light aircraft in an aerobatics exhibition. He was only 44.


             I'll admit that when Airfix announced they would release a 1/48 Bf-109E, my first thought was “why?”, given that the Emil is well served by 1/48 kits released by Hasegawa beginning in 1987 and Tamiya in 1995.  While both companies' products were originally incorrect in outline, both have been modified over the years and cover all versions except the Bf-109E-1 (Hasegawa did a limited-release Bf-109E-1 with resin parts to fill in the hole after the under wing cannon bulge was removed). 

             But it turns out this kit does fill a niche: at around $25it is modestly-priced compared to the competition, and it does provide the necessary parts to do all versions of the Emil, from Bf-109E-1 to Bf-109E-7 (Trop), though you may want to consider a vac canopy for the E-4 and E-7 versions, since the kit canopy is more correct for a Gustav than an Emil.

             Additionally, all control surfaces are provided separately and display appropriate petite detail for fabric-covered surfaces.  All are commendably thin with sharp trailing edges.  Perhaps most importantly, the kit is very well engineered.  All the parts fit so tightly that it is not necessary to utilize such “advanced” modeling techniques as putty or filler, which makes this a very good modeler for a beginner who has some experience of snap-tite kits to build as first “real” model with the expectation of a good result.

             The main parts are thicker than one is used to with other manufacturers, which is good for the beginner, while the surfaces have petite panel line detail and there is no “clunkiness” to the final result.  The clear parts are very thin and clear, and all versions of windscreen and canopy are provided.   The decals have a flat finish, and three markings options are provided: a Bf-109E-1 from Jagdgruppe 88 in the Spanish Civil War, a Romanian Bf-109E-3 and a Bf-109E-7 (Trop) of JG 27 in North Africa. For a look at the kit as it comes in the box, visit the preview.


            I started by painting the cockpit parts RLM02 while still on the sprues, adding on a ProModeler Bf-109E instrument panel decal.  While al that was drying, I assembled the wing, leaving flaps and ailerons off. 

            I then assembled the cockpit.  Since I was doing an OOB project, I painted the molded-in seatbelt detail, but would recommend photoetch seatbelts as the only thing besides an instrument panel decal that the cockpit needs for enhanced detail.  I posed the control stick leaning forward, since I planned to droop the elevators

            I attached this assembly to the fuselage half and then assembled the fuselage.  I found that the kit does not provide the noticeable “sill” around the top of the cockpit, so I used some Evergreen strip to create that.  The only place I had any sort of a visible seam was that area of the forward fuselage between the windscreen and the cowling, which only needed a light scraping with an X-acto blade for it to disappear.  I also used Evergreen strip to create the adjustable opening of the oil cooler, which I posed in the neutral position.

            I attached the wing, then the horizontal stabilizers. With all the basic airframe assembled, I attached the flaps in the down position, the ailerons in “neutral” and the elevators were “drooped.”  The model was now ready to go to the paint shop.


             I did a “1940 scheme” with the RLM65 Hellblau high on the fuselage sides, with an upper camo scheme of RLM71 and RLM02, all done with Tamiya paints.  Since this scheme was done “in the field” from an original factory scheme of 70/71/65, I applied the colors with “soft” edges.  When that was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Clear Gloss varnish.   

             I used a mixture of Lifelike Decals for national insignia and stencils, with personal markings for Heinz Bar from the long out-of-production Aeromaster “Top Guns of the Luftwaffe” sheet.  When these were fully set, I gave the model an overall coat of Xtracrylix Clear Flat varnish.


             Lynn Ritger warned me that the gear legs are fully extended, which would change the “sit” of the model, so I shortened the oleo leg and then assembled the gear leg and gear door, then attached them to them model.  I attached the prop and wheels, unmasked the canopy, and posed it in the open position, using the early armored backplate from the Zvezda Bf-109F kit.  I applied some light exhaust and oil stains with Tamiya “Smoke.”


             Airfix is definitely back.  I agree with Lynn Ritger, who says this kit is now his favorite Bf-109E in 1/48.  It is accurate in outline and easy to assemble even for a beginner, with a very nice result for either a quick weekend project or a more detailed project.  It continues the Airfix tradition of affordable kits that do not require advanced modeling ability to create a nice model, while being accurate enough to appeal to the more knowledgeable modeler.  Everyone has plenty of aftermarket Bf-109E decals, so a “109 Nut” can do as many of these as he wishes without breaking the piggy bank.  While I used some extra parts from other kits and did some modifications for accuracy, and used aftermarket decals, one get a very nice model using nothing but what comes in the box. Highly recommended.

Tom Cleaver

 March 2011

Kit courtesy of my wallet.  

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