Trumpeter 1/32 Bf-109F-2

KIT #: 02292
PRICE: $63.00 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Aires Bf-109F-2 resin conversion parts used.

HISTORY

 The Bf-109F, or Friedrich, is commonly considered the high point of development of the airframe technically, in terms of mating power to airframe for maximum performance.  Pilots considered it the best-handling of all the 109s, and that the later Gustav and Kurfurst series did not increase performance for the extra weight of armament and different engines.  It is certainly the best-looking Bf-109 overall. First appearing in limited numbers on the Channel Front in November 1940, the Friedrich canceled the performance edge of the new Spitfire V over the Bf-109E, allowing the Luftwaffe to maintain air superiority against the RAF over the Channel and Northern France during the “Non-Stop Offensive” of 1941.  The Bf-109F was clearly the best fighter operational over the Eastern Front after the opening of Operation Barbarossa in June `1941, and was superior to all other fighters in North Africa once it appeared there in the fall of 1941.  Indeed, the airplane is probably best remembered as the mount of Hans Joachim Marseille, “The Star of Africa.”

 Adolf Galland:

 Adolf Galland was born in Westerholt, Westphalia, on March 19, 1912.   Interested as a child by the airplanes he saw during the First World War, he flew gliders during the 1920s as a participant in the national sport aviation movement.  After graduating from the Hindenburg Gymnasium in 1932, he was among 20 applicants accepted to the Lufthansa flying school.

Galland’s two brothers also became fighter pilots and aces before being killed in combat: Paul Galland was killed on October 31, 1942 when he was shot down by a Spitfire after scoring 17 victories, while Wilhelm‑Ferdinand “Wutz” Galland - who had followed his older brother to a position of command responsibility within JG 26 - was shot down and killed on August 17, 1943 after scoring 54 victories.

 After graduation from the Lufthansa school at the top of his class, Galland was sent to Italy for training as a fighter pilot with the Regia Aeronautica.  On his return, he was torn between wanting to live the glamorous life of an airline pilot and wanting to be a fighter pilot; he eventually joined the technically illegal Luftwaffe in 1935, where he was posted to JG 132 “Richthofen,” based at Döberitz near Berlin. Following a training crash in which he suffered a damaged eye, fractured skull and broken nose, he was in a coma for three days.  A second crash a year later aggravated his injured eye and he was only allowed to continue training after passing an eye test, which he cheated on by memorizing the chart. 

 Galland was among the first Luftwaffe pilots sent to Spain in 1937, where he was appointed Staffelkapitän of 3.J/88.  Following the discovery that the He‑51 was unable to fight against the I‑15 or I‑16, Galland flew 300 ground attack missions, and became known as a ground attack specialist for his development of tactics and weapons such as gasoline and oil bombs that were the precursors of napalm.  Galland first displayed his dashing style in Spain, flying in swimming trunks with a cigar between his teeth, in an aircraft decorated with a Mickey Mouse figure which later became the symbol of the Schlachtflieger.

Promoted to Hauptmann just prior to the outbreak of World War II, Galland became Staffelkapitän of 4.(S)/Lehrgeschwader 2, equipped with the Henschel Hs‑123, He flew an average of four sorties a day during the Polish campaign and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.  Prevented from joining the Jagdwaffe on the grounds he was too experienced in ground attack, Galland falsely claimed he had rheumatism and could no longer fly in open cockpit aircraft, and was transferred from his post on medical grounds.

 In February 1940 he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 27 as adjutant and restricted from flying, forcing him to sneak away to fly combat missions. Galland scored his first victories over Liege on May 12, 1940, shooting down three RAF Hurricanes. By the end of the French campaign, he had scored 14 victories and became the third fighter pilot to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on August 1, 1940.

 Just before the end of the French campaign, Galland joined the unit with whom he would become synonymous, when he was assigned as Gruppenkommandeur of III./Jagdgeschwader 26 “Schlageter.” That July, he was promoted to Major at the outbreak of the Battle of Britain.  By mid‑August, Luftwaffe commander Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's dissatisfaction with the Jagdwaffe’s performance led him to replace his pre‑war Jagdgeschwader Kommodores with younger high‑achievers. Galland replaced Major Gotthard Handrick as Geschwader Kommodore of JG 26 on August 22.

 Mythology has it that during the Battle of Britain, in a briefing on Luftwaffe tactics, Göring asked what was needed to win. Werner Mölders replied that the Bf‑109 should be fitted with more powerful engines. Galland is said to have replied: "I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my squadron," which left Göring speechless with rage.  The truth is that Galland never said this, though he did tell Göring that the Spitfire was better in its role as a defensive interceptor than the Bf‑109 was in the role it was forced to fly in as a defensive escort rather than as a free‑ranging hunter.

 There was much controversy during the Battle of Britain over killing parachuting enemy pilots, since they could then live to fight another day.  In another confrontation with Göring, Galland recalled: “Göring wanted to know if we had ever thought about this. ‘Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarschall!’ He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘What would you think of an order to shoot down pilots who were bailing out?’ ‘I should regard it as murder, Herr Reichsmarschall, and I should do everything in my power to disobey such an order.’ The Reichsmarschall replied ‘That is just the reply I had expected from you, Galland.’"

 By December 1940, Galland had 58 victories and was promoted to Oberstleutnant. By April 1941, most of the Jagdwaffe had been withdrawn from the Channel Front, leaving JG 26 and JG 2 as the only single‑engine fighter Geschwadern in France.

 At this time, JG 26 began to re‑equip with the new Bf‑109F, which was equipped with a single 15 mm or 20 mm cannon firing through the propeller hub and two cowl‑mounted 7.9 mm MG 17. While Mölders approved of this, Galland felt it was a retrograde development because the average fighter pilot needed the additional weight of fire in combat; his disapproval of  this development in armament was likely due to the fact that his vision was not the equal of Mölders, due to the glass shards he in his eyes as a result of his two flying accidents.  Galland continued to fly his Bf‑109E‑4 on missions, though he also took delivery of a Bf-109F-0.  He later was given two special Bf-109Fs in the summer of 1941 ‑ one with a unique armament of an MG 151/20 cannon and two cowl‑mounted 13 mm MG 131s, with the other equipped with integral wing‑mounted 20 mm MG‑FF cannons and cowl‑mounted MG 17s. (In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the scale model experten believed Galland had one airplane, equipped with the engine mounted cannon, 13mm machine guns, and wing‑mounted cannon.  Thomas Hitchcock disproved this by publishing photos of both airplanes in his “109 Gallery” in 1972.)

 As the RAF began what was called the “Non‑Stop Offensive” over northwestern France, Galland's careful leadership and astute tactical awareness kept JG 26's losses to a minimum while inflicting maximum damage on the RAF throughout 1941.  The Luftwaffe’s air superiority became even greater as I/JG 26 began  that August and September to convert to the Focke‑Wulf Fw 190A, an aircraft which completely outclassed the Spitfire Mark Vb.

 Even with the Luftwaffe’s air superiority, things did not always go Galland’s way.   On April 15, 1941 he  set off in the Bf-109F-0 - with which he was unfamiliar - to attend a birthday party for General Theo Osterkamp at La Touquet that soon became one of his most memorable missions. He detoured towards England to see if there was any action and discovered a group of Spitfires commanded by RAF ace Brendan “Paddy” Finucane over the Cliffs of Dover. Galland dove to the attack and quickly shot down three Spitfires, despite the fact that he inadvertently managed to lower his landing gear in the middle of the action!  Finucane got behind him and riddled Galland’s aircraft.  Galland only barely managed to put his damaged 109 down on Calais-Marck and deliver the lobsters and champaign to Osterkamp.

 On the morning of June 21, 1941, Galland was shot up by a Spitfire from the Polish 303 Squadron and crash landed. That  afternoon, he was shot down by a Spitfire from 145 Squadron,  suffering slight injuries.  His attempt to bail out as he crossed into France was nearly fatal when his parachute caught on the radio mast behind the cockpit.  When he managed to pull himself loose, he realized he was trying to disconnect his parachute harness!  He was so low when the parachute deployed that he only swung twice before hitting the ground. Arriving back at the base that evening, he found he had become the first member of the Wehrmacht to be awarded the Eichenlaub to the Ritterkreuz for his 70th victory.

Galland had always flown without the extensive head armor found on the Bf‑109, which he believed was not worth the increased protection due to the fact it restricted rear vision so badly.  On July 2, 1941, with his own fighter being repaired, he led JG 26 into combat against a formation of Blenheims in another aircraft. A Spitfire from 308 Squadron hit Galland's plane with a 20 mm shell in the rear of the canopy, and his life was saved by the armor plate.  After that, he finally equipped his own airplane with the head armor.

 Shortly after scoring his 94th victory in December 1941, Goering visited JG 26 and awarded Galland the newly-created  Schwerter (swords) to the Ritterkreuz, and appointed him General der Jagdflieger, to succeed Werner Mölders, who had just died in an air crash while en route to the funeral of Ernst Udet. Galland was not enthusiastic about this, since he saw himself as a combat leader and did not want to be tied to a desk job.

 Galland’s first assignment in his new command was to organize air protection for “The Channel Dash” ‑ the breakout of the battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen from Brest to Kiel in February 1942, which was achieved in an action that saw the RAF thoroughly defeated in their attempts to get at the ships.

 In November 1942, his promotion to Generalmajor made Galland the youngest officer to attain General rank in Germany and he was put in charge of organizing the day fighter defense of Germany against the Eighth Air Force. In order to experience the operational conditions under which his pilots flew, Galland flew a dozen  combat missions between 1942–44 and probably gained two more victories over B‑17 Flying Fortresses in early 1944. On one occasion, flying with Hannes Trautloft, he narrowly avoided being shot down by the Mustang escort.

 Galland’s 104 victories included seven scored with the Me 262. His claims for aircraft destroyed include 55 Spitfires, 30 Hurricanes, and 5 French Armee de l'Air aircraft. All seven of his Me 262 kills were against American aircraft, two of them heavy bombers and two others being B-26 Marauders hit with rockets on his final mission when he was shot up and badly injured on April 26, 1945.

 In the late 1970s, a San Jose State University graduate student read Galland's memoir, The First and the Last, while researching United States Army Air Force records and matching them to German claims. He found that James Finnegan, a P‑47 Thunderbolt pilot of the 50th Fighter Group, Ninth US Army Air Force, made a "probable" claim for an Me‑262 on April 26, 1945, the day of Galland’s last mission. The details were matched, and the two met for the first time at an Air Force Association meeting in San Francisco in 1979.

 Galland was captured by the United States Army on May 14, 1945 and was a POW until 1947.  After his release, he lectured on tactics for the Royal Air Force. He moved to Argentina in  1948, remaining until the fall of Juan Peron in 1955, during which time he and other ex‑Luftwaffe experts worked as consultants to the Argentine Air Force and the nascent Argentine aircraft industry.  Returning to Germany, he made a successful career as an aviation consultant. During this time he built lasting friendships with many of his former adversaries, particularly Robert Stanford Tuck, Johnnie Johnson, and Douglas Bader.  In 1966‑67, he served as a historical and technical consultant in the making of the film “The Battle of Britain.”  In 1973, he was a significant on‑screen contributor to the British television documentary series “The World at War.”  Adolf Galland died on February 9, 1996.

 In May 1984, I had the rare privilege of meeting General Galland at that year’s convention of the American Fighter Aces Association in Phoenix.  With Chuck Yeager and Robert L. Scott, Jr. proclaiming my bonafides as an aviation writer, I was able to talk with the General for a few hours that weekend.  Even at age 72, he was still the charismatic leader who commanded the respect of everyone.

THE KIT

Trumpeter seems to have trouble getting the Bf-109 right, starting back with their 1/24 Bf-109G kits from several years ago and continuing through their recently-released 1/32 Bf-109E-3.  This kit continues that tradition.  While the box lid proclaims it a Bf-109F-4, it is much closer in all ways to a Bf-109G-2, and a modeler could do this version without much additional effort past getting a corrected rudder.

 There has been much comment about the rudder.  After I got the kit, I was looking through “Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings, 1940-43,” and found a photo of a Bf-109F with a rudder that exactly matched the shape of the kit rudder.  Obviously the Trumpeter designer had used this photo - without noticing the “notch” between the upper part of the rudder and the vertical fin, which denotes the fact that the rudder is turned about 10-15 degrees toward the viewer, thus changing the outline shape considerably.  One can either obtain a correct rudder from the aftermarket, rob an older kit, or do what I did, which was to use Evergreen sheet to add the additional area to the rudder to get the correct shape.

 As to making a Bf-109F of any sub-type with this kit, there are several other problems besides the rudder: the prop blades are the “paddle” type associated with the Gustav series; the instrument panel is a direct lift off the Hasegawa Bf-109G-4 kit; the supercharger intake is the larger one associated with the DB605 engine of the G-series; the canopy is a G-series type with additional framing; the wheel wells are the squared-off type associated with the G series, though this is also right if one is doing a Bf-109F-2.

 The decals are OK, and are sort of accurate for two Bf-109F-2 aircraft (not Bf-109F-4s), though the marking for the Bf-109F of Hans “Assi” Hahn is incorrect in having the “wrap-around” vertical III Gruppe bar associated with his Fw-190A-3.

 One nice thing is that the surface detail is very restrained, in the way that Eduard did their Bf-109E series.  One hopes this will become a “tradition.”

CONSTRUCTION

I wanted to see if the problems associated with this kit were the kind that can be overcome with “some modeling skill” required.  I wanted an early Bf-109F-2, so I decided to pull out the resin Bf-109F-2 conversion set I had been given by Bernard Payne, which provides the narrow-chord propeller blades, the shallower oil cooler, and the smaller supercharger air intake (all of which fit this kit without problems). 

While I was at it, I realized I had decals with the markings for a Galland Bf-109E-4, which were also used on his two Bf-109F-2/U “specials.”  I decided to do the “special” with the heavier machine guns, using some parts from the spares box to create the fairings for the 13mm machine guns. 

Given that the ultimate destination of this model is the Planes of Fame Museum, where viewers won’t be looking in the cockpit, I didn’t put a whole lot of effort at modifying that area of the model, though one would have to at least change the instrument panel to get an “F” cockpit.  It is nice that the kit provides the separate seat back that was used in the Bf-109F.

Other than the modification for the weapons, the other big correction effort involved correcting the shape of the rudder with Evergreen sheet.  I also sanded off the extra framing of the canopy and then polished that out - I would recommend to any modeler who wants to turn this into an “F” that they get hold of the True Details (Falcon) 1/32 Bf-109E canopy, which is also correct for the Bf-109F and which looks like it will fit this kit without a lot of problems.  As long as you’re at it, you might also want to get the True Details Bf-109E wheels, which look far better than what the kit provides, which look like they followed Eduard in making too-shallow wheel hubs.

Since the engine is wrong (it’s a DB605 rather than a DB601) I decided to close up the engine compartment.  I only used part of the engine for the mounts of the exhausts, and the oil tank in the nose for attachment of the prop.  One also has to cut off and fill in the air intakes on the nose and the cowling panel, which were introduced with the G-series.

Past all that, I assembled the kit according to the instructions, other than to sand down the too-prominent rib tapes on the ailerons and elevators.  I did one final modification, punching out a circle from a sheet of thin plastic to use as the cover for the fuel filler, which is not shown correctly on the kit - it provides the filler position used in the G-series.

COLORS & MARKINGS

Painting:

The photos of this airplane in the Hitchcock “109 Gallery” book - taken on the occasion of Goering’s visit in December 1941 - show the cowling a dark color that appears to be oversprayed with lighter colors in a “cloudy” effect, with a light color on the lower cowling panel that is a slightly-different shade of grey than the area of the lower fuselage.  I was trying to figure out what this could be, and went looking for other photos. There are no other photos of this airplane that I know of, but in Don Caldwell’s book “JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe,” there is a photo of a JG 26 Bf-109F with a solid yellow nose - spinner and full cowling, back to the windscreen.  The caption states that in September 1941, JG 26 got rid of all their bright markings, the squadron badge, and the individual “scores” on the rudder.  Looking back again at the Hitchcock photos, which were identified as being taken in December 1941, I realized that the dark color under the overspray was the same gray tone as the canopy bracing. Bf-109Fs had their canopies painted in RLM 74. 

I suddenly understood what it was: the nose had been painted yellow, with the lower cowling panel left yellow for the standard Luftwaffe ID marking on the Channel Front, and then painted over with RLM 74, which was then oversprayed, most likely with RLM 76 light blue, and then with RLM 02 gray-green and RLM 70 black-green, since these were the colors used on the fuselage mottle.   

With that in mind, all became easy.  I pre-shaded the model with flat black over the panel lines, then painted the lower cowling and rudder with Xtracrylix Yellow 04, which I masked off when dry.  I then applied RLM 74 over the cowling, then painted the model freehand with Xtracrylix RLM 76, which I blotched over the nose, I followed that with the “mottle” of RLM 02 and RLM 70, I finished with the upper camouflage of RLM 74 and RLM 75.

If you are doing a Bf-109F-2 as I did here, remember to paint the main gear legs Red 23, which was used to distinguish aircraft to the ground crews that required C-3 96-octane fuel rather than the standard 87-octane.

Decals: 

I used the Techmod decals for Galland’s Bf-109E-4 to get the Geschwader Kommodore “arrow,” and the “Mickey Mouse,” which were the only personal markings the airplane carried according to the photos.  While by December 1941, everyone else in JG 26 had removed their scores and awards from the rudder, Galland had kept his, which included the Eichenlaub and 25 additional kill markings, all of which were pieced together from the Techmod sheet and various other Luftwaffe decal sheets.  I used the kit insignia, and stenciling from a Lifelike Decals sheet.  Everything went down easily with Micro-Sol. 

FINAL ASSEMBLY

 

The photos show this airplane to be in excellent condition, with a “satin” finish that may be the result of the ground crew polishing the airplane.  Given it was the Geschwader Kommodore’s airplane, I am sure there were no dings anywhere, so the model was given a coat of Xtracrylix “Satin” varnish, and exhaust and oil stains were added with Tamiya “Smoke” so the model looked like an operational airplane.  I then attached the landing gear, prop and canopy, where I discovered that the main gear appears to have been molded at maximum extension, weight-off, which is the same mistake Eduard made.  The solution is to reduce the length of the oleo by about a sixteenth of an inch.  The exhausts also appear to stick out a bit far, which may be more due to my attaching the engine part I used to mount the exhausts too shallow inside the cowling.

CONCLUSIONS

So, can the Trumpeter kit be turned into a Bf-109f-2? Yes.  Is the kit “fatally flawed”? No.  Is it “unbuildable”?  No.  Does it require some extra effort?  That’s a definite “yes!”  But it needs a lot less extra effort if you decide to build the kit as what it really is: a Bf-109G.If, however, what you want is a Bf-109F-4, then wait for the Hasegawa kit, which is just in release this week, and which looks from photos of the sprues to have gotten everything right for the Friedrich series.  The Aires Bf-109F-2 resin conversion will work there if you want the earlier airplane.                                                                                                                         

Review kit courtesy of my wallet thanks to James Reagan.

Tom Cleaver

September 2010

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