|KIT:||Hasegawa/Tamiya 1/48 FW-190A-3/8|
|NOTES:||Cutting Edge aftermarket cockpits used.|
William Green, writing of the Fw-190 says: “No combat aircraft as ever achieved perfection, but at the time of its debut the Fw-190 probably came as near to this elusive goal as any fighter. It was a brilliant design in which weight consciousness and simplicity were keynotes, although they had not been allowed to affect structural strength. But this beautifully proportioned fighter was not merely a pilot’s aeroplane - it had been conceived with a careful eye to the problems of both produceability and maintenance in the field.”
The Fw-190 was so good that when the RAF got their hands on one in June 1942, it directly influenced the design of what would become the Hawker Fury, and also influenced Robert Hall of Grumman in the design of the F8F Bearcat.
When it appeared on the Channel Front in late 1941, the Fw-190A immediately established a superiority over the Spitfire that it would maintain for the next two years, and enabled two Luftwaffe Jagdgeschwadern to hold off the entire English-based RAF on the Channel Front for 18 months. British losses of Spitfires in fighting the Fw-190 in the Spring of 1942 approached the level of “Bloody April” in 1917.
When Arnim Faber’s Fw-190A-3 was tested by the RAF, insult was added to injury when it was discovered that the BMW 801 radial engine had been purposely de-rated to increase engine life - this at a time when the Merlin was being pumped up as it could be taken - such was the superiority of the Focke-Wulf fighter over its main opponent. Combat tests proved that the only thing a Spitfire could do better was turn. As Al Deere said on learning that, “turning doesn’t win battles.”
In 1942 and 1943, the Fw-190A-3/A-4 was very likely the best piston-engine fighter in the world.
By 1944, the air war was vastly different from that which the Fw-190A-3 had transformed. Rather than an air superiority fighter, the Fw-190 was needed as a bomber interceptor, due to its heavy armament of 4 20mm cannon, despite its altitude limitation that forced it to operate above its best-rated altitude in order to intercept the formations of B-17s and B-24s. The Fw-190A-8/R2, known as the “Sturmbock,” was built by Fieseler, and differed from the standard Fw-190A-8 in having outboard wing armament changed from an 20mm MG151 cannon to a 30mm MK 103 cannon, and was also fitted with additional armor to increase the chance of penetrating defensive machine gun screen of the bomber formations. It was determined that only three hits from 30mm cannon fire was sufficient to shoot down even the hardy Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” and as a result the Sturmstaffeln to adopted the tactic of attacking from the rear of the formation, allowing the pilot time to concentrate on a single victim in a way that could not be done in the “Twelve O’clock High” head-on attack formation, with the heavy armor providing protection. Being considerably heavier than the standard Fw-190A-8, the “Sturmbock” was not really capable of fighter-versus-fighter combat, and when formations were caught by the American escort fighters before they could attack the bombers, they generally suffered heavy losses; some outstanding pilots flying in these units did manage to score against P-51s, but they were the exception.
The only other worthwhile Fw-190A-3 in 1/48 was released ten years ago by Tamiya, and that is a kit that - while it excels in “buildability” - has some real accuracy issues, most prominently the too-short landing gear and incorrect wheels.
This new kit by Hasegawa obviously owes much of its basics to the original Trimaster Fw-190s, but it has been re-engineered to get rid of most of the “bugginess” of the Trimaster/DML kit as regards design engineering. Most prominently, the fuselage now has a “false floor” beneath the cockpit which insures the fuselage is wide enough to meet the wing without having to have pieces of sprue used as bracing to force the fuselage sides out to their proper position. Additionally, the cowling has been re-designed to allow better assembly and a more positive connection with the fuselage than one gets with the earlier kit.
While the kit says it is an Fw-190A-3, there are another set of horizontal stabilizers for the later Fw-190A-4, as well as the vertical fin part with the A-4 antenna mast, and both the early wheel well with inner gear doors and the later piece without gear doors that allows a modeler to make the Fw-190A-4 Jabo. Both sets of lower main gear doors are also supplied. For the modeler who knows his way around the early Fw-190A, it is possible to make an Fw-190A-2, A-3 and A-4 from this kit “OOB.”
Two sets of markings are included, one for “Assi” Hahn when he commanded II/JG2 in 1941-42, and the other being “Black 13" of JG2 with the stylized Eagle marking over the exhaust. Given the plethora of aftermarket decals available for the early Fw-190A, a modeler will have no trouble coming up with an interesting model regardless of which version you decide to turn the kit into.
It’s surprising that Tamiya - which released a Fw-190F-8 ten years ago - has taken this long to getting around to doing an A-8, but there you are. Interestingly, rather than go for the standard Fw-190A-8, they’ve done the rarer Fw-190A-8/R2 “Sturmbock,” the heavily-armored bomber destroyer.
Opening the box, the parentage of the kit is clear, since it includes the sprues with the underwing ordnance for the Fw-190F-8 fighter-bomber. New are sprues with the lower armament plates for the 30 mm MG108 and 20mm MG151 cannon carried by both this heavy fighter and the standard A-8, as well as the wider prop used by some A-8/R2s. In fact, given that the clear parts include both the “flat” canopy and the “blown” canopy, a modeler who knows their way around the Wurger can do the standard Fw-190A-8, the A8/R2, and the very-late-war Fw-190A-9. Using the fighter-bomber ordnance, once could also do the Fw-190F-9.
The clear sprue also includes the armored glass side panels used by some R2 airplanes. The extra armor around the cockpit for the R2 is done with self-adhesive plastic sheet.
The decal sheet is standard Tamiya: thick, but all the decals are in register and the right colors. markings are provided for four “Sturmbocks” one flown by Hauptmann Wilhelm Moritz of IV/JG3, and three from JG300, including Leutnant Klaus Breitschneider, Unteroffizier Matthias Erhardt, and Unteroffizier Ernst Schroeder, all of 5/II/JG300. Complete stenciling is included for one aircraft, as the Reich Defense bands for each unit.
Since I had both kits arrive simultaneously, I decided on a “group build” in order to compare the two, since they represent different design philosophies on the part of their creators.
At the outset, I have to say that the Hasegawa kit did not turn out to be the “shrink down” of their 1/32 kit I had hoped it would be. It is fundamentally a jiggering-around of the original Trimaster kit that - to me at least - does not in the end represent that much of an improvement. In fact, Hasegawa would have done themselves a favor had they actually pantographed down the 1/32 kit, since its basic design is far superior to the now 15-year old Trimaster design.
That said, the Tamiya kit is as advertised: the Fw-190F-8 kit with some additional bits to turn it into an A-8. It includes all the previous mistakes Tamiya made with the earlier release, including the too-short landing gear and the too-small wheels.
That said, on to the experience of building the twosome.
I began by pre-painting as much small detail as possible. I used Xtracrylix paints throughout this. The landing gear, gear doors, and wheel wells were all painted RLM02, and then I gave each of these parts a coat of thinned Tamiya “smoke” to pop out detail. The Hasegawa kit had the correct rubber rings on the oleo, and I painted that Red. I also took this moment to paint the engines black since you cannot see detail in there behind the fans anyway.
As is usual, construction began with the cockpits, which involved sanding off all the side detail and mounting pins of both kits, so they would accept the resin cockpit. With the Tamiya kit, this also involved cutting off the rear decking from the cockpit tub. Both cockpits were painted with Xtracrylix RLM66 “Black-Grey,: and then highlighted with a light dry-brushing of aluminum. I used the kit instrument panel decals in each and they went down over the resin instrument panels without difficulty. In truth, once the fuselage is closed up, there really isn’t that much to see in an Fw-190 cockpit other than the seat, and I don’t think I would have used these cockpits if they weren’t already on-hand. That said, the seats with their very nicely molded seat belts are a vast improvement to the kit seats, with the Hasegawa seat being really bad as it is too thick and the wrong kind (being an A-8 seat) for the early Fw-190A.
Once these cockpits were assembled and fitted into the respective fuselages, the fuselages were closed up. The fit of the parts on both kits was good enough I only needed a little bit of Mr. Surfacer 500 to get rid of the centerline seams on the rear fuselage of each.
I next turned to the wing assemblies. Each was easy to install the gear well, and to finish the sub-assembly. The separate Hasegawa ailerons puzzled me until I realized that from the A-6 on the aileron differs regarding the trim tabs - thus this demonstrates they will be doing the full range of Fw-190s in the future (surprise, surprise).
When the wing sub-assemblies were finished, I attached them to the fuselages without difficulty. Here, the modification of the original Trimaster design by Hasegawa to have a “false floor” that insures the fuselage is the proper width at the point it attaches to the wings is a good thing since one no longer has to insert sprue braces and test fit to get the upper wing and fuselage joint right.
I next moved on to the engines and cowlings, and here is where the Tamiya kit really shines, since the lower part of the cowling is molded as part of the lower wing, and the upper part - including the side bulges - is a single piece. This is vastly superior to the 5-part Hasegawa cowling - however, given that Hasegawa has different center pieces for the gear wells depending on which type of gear door is being used, it would have been difficult to mold any part of the cowling integral to the lower wing. However, Tamiya managed ten years ago to do a lower wing for their A-3 that had the proper gear well, and to do it as a separate part from their other kit with a different gear well. This is a case of Hasegawa being penny-wise and pound-foolish to go so far in fiddling the design to accommodate too many variations.
The Hasegawa cowling gave me fits, because it is no improvement at all over the fiddly Trimaster design, and I have never managed to get these things together totally right to my eye. This was no different on this kit, and included a major difficulty getting the cowling to go over the lip of the gear well properly when attaching it on the underside - things go so bad as I wiggled it and jimmied it with my X-acto that I ended up bending some areas of the cowling so badly I had to apply putty and sand things down to get a smooth surface. That said, the internal modification to give a positive attachment of the engine to the fuselage is a good thing, and the upper gun door has improved fit as compared with the original design.
Once these major assemblies were done, the horizontal tail surfaces were attached, the cockpit windshields were glued on, and the canopies were tacked in position. I then masked them off, doing the Hasegawa kit with my standard Scotch tape mask-and-cut, and the Tamiya kit with their kit-supplied masks. Frankly, making my own masks was easier, and in the course of painting the Tamiya masks lifted just by being rubbed by my fingers in the course of handling.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
I first pre-shaded both models, then painted the areas that would be painted yellow with a white base coat - the undersides of both cowlings and the rudder of the A-3. These were painted with Xtracrylix RLM04 “Yellow.” After this had cured overnight, these areas were masked off with Tamiya tape and painting proceeded.
Both models were painted with Xtracrylix RLM74/75/76, which I think are the most accurate representations of those colors by any paint manufacturer. Each color was “post-shaded” after application by putting a brushful of “White” in the cup and going over the different panels. Because this was all done freehand, I didn’t have to wait longer than allowing the different colors to dry to the touch, which takes about 30 minutes with Xtracrylix.
It’s a good idea to note that there is an “early” and “late” camouflage pattern for the upper colors, which each kit’s marking and painting diagram accurately portrays.
I finished off by hand painting the trim tabs red. When this was done, the yellow areas were unmasked and each model was given a coat of Future.
I used the kit decals throughout for the Tamiya kit, to do the Fw-190A-8/R2 flown by Hauptmann Wilhelm Moritz, Kommandeur of IV(Sturm)/JG1, the first Sturmgruppe. While thick, they seem thinner than the Tamiya decals I have been used to, and went down without difficulty using Micro-Sol. It was when it came to putting decals on the drop tank that I realized Tamiya had provided the wrong-shape drop tank for Moritz’s airplane, at least in the one photo available of it, where it has the fully-round, pointed-tip earlier tank. Fortunately, the Hasegawa kit includes this tank as an unused part, so a swap was easily done. That said, there is no way of proving that Moritz didn’t use the flat-bottom blunt-tip tank on his next mission, which the photographer didn’t take a picture of.
I used the Three Guys Replicas decals for the Fw-190A-3 flown by Josef “Pips” Priller - the leading experte of the Western Front - when he commanded III/JG26 in the summer of 1942. Again, this was because I had the sheet in the decal dungeon. The decals for the two airplanes that come with the kit are good, and Hasegawa has finally decided to use real white in them.
Once the decals were dry and the dried solvent had been washed off, I gave each model a coat of Xtracrylix Satin Varnish, followed by two coats each of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish. Photos available of both airplanes show them relatively clean, so all I did in the way of weathering was to apply exhaust residue and a little chipping where the pilot would step on the wing.
I decided to leave the stirrup off of each, since this is usually the first part to go on a 1/48 Fw-190 model anyway.
Since the Hasegawa kit provides both types of main wheels, and these are the correct size, I used the late wheels from this kit for the Tamiya kit, which goes a long way toward improving the “sit” of the Tamiya kit. Other than that, the Tamiya gear went on without a problem.
The Hasegawa gear doors come in two parts each, to accommodate the different wheel covers. Attaching the gear doors per the instructions and the obvious attachment points, the result is that the upper leg cover overlaps the lower wheel cover. I have never seen Fw-190 gear that looked like this, so it must be trimmed to fit right. I didn’t notice this right off, so I have photographed the result for you, so you can see what needs to be done (and yes, I popped it off and did it right after that).
The canopies were unmasked and the sliding sections were positioned open, to see the cockpits. As commented above, the only thing one really notices in the open cockpit is the seat.
Both kits make up into a good-looking model of their respective versions of the Fw-190. For me, the Hasegawa kit was a disappointment for failing to live up to the pre-release hype that it was such an improvement of the original Trimaster design. Rather than fiddle with something that wasn’t that good to begin with, they would have done themselves far better to have just shrunk the 1/32 kit, which is the best Fw-190 available in any scale. That said, the proof is in the pudding that with care it results in a good-looking, accurate model of the early Wurger.
Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kits.
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