Airfix 1/72 FW-189 'Uhu'
|PRICE:||£4 and 6|
|REVIEWER:||Carmel J. Attard|
The Focke Wulf 189 “Eule” as was known in the popular press was better known as the “Uhu” (owl) to those who flew it because like the owl, its appearance was deceptive. A twin boomed, twin engine with a central fuselage with many windows and a fragile look the airplane was maneuverable and capable of absorbing considerable punishment and still returning to base. It was one of the Luftwaffe’s most successful short-range reconnaissance aircraft in the Second World War.
It was used in a number of fronts particularly that in Russia. Several FW-189 were the victims of Russian ramming attacks and managed to make it back with parts of tail section knocked off the airplane. The Owl was popular with those who flew it and filled an important niche in operations on the eastern front where it saw service almost exclusively while in Luftwaffe service.
The existence of this aircraft was unknown to the allies until 1941 even though several prototypes flew well before the war. It overcame the traditionalists at the RLM with its performance, and began to enter Luftwaffe service in 1941. Its superb handling and agility made it a very difficult and elusive target for the enemy fighters.
Two Argus As410A-1V inverted 12-cylinder engines (465 hp) powered the FW-189. It carried a crew of 3-4 members, pilot, observer, rear-gunner, and an observer gunner in the rear ventral position. The FW-189 was heavily armed with two 7.92 MG17 in inner wings, a twin 7.92mm MG81 for the rear gunner and another twin 7.92 mm in the rear ventral position. It could also carry four 110lb bombs under the wings. With great agility the aircraft was able to escape enemy fighters and on occasions it could reach its base with heavy damage.
Several versions of the FW-189 went into service which included the most common type the FW-189A-1 which was in service with the Luftwaffe’s 2(H) 21; the FW-189A-2 of the Aufklarungsgruppe 3(H) 31 which closely resembled the earlier version. Another version is the FW-189 A3 that featured a loop antenna and a mast antenna over the fuselage. This was a two-seat communication trainer. Finally there was the Fw-189 B1which differed from the previous versions having a solid nose and a solid aft fuselage cone. This version was used as a five-seat dual control trainer. Gradually only the French factories with assembly lines at Bordeaux-Merignac were producing the FW-189 and this discontinued as the allies closed in during 1944. Many different models and a number of developments with more powerful engines were built but only the basic type A-1, A-2, and A-3 appeared in substantial numbers bringing a total of all versions to 846 aircraft.
The Fw-189 in Bulgarian Air Force service.
The major and most powerful Vazdushni Voyski unit in Bulgaria was the Air Eskadra. This was a mixed operational and tactical unit including 2 army, 5 bomber and 6 Fighter Polk. An Aerial Reconnaissance and an Air Training Polk was also created. Polks comprised Orliaks and Yatos and were structurally similar to the German equivalents. The Focke-Wulf Fw-189 A-2 reconnaissance plane started to arrive in Bulgaria in 1943 equipping 334th Yato, 18 of which were delivered. The twin boom Fw-189, was Vazdushni Voiski’s most modern spy-plane at the time. It had excellent visibility all around and its maneuverability made it indispensable to Army commanders who were eager for tactical information. The German aerial camera optics bestowed the Fw-189 reconnaissance plane’s high combat effectiveness. On 1st September 1944 fourteen Fw-189s were among the strength of aircraft that could offer any genuine threat. At the time there was a turn-about in Bulgaria’s orientation and the nation took the form of an imminent participation in the war against Germany and in favor of the Russian forces. This was an entirely different task to those of previous three years.
During the subsequent years against the new enemy, great use was made of the Air Eskadra and the Reconnaissance Polk. This initially had two orlyaks, 3/1and 4/1. The first controlled two yata - the 333rd RY with seven Fw-189A-2, and the 334th RY with five Fw-189A-2s.This directly involved the effective Fw-189, which conducted aerial reconnaissance as well as the occasional ground-attack duties. These were tasks which included the entire strength on hand and which deployed in support of the 1st and 4th Armies that advanced towards Skopie and Veles respectively. The advance to Nic and Belgrade were covered by 17 Air Army, which based at airfields near Vidin and Sofia. Still there was lack of adequate airfield network in the west of Bulgaria that could be felt in the effective preparation of the assembled force for anti-German offensive.
Among the intervening squadrons was the 1st Aerial Reconnaissance Polk commanded by Polkovnik Peter Sapunov with 17 Fw-189As at his disposal, 14 of which were serviceable and belonged to 1/3 Recce. Orliak based at Varb airfield near the Serbian border. These aircraft took part in missions alongside KB-11single engine Recce Aircraft. (The KB-11 has a close resemblance to the Mewa and was much developed and redesign by the KB factory in Bulgaria. It also has a resemblance to the British Lysander). Prior to the Bulgarian land offensive there were 1233 sorties that took place between the 9th of September and the 7th of October, 30% of which were aerial reconnaissance.
On 8th October the FW-189 of the 3/1 Orlyak mounted their first ground attacks on truck convoy located immediately behind the front line. Eight trucks and several combat vehicles were destroyed with machine guns and bombs. On the 17th October, the 333rd RY made its debut in the artillery control role, directing the fire at Strazhin strongpoint. Despite worsening weather and sharp decline in the number of serviceable, the intensity of action was great and the Fw-189 conducted missions to a great degree of success during the Belgrade operation.
In the 1/72 scale range, both Airfix and MPM where the first to produce the scale model of the so called “Uhu”. Airfix was the first to build the model specifically to fill in another gap with agile combat aircraft and this could easily be built into another aircraft that has served with the Bulgarian Air Force in WWII. The kit is moulded in medium grey plastic, having good surface detail but which looked slightly over scale. This can be smoothened down to obtain the correct size. The two strengtheners which are at each end of the booms where they join the main planes to the tail planes can be filed down to reduce in size and make them less pronounced. A fine streak may also be added along the top of each boom. This is shown in the box art. This may not be so conspicuous at 1/72 scale. The prominent spinners with a vaned cap are also provided although some trimming by thinning down the fine vanes with a smooth file will improve their appearance. Careful masking of the transparencies when painting the framework would be beneficial to the very good quality of the Perspex, being clear and having sharply defined frames with a well fit of the canopy. Again reference to the box art was a useful guide. The Airfix model with its 3.25 inches long transparent central nacelle included three accurately scaled figures representing the pilot, observer, and gunner. A correctly shaped armor plated seat for the pilot and a control column are basically the interior detail sand it is hoped that reference to the sketches shown will give ideas for adding detail and improve the situation. There is also a prone position cushion type seat for the gunner/bomb-aimer.
The kit also includes two 7.9mm MG to cover against air attack from overhead or behind. The kit has a 10-inch wing span and slightly taper twin booms and a tail plane assembly representing the robustly built design to withstand substantial ground and aerial punishment to remain operational. The Airfix variant is the FW-189 A-2. The 67-piece kit also boasted a detailed undercarriage and a pair of accurate Junkers/Hamilton propellers.. The decals are of reasonably good quality though I did not use them in view of the foreign export markings that my kit was to carry. In a nutshell this was a neat little kit.
Other models of the Fw-189 were released by MPM who have upgraded and released the kit as a Fw-189 A-1 of 1(H)/Au FkL 32 that was based in Finland in 1943. Italeri has released a neat model of the FW-189 and Condor has also released the FW-189A-1 and being a recent release to a scale of 1/72, it is sharply moulded in light grey plastic with beautifully engraved panel lines. This kit also provides for two camouflaged colour schemes. Finally there is the RS models release, which makes a conversion kit in resin, Fw-189 E, and is intended for use with the Airfix and Bilek models.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Making the Bulgarian AF type in service also carried the splinter type camouflage carried by the Luftwaffe AF on the type of two greens of RLM70 green and RLM71black green with hellblau RLM65 which is a pale shade of blue undersides. It also carried yellow GELB RLM04, wing tips and tail booms stripes. The kit makes up into a most delightful scale model when completed in markings of the Bulgarian Air Force. Decals for the kit came from Delta Decal sheet No72-002 which is the same decal set used for the Do-17p, while the “blue eye” motif came from same source as that mentioned in the past Arado Ar-65 article that can be located among kit reviews. The kit was given a coat of Johnsons Clear prior to putting on the decals and in the end finished with a semi matt coat of varnish.
This was yet another addition of combat aircraft that served with the Bulgarian AF during the WWII, a type which fought for and later against the German forces. Perhaps this gives an idea for those who would like to make up German aircraft but in different markings to those of the too common Luftwaffe AF during WWII. The twin boomed fragile looking airplane was maneuverable and capable of absorbing considerable punishment and still return to base and turned out to be one of Luftwaffe’s most successful short-range reconnaissance aircraft of the war.
Ref.”Air Power of the Kingdom of Bulgaria” part IV by Dimitar Nedialkov, Sofia 2001.
Carmel J. Attard
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