Hasegawa 1/72 Junkers Ju-88A-4
|PRICE:||@$45.00 SRP ($19 on sale)|
Few WWII aircraft have the distinction of being in
production and service with their original user from Day One to Day Last. The
Junkers Ju-88 was one of those 'sunrise to sunset' aircraft, the first dozen or
so just reaching IOC while the dawn of Sept 1, 1939 beamed brightly overhead as
the Reich sought to expand by force, while the last Ju-88G nightfighters fought
the final desperate air battles over Europe spring 1945, their bellies bathed
orange as the cities of the Reich burned and crumbled below them.
During the in-between time, the 15,000-odd examples of this bomber were adapted
to serve virtually every conceivable combat role from day fighter to high-speed
recon to close air support to torpedo plane. In the end it even served as a
guided missile, in its Mistel guise.
Much of this success was owed to the design's 'modularily': some good, high performance aerodynamic formulating embodied in a basic wing center section and fuselage which could be swapped out with different engines, wing tips, cockpit, and tail to stretch the design into any mission requirement, to the point of being transformed to a four-engine strategic bomber in the form of the unflown Ju-488. By accident or design, this all worked out so well that with the immediate obsolescence of the Do-17 and He-111, the chronic flammability problems of the He-177, and the Do-217's tedious development and production story, it was the Ju-88 which really provided the Luftwaffe with the bulk of its bomber force.
Probably few are aware that the design had some American DNA in it, with engineering assistants Evers and Gassner, who had worked together at Fokker USA, providing the latest structural know-how to Junkers Dipl. Ing. Ernst Zindel. Also, like another American product, the B-26 Marauder, the first A-1 versions developed a reputation of being tricky to fly, and required some minor design changes for apprehensive crews to appreciate the aircraft for its combat performance if not pleasant handling.
With its slight wing stretch, the "A-4" version depicted here was the result of this adaptation, and ended up being the main bomber variant. Coming into service in the spring of 1941, it remained in use for the rest of the war, including little-known production and extensive service use by the French following liberation. What-if idea: Indochina Ju-88s! Darn that A-26.
For decades, this was the single most underserved WWII subject in any scale. The 1950s and '60s gave us the following in 1/72, or thereabouts: Lindberg had a comically erroneous "A", Frog had another "A" featuring some glaring cross-section problems around the forward fuselage, canopy, and engines, Airfix still one more "A", too tall on its gear and engine cowls too pointy, and Revell came out with a "G"; too flat through the cockpit. The options were so rife with True Modelling Tragedy that Ray Rimmel even published a 1980 article in Scale Models detailing a harrowing procedure for producing an acceptable Ju-88A by mishmoshing the Airfix kit with an Italerei Ju-188 and other assorted bits by busting out your razor saw and plunging into a lot of cutting and filling and sanding. Italerei rescued the situation in the early 90s with a series of round-tail '88s, but even these suffered from a fuselage that was noticeably too square, landing gear legs way too long, and blah raised surface detail. AMT came out with an even more comprehensive series, (including the square-tailed G) and recessed detail, but many of the same problems. This situation remained until the advent in 2006 of the kit reviewed here. Good, cheaper Ju-88s have come out since from Zvezda and Revell GmbH*, but a very enticing deal online wooed me to go Hasegawa's route and buy two.
Standard modern Hasegawa fare here. Spilling out the box contents for inspection and opening various bags yields you a big pile of grey sprues large and small featuring some petite recessed detail, modular construction mimicking that of the real thing and hinting at the many other versions which have emerged since. Lots of unused parts.
Hasegawa's assembly sequence is fairly reasonable and there are no real problems. Just leave off the small do-dads at least until main assembly is complete. Also, attach the wingtips to the top main wing parts first, ensuring a flush surface from one to the other, before gluing the bottom wing parts to the top. A gap in the wing leading edge is much easier to deal with than a discontinuity in the upper camber of the wing. Be prepared to do some filling and sanding around the engine firewall part, too. These modular molds always come at a cost of ease of assembly.
Don't waste too much time on cockpit detail: the dark color, small space (the
real Ju-88 cockpit was quite cramped), and all that framing effectively conceal
it. I just added some seatbelts and a bit of dry-brushing.
In the spirit of due diligence, partially courtesy the 'experten' of the online community, I will also pass along the following:
1) The main gear is about a scale 10" too far aft. I learned of this too late to do anything about it, as the fix would involve moving the gear mounts buried inside the wing about 1/8" forward. However, even though this little goof manifests itself in the mains not being hard up against the forward wall of the wheel well, it's really not that noticeable and I opted to shrug it off and move forward.
2) Molding limitations make the dive brakes and bomb fins way too thick. Both look like they've been cut from 3" pig iron. The dive brakes were therefore carefully sanded down until they were translucent-thin and new bomb fins were cut from .010" styrene sheet using the kits ones as patterns. A pain in the arse, to be sure, but a huge improvement in the looks department down below. While I was at it, I made up an external load of 4 x SC250 bombs, stealing the second pair from the other kit I ordered. This seemed to be the more standard load according to period photos, and I found the homogeneous stores more aesthetically pleasing than the 2x SC500/ 2x SC250 mix supplied with the kit.
3) The annular radiators lack depth, with the three 'deep' segments being on the same plane as the rest of the rest of the circumference. AIMS Models offers a resin correction for this very issue, but I simply gave these segments a darker wash and it looks fine.
4) The prominent fuel-cell access points aft of the cockpit are omitted. I copied the A. Granger plans from the Aerodata book, attached that particular detail to styrene sheet with Super 77 spray adhesive, and cut it out to create a scribing template that can also be used in future repeats of the project. See photo.
5) The main wheels miss the character of the originals with a hub that's too wide and prominent, but the color of the wheels and tires are so close that the discrepancy all but vanishes in the finishing process. Also, because I build my models to survive some handling by the uninformed, I replaced all Things That Stick Out with various brass and steel bits.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Eduard's masking set was used to deal with all that daunting canopy framework.
Three RLM 70/71/65 finishing options are supplied, including two that feature
toned-down national markings achieved by some innovative and well-rendered decal
layering. I opted for the KG51 "Edelweiss" of the box art since that particular
flower species features in an inside romance theme between my better half and I.
Paint was a custom mix of Testor's square-bottle enamels, and I followed Hasegawa's outstanding painting diagrams to render that splinter scheme with hours of careful masking. Remember that those patterns were precise! The decals then went on following a coat or two of Future. All performed very well though I didn't even bother trimming the borders. I also used a sheet from the defunct Tally-Ho! to depict the rarely-seen full stencils of this aircraft. Another coat of Future, and I grubbed things up with an enamel wash along all panel lines wiped off after it dried an hour along the airflow with a Q-tip and a bit of solvent. Exhaust streaks were shot with a very thin mixture of a sooty gray, followed by a second pass with a whitish tan-grey. These aircraft were real workhorses, especially in Russia, and got really messy in service...there is scope to mess things up even more. One of the references listed below even depicts an especially muddy, paint stripped, oil-stained, and generally bedraggled example in flight and captions it with "...modellers who criticise their fellows for excessive weathering might care to reflect on these two photographs."
I'm not necessarily a part of the starry-eyed Hasegawa fan club, but this is good, sound kit, and it looks better than the Italeri example I built twenty years ago side-by side in my lineup. The canopy parts are a bit optically distorted, my only standing complaint. Only the fiddly nature of the modular moldings and high retail price prevents me from recommending it to everybody--if you just want to whip out a Ju-88 go for the new Revell or Zvezda examples. But this kit is the finest in detail and scope--the available line now includes pretty much every Ju-88 sub-type, plus the Ju-188 and Mistel--so if you're willing to lay out the time and money, it's worth it.
*some online wankery has been had moaning over the various errors in these kits as well: both look okay to my eye. There's also the Hobby Boss easy-assembly kit which looks surprisingly good.
Various authors. Aerodata International: Bombers of World War II Squadron Signal Publications, 1981
Griel, Manfred. Junkers Bombers Arms and Armor Press, 1987
Philpott, Brian. German Bombers over England Aztex Corporation, 1981
Filley, Brian Junkers Ju-88 in action Part 1 Squadron Signal, 1988
5 January 2017
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