|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
Acknowledged by those who flew it as the best of the 109 series, the Bf-109F was the result of trying to smooth out the edges of the earlier variants. This meant a refined forward cowling for the DB601 engine and more smooth and rounded wing tips along with shorter ailerons, the result of the increased size of the coolant radiators under the wings and the need to exhaust them at the trailing edge.
The F model also did away with the wing guns, relying on two 7.7mm nose machine guns and a 15, later 20mm nose cannon, though most pilots thought the plane was underarmed, but did like the additional maneuverability afforded by not having the weight of guns and ammunition in the wings.
The aircraft first started coming off the assembly line in late 1940, entering service in early 1941, where it was an unpleasant surprise to the British as this new Messerschmitt was pretty well superior to the Spitfire V then in service in most regimes. The best variant, the 109F-4 entered unit service in early 1942 where it gave sterling service until pretty well supplanted in most units by the G model by the end of the year.
What wasn't supplanted by the G was the recce version of the 109F. Thanks to the high top speed of the F-4 version, it was a perfect aircraft to carry out the tactical reconnaissance mission and soldiered on late into the war in this role.
This is, I believe, the sixth boxing of the 109F done by ICM since this kit was originally issued . There has been much talk about ICM copying other kits and many may think that this one is little more than a copy of the Hasegawa kit. That is definitely not the case. While there are similarities between all kits of similar aircraft, this one bears little that appears to be in common with the Japanese offering. I should also mention that this kit has been selling very well in the US, selling out quickly whenever it appears on store shelves.
Once the box is open, one finds four grey plastic sprues and one clear. These are very well molded though I do admit to seeing stress marks in all the panes of the clear and some flash has crept into the molding of several of the grey bits. One sprue has a bunch of weapons and drop tanks and you'll use only the drop tank.
The rest of the kit is well molded with nicely done engraved plastic. Perhaps not as thin and crisply done as Hasegawa, but certainly darn close to it and enough to please all but the most fastidious of builders. Some parts have ejector pin marks on them, but from what I've noticed, they are all on the 'inside' and can be easily removed if one wishes. The surface is also a bit on the 'pebbly' side, especially with the wings. This is generally not a problem and disappears under paint.
OK, so what sets this one apart from other 1/48th 109s. Well, the biggie is the engine. As with their Spitfires, ICM has provided a full engine with this kit. It is fairly well done and while not at the detail level of a resin replacement, is nevertheless a nicely detailed one. This means that the forward fuselage is in several sections, complicating construction somewhat. Most of us will probably not build it with the cowling off and from what I have heard, closing the cowling is not an easy task. Perhaps just installing the block as a mount for the exhaust and prop will be the fix as it was with the Spitfire.
The kit provides a complete interior with seat, stick, rudder pedals and so on. There is also side panel detail . A separate rudder is provided, though it appears that it cannot really be made to sit at an angle without some additional work. the kit also provides separate wing tips. Not sure what is to be gained from this as I'd personally prefer them to be part of one of the wing sections to keep there from being alignment problems. Flaps are separate, though again, it appears they are designed to be in the neutral position. One also has separate upper and lower radiator coolant doors. Again, it seems these can only be mounted in the neutral position. I'm not sure of the reason for offering these bits separately if one cannot have them in different positions. But I've not built it to find if this is true. Slats are also separate and since the travel of these is so small, putting them 'down' shouldn't be a problem.
There are several additional bits on the sprues that are not used, such as a spare prop of broader chord and another set of exhausts. There is also an unused 'trop' sand filter, though you could use them on some of the Russian Front options as they did have them installed on occasion. The lone addition to make this an F-4/R3 is the fairing for the lower fuselage that holds the camera window. Frankly, I'm surprised that Hasegawa didn't think of this first as it is such a small part that allows a whole new raft of boxings.
ICM has provided markings for two planes, both in RLM 74/75/76. Apparently the recce birds tended to carry the 'sawtooth' version of the splinter camouflage as both of these planes show that for the upper markings. The decals are nicely printed, but I'm gun-shy on ICM decals as usually they tend to silver. As these planes are not that far from stock, one could easily find replacement markings. The two planes provided are the box art aircraft from 4.(F)/123 in France during 1942 and a 1.(F)/122 plane based in Sardinia during 1943. This aircraft has a white fuselage band and spinner. All paint references are generic and Model Master.
So here is another nice 109 to add to the collection. While it will take a bit more work to build than the Hasegawa version, it is also not as expensive so that should console those not looking to spend a lot of money.
My thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the review kit. You can find this at your favorite hobby shop.
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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