|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool snap kit|
The third major airframe development in the Bf-109 was the 109F. While still powered by the DB.601 of earlier E models, the airframe itself was significantly smoothed out. Gone were the square wing tips and the somewhat blocky engine cowling. Also gone were the drag inducing tailplane struts. The armament was reduced by removing the wing guns (either 7.92mm machine guns as in the E-1 or the 15mm FF cannon as used by the other versions, and putting a cannon in the nose, something that had been planned from the outset, but never implemented. This put the cannon breech in the cockpit between the rudder pedals. It also left the wing free of the weight of guns.
To many pilots, this was the best 109 version and was in widespread unit service for the invasion of the Soviet Union as well as the fighting in North Africa and the Mediterranean. Many of the Luftwaffe's top scoring pilots flew the 109F and had great success with it. There were two major variants of F with the F-2 being the initial build and having a 15mm Mauser nose cannon and the F-4 having a more powerful engine and 20mm cannon in the nose. With the removal of the tail plane struts, there was a weakness in the tail section that was initially cured by four external braces. These were later placed on the inside and were not visible in later 109s. Another interesting innovation on the F was the ability to shut off coolant access to one or the other wing radiator in case of damage. This prevented coolant loss and undoubtedly allowed several pilots to reach home with battle damaged planes.
This is the second of Zvezda's snap fit 1/72 WWII fighters. These are actually very nicely molded kits, despite the large parts attachment points. The detail has not really been simplified as much as you might think. There is interior sidewall detail and the rest of the cockpit is nicely done as well.
One of the cockpit options is for a full pilot figure, complete with his butt molded into the seat. A non-butt containing seat is provided for those who do not want a pilot. The kit also has additional 'gear up' landing gear and a slot in the lower wing insert in case you have a stand and want to model this one gear up. There is no stand included or even info on obtaining one as Airfix provides. Of course, it could be in the Russian language section of the instructions and I missed it.
The cockpit also provides a raised detail instrument panel and a flat one in case you would rather use the instrument decal. The head armor is attached to the area behind the pilot instead of the canopy. This latter item is only offered in the closed position and while thick, is relatively clear.
The wings are nearly one piece with the lower section that contains the landing gear being the insert. The kit does not provide a drop tank or rack. Moving to the fuselage, I found some sink areas opposite interior detail or braces, but they are not that deep and easily managed. The kit has an unusual feature in the the very forward part of the nose is separate. I also found the separate gun troughs to be a first in my experience. Aside from increasing the parts count, I see no reason for these to be so molded. Landing gear and wheels are well molded with the usual sturdy mounting lugs. As a bit of a note, the F-2 had a retractable tail wheel, but this is not offered and, indeed, there is a section of lower fuselage between the gear strut and the open well.
Instructions are easy enough to follow and indicate not only inside colors, but where optional bits are to be placed. Color information is with Model Master paints. Two options are provided. One is the box art plane in winter white over RLM 76 as flown by Hans Philipp of Stab I./JG 54 in March 1940. This has a yellow partial fuselage band and lower wings and cowling. The other is from 15 (Spanish)./JG 51 in June of 1942. It has yellow bits in its standard RLM 74/75/76 camouflage. Mottling seems light. Decals are well printed and quite matte. No completed swastika, of course, so that will need to be pieced together with the four separate arms. I am lazy and will use one from aftermarket or the spares box.
If this turns out as nicely as their Yak-3, then this will be a very nice kit. What's more, it is pretty inexpensive as 1/72 fighter kits go nowadays.
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