Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Rice or Beans?"

Fuerza Aerea Mexicana, Escuadron 201 "Aguilas Astecas", P-47D s/n 1016, 1945


Here in the USA when we order an entrée at a Mexican restaurant, we are typically asked, "would you like rice or beans with that?"  On a play of that phrase, our challenge was to build a subject representing either Japan or Mexico. Kudos for anyone who could do a subject that represented both, or finish two and represent both that way.

According to the web, Mexico was the first country to recognize Japanese sovereignty after the end of its isolation, signing a treaty with it in 1888 to allow citizens of both countries the ability to travel to the other and establishing consulates.  Mexico was also the first Latin American country to receive Japanese immigrants in 1897.  Immigration was their main relationship until World War II, when it halted. Mexico eventually joined the Allies and her Air Force, the Fuerza Aerea Mexicana, operated P-47's alongside USAAF units in the Philippines and over Formosa in 1944/1945. 

So in my chosen scale of 1/72, I could meet the challenge with a P-47D, and possibly add to it a representative Japanese aircraft from a unit in the Philippines or Formosa.

The Subject


Mexico entered World War II after German u-boats sank two Mexican Tankers in May 1942.  In 1944 President Roosevelt offered President Comacho of Mexico the opportunity to fight alongside the US in the Pacific theater.  That Spring, Mexico created the 201st Squadron and it was equipped with the P-47D.  

The 201st Squadron served in the Philippines and over Formosa until the end of the war.  Her aircraft wore standard USAAF markings for the theater over a natural metal finish, but uniquely with green/white/red rudder stripes.

After the war the 201st was temporarily disbanded, however her P-47's were kept and operated through to 1950 when they were put in storage.  Three were reactivated for the Mexican-Guatemala conflict in 1958.  According to my decal sheet, the Thunderbolts were P-47D-35-RA.

Serial Number 1016 survives today as a gate guard at 1st Military Air Base (Santa Lucia, State of Mexico).  I decided to model 1016 as she would have appeared in 1950...well because I could get decals for her!

The Model


Since this was to be a fun build I didn't want to tackle a natural metal finish on one of my Revell or Tamiya kits.  I also have a Hasegawa P-47D as well as the Academy.  I did a bit of research (okay, I tried to make sense from my two Squadron In-Action books, my decals and the web) of the variations of the P-47D.  I believe, but am not certain, the Hobby Boss P-47D bubble top kit to represent a P-47D-25, and to be a copy of the Tamiya kit.

Since it seems none of my kits represented a P-47D-35 I decided to punt and just use the Hobby Boss kit.

I have no idea of the accuracy of the Hobby Boss kit.  It is only my third P-47D model actually built, ever.  (Okay, I remember a Lindberg P-47C I made in the '70's, but it's a distant memory.)  The first two are Hasegawa kits I made back in the late '80's.  It looks appropriate sitting next to them, actually a bit heftier and to my very untrained Thunderbolt eye, the Hobby Boss looks better.  Probably because I believe it to be based on the Tamiya kit.

It was built out-of-the-box but the wing-fuselage joint along the rear of the fuselage was a bit off.  I attempted to fill/sand but after 3 attempts and with some fine sanding and silver sprayed as a primer, I could still see the scratches and filler from the attempt.  I kept polishing and eventually got it to a point that I found acceptable, but really it's not.  My fun build had become tedious...

I set it aside for a few weeks and made a final attempt.  Again not quite right but I decided to finish anyway.  I painted the maroon on using Tamiya XF-9 Hull Red and then masked it off.  I then painted the anti-glare panel Model Master Acryl 4728 Olive Drab and masked that off.  

I then painted the entire model Floquil Old Silver.  Old Silver is my goto paint for natural metal finishes.  I'm no where near ready to mask panels and polish metalizers to attempt a realistic metal finish, but Old Silver gets mighty close for me out of the bottle.

After it had all cured for a couple of days I then painted the interiors Tamiya XF-4 Yellow Green, and the cockpit sides Tamiya XF-27 Black Green (a close bronze green or dull dark green).  I painted the instrument panel black and then masked the cowling and painted the forward panel white.  The rudder stripes are Tamiya XF-5 Green and X-7 Red over a white base.

The entire plane was then sprayed with future to seal it for decals.

I used Aztec Models "Juicy Jugs I" decal sheet, 72-044.  Most of my information for this build came from that sheet, it was very informative and from that I looked up other information on the web.

The decals are very easy to use.  I only dipped them in water for 5 seconds, let them sit on a paper towel for another 30 seconds and they were ready to slide onto the model.  Micro-Set (blue label) is all that was needed for them to settle nicely into the fine panel lines.

Weathering -- I'm nearly ready to swear off attempting to weather.  I tried a wash of black water color to accent the panel lines but it just looked dirty.  No matter how much I tried it looked wrong...so I wiped off as much as could.  It appears some of the wash got through the Future to the decals below.  Oh well, maybe on the next kit I'll try oils instead of watercolors.

Overall it was a fun build and a good diversion from my usual Spitfires, Hurricanes and other European  Theater subjects.  The decal sheet offers 4 other Mexican subjects, plus 2 Columbian, 2 Venezuelan, 3 Cuban and 1 Chilean.  All are colorful and rather unique so I'll probably do another Latin Jug at some point.

Will I build another Hobby Boss P-47?  The Hobby Boss looks better than my Hasegawa Thunderbolts I completed over 20 years ago; while my skills are better now, the shape of the Hasegawa looks "off" in comparison.  But I have to say, while the prop on the Hobby Boss is obviously better, it's cowl looks anemic.  I will wait to do another Hobby Boss until after I build a Tamiya, Academy and Revell P-47 as a reference.  If those others are better I'll complete my shelf of Thunderbolts with those; if the Hobby Boss stands up I may get another; price-wise it's about the same as Academy and Revell, and much less expensive than Tamiya.  

Thanks for reading...



Friday, February 15, 2013

Spitfire Mk III Redux


Back in 2011 I got excited about building a Spitfire F MK III.  Why?  It’s a unique mark that is as unique as K5054 or the Speed Spitfire (K9834).  It also marks the transition from the early Mk I/II series to more significant Spitfires that came later -- The Mk IX/XVI and ultimately the Griffon series.  Many improvements developed for the Mk III were implemented on these later variants.

In my first post on the subject, I summarized my understanding (at the time) of these airframes.  Attempting to model the radiator as a first step, I stalled when I began to learn more details and ultimately other projects came to the fore.  Sounds familiar...

What I think I know today

References: Britmodeller Forum 1, Britmodeller Forum 2, Spitfire the History

Prototype only, 2 examples built. 

N3297 was originally to be a Mk I, but the serial number was allocated as a “Superiority Spitfire” and built to the initial Mk III configuration with a Merlin XX engine. It was tested by 11 Group Fighter Command to late June, 1940. From September to February 1941 it was modified and tested in a second configuration based on 11 Group feedback with a standard wing. Then from March to September 1941 it was modified yet again with a Merlin 61 engine and later became the Mk IX prototype. 

Configuration 1:

  • Merlin XX engine
  • Lengthened cowl (4")
  • Short span "a" wings (cut to rib 19, not just removal of tip)
  • de Havilland prop, 11' diameter
  • Retractable tail wheel
  • Main landing gear covers (similar to K5054)
  • Speed Spitfire (K9834) oil cooler
  • Speed Spitfire (K9834) radiator

Some key notes on this initial configuration.  While I’m confident of the Speed Spitfire oil cooler, there is only a passing reference to use of the Speed Spitfire radiator in StH, Supermarine noting its use, already, in the Speed Spitfire.  In parallel to initial construction of N3297, the Speed Spitfire was flying with a modified Merlin and a cooling system greatly modified (enlarged) from the existing Mk I.  Since Supermarine and Rolls-Royce both knew the Merlin XX would need greater cooling it stands to reason they would use their experience with the Speed Spitfire as the starting point.  What amplifies this thought (theory really) is their obvious use of the oil cooler developed for the Speed Spitfire.  

While the larger radiator on the Speed Spitfire is deeper, and contains an interesting contour, no photo exists of it actually installed on the Mk III.  Debate favors a more radical design with boundary layer splitter, however I believe that to be a later development, more probably during her second configuration (if then), and possibly on W3237 only.

Secondly, StH refers to 4 different props considered for the initial configuration, but specifically states the DH prop as configured when tested.  Some contend the Rotol prop was used during this testing, but StH clearly states the Rotol was installed when N3297 was rebuilt.

Configuration 2 (as configuration 1 but with):

  • Standard "a" wings
  • 3 Blade, Rotol constant speed prop, 10' 9" diameter (Mk V standard)
  • "New" radiator (not much detail on this)
Of particular note this reconfiguration was in direct response to Fighter Command’s preference for lower wing loading (they did not like the short span wings).  StH makes it clear the radiator was also changed, but to what configuration is not clear.  In parallel to W3237 (Spring 1941) StH discusses radiator testing, but it is not clear if that is on W3237 alone or additionally on N3297 (which by Spring of 1941 had gone to Rolls-Royce for another rebuild with the Merlin 61).

Configuration 3 (as configuration 2 but with):

  • Merlin 61 engine (I believe length now 31' 3.5")
  • Individual ejector exhausts (fishtail)
  • 4 Blade, Rotol prop, 10' 9" diameter (Mk IX standard)
  • Radiator probably of Mk XII type, but may have been one of the designs tested on W3237. 
At this point N3297 is beginning to look more like a Mk VIII or IX, and is considered the prototype Mk IX by early 1942.  There is never any mention of N3297 getting Mk IX type radiators, so my theory is that while testing of radiators on W3237 was ongoing, eventually something that may have looked like the deeper Mk XII radiator may have been installed.  To underscore this theory, the Mk IV (Griffon prototype) had morphed into the Mk XII prototype by this time (via a short stint as a Mk XX) and probably enjoyed the same developments in the radiator.

W3237 was similarly taken from Mk V production and built to take the Merlin XX engine, being delivered in June 1941. Eventually this airframe tested a number of technologies, resulting mainly in radiator configurations, canopy/windscreen configurations and the "c" wing design.   Apparently it was delivered with a "c" wing. Essentially it's configuration was basically a Mk Vc but with a longer cowl (4"), and depending on date could have had short, standard, or long span wings, Mk V windscreen or rounded windscreen, early Mk V or later bulged canopy, and most critically various radiator configurations. 

Since W3237 was used extensively for testing well into 1944 or even later (like N3297) I believe her radiator probably stabilized on a Mk XII design as well.  So that by sometime in 1942 she looked like a short nosed Mk XII with standard rudder and Merlin XX engine.

Paint schemes


For some reason Morgan & Shacklady, in StH, decided to note the color of N3297 in Spring/Summer 1940 as “egg shell”.  Additionally, they included a color profile of yellow topsides and black/white wings on the undersides.  While an interesting scheme it defies logic.  Besides not knowing the shade of “egg shell” (although my wife knows!) it is inconceivable that a Spitfire with 11 Group would be painted yellow on its topsides in 1940 when no other aircraft (besides trainers) would have been painted thusly.  “Egg shell” probably refers to the finish (smooth) not the color.

Debate seems to agree the more likely scheme during Spring/Summer 1940 for N3297 was the standard Fighter Command scheme of Dark Earth/Dark Green topsides over Aluminum undersides, but with Night/White wings.  

When rebuilt in the Fall 1940, agreement is around a Dark Earth/Dark Green topsides over Yellow undersides.  By the end of 1941, N3297 was likely in Dark Green/Ocean Grey over Yellow, with a yellow P in circle behind the roundel.

W3237 was probably delivered in standard Dark Earth/Dark Green topsides over Yellow undersides, and likely repainted by the end of 1941 in Dark Green/Ocean Grey over Yellow, again with a yellow P in circle behind the rounded.

Thanks for reading...


Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Pik As" in The Battle of Britain

Messerschmitt Bf-109E-4 of JG-53 “Pik As”, September 1940


I'm catching up on older builds and getting them posted; something I've wanted to do since I started the blog.

Other than the history behind the subject, this model was built to practice the German mottle scheme as the Hobby Boss Easy Build kit is just that. Construction took all of a few minutes!

I built this model in September, 2008.

The Subject


Bf-109E-4 assigned to Stab. Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) during the Battle of Britain, Summer/Fall 1940. The aircraft crash-landed at Monkton, Kent on 5 September 1940; the Pilot Hauptmann Wilhelm Meyerweissflog was captured unhurt. (Note: I modeled this as an E-4 because while the reference indicated it was an E-1, this late in the year it's not probable that an E-1 would still be operational on the front lines.)
The RAF crash reports indicated the aircraft was camouflaged in light navy-gray with a red band 1 foot broad round the cowling and with red spinner and white wing tips.

While JG 53 was making a reputation for itself during the Battle of Britain, according to RAF Air Ministry intelligence summary no 60, Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring was informed that Major Jurgen von Cramon-Taubadel's wife was Jewish. Göring then ordered the whole of Stab/JG 53 to remove the "Pik As" emblem from their planes, and replace it with a red stripe around the engine cowling as punishment. All of Stab./JG 53's planes immediately were stripped of their "Pik As" insignia, and soon after the whole of the Stab./JG 53 had also stripped the swastikas off the tails of their planes, possibly in protest. During this phase of the Battle of Britain, Stab.JG 53's planes were easily recognizable because of the red band and the absence of a swastika on the tail of their Bf-109's. On 30 September Major Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn became Kommodore and the Stab./JG 53 was allowed to paint the "Pik As" back on their Bf-109's, removing the red band from their cowlings.

References: SAM Colours #1, The Messerschmitt Bf 109E on the Western Front – 1940, Peter Scott, Guideline Publications, and internet forums.

The Model


Hobby Boss Bf 109E-4/7 built out of the box. What makes this model unique as it's painted in RLM 74/75/76. Most traditional references indicate the Bf-109E during the Battle of Britain were 71/02/65. However more recent research (as of 2008 when I was looking into it) are indicating that beginning in late Summer and more regularly during the Fall of 1940 German aircraft were beginning to reflect more “grays” and less “greens”. Apparently this was a lesson from the Battle of France in which the aircraft were more visible with their 71/02 schemes. Bf-109Fs were delivered in the 74/75/76 scheme beginning in Winter/Spring 1941 so it is reasonable that some Bf-109Es were repainted. By the end of the Battle of Britain (per the German timeline), well into 1941, all fighters were painted 74/75/76.


The decals were from my spares box, brought together from various Microscale sheets. Unfortunately at the time of construction I did not note the types of paints used, but they are likely Model Master enamels given that's what I generally had at the time.

I chose this particular aircraft to model because of the unique history as well as the paint scheme. Not many Jagd Waffe Bf-109s were without a swastika (although this particular aircraft had one).

Thanks for reading...