1/72 Scale Trumpeter T-34/85 Soviet Tank

The T-34/85 is arguably the best medium tank design of World War Two, armor aficionados either generally prefer this design or the German Panther.  Trumpeter’s kit is well designed and goes together without any drama.  The result is nice model right out of the box, or a good place to start tweaking for a detailing project.  Either way a fun build!

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Axis Midget Submarines Book Review

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Axis Midget Submarines: 1939-45 New Vanguard 212

By Jamie Prenatt and Mark Stille, illustrated by Paul Wright

Paperback, 48 pages

Published by Osprey Publishing June 2014

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472801229

ISBN-13: 978-1472801227

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.2 x 9.8 inches

This is a typical Osprey New Vanguard volume and follows their well-established format.  The authors have organized the presentation by nationality, with the major Axis powers of Italy, Germany, and Japan each having their own sections.  The sections detail the developmental history of the various types of small submersibles employed by each nation and then gives a brief overview of their operations.

The various designs had inherent limitations imposed by their size which influenced the scope and effectiveness of their employment and chances for success.  Several types are marginal vessels at best, and while not strictly suicide missions, the odds are decidedly against the safe return of the crews.

Italian submersibles mainly fall into a category which we would call “Swimmer Delivery Vehicles” today.  The SLC delivered two divers to an enemy harbor, where the crew would attach large mines and then hopefully evade capture.  Their most notable success was the mining of the British battleship HMS Valiant at Alexandria.  The Italians also employed CB-type mini subs in support of German Operations against the Russians at Sevastopol.

The Germans came late to the midget submarine game but developed several types in anticipation of the Allied invasion of Europe.  The vast majority of these designs were ineffective, being much more a threat to their own crews than to Allied shipping.  The one successful design was the Type XXVII Seehund which accounted for 120,000 tons of shipping.  Like most German wonder weapons, this was another case of too little too late.

The Japanese were arguably the most successful of midget submarine operators, most famously employing five “Target A” as part of the Pearl Harbor Raid.  The authors’ view is that these submarines achieved no results at Pearl Harbor, although Japanese sources maintain one did hit the USS Oklahoma.  Target A submarines were also used at Sydney Harbor, the Aleutians, the Guadalcanal campaign, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Diego Suarez.  The latter is the least well known operation but is arguably the most successful, the battleship HMS Ramillies being damaged and the tanker British Loyalty being sunk on 30MAY42.

The space constraints of this series limits the narrative to only a brief discussion of each nation’s midget submarine programs but the space is used well.  Three very interesting books could easily be written by simply expanding upon this information and covering the operations in detail.  This book provides a quick introduction to the topic which leaves the reader wanting more.  Recommended.

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1/72 Scale N1K Kyofu / Shiden Batch Build Part III

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Shallow wheel wells bug me more than they do most people.  IPMS judging rules frown upon hollow openings into the wings but don’t specifically address wheelwells with no depth.  Even though you would have to flip the model over to notice unrealistic wheelwells I can’t seem to resist grinding them open and building them deeper.  Here is the Aoshima lower wing with the wells opened up and the side walls added with Evergreen strip.  The wells of the Shiden were open back to the main spar for part of their length, similar to those of the P-51 Mustang.
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Here is the Aoshima Shiden built up with the internal wheelwell structure roughed in.  Some modelers hesitate to make this modification because of the very real possibility of affecting the length or rigidity of the main landing gear legs.  I have side-stepped that issue by leaving the molded in attachment points in place and removing the rest of the well roof.  When the gear legs, covers, retracting arms, and brake lines are in added this does not look out of place.
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This is the Hasegawa kit with the same treatment.  If you look back to the sprue shots in the first post you can see just how shallow the original Hasegawa molding is – there is not even room for the gear covers, let alone anything else.  The join line along the flaps needed some attention as well.
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Tamiya’s Shiden is molded with deep wheelwells.  They do not go all the way back to the spar but I didn’t correct it here.  I did add the curved structural supports which were made with a Waldron punch set.  The internal structure in the round part of the well was added to cover a join seam which would be impossible to fill otherwise.
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This is the MPM kit.  The wing was entirely open inside but had a PE part for the “roof” of the wells.  I chose not to mess with that and built the inner structure up with Evergreen instead just like the others.  The wing joints required a lot of filing on the underside to get them smooth.  The upper joint was much better as I chose to get the good alignment there and correct the bottoms to match.
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There were two vertical fin sizes used on the Shiden Kai.  The first one hundred machines were manufactured with a broad fin, on the rest of the production run it was much narrower.  This is the Hasegawa fuselage compared to the drawings in Famous Airplanes of the World no. 124.  Hasegawa has split the difference between the sizes on their kit, the vertical fin will need some work in order to represent either version.  The trailing edge of the rudder is molded as a curve but that is simple to file straight.
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The tail on the left has been modified to represent the smaller fin Shiden Kai, compared to the stock kit profile on the right.  The fin has 1-2 mm removed on the leading edge to match the FAOW drawing and the trailing edge of the rudder has been straightened.
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I wanted to build the second Shiden Kai with a broad fin to show the difference.  This one has the leading edge of the fin flattened to get a nice straight attachment point, then the fin was built back out with Evergreen strip.  Superglue was used to blend the fin and then it was smoothed with Mr. Surfacer.
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Here the two modified fins are compared.  Once I’ve verified the seams with primer I’ll re-scribe the lost panel lines.

Eduard Grumman Hellcat in 1/72 Scale

Very little needs done to improve Eduard’s Hellcat.  The bar which supports the shoulder straps is molded as a ridge on the aft cockpit bulkhead.  I shaved that off and replaced it with a wire bar.  Simple fix, and the detail is prominent.   I also replaced the center canopy section with vacuform.  I re-used a set of Eduard canopy masks from an earlier build, they will work fine if they are removed carefully and placed on their backing sheets.

I didn’t originally plan to build an FAA bird, but I liked the markings on Xtradecal’s Yanks with Roundels sheet.  They worked like a champ, and the sheet includes several other schemes which I plan to use at some point. The kit is one of the very best in our scale, and just about anything needed to build any service variant of a Hellcat is included in the box.  If you haven’t built one yet, give yourself a treat and try one!

The model represents the Hellcat Mk. I of Sub. Lt. Spencer, , 800 NAS, HMS Emperor, Southern France, September 1944.

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The Boeing Model 299 – The First Flying Fortress

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The Model 299 was Boeing’s entry into a USAAC design competition to replace the Martin B-10 as the Air Corps’ primary bomber.  Built at Boeing’s expense, the design was unusual for mounting four Pratt & Whitney R-1690 Hornet radial engines instead of the more expected two.  The design also mounted five .30 caliber machine guns in fully enclosed positions which led to reporter Richard Williams of the Seattle Daily Times calling the aircraft a “Flying Fortress”, a name which Boeing was quick to adopt.
Boeing XB-17 (Model 299). (U.S. Air Force photo)
The prototype was given the registration number X 13372 and USAAC markings for the competition.  The streamlined design was fast for its time, averaging 233 mph on the delivery flight from Seattle to Wright Field.  It was superior in every respect except for price – the Boeing design cost approximately twice as much as its competitors.
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The nose of the Model 299 contained a separate fairing for the bomb sight.  On later production models this would be incorporated into the nose glazing.
Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) nose turret with gun. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The nose featured a single .30 caliber machine gun in a swivel mount which gave the gun a wide field of fire.  The design and workmanship of the gun positions was innovative for the time, as contemporary service aircraft were generally equipped with open positions which exposed the gunners to the slipstream.
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A view inside the nose looking forward, clearly showing the step and opening for the bomb sight which is not yet fitted.  The Model 299 did not carry acoustical insulation in the nose, the interior was left in unpainted aluminum.
Boeing XB-17 (Model 299) cockpit. (U.S. Air Force photo)
The cockpit layout of the Model 299 set the basic configuration for the more than 12,700 Fortresses to follow.  Pilot and co-pilot sat side-by-side with the throttles and propeller controls mounted in the center console where they were accessible to both.
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The bomb bay should also look familiar to all Flying Fortress fans.  The Model 299 could carry up to 4,800 pounds of bombs internally.  Even at this initial design stage guide ropes were installed to help keep crew members on the catwalk.
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The radio operator’s position featured insulative batting to reduce the noise in the compartment, in stark contrast to the natural aluminum finish on the rest of the aircraft’s interior.
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A Boeing engineer demonstrates one of the .30 caliber waist gun mounts.  The hinged ring assembly allowed the gun to move in train, while the Plexiglas bubble fairing allowed movement in elevation.  In combination the design allowed the gunner a wide field of fire while remaining protected from the slipstream.
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The exterior contours of the gun positions were very aerodynamic.  The construction and finish of the prototype was exceptional.
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On 30OCT35 the Model 299 crashed at Wright Field with two fatalities, the cause was traced to a gust lock which was designed to keep the control surfaces from moving on the ground which the pilots neglected to disengage.  With Boeing’s entry unable to complete the competition, the USAAC awarded a construction contract to Douglas for 133 B-18s.  Boeing could have been financially devastated, but fortunately managed to secure a contract for thirteen YB-17s thus saving both the company and the Flying Fortress.  The Model 299 was later retroactively called the XB-17.

1/72 Scale Trumpeter KV-2 Soviet Heavy Tank

The KV-2 was basically a huge turret with a 152 mm howitzer mounted on a KV-1 hull.  The Germans had few weapons which could defeat the KV-2, and there are numerous stories of KV-2s holding up entire German armored columns when they were used properly and fought stubbornly.  Trumpeter’s kit is a good representation of the type, it goes together well and fit is good.  Most modelers will want to shave off the grab handles and mud guard bracing and replace them as these are molded solid, but this is an easy improvement.

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Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945 Book Review

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Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945

By Robert C. Mikesh

Hardcover in dustjacket, 328 pages, profusely illustrated

Published by Monogram Aviation Publications April 2000

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0914144618

ISBN-13: 978-0914144618

Dimensions: 12.5 x 9.2 x 1 inches

Robert C. Mikesh is a name known to all aviation enthusiasts.  A former USAF Officer, he was the Senior Curator for Aeronautics with the U.S. National Air and Space Museum.  Fortunately for modelers and others interested in aviation history, he used his unparalleled access to surviving examples of Japanese aircraft to document them from  a unique perspective – the cockpit interiors and crew positions.

This book is exceptional for its presentation and its thoroughness.  Included are examples of nearly all aircraft types operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Forces during the Second World War.  Each type receives a brief introduction, and then the reader is treated to several photographs and illustrations documenting the interiors and equipment.  The photographs are clearly explained and thoroughly captioned, with the purpose of each component being identified and explained.  Both archival photographs from Allied technical evaluation units and contemporary color photographs are utilized – whichever best illustrates the subject.  Some surviving aircraft are completely restored, others are untouched and unseen since the war having been stored for potential future display.  Many types have perspective artwork showing the layout and identification of the various components.

Several of the aircraft types are unique, and Mikesh presents information on the only examples left in existence.  For example, the only surviving J7W1 Shinden prototype is in storage at the NASM, the book contains several full color photographs of the original cockpit.  For this and the other types, Mikesh has gone to great lengths to measure the colors of the airframe interiors and installed equipment and presents that research to the reader.  Refreshingly, he also describes any obstacles in acquiring accurate measurements, and informs the reader when he is forced to relate his opinion or best guess.  In many cases  his position and contacts gave Mikesh access to all the surviving artifacts and documentation, so his best guess is likely to be the best guess going forward.

This book is a treasure, and an unrivaled reference for modelers of Japanese aircraft.  It is the authoritative work on the topic, it is highly doubtful to ever be rivaled.  Currently out of print, it can command collector prices on the used book market  but is an indispensable reference for modelers.  Highly recommended.

 

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