Hasegawa's 1/48 scale
Bf 109 F-4/R3
by Fernando Rolandelli
Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4/R3, 1.Aufkl.Gr.(F)/122, Sicily, 1942
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Every self-respecting high speed single engine fighter has developed a recce variant. So the 109. After some early attempts involving hand-held cameras, the Erla Leipzig factory was ordered to produce a total of 43 airframes with different Rustzustände, which usually involved the addition of a camera and the removal of radio equipment.
The most produced was the so-called R3, with a Rb.50/30 camera in a fairing aft of the cockpit, in place of radio equipment. Film magazines were loaded an unloaded through the hatch in the baggage compartment. The Motorkanone was also removed but, the twin MG17 were not. Germans were not so keen at weight reducing (as were the Brits, whose recce conversion were really stripped down fighters); pictures reveal that head armor was kept as was the gunsight (true that the Revi12 was not a bulky thing).
Most pictures also show antennae masts and wires; it must be assumed that the radioless machines were refitted at unit level.
Germans always counted on the advantage of the extremely high quality Carl Zeiss lenses.
I had a small Airwaves resin item that had always intrigued me, a 109/190 camera bulge, in that cream coloured resin. I also had a vintage Aeromaster 109 decal sheet, one of those early ones. I decided to match them to an equally vintage Hasegawa 109F (though it was one of the latter issues, the “109F-4/B JG53” boxing, a most useful combination that includes the entire Hasegawa 1/48 weapons set just for the sake of a 500 kg bomb).
Though the kit has been superseded by the Zvezda and Eduard offerings, I have always had a soft spot for the early F/G ones; IMHO they are better proportioned than the latter G/K (which sports a new fuselage and accessories).
The decal, on their part, were technically high quality, thought they sported extensive clear film backing that in modern decals would be surely trimmed down.
Accuracy-wise, well, this sheet is one of those who earned the producer its nickname of “Errormaster”. It sports a Lt. Harder F-2, in full JG53 Technical Officer markings, which is entirely correct, as is this particular machine. However, a Bulgarian G-6 has completely wrong crosses and a ROA example is completely fake. Another, a G-6 from JG5, I should check closely. Stencils and Balkenkreuzen came from the kit’s.
It began with the conversion; easy as it looked, it would be the defining part of the project. The Airwaves part was straightened out and placed on the fuselage; a hole was drilled in the plastic and a clear rod of appropriate diameter was inserted. I painted the sides of the rod dark grey and the inner end in Tamiya clear green and then gun metal; that gives the impression of a lens deep into the fuselage.
Then I proceeded to furnish the cockpit. That being rather simplified in the kit, I usually throw in a resin cockpit, from KMC or True Details (actually the same thing) It was not such a good idea, for it expanded the lower fuselage and compromised the diedhral. Lacking a PE instrument panel, I resorted to an Eduard one. In a next build, if ever, I shall use the kit’s part enhanced by the PE. To top it off, the resin cannot be made to mimick the upper shoulder harness attachment points (that would involve replacing part of the fuselage plastic); therefore, I made triangle shapes with wire, to which I attached “belts” of Tamiya tape, taking them up to the “buckle” in the resin part. Painted accordingly, they look good.
Exception made of the search of a reasonable diedhral (by frantically sanding the wings roots and a lot of praying), the rest of the build was as smooth as can be. These kits are not Tamiya, but they can be assembled quite as easily. I scribed the door in the luggage compartment at the back of the cockpit; used some fancy vinyl strips to give some relief to the radiators faces (unnecessary); added the rib detailing in the roof of the wheel wells with plastic strips; used a Quickboost exhaust set; and detailed the u/c struts with the oleo lines. I made an easy improvement on the slats, adding two small styrene strips to the inside of them for the guides; when presented on the slat bays, they can be glued a bit forward as if partially deployed, and the strips are visible from the underside, mimicking the guiding rails. Another small improvement involved the external fuel tank rack, which is too large. I reshaped it following the excellent one in the Zvezda kit, reducing also the length of the anti-sway braces for a better seat of the tank. I glued it a bit displaced to the left.
Final assembly (after decals) included fitting the undercarriage, canopy and radio wires. The diedhral was a bit suspect, so I cheated and didn’t push one fully into the socket, “compensating” the wingtip droop. Just a fraction of a millimeter is enough. I pushed the legs well forward (within the given limits seen in pictures) to give the model a “weighted” look; few things worse looking than a model “on tiptoes”.
Hasegawa decals (stencils and Balkenkreuzen) went down fine, exception made of lower wing Bakenkreuz that developed a hole (possibly burned down by the setting solution?) I painted it over with Xtracolor Black, and coated/sanded it repeteadly with Clear gloss, until there were no little bumps showing. If you look intently, you’ll realize something happened there.
Aeromaster decals had very good colour and density, though their clear film backing is a bit extensive and, nowadays, a bit thick. They tended to silver just a bit, but could be moved without breaking and the clear coat/sanding treatment got rid of most of the edges.
The thin White trimming on the “T” is separate and a bit of a chore to safely land on target.
Well, I do not remember the fatal flaws thrown upon the Hasegawa 109F. It is a bit short (it might be around 1.5 mm), concentrating in the nose.
The undernose is a bit flat, and the spine a bit squarish. Detail, both interior and surface, is a bit sparse and simplified. The spinner is too hemispherical (actually it could be replaced by any other, even an Eduard one, as the backplates are the same size) Some moving surfaces could have been moulded separated (actually, the rudder would have sufficed); it must be said that with flaps and radiators’ exit flaps separated the wing has a nice “relaxed” look.
But other than that, they really look the part, even beside a better kit, like Zvezda or Eduard. They are reasonably well detailed, accurate and easy to build kits, though perhaps not outstanding in any of these categories. Amazingly, they keep a very high retail value, even on Ebay.
“Messerschmitt Bf 109F/G &K Series. An illustrated Studio”, Prien and Rodeike, Schiffer Publication
“Messerschmitt Bf-109F – K. Development, Testing and Production”, Willy Radinger and Wolfgang Otto, Schiffer Publications (1999)
“The Messerschmitt Bf-109 In Action”, Squadron Signaal
“Aufklärer Volume 2, Luftwaffe Reconnaissance Aircraft and Units 1942-45”, David Waldman Classic Publications.
Text and Images Copyright ©
2017 by Fernado Rolandelli
Page Created 8 March, 2017
8 March, 2017
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