Clearly the dominant fighter of the early air campaigns in Europe was the BF 109. A design of Willy Messerschmitt for the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (hence the designation BF, with the company name changed to Messerschmitt AG in 1938). Other great fighters such as the Spitfire or Mustang that would eventually best the 109 were either in their early stages of development or still on the drawing board when the E-series variant (dubbed “Emil”) was both terrorizing the skies of Spain during its Civil War, and winning air races, including the 1937 speed record. In an era when retractable landing gear and enclosed canopies were still rare, the 109’s innovations set it ahead of other fighter designs. Its triumph was complete in the skies above the Blitzkrieg that crushed Poland and then France.
Intended as a short-range interceptor, the 109’s inherent flaws emerged when asked to take on the role of bomber escort during the Battle of Britain in the Summer and Fall of 1940. The most damning was its lack of range or even the capability of carrying an extra fuel tank. The basic design continued to evolve, and the Emil would eventually be replaced by the “Friedrich” and then the “Gustav” (the most-produced variant) and finally the “Kurfürst” (“prince elector”). By the end of the war, the 109 was the most-produced German plane, accounting for nearly half of the Third Reich’s aircraft production. Those 109s that survived the war or which had been exported prior to it joined planes manufactured under license in Czechoslovakia and Spain to fly on, even into the 1960s.
1/32nd Bf 109's
The 109 has attracted tremendous interest in 1/32nd scale lately from both kit manufacturers and modelers, especially the Emils. First Eduard, then Trumpeter and now Dragon have all introduced kits with more promised. Eduard’s first foray was the E-1, but the kit attracted a firestorm of criticism over the shape of its canopy (too narrow); so much so, the company was forced into remedial action. Subsequently Eduard has released an E-4 and an E-3; now it is offering the last version of the Emil, the E-7 Trop (for Tropen or “tropical”) which served mostly in North Africa and Italy. The E-7 was the last version before an extensive redesign in the F variant. A bomb/fuel tank pylon was introduced, with the Emils gradually being shifted away from interceptor work to the role of fighter-bomber, especially on the eastern front.
The kit is packed in the usual Eduard pasteboard box sporting a cover painting of a dogfight with two RAF P-40s somewhere over a Mediterranean coastline. It includes:
6 sprues of greenish-tan plastic
2 frets of PE
1 sprue of clear plastic canopy parts plus additional canopy
1 sheet of paper canopy & wheel masks
Painting mask placement guide
Sheet of Cartograf decals
16 page instruction booklet with four painting schemes plus a guide for the stencils
Sprue photo's by Jean-Luc Formery can be found HERE
This was the first Eduard plastic kit I’ve built, and I must say it left me with mixed emotions. The quality of the molding, the detailing and the packaging, including instructions and decals, were all exemplary. But the fit! Why is it so hard for manufacturers to come up with a wing root that attaches to the fuselage without extensive filling and sanding?
The good news is that in a Profi-Pack you get everything you need except glue and paint. The photo etch is just right (intake screens, cockpit details and instrument dashboard), plus masks for the canopy and the wheels. I especially like the cockpit details which give the kit a realistic look. The PE seatbelts are the standard we’ve come to expect from Eduard, and the dashboard is a revelation: you’ll never go back to hand-painting or decals in this scale afterwards.
Another serious bug with the kit is the engine: Eduard includes a beautifully-detailed styrene engine but you can’t use it unless you leave off the cowling. This might not sound like a problem for those of you who always build “buttoned-up,” but it actually is: I chose to skip the engine in my build, but then the air intakes in the cowl and the exhaust openings for the nose-mounted MGs are empty. Not the kind of thing IPMS judges take kindly to. The solution is to make sure you include the machine gun magazines and fashion something behind the nose intakes.
A strong plus are the separate control surfaces. The 109’s tail surfaces, for example, rested at a downward angle of 45 degrees when parked, so this avoids the need to cut off the control surfaces like on Hasegawa 109s. The wheel wells are nicely-done, if lacking some of the detail of Trumpeter’s PE wheel bay surfaces, but unlike in their E-4, the intake screens are properly-positioned and the support rods for the radiators are provided.
One curious choice by Eduard is to have the front trim tabs extended. You will have to cut down the mounting pins if you want the tabs in-place. I have seen very few photos with them extended while parked, so I’m at a loss why Eduard decided to make this decision instead of letting modelers make the adjustment themselves.
Eduard has a set of resin tires for their Emils out, but the styrene ones in the kit are more than acceptable. The one-piece propeller saves agony about blade positioning, and the drop tank is very good with an acceptable mounting pod. No PE tabs are provided, but they are usually left off even resin upgrades.
Finally, the canopy. A new, less-narrow canopy is provided, though the only hint of this is a separate sheet showing the pieces that should now be used and those that should be discarded. Take note, else you end up building the wrong one. The results are very good from my perspective.
painting & decals
The kit offers five camouflage variants (though the last must be downloaded from Eduard’s web site).
• 3./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala, Libya, 1941 (RLM 78 undersides, and RLM 79 on the top with RLM 80 mottling)
• Stab I./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala, Libya, 1941— Obt. Ludwig Franzisket, JG 27, Libya, June 1941 (same colors with yellow nose & tail)
• 2./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala, Libya, 1941—“Black 8” (same colors with white belly band)
• 2./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala, Libya, 1941- “Black 3” (RLM 71 & 02 on the upper and RLM 65 on the undersides, likely darkened with RLM 71 stripes on fuselage)
• I./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala airfield, Libya, Summer 1941-- Eduard Neumann, Gruppenkommandeur (“commanding officer”) of I./JG 27 with seven kill marks (Abschußbalken) on the rudder)
One criticism of Eduard’s kits is their cost, so the Profi-Pack is designed to bring together a great kit and the PE you want for it in one box. The results are very good, but could be excellent. If the fit problems weren’t there, this one would score in the highest percentiles.