by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
The Arado Ar 196 has long rated amongst modellers’ favourite military floatplanes. For my generation, the love affair dates back to 1966, when Airfix first kitted it, and (just like its counterpart in the Vought Kingfisher a year later) it simply looks “right”, with classic proportions and functionality. Now Valiant Wings have added it to the fast-expanding range of types covered in their Airframe Album series, with the most detailed study of the Ar 196 I’ve yet read.
Richard Franks tackles the subject in the now standard formula of the series. The 106-page softbound A4 volume includes extensive artwork by Richard Caruana and Wojciech Sankowski, and specially commissioned model builds, along with what will undoubtedly be the main reason for purchasing for most modellers - a highly detailed “walkaround” that covers the Ar 196 inside and out.
The book breaks down into a number of distinct and easily accessible sections:
Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants
Camouflage & Markings
The 14-page Introduction gives a concise and clearly written overview of the development and service history of the Ar 196. The section is well illustrated with period photos depicting the various prototypes in single- and twin-float forms, including the dramatic demise of the V4, destroyed by fire after a heavy landing. It’s interesting to read along the way that the Ar 196 was actually judged inferior in some aspects to the rival Fw 62 - a biplane - but won out in the end largely due to being more modern in design.
The service history chronicles the Arado’s use by the Kriegsmarine from the earliest days of the war, including the ill-fated voyage of the Graf Spee, right through to hunting for Soviet submarines in the Baltic and patrolling the Danish Straits in the spring of 1945.
The focus then turns to foreign users - including captured machines - and this makes for fascinating reading, because it’s often overlooked that the Ar 196 flew on for over 10 years after the end of WW2 in various forms. Of particular interest for anyone looking for an easy conversion will be the re-engined Soviet aircraft.
The Technical Description covers the aircraft, inside and out, in considerable detail. It isn’t a “walkaround” as such (although it does include some useful colour shots of preserved airframes), but concentrates more on original illustrations from servicing and parts manuals and period B&W photos. The coverage breaks down into 7 main groups:
Wings & Control Linkage
Engine, Cowling & Propeller
Most groups are further sub-divided; so, for instance, the Fuselage section covers:
Canopy & Forward Fuselage
Main & Aft Fuselage
Fuel, Hydraulic & Oil Systems
Electrical & Radio Systems
Some modellers may be disappointed by the absence of any modern cockpit photos, but we all know only too well the perils of relying too heavily on incomplete or incorrectly restored airframes as references. Perhaps the only interior items I’d have liked to see illustrated more fully are the side-panels that covered so much of the fuselage structure in the “office” (as much as it seems almost sacrilegious to hide the detail on a model, you can see parts of the panels quite clearly in some of the illustrations).
Evolution extends the material presented in the Introduction, examining each development of the Ar 196 through the various prototypes, service models and paper projects with the aid of an isometric drawing and a handy check-list of differences/modifications. It’s certainly tempting to tackle a “what-if” build of the more powerful and up-gunned Ar 196C that sadly fell by the wayside in 1941.
Camouflage & Markings is another section that modellers will undoubted head straight to. The author begins with the usual (and necessary) warning that nothing is certain when trying to judge colours from period B&W photos but, with that proviso, what follows is undoubtedly the most comprehensive examination of the Ar 196’s colours that I’ve read. The prototypes and Kriegsmarine schemes are examined in some depth, before the section turns to aircraft in foreign service, including some intriguing speculation on the green topsides colour on Bulgarian machines.
The section concludes with a selection of excellent colour profiles, which offer plenty of variety to suit all tastes - and, if you can’t find inspiration from the real-life schemes, there’s even a fictional all-yellow Ar 196 that featured in Tin Tin!
Attention then turns to Models, is the shape of four kits built specially for the book by internationally renowned modellers:
1:72 - Heller Ar 196A converted to the 'V4 by Libor Jekl
1:72 - Sword Ar 196A, again by Libor Jekl
1:48 Italeri Ar 196A by Steve Evans
1:32 Revell Ar 196B by John Wilkes
As you'd expect from modellers of this calibre, the builds are all very impressive and present a good range of subjects and techniques, from the resin conversion for the 'V4, simple improvements to most of the kits, plus aftermarket additions such as a replacement resin canopy for Revell's largescale beauty to overcome the awkward seams on the styrene version. The descriptions are clear and well written, backed up by good quality photos. There's certainly plenty of inspiration, whatever your preferred scale. Of course, we modellers are a greedy bunch and I must admit I'd have liked to see Revell's original Ar 196A covered too - but that's all the more incentive to dig it out of the Stash one of these days.
Finally, the book ends with a useful round up of the various kits, accessories and references that have appeared over the years. Some are long out of production - and there are certainly some items in the list which I've never seen that probably demand high prices among collectors.
ConclusionIf you're planning on building a kit of the Arado Ar 196, or even if you are purely an aircraft enthusiast, you will want Valiant Wings' new book. It's reasonably priced and there's a mass of information I've not found elsewhere, so it will be a huge help, especially if you want to superdetail your model. Highly recommended.
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