One of the most intriguing versions of the Bf 109 was the Bf 109T, based on the 'E and designed as a carrier-fighter. The aircraft was destined never to serve in its intended role because Germany's aircraft carrier, the Graf Zeppelin wasn't completed, but the few Tonis built went on to serve in varied carreers with the Luftwaffe.
The Toni was relatively obscure and often misunderstood for many years. Earlier writers often assumed that, as a shipboard fighter, it must have been fitted with folding wings, but Francis Marshall established that the type was designed from the outset with fixed extended-span wings from the outset in his book "Sea Eagles - The Messerschmitt Bf 109T" (Air Research Publications, 1993).
The Bf 109T-2 represented the de-navalised version of the Toni, with carrier gear removed and the wing spoilers deactivated. Production was allocated to Fieseler, with the first machine flying around the end of January 1941. Original production plans were scaled down to 70 aircraft, getting fully underway in April after wing flutter problems had been encountered.
The Toni served originally with JG 77 in Norway where it was well received, before Hitler ordered work on the Graf Zeppelin to begin again, triggering the recall of the aircraft for conversion back to 'T-1 standard as the only suitable naval fighter available, before being placed in storage.
In another twist to the tale, work on the carrier was again abandoned in early 1943 and the 46 remaining Tonis were brought back to land configuration yet again, although performance was by now seriously below that of more modern aircraft. The Tonis went on to serve with NJG 101 and JG 11, before being relegated increasingly to training, last appearing in Luftwaffe records in March 1945, when an inquiry was made about the availablilty of aircraft to protect shipping in the Baltic (rather in the manner of Britain's earlier CAM ship fighters).
In kit form
Reviewing Hasegawa's Bf 109T is something of a trip down memory lane for me, as I released a conversion set for the type in the early days of resin updates under the Blueprint Models label. Looking at how one of the major manufacturers tackles the same design challenges which I faced over 15 years ago brings back many happy memories.
Some years after my efforts, Hasegawa brought out a Bf 109T "conversion" of their own, also based unsurprisingly on their popular Bf 109E and consisting of the standard kit parts plus a small set of conversion parts. The kit was unavailable for many years, but has recently been reissued as a limited edition. The model comprises:
56 x grey styrene parts (of which 11 are marked as not needed)
5 x clear styrene parts
5 x resin parts
5 x etched steel parts
A length of steel wire
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
As I found when I reviewed the standard Bf 109E-4
, the basic parts have stood the test of time very well, still crisply moulded with little sign of flash or wear and an adequate level of detail. Among the parts indicated as spare are the ETC rack and drop tank, but photos of operational Bf 109Ts certainly show the tank fitted on occasions, so don't necessarily consign them straight to the spares box.
Construction follows that of the Bf 109E until you get to the wings. At this stage you need to do a bit of modification and cut off the wingtips ready for the new resin extensions. The new parts fit quite neatly with a little sanding to blend them in. You need to ensure there's no trace left of the panel line for the original wing tips and there's an awkward join across the ailerons that you must fill without losing the detail. On this point, I'd have preferred complete new ailerons, because the style of the fabric effect on the resin extensions doesn't match the styrene parts. With the extended wing tips in place, the new resin leading edge slats can be fitted.
The remaining resin part is for the Toni's more prominent carburettor intake. Compared with reference photos, I think the intake should be a little more bulbous than Hasegawa have modelled it, but it's a simply enough modification to beef it up a little. Lastly, an antenna under the fuselage is to be cut from the length of steel wire provided. This antenna is presumably for the IFF equipment apparently only fitted in Norway in 1941 and not evident in later photos of the aircraft.
By relying on the unmodified Bf 109E parts for the bulk of the kit, Hasegawa have faced a couple of problem areas, and their solutions are something of a compromise. The 'T-2 was still fitted with the wing spoilers designed for carrier use (although they were deactivated) and, additionally, it was equiped with GM-1 nitrous oxide injection at some point in its career. Francis Marshall states that there's no evidence of the GM-1 equipment being fitted during the aircraft's use by JG 77 in Norway, but the access panels can be seen clearly in photos of the Tonis used later by JG 11. Official records also mention a Patin master compass being fitted, but if this was placed in the same location as on later Bf 109 versions, it would have occupied the same space as the GM-1 gear - and there's no sign of additional access panel. (So it could be (and this is just my theory) that the compass was removed to install the GM-1 gear when the aircraft were brought out of storage in 1943.)
Hasegawa have provided decals for the spoilers and fuselage access panels, which is an easy way of doing things for less experienced modellers, but is really only a half-measure answer, especially in the case of the spoilers because a panel line runs right through them which really needs filling at that point. Since this is a limited edition kit, it's quite understandable that Hasegawa haven't been able to justify the cost of new moulds for engraved spoilers and access panels, but it's a shame that they haven't included a scribing template for anyone who isn't convinced by the idea of using decals to represent them.
Instructions & Decals
Hasegawa's instructions are always good quality and these are no exception - clearly drawn and simple to follow. Gunze Sangyo paint matches are provided throughout.
It's almost become a tradition for any kit of the Toni to include Herbert Christmann's spectacular "flame-nosed" "Black 6" (I couldn't resist including it as an option in my own Blueprint set), so it's something of a shock to find a fresh set of options in Hasegawa's latest boxing. Despite the kit nominally representing JG 77, there is an additional option included too:
1. "Red 5", 2./JG77, Norway, Summer 1941
2. "Red 1", 2./JG77, Norway, September 1941
3. "Yellow 7", NJG101, Spring 1943.
It should be noted that Francis Marshall describes the JG77 machines as wearing black numerals outlined in red, instead of the reverse as Hasegawa depict it.
The decals themselves are very good quality, with a semi-gloss finish and precise registration. There's a comprehensive set of stencils included, along with instrument faces. Swastikas are provided, printed slightly separate from the rest of items, so they may be trimmed off for some markets.
The Toni is an attractive kit for anyone looking for a Bf 109 with a difference. The conversion is simple enough to make it a good choice anyone wanting to try using resin parts for the first time and experienced modellers should have no problem scribing the spoilers and GM-1 panels instead of the decal representations.
Hasegawa's Bf 109T-2 was kindly provided for review by HobbyLink Japan. Visit HLJ for Japanese kits at Japanese prices.
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