Improved Beyond Recognition!
Revell Fw 190D-11 receives full detailing treatment
Here is my 1/48 model of Focke-Wulf Fw 190D-11. This was one of these projects where I decided to go full length in building an accurate miniature of the real aircraft.
Service introduction of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter was a desperate attempt to resist the Allied air offensive over German territory. Too little too late. One of the few units fighting with the type was the small JV 44, an Experts' squadron under the command of General Lieutenant Adolf Galland.
Jagdverband 44 was a strange unit: in January 1945 Galland and other officers (Lützow, Johannes, Steinhoff) had a fierce confrontation with Reichsmarshall Göring over the performance of the fighter arm. Galland was removed from his position and even arrested and threatened with a court-martial. Eventually he was relieved of all official functions and allowed to get back to frontline flying by organizing a special jet unit using the Me 262. His 'recruiting' officer, Steinhoff, travelled to all of the major bases, selecting pilots who wanted to join to new adventure. Some very famous pilots joined over a period of weeks: Gerhard Barkhorn, Walter Krupinski, Heinz Bär, Erich Hohagen, Günther Lützow, Wilhelm Herget.
Excellent as the Me 262 was, it had some notorious weaknesses. Very poor acceleration due to limited power of the jet engines was the source of the well-known vulnerability of the aircraft directly after take-off or in the landing circuit. Allied pilots were quick to realize and exploit this weak spot. Galland himself was once surprised and almost shot down by a P-47D during landing approach. With his typical pragmatism, Galland ordered to set up a Platzschutzstaffel of Fw 190Ds to provide airborne cover during take-off and landing of the jets at Munchen-Riem. These machines, too, were flown by some very experienced pilots, including aces like Waldemar Wubke or Heinz Sachsenberg.
The escorting Focke-Wulfs usually flew at low altitudes, which in case of the wrong recognition from the friendly Flak batteries could prove fatal. To aid recognition, the Fw 190s had their lower surfaces painted entirely in red (or black) with white stripes. This method produced some of the most colourful finishes of wartime Luftwaffe , and was the source of unit's popular nickname Papagai Staffel (the Parrot Flight).
My model represents the Red 4 of the Papagai. References about this particular aircraft are scarce so I resorted to photographic references on various other Doras for and some bibliography I could find about them.
The Revell kit
My choice of kit was 1/48 Revell Fw 190D-11. This is new in that it represents a D-11, yet old because most of it comes from a 15-years old Trimaster mould. Trimaster first issued the kit in 1988 as an esoteric torpedo-armed D-12. Later the same kit appeared under Dragon/DML label, with white metal parts replaced by injection-moulded plastic and a new photoetched steel fret. Recently, ProModeler reissued the kit in all-plastic guise and modified to represent a D-11, a variant that actually did see combat service. This is the kit I acquired, albeit mine was boxed by Revell Europe.
The kit is still going strong, featuring nice detail and surprisingly good fit for being a Trimaster. At the time when Trimaster issued their Fw 190s, no modeller could really expect an aircraft kit to go together without filler… In the new D-11 version the kit is all-plastic, with Dragon's photo etched fret substituted by nicely moulded plastic parts and the blown canopy replaced by a flat one, very clear and quite thin. This is appropriate for the variant, as all D-11 were rebuilt from former A series aircraft. Other new features include a modified rudder, flat upper cowl, "straight" line canopy and MK 108 cannon blisters in the outer wing.
Very few D-11s were actually built. To my knowledge this variant has only been confirmed to serve with Verbandfuhrerschule GdJ (Command of fighter school) and JV 44 (as known as "Papagei Staffeln" in English literature).
This was one of these projects where I decided to go full length in building an accurate miniature of the real aircraft.
When you set about modifying and providing full detail to a model kit, the success is not only depending on your skills as a modeller, but also on thorough research and planning prior to an during the project. Especially when complex work is involved, these two aspects become crucial to prevent any problems from occurring.
Because of the need for excessive references covering even the most obscure areas of the airframe, the best documented aircraft types are natural candidates for a superdetailing project. Fortunately, the Fw 190 falls with good margin into that category. References I used were:
The project begins
The first thing I did in this project was producing silicon moulds for opened engine covers and covers of the wing-mounted MG105s. As these items would be modelled in open position, I preferred to create new ones from scratch rather than trying to save and rework sawn-off kit plastic.
Once I had the moulds, I cut off the aforementioned parts. While being at it, I also disassembled the ailerons, rudder, flaps, and radio equipment.
Cockpit canopy received a new inner frame, closing handle and pulley for the antenna wire.
Inside the cockpit, I replaced some instrument panels since these looked wrong as if they belonged to another aircraft. I scratch-built the pilot's seat, finishing it with a set of photoetched seatbelts. Behind the seat, I re-created an opened luggage compartment in the upper rear decking.
With the cockpit finished, I started working on the inside of the fuselage. First I generally thinned down the sidewalls of the kit. The new fuselage framework was added from a few scrap bits of metal and plastic. Then I fabricated the auxiliary GM tank, gyroscope and electrical cables. These items can bee seen on the finished model through the open hatch on the port side of the fuselage behind the cockpit.
After painting the interior, the fuselage halves have been joined together.
Referring to my pre-written plan, the following step was to be the firewall of the engine. As the entire nose of the airframe was to be left uncovered, the firewall had to be recreated in detail. I first worked with paper sheet to produce a template of correct shape. Using the template, I built the actual bulkhead from plasticard. More detail was added to the firewall according to the references
Working on the wings
With the fuselage ready I moved on to the wings. These were modified with cannon armament visible through the open covers. These access covers were placed on the upper surface of the wing for the inboard MG 105s, and on the lower wing for outer MK 108s. I spent my time to recreate the internal framework of each compartment, cannon breeches, ammunition feed chutes and the electrical firing mechanism.
Landing flaps were replicated including their internal structure. The structure was entirely scratchbuilt from thin plasticard using electric mini-drill, scalpel blade and steel ruler. For the technique used, I think that the pictures are pretty self-explanatory.
The ailerons were now reattached to the new hinges attached to the fixed potion on the wing. When positioning ailerons off-centre, these hinges should be used as pivot points. This way a proper gap is ensured above and below both ailerons.
With all the details completed, I closed the wing halves and finally mated the entire wing assembly to the fuselage.
The resin engine produced by Aires is certainly one of the best on the market, and despite checking with the references I could not find any further detail to be added. I simply assembled the resin parts, adding some plumbing and wiring as necessary. Despite the sophisticated look of the engine it was one of the easiest parts of the project.
On the contrary, the circular front radiator so typical of all long-nose Focke Wulfs posed some problems. The one provided in the kit was a bit too narrow and featured simplified cooling gills in closed position, which wouldn't match my "everything opened" approach of the rest of the model. I opted to make a replacement assembly from scratch to show radiator details and the petal-formed cooling gills in open position.
I started with turning a new deflector shape on a lathe. After some surface detailing this served as a master to produce a silicon mould, from which a new deflector was cast in epoxy resin. The radiator as well as other parts visible on the pictures were scratch-built. The cooling gills were produced from aluminium.
I have improved the undercarriage legs with lengths of steel wire representing the exposed parts of the oleos. Use of metal makes them look more realistic than painted plastic would. With the help of my trusty UNIMAT lathe I also produced the new wheels, as the ones included in the kit were slightly different from the photographic references. Also, the undercarriage doors were sanded down to scale thickness with sandpaper.
Whenever one works with kits with disparate assemblies, it is more convenient to paint the parts individually while working on them rather than wait and paint everything in one go. This approach saves a lot of masking headaches and protects delicate parts from being accidentally damaged during handling.
I use various kinds of paints, usually enamels for base colours and acrylics to get the effects of light/shadow and weathering. The enamels I used for this model are Xtracolor whereas the acrylics came from Tamiya.
For the airframe, I applied RML83 Hellgrün (light green) and RLM74 Mittelgrau (gray) soft-edged camouflage on the upper surfaces, RLM76 Hellblau (light blue) for the sides, and RML23 Rot (red) with stripes in RML21 Weiss (white) for the bottom. As the stripes were painted-on, it required some careful masking.
Painting detail photos, click to enlarge
With the basic colour scheme applied, I varnished the model with clear gloss as the basis for decals. The varnish I use is Testors Clear Acryl for airbrush application. All decals are placed accordingly to kit instructions and other references. The kit decals were good, containing even a nice representation of an overpainted <53 marking on the fuselage. Decal setting solutions were used during decal application.
With the decals in place and dry, I applied two coats of clear varnish to seal the decals, sanded the surface lightly, and varnished again. The procedure was repeated until decals became integral with the surface.
The final step was a coat of satin varnish for that Luftwaffe sheen.
I'm pleased with my Dora! There is that special satisfaction in improving the original kit beyond recognition that only a successful superdetailing project can provide. Try one yourself.