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Focke Wulf Fw 190A-3

Tamiya's classic still goes together like Lego bricks

n by Vegard Henanger

As the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was entering service with Luftwaffe units during the later half of the 1930's, its potential successor, the Fw 190, was already being designed by Dipl. Ing. Kurt Tank of Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau. However, the official contract for building a pre-production series of this new fighter aircraft was not issued by the RLM until the summer of 1938. At that time Tank had the bulk of design work already done, allowing himself and his design team to spend valuable time ironing out various details.

When the Wurger (as Tank had dubbed the Fw 190) entered the pre-production testing programme, it became obvious that the BMW 139 radial engine originally installed was a disappointment and was soon replaced by the more powerful BMW 801 which was to power the series until the Junkers Jumo-powered -D model entered service. The BMW 801 engine initially suffered from severe over-heating problems either causing the cylinders to seize up or the aircraft to catch fire. This was finally remedied with the arrival of the BMW 801 D-2 as the powerhouse of the Fw 190 A-3 model. Offering 1700 hp of take off power and a very compact size, it was the perfect match for Luftwaffe's new front line fighter.

The kit

Inside the box you'll find… Plastic! Ok, bad joke.. The truth is that it's been a few years since I built this kit so bear with me when my memory fogs up.. J I'll have to refer to other sources for a detailed parts count and such. The quality of the parts appears to be as good as we have come to expect from Tamiya. The decals are thick and caused me a lot of grief, more about that later.

Building started with the cockpit (and so do every build article as well!) I used a few parts from Eduard's etched set (instrument panel, rudder pedals, seatbelts and head armour) but the model would probably have looked just as good if I had stayed with the kit parts. I painted the interior RLM 66 Schwarzgrau (Humbrol nr 67), dry brushed with a lighter shade and picked out the details with various Humbrol paints. A dark watercolour wash was used to deepen the shadows.

The assembly of the fuselage and wings were uneventful and I can't recall using any filler anywhere on this model. Various sub-assemblies were put together whenever I was waiting for some glue or paint to dry. The horizontal tail surfaces were installed after the model was painted.

I sprayed Xtracolor RLM 76 Lichtblau on the lower surfaces and fuselage sides, masked these and sprayed the yellow rudder and the panel under the nose. When dry, I masked these off in preparation for the upper colours. I use a so-called "soft mask" to make fine feathered demarcation lines, this is a strip of stiff paper (subscription cards are great) with small rolls of masking tape on the back to lift it a few mm's from the surface.

I then sprayed Xtracolour RLM 71 Dunkelgrun, masked the camouflage pattern using the soft masks and airbrushed the RLM 70 Schwarzgrun. Finally, the mottling on the fuselage sides and fin was added. This was sprayed freehand.

Since Xtracolor's enamels dry gloss, there's no need for a clear coat before the decals are applied. I used the kit decals on this model. Well, what was left of them actually! I can't remember exactly which decals that fell apart before or during application but I believe the fuselage and upper wing Balkenkreuze plus at least one swastika came from my spares box. The stylised eagle insignias needed a lot of softening solution and repeated poking to settle down properly into the recessed details.
Note that the alignment of the "13 + I" on the left fuselage side is a bit off. I didn't notice that until I was notified well after the model was finished, then it became very obvious!

A dirty watercolour wash was then applied to the landing gear, control surface hinge lines and a few selected panel lines. Finally a flat topcoat was airbrushed on. I use Microscale's Micro Flat thinned with water, as it is easy to use and dries with a slight satin sheen that I think looks "right" in 1/48 scale. The only thing left was to add the remaining sub-assemblies, various small parts and an antenna wire made from a strand of my own hair. And voila! (Drumroll here!) The model was done!

Conclusions and afterthoughts…

This kit goes together like Lego bricks and offer a lot of nice detail. However, I think that some parts look kind of "clunky" such as some of the interior detail, wheel wells and the landing gear. Also, some of the panel lines are a bit too heavy for my taste. And as I mentioned, the decals were quite questionable. Apart from that, the ease of assembly makes this kit a sure winner.

Writing this has made me think about what I would have done differently if I had built this kit today. First of all I would have filed the kit decals under "U" (as in unstable, uncertain, useless) and rather use whatever I could find in my (steadily increasing) selection of aftermarket- and spare decals. Second, I would have attempted to do a better job with the washes and perhaps made more of an effort in the weathering department.

A word about equipment

I use a Hansa Aero Pro 351 top feed/internal mix airbrush and an electrical compressor with integrated air tank. I thin my enamels about 50/50 with mineral spirits and spray @ 20-25 psi for general coverage and @ 15-20 psi for close-up and detail work.

The pictures were taken with a Canon PowerShot S10 and slightly enhanced using PhotoShop.


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