by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
When ICM announced their excellent new-tool U-2/Po-2 earlier this year, they chose the unarmed ski-equipped version as the initial release. I found this slightly surprising when I reviewed the kit, because conventional wisdom might be to include the skis simply as one option. Now the kit has been released for its second incarnation, and this time it has a wheeled undercarriage - plus it is altogether more war like, coming with a machine gun for rear defense, along with under-wing bombs and racks.
Equipped this way, the real aircraft was impressed as a short range bomber and ground attack aircraft, and despite its obvious obsolescence, it's low speed at tree-top height made it a notoriously difficult target for German fighters. Often flying at night, the U-2/Po-2 was a constant irritant to Wehrmacht troops and achieved a psychological effect that far outweighed the material damage it could inflict with its meager war load. The aircraft became particularly famous as the mount of the famous Night Witches - all-women crews who flew huge numbers of sorties under appalling conditions through the most bitter fighting across the Eastern Front to the very gates of Berlin.
The kit arrives an a compact and attractive top-opening box, with the sprues bagged for protection in transit. The new version comprises:
101 x grey styrene parts
2 x clear parts
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The moulding is generally very good, with some excellent crisp details and impressively thin trailing edges for the wings and tail. The fabric surfaces are subtly depicted (although the elevators are once again left plain for some reason), while other areas sport delicate raised fittings and engraved panel lines. There's a whisper of flash here and there, but nothing a quick swipe or two with a sanding stick or scalpel won't take care of. The designers have done a good job keeping ejector pins out of harm's way for the most part, with just a couple that might be visible low down on the cockpit sides. The only minor sink marks I found on the sample kit are on the undercarriage shock absorbers, but they'll be simple to fill.
In the original release I noticed the bottom of the nose needed a little extra help to keep it straight. This time things are much better so, hopefully, that was just a one-off.
A few detailsAs before, construction begins with the tandem cockpits, with very nice integrally moulded sidewall details on the inner fuselage faces. The cockpits comprise 24 parts in total, with each seat and mount alone using 6 parts. All they really lack is harnesses. The instrument panels are quite basic (like the real aircraft's) and have lightly raised bezels, and ICM provide neatly printed decals for the faces.
The rear machine gun sits on a simple tripod mounted on the rear fuselage - very much a hasty modification to give the crew some chance of defending themselves (and presumably harassing enemy infantry). The gunner doesn’t even have the luxury of a rear-facing seat - presumably, he or she had to kneel in the chair to fire the gun. ICM’s ShKAS is a single-piece moulding to which attaches an ammunition drum. Inevitably, this means solid ring sights, which do look rather clumsy. You could trim them off and add etched (or wire) sights for a much better appearance - or, alternatively, replace it Vector Models exquisite resin machine gun.
Up front there’s a five-cylinder M-11D engine constructed from 9 parts. The cylinder detail is fair, but a bit simplified (in common with virtually all injected kits). With the engine totally exposed and an obvious focus of attention, once again you may want to treat yourself to Vector’s far superior resin version. One beauty of ICM’s kit being so affordably priced is that you can treat your self to extras like these without worrying about breaking the bank.
The new undercarriage is well done, with the wheels and hubs sporting some crisp detail, including maker's names on the tyres. The wheels are un-weighted, so I'll file slight "flats" - especially if I pose the aircraft fully loaded. Talking of which, new to this boxing are a quartet of bombs and their underwing racks. Each bomb is constructed from 4 parts, and the tail fins are good and thin. The bomb racks are nicely detailed and come with separate sway braces.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is well drawn as a 12-page A4 pamphlet. Construction is broken down into 34 logical stages, and the illustrations are clear and simple to follow. Painting suggestions for Model Master paints are keyed to most details. The paper used is uncoated and rather absorbent - no problem for the assembly diagrams, but it does mean the illustrations of the colour schemes look a bit murky, with the dark shades tending to merge into one another, making it difficult to make out the divisions of the topside colours. Profiles for one of the options are shown in colour on the side of the box, which is a useful back-up for the instructions.
When I reviewed the original kit, I noticed that there were a couple of spare options included in the decals and assumed they'd be used in the next release. Not a bit of it - this time we have an all-new sheet with markings provided for 4 colour schemes. Three-view illustrations are provided, along with scrap views of the undersides and the schemes offered are:
1.Po-2VS “White 6” of the 213rd Night Bomber Air Division, Summer 1943
2.Po-2VS "Blue 1" of the 23rd GvNVAP, Spring 1945
3.Po-2VS “White 19” of the 46th Tamansky GvNBAP, Spring 1945
4.Po-2VS “White 23” of the 2nd Polish NBAP “Krakow”, Summer 1944
Option 3 looks irresistible to me, being festooned with a mass of patriotic slogans along the full length of the port fuselage side.
The decals appear to be produced by Begemot and look to be very good quality - nicely thin, and crisply printed in excellent registration with a silk finish.
ConclusionICM's U-2/Po-2 deserves to do really well, and going for the armed version with a conventional landing gear should make it an attractive option for many modellers wanting to depict this unlikely Eastern Front warrior.
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