by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
With the "Emil" version, the Messerschmitt 109 reached it's limits in the Battle of Britain against the Spitfire and it was necessary to improve the design since no replacement fighter was available at that time in the Luftwaffe. Modifications were made to four Bf 109 E airframes resulting in a better aerodynamic. The entire engine cowling, including the spinner, was streamlined so to accept the new and more powerful DB 601E powerplant. Other modifications were made to the oil cowler, supercharger intake, underwing radiators, wings, tailplanes, rudder etc...
Even fitted with an "old" DB 601N engine (the 601E wasn't ready), a Bf 109F-0 proved to be more maneuvrable and faster than it's predecessor, the E-4.
However, despite the fact that many consider the "Friederich" to be the best (and most beautiful) of all Bf 109s, it was only a transition plane and only 3400 were produced (1600 F-1/F-2s and 1800 F-4s) from a total of 35.000 Bf 109s built.
ICM's new 109 kit comes in the typical flimsy side opening cardboard box of the Ukrainian manufacturer (picture 1). The kit is composed of three grey plastic sprues, one small transparent sprue, one decal sheet and the instructions.
Before examining the plastic parts, I must warn you: the kits produced by ICM have a bad reputation. They are often plagued with moulding issues such as sink marks, flash and a rough plastic texture. To sum up, their kits are not the best in the market, certainly not up to Tamiya, Hasegawa or Eduard's standards.
So does the new Bf 109 kit represent an improvement over older kits by the same manufacturer? Well yes and no... At first glance, it seems that the plastic used for the injected sprues is of better quality (picture 2) but on closer inspection one can see the surface of some parts is pretty bad! The left wing for example is constellated with small holes (picture 3). It seems as if the plastic was too thick during the moulding process and didn't filled up all the metal mold. This is typical of ICM's quality control. Any other mainstream manufacturer would have trashed this sprue. I don't know if it was only bad luck or if this is common to all kits but it's annoying, even if filling these won't be a big problem.
Surprinsingly, other parts are much better (picture 4) and surface detail is generally pretty good as you can see on the tail details (stiffeners) and the rudder (fabric structures). The latter is way overdone though, and one will probably want to add filler to smooth that area a little to achieve a more realistic effect. As it is, it looks like the rudder lost it's fabric surface! On picture 4 you can also see the rough surface of the plastic on the two oil coolers and the big amount of flash. This is sadly common to most of the parts of the kit. As a side note, the deeper oil cooler was fitted to the tropicalized versions and the F-6 reconnaissance version and is not used in this F-2 kit.
I noticed another issue on the horizontale tailplanes (picture 5). As you can see on the left one, the aileron's separation is marked by a deep line but on the right one the line is almost not visible!? The fact that this was left like that in the final product is beyond me. The wheels are not the best parts of the kit neither. They are not perfectly round and have no structures.
The cockpit interior is basic and some details are molded directly on the fuselage interiors (picture 6). But it's not too bad except for the instrument panel which is a little flat (no decals are provided for the dials). The propellers (two versions in the kit) are too pointy and will need to be sanded to shape (picture 6). Some detail parts are very well done such as the machine guns and the complete engine which is included in the kit (picture 7). With some additional wires it will do the part. Other good surprise are the transparent parts which are very clear (picture 8).
Decals are provided in the kit for four different aircraft (picture 9):
- Bf 109 F-2, Lt. Detlef Rohwer, Tech. Offz. of 1./JG 3, Bila Cerkva (Ukraine), Summer 1941
- Bf 109 F-2, Oblt. Egon Mayer, Staffel Kapitšn of 7./JG2 "Richthofen", St Pol (France), Summer 1941
- Bf 109 F-2, Lt. Max-Helmut Ostermann, Staffel Kapitšn of 7./JG54, Siwerskaya (Leningrad area), Autumn 1941
- Bf 109 F-2, Geschwader-Adjudant of JG54, Baltia, Summer 1941
The decals are typical ICM with a matt surface. If they are as good (I should write bad) as the ones provided in the kits I build from the same manufacturer, you can throw them in the dustbin without any regret. They are nicely printed though, and in perfect register, but trust me, getting them to conform to the model's surface is another story!
Instructions are made out of two A3 sheets folded so to make two booklets of four pages each (picture 10). The first booklet has the building instructions printed one (eight steps assembly guide, parts layout, brief history, Model Master color chart, etc...), while the second one has the painting and decaling guide for the four options. On the back of the box there is also a color guide. Strangely, it represents the plane on the cover with different colors (two tone grey paintsheme on the boxart and two tone green on the back).
At this point, my overall impression about the kit is quite mixed. On the good side you have no sink holes, no ejector pin marks in wrong places and a good level of detail. On the bad side you have the grainy surface of the plastic, some flash and some odd issues due to the bad quality control of ICM. In fact the kit looks as if it's a pre-production sample! A little more work and it could have been really good.
My opinion is that the guys at ICM thought the kit was good enough like that and, probably more important, that it was about time to make some profit with the new molds. At the end, it's up to the modeler to do the extra work like filling, rescribing, scratchbuilding, etc...
I'm not a Luftwaffe expert and I often can't make the difference between similar versions of the Bf 109 without checking my references. Having said that, there's one important thing to note about ICM's new kit: the wheel well openings have an angular form. On most of the F versions, they should be rounded (see picture 11 to make a comparison with the Hasegawa kit). In fact, only the early planes of that version (F-0 and F-1) had these kind of openings to accomodate hypothetical wheel covers which, in the end where never used. F-2s had the round openings but maybe not all. Remember, the F is a transition version and F-2s and even F-4s may have had the angular openings. It is appropriate to use the well known sentence here: "check your references!"
The same dilemma is true for the tail stiffeners (picture 4). These were added to the airframe after some Bf 109 Fs crashed due to the weakness of the tail. On the kit, the stiffeners are represented and they are typical of the early Friedrichs. Later, they were fitted inside the airframe. However, I saw picture of F-4s with these stiffeners and it may be possible that early airframes were transformed to later variants. Here also, I you want it the most accurate possible, "check your references!"
I've added two more pictures (12 and 13) for comparison with the Hasegawa kit... no comment. I will only add that the ICM kit is NOT in any way a copy of the one made by the Japanese manufacturer. Overall dimensions are pretty close but the tooling is definitely different.
ICM's new Bf 109 kit is not perfect but it will represent a cheap alternative to the Hasegawa version. It has is shortcomings, mainly due to the low quality control of the Ukrainian manufacturer, but will make into a good representation of the "Friedrich". However, I won't recommend it to beginners, as additional work is necessary. For Hasegawa there's no need to worry, their Bf 109 kit is still the best choice on the market in 1/48 scale. To be a little ironic, I would say ICM's kit it is a good choice if you want to build a short run model for the first time.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AeroScale.