by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Considering that the IL-2 Shturmovik is one of the most important and numerous warplanes in history, it's amazing that only one 1/48 scale kit has ever been released by a major manufacturer. Luckily, that kit was an excellent one, packed with the kind of detail typical of Accurate Miniatures (henceforth AM in this article) models in their heyday in the early '90s. The model disappeared from the shelves for a while because of the company's financial problems - and for a long time was the subject of rumours that the moulds had been sold to Italeri (in fact it looks set to be re-boxed by them later this year), but the kit is available again under the revamped Accurate Miniatures banner and now - in a new hi-tech guise - from Eduard.
After the runaway success of their earlier re-release of the AM Yak 1s (each version sold out in a matter of weeks), it was a logical move to undertake a similar upgrade of the Shturmovik. But there's an extra twist to the plot; by combining parts from different kits in the original series, Eduard have released a version that AM never kitted - an early-production 2-seater with the original IL-2 single-seater's "straight" wings - the IL-2M.
The kitDespite the moulds being over a decade old, the standard of the parts is just as impressive as when I fist saw the AM kit. The kit is crisply moulded in a slightly softer styrene than many of the AM range with a mix of engraved panel lines and some raised details. There's very little flash and no sign of shrinkage, but there a few irritating ejector pin marks to take care of.
Construction is little unusual, with a separate nose section that features quite intricate radiator ducting and a fuselage that interlocks with substantial spars attached to the wing centre-section. The topside wing panels incorporate the large root fillets and they lock into cut-outs under the cockpit with a join approximately half-way up the fuselage. The fit of each of these areas has attracted a bit of criticism over the years - with the kit gaining a degree of notoriety for being somehow "difficult" to build. When the kit first appeared, AM themselves said they were disappointed with the fit of the parts, but I have to say I think the difficulties have been rather exaggerated by some writers. Everything in life is relative, but the IL-2 isn't what I'd call a "difficult" kit to build. It may not be suitable for absolute beginners, but anyone with a bit of experience shouldn't have too many problems - the fit might not be quite what you'd hope for after AM's superb Grumman Avenger, but it's certainly not the "ball-breaker" some would have us believe...
AccuracyEduard have been crafty in combining the wings and fuselage parts from different AM kits in a new combination, but it leaves the question of how accurate the result is. The kit's "straight" wings represent the early metal construction which, according to my references, was switched to using wood during the production of the single seater. When the first 2-seaters appeared, they used wooden "straight" wings, before the introduction of "swept" wooden wings to overcome centre-of-gravity problems. Which is all a long-winded way of saying the wings, as supplied, may not be strictly appropriate; if the references are correct, they'll need the panel-line detail filling and re-scribing to represent wooden wings and the ailerons modifying for a fabric covering.
Construction optionsOf course, apart from the new combination of plastic parts, the big change in Eduard's release is the inclusion of a very nice set of pre-painted etched details. It comes into play from the word go, replacing a number of parts in the already well-represented AM cockpit. The original kit cockpit was simple but nicely detailed, but then the original aircraft was pretty spartan too - and the addition of etched seat-harness, consoles and levers really bring everything to life.
AM kits were innovative in how they tackled instruments panels, moulding them in clear plastic with a "reverse-printed" decal for the back. All this is pushed to one side in the new version with a trademark Eduard pre-painted etched panel with printed instrument faces to go behind it. All it needs is a drop of Future/Klear to glaze the bezels.
Staying with the interior, there are new etched parts for the radiator faces and the gunner gets the "luxury" of a pre-painted strap to sit on!
With the wings attached, a choice of weighted or un-weighted wheels for a well-detailed undercarriage. More etched parts replace the wing air intake filter and a new ammunition feed for the rear gun. This is possibly the trickiest of the new parts, requiring some careful folding around compound curves. I have only limited experience working with metal - so this will be a real chance to learn new techniques for me. Finally, there are some new etched access panels for the wing roots.
AM's instructions were always excellent - they were perhaps the last manufacturer to include "old style" full written instructions. Since their kits were reasonably complex, the warning "Read the instructions" was always worth paying attention to - but, of course, this wasn't the greatest help for modellers unable to read English. Unsurprisingly, Eduard have opted for an "international" approach - no text - and with all the assembly diagrams re-drawn. The instructions are still excellent - clearly colour coded to show where the plastic parts need to be modified to accept the etched details. The assembly sequence has been re-jigged slightly too and now occupies 25 stages over 7 pages.
Colours are indicated throughout for Gunze Sangyo paints, the interior being shown as H70 (RLM 02) throughout. This is presumably a reference to A-14 Steel primer, which the 4 Plus Publications book on the IL-2 lists as the cockpit colour, but RLM 02 is a poor match. In his superb work on VVS colours (see list of references below), Erik Pilawskii gives A(LG)-14 an approximate equivalent of FS 26187 - a dark grey almost identical to the late war AMT-12 uppersurface camouflage colour. Unfortunately, to further complicate matters, both Eduard's suggested colour and ALG-14 are at odds with the kit's etched parts, which are pre-painted in a very good match for Aerolak blue-grey wood primer, so you're faced with either repainting the etched parts, or living with them and justifying them as items supplied to the production-line ready-painted by a sub-contractor.
According to the 4 Plus Publications book, interior colours were:
Cockpit: A-14 Grey
Instrument panel: Black or A-14 Grey
Radiator control wheel: Green
Fuselage fuel tank: Yellow A-6 or Black
Bomb-bays and interior of engine covers: ALG-5 Grey Green (FS 34670 - a poor match)
Landing gear bays and struts and other interior areas: A-14 or Light Grey (AE-9 (FS 25630)
FS equivalents are taken from Erik Pilawskii's book.
Colour Schemes & DecalsOne of the few disappointments with the original AM Shturmovik was the limited decal option - that's definitely a criticism that can't be levelled at the Eduard version, with 4 spectacular schemes included:
A. "White 16", of an unknown unit, with AMT-4 Green and AMT-6 Black topsides.
B. "White 100" flown by V. B. Yemelyanienkho, 7.GvShAP, in a similar scheme with a music stave slogan.
C. "Yellow 2" flown by V. P. Aleksukhin, with the later 3 colour Green/Brown/Grey topsides
D. "White 24", 8.GvShAP, Black Sea Fleet, with a curious mix of camouflage types - maybe due to field repairs.
Each scheme is accompanied by quite a detailed description. Posts in the VVS Modelling forum have cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the schemes, I can't comment other than to say that the only a/c in my references - Scheme #4 - seems to match Eduard's analysis of its paint-job pretty well. I think the watchword is, as with any kit, check whatever references you can...
The decals themselves look excellent - thin and glossy with very good registration and minimal crystal-clear carrier film.
ConclusionAM's classic Shturmovik series were among my favourite kits and Eduard have taken things to a new level with the inclusion of excellent etched parts and superior decals. Producing the IL-2M is a very smart move (doubts about the metal wings notwithstanding), increasing the appeal to those who might have already bought the original kits and avoiding the need for some expensive cross-kitting. Eduard's re-boxing represents good value for money too - the original AM kit was £24.99 in 1993, so £27.75 nearly 15 years later with all the extras seems something of a bargain.
ReferencesIlushin IL-2 Shturmovik - Michal Ovčáčik and Karel Susa - 4 Plus Publications, 2006
Ilushin IL-2 and Il-10 Shturmovik - Yefim Gordon and Sergey Komissarov - Crowood Press, 2004
Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945 - Erik Pilawskii - Classic Colours, 2003
3-Colour NKAP Camouflage and the Il-2 "Arrow" - Erik Pilawskii - Scale Aircraft Modelling, Feb. 2003
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