ICM released a Bf 109 F-2 kit in 1/48 scale last year which, even if far from being perfect, can be build into a nice replica of Willy Messerschmitt's famous WW2 fighter. The F-2 being an early type, it is nice to see that ICM also released the more widely produced F-4 version.
With the introduction of the F-4, the "Friedrich" series finally reached its development apogee to a point that some aviation historian consider it to be the best Messerschmitt Bf 109 of all. It was powered by a more powerful DB 601E engine and furthermore a MG 151/20 cannon firing through the propeller hub replaced the MG 151/15 of the previous version. Despite the fact that the former was able to fire a lesser amount of munition, together with the cowl mounted MG 17's it meant a great deal of centrally located fire power. Pilot protection was increased with the addition of a 6mm armor plate behind and above the pilot's head.
Other small differences were the round shape of the wheel wells opening, the slightly larger supercharger intake, the external armored windscreen (not fitted on all F-4s) and the fact that the engine used low octane (87) B-4 fuel which was easier to produce than the high octane (96) C-3 of the F-2.
I won't go too far into detail with this review as ICM's F-4 kit is basically the same as their initialy released F-2 reference (n°48102). A review of the latter can be found here
To sum up, the ICM kit is fairly accurate but lacks in detail is some places and the moulding is not always very clean. The cockpit parts in particular are crude (instrument panel, rudder pedals, pilot seat, armor plate) and the wheels are a bit on the soft side. While building the F-2 kit earlier this year I replaced both the instrument panel and the tyres with spare parts from Hasegawa and Academy kits. Another weakness of the kit is the "quality control" of ICM, or better the lack of it. There is a lot of flash and the surface is either constellated with tiny holes (upper port side of the wing) or affected by the "orange skin" syndrom (underwing part). In short, cleaning of the parts is necessary before assembly.
On the good side you have a kit that, again, is fairly accurate, not too complicated to build (the fit is good despite the fact that the fuselage is made of no less than 8 parts!?), features a nicely done engine, has separate rudder and flaps and has some nice transparent parts. Also one thing to consider is that ICM kits are usually less expensive than the Hasegawa serie of Bf 109 F kits.
As I said before, the new F-4 kit is almost the same as the F-2 with the notable exception of the underwing part which features rounded wheel wells while the previous kit had square-shaped ones. All the other parts are strictly the same and I can tell you that the overall quality is very similar... sadly.
Here is a list of the kit's shortcomings (at least those I noticed):
- The cockpit interior is basic. Especially the instrument panel needs to be replaced.
- There is an annoying trench on the bottom of the fuselage where the halves meet.
- If you choose to glue the cowlings in the closed position, the fit won't be perfect. But this can be easily fixed.
- The surface in some places will need some special treatment.
- The wing to fuselage fit is not perfect on the underside but some sanding will solve the problem (see red areas on the pictures)
- There was a fit problem with the wheel wells in the F-2 kit. It isn't so with the F-4 kit thanks to the round openings.
- The wing tips are provided as separate parts and are too thin when compared to the wing. I solved this problem with filler.
- The fuselage appears to be too squarish when compared to other kits. I believe the Bf 109 had an egg shaped rear fuselage so this may be not 100% correct. This can be easily fixed with some sanding though.
I have added some pictures of the ICM F-2 model I have built earlier this year. this way you can make yourself an idea of the overall quality of the kit once it is completed. Apart from a replacement instrument panel and other wheels, it was build out of the box. More pictures can be seen (see here
Is it possible to build an accurate F-4 model with what is provided in the box? The answer is yes... almost. Let's go point by point:
- The new style of wheel wells opening is accurate for this version.
- The rounded pilot head armor plate introduced with this version is present in the kit and accurate (though it looks not very good in the kit).
- The Armored Windscreen is provided as an additional clear part (but not all F-4s had it installed so check your references).
- The decal sheet has a correct triangle stencil for low octane fuel (87).
- The engine is the same in the F-2 and F-4 kit. Whether it represents a DB 601N (F-2) or a DB 601E (F-4) or a mix of both is open to debat. I'm not sure if I'm able to tell the difference anyway.
- The supercharger air intake is wrong though. It is accurate for a F-1 and F-2 but since the F-2z it was replaced by a rounder and slightly bigger one. It's a small detail and will be easy to fix with some putty.
One thing to note is that it is possible to do a GM-1 boost equiped aircraft or a tropicalized version with this kit since the deeper oil cooler, the tropical dust filter and the wider bladed VDM propeller are present in the kit. However no markings for such variants are present on the decal sheet and the instructions tell you (of course) not to use these parts. My little finger tells me that ICM (or Alanger) will probably produce kits of other variants with the same parts in the future. Maybe a F-4/trop in desert scheme?
The instructions are made out of two A3 sheets folded so to make two booklets of four pages each. The first booklet has the building instructions printed on it (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 which represents the plane on the cover.
The decals are typical ICM with a matt surface. But somehow they look different this time. It seems the carrier film is glossier and I have the feeling that they will work better than the usual ones from this manufacturer. I may give them a try this time. Unfortunately the white is slightly shifted on my sample.
Decals are provided for four different aircraft:
- Bf 109 F-4, Ofw. Eberhard von Boremski, 9./JG 3, Ukraine, May 1942.
- Bf 109 F-4, Hptm. Hans Philipp, Gruppenkommandeur, I./JG54, Siwerskaya (Leningrad area), March 1941.
- Bf 109 F-4, Lt. Hermann Graf, Staffelkapitän, 9./JG52, Rogan (Ukraine), May 1942.
- Bf 109 F-4, Lt. Heinrich Ehrler, Staffelkapitän, 6./JG5, Petsamo (Finland), July 1942.
I could have copied the conclusion of the F-2 kit review since both kits are the same apart for the underwing part and the decals. After having built the first one, I still think Hasegawa's Bf 109 kits are better. However ICM's version does represent a nice alternative since it is cheaper and includes options which are not present in other kits.
- Messerschmitt Bf 109 in action Part 2 (Squadron/Signal publications).
- Me 109 Tome 2 de 1942 à 1945 (Histoire & Collections).
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