by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
HistoryIn the light of the Fw 190's fame, it's easy to forget that its early career was anything but painless. When the A-1 appeared in the summer of 1941, it was plagued by technical problems - particularly surrounding its BMW 801C-1 engine which was prone to serious overheating. Service trials at Le Bourget were little short of disastrous and more than 50 modifications were required to make the '190 a viable front-line fighter.
Against this, the Fw 190 was clearly superior to the Spitfire Mk. V in all aspects except turning circle, but early machines were unable to fully capitalise on this with their light armament of 4 x MG 17s machine guns and 2 x MG FF cannon. The early combats were somewhat tentative, as the Luftwaffe pilots were unfamiliar with their new mounts, while their RAF opponents often mistook the Fw 190 for captured Curtiss Hawk 75As - despite the fact that RAF Intelligence was fully aware of the existence of Focke-Wulf's new fighter.
The turning point came in 1942 with the combination of the improved Fw 190A-2 and A-3 and German radar. As part of the "Non-Stop Offensive", the RAF flew almost daily Circus and Rhubarb operations in order to bring the Luftwaffe to battle. With the demands of other fronts, the Luftwaffe fighter force in France was pitifully small, but the losses the Jagdgruppen inflicted on Fighter Command were dreadful; in March, 32 Spitfires were shot down and a further 23 damaged... in April, the number rose to an astonishing 103.
The consternation among RAF fighter pilots was widespread and the Fw 190 began to assume almost mythic abilities - principally because no-one in the RAF had a clear idea what, if any, the weaknesses of the German fighter were. This all changed on June 23rd when Obl. Arnim Faber became disorientated in a dogfight and mistook the Bristol Channel for the English Channel. Low on fuel, he headed for what he believed was a friendly airfield... and landed at RAF Pembrey, presenting the British with among the most valuable prizes of WW2 - a fully-intact, brand-new Fw 190A-3. Within weeks, the aircraft had been thoroughly examined and its weak points discovered. Tactics to tackle the Fw 190 were developed and the race was on to develop an effective counter to the superlative Butcher Bird.
KitThere have been a lot of rumours surrounding the release of Hasegawa's new Fw 190A-3, probably the most intriguing being one that I reported from Hobby Link Japan that it's based on the original TriMaster/Dragon moulds, but with modifications to make it easier to build. Well, I don't know how that rumour got started but, having had a chance to compare both kits closely, I can't find a single part the same between them. True, some parts are similar - and the construction is similar in places (see later) - but, as far as I'm concerned, this is a new kit.
Hasegawa's Fw 190A-3 consists of:
104 x grey styrene parts (including a number that are unused)
5 x clear parts
Decals for 2 x colour schemes
As usual with Hasegawa kits, the parts are very cleanly moulded in quite hard plastic. I couldn't find a trace of flash on the review kit, but I did spot a couple of shallow sink marks on the tail where the tailwheel attaches and on the separate fin-tip/aerial mount. Panel lines are all recessed with a few embossed rivets and fasteners here and there. In common with most kits, the jacking point is drilled-out, but photos of the original show it covered with a blanking plug.
Small parts are very crisply done - the mainwheels look excellent with early-style hubs and they and the gear length are correctly sized - unlike Tamiya kits. Fabric surfaces are quite neatly depicted. The one-piece tailwheel is moulded with a solid yoke, but this should be largely hidden.
Construction breakdown and the unused parts are a sure indicator that more versions are planned - there are separate plug-in for the cooling gills and a late-style fin-tip, along with different stabilizers, wheels and gun panels. A nice touch is that the kit includes separate ailerons.
The cockpit is neatly detailed, with a one-piece tub/rear decking, while the instrument panel has delicate raised detail. It should be noted that on the original panel not all the instruments featured raised bezels - some were recessed.
Whether or not the kit is based (or inspired) by the TriMaster/Dragon veteran, it's interesting to note how Hasegawa have addressed the areas which have proved problematic over the years; i.e.. the fuselage / wing joint and the cowling.
Hasegawa have partially filled in the area under the cockpit to help maintain the profile and included an internal structure in the nose area to stop things flexing. The wheel-well insert is similar at first glance to the TriMaster/Dragon item (but it's actually far more detailed), but it also includes a built-in spar to maintain the dihedral.
Turning to the cowling, Hasegawa have adopted Trimaster's multi-part cowling - which will probably cause a few groans.
Test FitThe moment of truth... how does Hasegawa's Butcher Bird fit? Well, the real shock in my kit was that the right fuselage half was twisted. I think this is the first time I've ever found a warped part in a Hasegawa kit, so I hope it's unique to my example. Even taking this into account, the fuselage/wing joint is quite loose. The cockpit tub slots in neatly, but it doesn't seem to spread the parts or effect the overall fit. The drop-in wing panels are a pretty good fit in the openings, but they sit slightly proud and there are a couple of extra panel lines to fill.
If the Trimaster '190 is rated the most accurate in 1/48 scale, perhaps a sure sign that Hasegawa's kit is all-new is that it measures slightly differently... Compared with both the earlier kit and 3 sets of plans (A.L. Bentley, Koku-fan and Kagero), the rear fuselage of the Hasegawa kit seems a little short.
Clear PartsHasegawa have always had a good reputation for their canopies - and this one is thin and clear. But, although the clear parts are packed in with the decals and separate from the other parts, the windscreen on the review model arrived scratched. This shouldn't be hard to polish out, but what are a real problem are a number of white speckles within the plastic. No amount of polishing will cure these - and they are a nasty surprise in a Hasegawa kit.
On a brighter note, the navigation lights are supplied as separate clear parts.
Instructions and decalsAs you'd expect with Hasegawa, the instructions are well laid out with clear assembly diagrams. The construction is broken down into 9 logical stages. Colours are noted for most parts and keyed to Gunze Sangyo and Mr Color ranges.
Decals are provided for 2 aircraft:
W. Nr. 223 - flown by Hptm. Hans "Assi" Hahn, Kommandeur of III./JG 2. In Luftwaffe Colours Vol 4, Section 1, this aircraft is identified as an Fw 190A-2.
W. Nr. 2181 - "Black 13" of 8./JG 2
The decals are well printed in excellent register. They are fairly thin and semi-gloss finished. The sheet also includes a good selection of stencils which are clearly legible.
ConclusionI was looking forward to Hasegawa's Fw 190, but I must admit I'm disappointed by the warped fuselage and canopy problems in my example - I hope I've just been unlucky and they aren't more widespread, but I've reduced the overall review score to reflect what I found. The dimensions of the rear fuselage really need a closer examination than this first look allows - and in photos of the finished model it certainly looks like a '190. So I give Hasegawa's latest a qualified thumbs up - make no mistake, there's a lot to recommend this Butcher Bird, but Hasegawa do need to keep an eye on their quality control...