by: Bill Cross [ ]
IntroductionThe world’s first real fighter plane was the French Morane-Saulnier L of Rolland Garros, who discovered a crude, but effective way to fire a machine gun at other aircraft: metal deflectors were bolted onto the wooden propeller, thereby preventing Garros from shooting down his own plane. The system worked reasonably well because the French copper-jacketed ammunition deformed when it hit the deflectors. When the Germans tried the same technique after capturing Garros and his plane, their steel-jacketed rounds shattered the deflectors—and worse, their propellers.
While deflectors get the air combat ball started, the real dancing didn’t begin until Anthony Fokker, a Dutch-born aircraft designer working for Germany, invented a synchronizer gear that interrupted the machine gun’s fire when the prop passed through the line of fire. Synchronizers had been patented as early as 1913 by both LVG and Saulnier, but Fokker’s was the first one that actually worked. Now single-seat fighter began a technological surge that took aircraft design all the way to the Red Baron’s tri-plane.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Fokker supremacy started with a string of single wing (Eindecker fighters based, in part, on the Morane-Saulnier single wing “parasol” design. But also on Fokker’s pre-war “Spider” (Spinne usually shortened to Spin). Fokker’s interrupter gear so changed the game that Es ravaged the French and British air forces from July 1915 until early in 1916 (a time period referred to as the “Fokker Scourge”). Some of the world’s first fighter aces, including Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke, flew Eindeckers, literally making up air combat from scratch (Immelmann even had a turning maneuver named for him).
The French company Battle Axe some time ago released a limited-edition combination kit in 1/32nd of the E.III, the best of the E series with its improved wing design over the earlier I and II variants. I say “combination” because it’s mostly styrene, but with some resin and PE to improve the final results.
the kitDon’t get too excited by the box, which is ample in size, and has a superb pairing of two possible paint schemes, but contains a lot less than you might expect:
a single sprue of styrene parts
a fret of PE brass for detailing
a ziploc baggie with a resin engine and Spandau machine gun
a set of decals for two historical aircraft
two skimpy pages of instructions
The illustrations on the box top are first-rate, and show two different machines, including one for ace Ernst Udet.
the reviewThe resin casting is very good for the rotary engine and the machine gun, but the styrene molding reminds me of Revell of Germany kits from the 70s: thick, clunky and occasionally inaccurate. Detailing is better than I expected, with the metal framing and guide wires molded onto the interior (Fokker used metal tubing instead of wood other aircraft designers of the time preferred). These planes were very little further along the evolutionary chain than early Wright Brothers “flying bicycles,” a challenge for kit designers working in styrene. I have seen the kit built, and it ends up looking good, though I don’t know how much of that is from scratch-building.
There are some accuracy issues, including one rib too few on the wings (eleven instead of twelve), and a slightly incorrect machine gun, though the E series had a variety of armaments, including three Parabellum guns mounted side-by-side on the final variant, the E. IV.
conclusionThe kit is a hybrid, with a very good resin Oberursel rotary engine, some excellent PE, but styrene molding that looks like it was done in an earlier era. I have demurred on giving this kit a numerical rating; I think that would be beside the point. Battle Axe has produced a model in a popular scale that is otherwise unavailable (very early WW I aircraft don’t seem to attract a lot of manufacturers, including Roden). If you can pick it up at a reasonable price, it shouldn't take too much work to bring it into the modern era of modeling (I was fortunate enough to secure mine for $30, and was offered a second by another modeler for $45). Wingnut Wings is apparently planning on bringing out the E.I and E. III in styrene in the future, but in the interim, this is a very promising placeholder — if you can get it at the right price.
Squadron’s Fokker Eindecker in Action, #158 by D. Edgar Brannon, was a great help in preparing this review.
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