For some people Great Wall Hobby's quarterscale Fw 189 was something of a surprise hit when it appeared just before Christmas, but anyone with their ear to the ground should have realised that a mainstream kit of the Uhu
in that scale has been high on many modellers' wishlists for ages.
Now GWH have followed up the initial Fw 189A-2 with an 'A-1 configured as a night fighter – presumably leaving the more obvious standard 'A-1 for their third model. (In fact, barring decals, you have everything you need in this edition to build a daylight reconnaissance aircraft.)
Obviously best known as the Luftwaffe's "flying eye", a small number of Fw 189s were converted into night fighters for service on the Eastern Front. The relatively slow Uhu
may not seem the most obvious choice for the role, but in fact its low speed and excellent all-round visibility were ideal in combating the intended prey – Soviet night harassment aircraft such as the Po-2 biplane. For this new mission the Fw 189 was fitted with a hefty MG 151 cannon in the dorsal gunner's position in a sort of Schräge Musik
installation and FuG Lichtenstein C-1 radar was mounted in the nose. Thus equipped, Fw 189s served with 1./NJG 100 during the winter of 1944-45.
GWH's model arrives very nicely presented in a sturdy top-opening box with all the parts and accessories bagged separately. The striking boxtop artwork is a great improvement over the first release in my opinion and GWH include a separate print of the painting suitable for mounting on the wall. The kit comprises:
166 x grey styrene parts
16 x clear parts
32 x etched brass parts
Decals for a single colour scheme
The parts are beautifully crisply moulded with precisely engraved panel lines and raised details such as hinges and fasteners. The fabric effect on the control surfaces is a bit heavy for my taste (particularly on the rudders), but this is simple to tone down should you choose to. There's no flash evident on the review sample, but I did find one or two shallow sink marks that are soon taken care of. If you intend to display the interior with the canopy hatches open, some time spent removing the ejector-pin marks inside the nacelle will be well spent.
Based on my experience with the original release (reviewed HERE
) I can't foresee any particular construction problems with the new version. I found the overall fit to be very good, and the rather unusual assembly sequence of the wings and tail booms works well in practice (in fact it will be hard to fit the undercarriage if you stray too far from GWH's suggested sequence).
One point that did become evident during construction is that the tail booms have been moulded virtually straight-sided as seen in plan view, whereas the full-sized versions featured a gentle curve. While many modellers will be perfectly happy with the booms as supplied, you can induce a bit of a curve quite simply with the aid of a spacer as illustrated roughly at the right. Doing so will mean you have to fill the resulting gap and replace the characteristic flange that runs along the joint on the top of each boom, but seeing as you have to add one along the bottom anyway where GWH missed it, this is no great problem.
Turning to what's new in this release, the dorsal machine gun mount is replaced by an MG 151 cannon fitted into an unglazed ring. I don't know if this arrangement is correct as I've only ever found one photo of one of a night fighter Fw 189 (available online HERE
), and unfortunately it doesn't show the mounting clearly. However, the photo and illustrations I have show the cannon angled forward in more traditional Schräge Musik
fashion than GWH indicate in the instructions, but give no clue as to whether the mounting was open to the elements. GWH make no provision for ammunition for the MG 151, or the collection of spent cartridges, and I've never found any details of them elsewhere, so I'll resort to a little "gizmology" in my build. The instructions show the reconnaissance camera still fitted, which seems unlikely as I presume it would have been removed to save weight and possibly make room for the cannon's ammunition.
The antenna array for the radar is neatly moulded and attaches to a new clear nose section with a hole ready-drilled for it. The kit has the radar mounted centrally, which agrees with the photo (see above) - whereas the often-reproduced cutaway drawing of the Fw 189 by John Weal shows it apparently offset to the right, directly in front of the observer/radar operator, so perhaps there was an alternative mounting. The photo seems to show the array set slightly higher than in the kit and with a blanking plate that GWH haven't modelled, but the spare parts in the kit include the original nose glazing if you want to alter the mounting. The antenna's dipoles should be simple to assemble, but as with most kits are a bit over-scale, so you may want to replace them with new ones cut from stretched sprue or thin wire. Inside the cockpit, the display for the radar set sits on a pedestal which usefully attaches to the clear nose, so you can build it all as one sub-assembly and add a little wiring if you want.
The other main change with the interior compared with the original release is the rear gunner's position with an MG 15 in a different style tail cone. The ammunition drums fitted to the side walls are now appropriate (in the earlier Fw 189A-2 kit they should be replaced with boxes for the belt-fed MG 81Z).
Lastly there are new flame-damper exhausts as befit the aircraft's nocturnal role. These are moulded solid and will look better with the ends drilled out. The new exhausts could prove useful beyond the night fighter, because there are accounts of Fw 189s flying night reconnaissance and harassment missions, so these may well have carried the flame-dampers too.
Instructions and decals
The assembly instructions are produced as a 10-page A-4 booklet and GWH have moved up-market compared with their first release, using more colour and shading, and printing the instructions on heavier glossy paper. The diagrams are clear and well laid out, with Gunze Sangyo paint matches provided throughout.
Be a little careful with the parts checklist/diagram included, as it shows the MG 151 (part C51) is not for use – when of course it's exactly what you do
need for the night fighter. Oddly the instructions also show that the standing pilot figure is no longer needed, but I don't see why it's inappropriate.
Decals are included for one colour scheme:
Fw 189A-1 W7 CB, Stab 1/NJG 100, based at Greifswald in 1945.
The decals are printed in perfect register with a matt finishes, and swastikas are provided, albeit split in two to avoid political sensitivity in some countries.
A full colour painting guide shows the aircraft wearing standard night fighter mottle-style camouflage in RLM 75 over an RLM 76 base, but the radar-equipped Fw 189 in the colour photo
seems to sport a disruptive pale mottle applied over the standard RLM 70/71 splinter day camouflage. The tail boom codes are printed with the individual aircraft letter "C" in black outlined in white. Without photographic evidence, I don't know if this correct for this particular aircraft, but standard practice for a machine from the I Gruppe Stab flight would be to paint this letter in RLM 25 Hellgrün (the last letter of the code determining which Staffel the aircraft belong to, and hence the identifying colour).
Strangely, a pair of what appear to unit badges for NJG 3 are included on the decal sheet, but the instructions make no mention of them. According to Schiffer's "Luftwaffe Codes, Markings and Units 1939-1945", NJG 3 did not operate the Fw 189.
As a final note - based on reports from from those using the canopy painting masks included with the first release... watch out - they don't stick down very well. The new ones here are probably exactly the same, so they may be best applied to some kabuki tape and cut out - still a big time saver over making individual masks from scratch.
Great Wall Hobby's Focke-Wulf Fw 189 night fighter is another very fine release, offering an interesting twist for anyone looking to build something a bit "different". The relative dearth of references (at least that I know of) for the aircraft in this role mean that you may have to make a few educated guesses in building it, but you are guaranteed a very striking finished model that is sure to be a conversation piece. For what is still, in effect, the company's first entry into the aviation modelling field, GWH's Fw 189 is a pretty dramatic statement of intent. Highly recommended.
Focke-Wulf Fw 189 - MBI, 1996
Wings Of The Luftwaffe - Airlife Publishing Ltd., 1987
Luftwaffe Codes, Markings and Units 1939-1945 - Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1995
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