While the BMW 801 powered Fw 190 proved a superb fighter at low and medium altitudes, wresting air superiority from the Spitfire MkV over Europe when it was introduced into combat, at high altitudes the story was very different. The power output of the radial engine fell off rapidly over 20,000 ft, something which became an increasingly serious problem as the Allied bomber offensive against the Reich gained momentum. As early as 1942, the engineers at Focke-Wulf addressed the need for a high-altitude fighter with the BMW 801D-2 powered Fw 190B which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The next attempt involved a switch to an inline engine; prototypes fitted with the DB 603 were designated the Fw 190C, while those powered by the Jumo 213 were designated the Fw 190D.
Fundamental to the project was the development of an exhaust-driven turbo-supercharger and a pressurised cockpit. The first aircraft to be fully modified was W.Nr 0040 which was converted from an A-0 configuration by adding a modified tail, 4-bladed propeller, a strengthened canopy and prominent pipes running externally from the engine exhausts back over the wing roots to a large belly-mounted turbo-supercharger. Thanks to this prominent "pouch", the aircraft was soon nicknamed the Känguru and, despite it's rather clumsy appearance, it put in some impressive high-altitude performances including a speed of 377 mph at 36,000 ft. The 'C series were plagued by continuing problems (while the turbo-supercharger worked well, the pipes carrying the exhaust gases continually burned out and a report concluded that a service life of more than 20 hours was impossible) and never reached service, leaving the Luftwaffe without an effective high-altitude fighter until the introduction of the Ta 152H in the last weeks of the war - far too late to alter the outcome and, ironically, built to counter a threat of ultra high-flying B-29s that never materialised.
Planet Models' Känguru arrives in a very stout top-opening box and the parts are sealed in a strip of polythene "pouches". The new style of box is a great move, but Planet have packed some of their latest kits in re-sealable bags - something I much prefer to the pouches here. The kit consists of:
31 x conventional beige resin parts
3 x strengthened black resin parts
2 x vacuformed canopies (1 spare)
15 x etched metal parts
Decals for a single colour scheme.
The first thing that strikes you when examining the main resin parts is the exceptional surface finish; the kit features some of the most delicate embossed riveting I've ever seen. Now this rang a bell with me, so I checked out some earlier reviews of the RV 'V-18... sure enough, these also mention the superior surface detail so, although I've never seen the latter kit in the flesh (so to speak) I'll stick my neck out and suggest that the main parts are based on RV's, which doesn't seem to be in production any longer.
The casting is generally excellent - I noted one or two pin-hole bubbles, but these will take only a moment or two to deal with and the kit should otherwise be pretty quick to clean up with little sign of "flash" and casting-blocks are sensibly done.
The other big change over earlier Planet Models kits is a new style of instructions. The old exploded diagrams have been replaced by photos of a model during assembly. I was initially rather unsure about the change - call me a sucker for traditional instructions - but it works well-enough. It certainly is more eye-catching, but I'm not totally convinced the photos are as clear as good quality conventional diagrams and scrap views.
Test fit & costruction
From the instructions, construction looks as though it should be very simple. The fuselage is split in halves like a styrene kit and there's a one-piece wing which incorporates the prominent root fairings and a very nicely detailed wheel well (complete with casing chutes for nose guns?), which is completed by a drop-in rear section. So, there aren't many parts to the basic airframe, but joining everything up presented a couple of challenges on my kit. The wing was cast with a slight "droop" - nothing a dip in very hot water won't deal with, but it was compounded by a very tight fit at the wing roots which tended to force the wings away from their built-in dihedral. Other than that, it all does seem pretty straightforward for anyone with a bit of experience with resin kits.
The cockpit is nicely detailed with a main tub which includes side consoles and rear decking. Onto this fit the control column, a seat complete with cushion, a 6-part etched harness, a choice of resin or etched rudder pedals and various etched levers. Strangely - particularly for a pressurised aircraft - the rear bulkhead doesn't reach the cockpit sides, but this will be easy to build up with plastic card. Lastly, the kit's cockpit includes a nice instrument panel and a separate solid top for the instrument shroud - according to photos, the 'V18 was unarmed (although works drawings show wing guns).
The focus of attention on the Känguru is inevitably the turbocharger arrangement. The tubes for the exhaust gases are moulded integrally on the fuselage halves, with separate extensions to connect to the belly unit. The latter is an impressive chunk of resin, contoured to fit the underside without any trimming - the moment it's in place the '190 takes on a whole new persona.
Up front there's a new-style spinner and a 4-blade "paddle" propeller. The cowling is cast with its front lip attached to a casting, so it'll need a little extra care in removal and clean-up. Into this slots a radiator core.
Rounding off the basic construction is the undercarriage, with the main legs cast in Planet Models' now familiar strengthened black resin. A quick test with a scalpel proves it's much denser than the resin used for the rest of the kit so, although the legs aren't cast around a metal core, they should be up to the job of supporting the weight of the kit. The undercarriage includes retraction arms and well detailed wheels and covers.
Last but not least is an excellent vacuformed canopy - very clear and with crisply defined framing, including the extra supporting frames for the sliding section of this pressurised cabin. The kit includes a spare, so there's no worry about slicing it open to display the cockpit.
Painting and decals
The instructions don't include any painting details for the interior, so I'll presume the 'V18 followed standard Fw 190 practice there. Turning to the exterior, Planet Models suggest a basic finish of RLM 02 with possible camouflaged wing and tail top surfaces and a natural-metal forward fuselage. From the photos I have, I can't confirm the camouflaged wings. The kit's top- and side-view painting diagrams don't quite agree for the n/m nose - I think the top-view is correct.
The decals are very well printed - very thin, glossy and in perfect register. Photos of the real aircraft show the W.Nr at the top of the fin - and this isn't included in the decals although it's shown on the painting diagram. The rest of the items look fine, including white outline-style underwing crosses - as against the black variety shown incorrectly in the boxtop painting. The sheet includes minimal stencilling - a pair of "Nicht betreten"s and a fuel triangle.
Planet Models' Fw 190 V-18/U-1 should build into an impressive and radically different looking Würger. The surface finish is superb and the construction looks reasonable straightforward for anyone with a bit of experience with resin kits. With some careful finishing to make the most of the delicate rivet detail and depict the varying tones of the n/m fuselage sections it should be a real stunner.
Planet Models' Fw 190 V-18/U1 is available from Modelimex - specialists in Eastern European short run kits.
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