by: Bill Cross [ ]
introductionThe Bf 109 was the workhorse of the Luftwaffe with over 34,000 built, and the E (“Emil”) is perhaps the most-recognizable version of this iconic fighter aircraft that reached its apex during the Blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain. Developed by the legendary Willy Messerschmitt, the 109 was at the cutting edge of technology when brought out in the 1930s with its powerful 1179 HP Daimler-Benz 12-cylinder engine and four MG-17 machine guns (2 in the nose and one in each wing). The Emil served on all fronts, from the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War right up until the end of WW II and even into the 1950s in the air forces of Spain and Switzerland. The E-3 was the most-produced variant of the Emil, which swept the outmoded air arms of Poland and France from the skies over the battlefields during those campaigns.
Yet with the start of the Battle of Britain, it was evident that technological developments had eclipsed the Emil. The wing-mounted MG-17s were upgunned to the heavier FFs, and an underbelly fuel tank was added, but the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes still had the edge. Gradually the Emil was shifted to other fronts, including a Tropen (“tropicalized”) version for North Africa that featured a sand filter for the supercharger, and then into a fighter-bomber role. By 1944, the Emil was relegated to the role of trainer.
Kits of Bf 109 Emils have been arriving on the market regularly lately, with two major releases by Eduard. The Eduard releases have sparked controversy over the shape and configuration of the canopy. Now Trumpeter has entered the Emil wars with the release of the E-3, the most-produced version of the Emil (4,722 units). Trumpeter has been building a stable of 1/32nd aircraft, including several variants of the ME-262 jet, and the pricing for their release offers modelers a real choice over Eduard.
The kitThe kit contains:
seven sprues of Trumpeter's signature light-gray plastic parts
two sprues of clear parts for the canopy
a large fret of PE
a bag with three vinyl tires
two sheets of decals
the reviewAccording to the sources I've seen, this is not a re-working of Trumpeter's 1/24th kit, but an entirely new tooling. While I am not a Bf 109 “propeller head,” I carefully checked the kit against Squadron's Messerschmitt Bf 109E Walk Around and found the it conforms well to the surviving Emil in Munich's Deutsches Museum, including details like the starter crank port, under-wing blisters for the 20mm cannon ammo drums (called Trommeln), the proper placement of the aerial ground just forward of the rear fuselage access panel, etc. The engine accessory bay air outlet just aft of the starter port is handled with PE, and the L-strips for the engine cowling are well-handled with recessed lines. The kit designers apparently did not fall into the error of basing their work on the surviving Emil in the Dübensdorf, though the kit does offer modelers the option of a Swiss Air Force version with extremely colorful red & white markings.
Overall, detailing on the styrene parts looks very crisp, with the panel lines gently-recessed and the riveting subdued and in no way overbearing. The linen control surfaces are nicely-rendered, though of course not as delicately as with the resin upgrades Eagle has released. The cockpit looks well-detailed, but the instrument panel looks as though it could be improved by one of Eduard's pre-painted PE sets, which frankly are hard to beat. The kit contains its own PE fret for the control pedals, radiator screens and wheel well interiors, so other than the instrument dials (handled with decaling), this kit looks as though it could be built OOB with little or no need for upgrading. Certainly the day when you had to buy a resin cockpit for every plane kit you purchased seems to be fading into modeling history, and none too soon.
The interior details are a real advantage in my estimation, with things like the radio and oxygen bottles aft of the cockpit included even though they largely won't be visible on the completed kit (something Trumpeter does on their armor kits quite often). Also present is the structural bracing in areas that aren't usually visible even with the side-access panel left open. The wing-mounted 2cm FF cannons are complete and not just barrels. The housing for the underwing-mounted ammunition drums are in clear plastic should you want to show them off, though they were, in fact, not clear on the real thing. If you plan on using AM brass barrels, these cannons are very useful in the spares box. The tires are vinyl (a minus for me), but they are a common pattern, and there are AM resin replacements if you wish.
The options for the kit include three nose cowls, though only the open-nosed version is correct for the E-3. The original intention was to mount a 2cm cannon in the propeller shaft, though to my knowledge, this was never done. The closed-cowl nose cone and a sharp-pointed variant are for other Emils (the sharp one for the E-7 Tropen. Field modifications like the 8mm armor plate behind the pilot's headrest or the 58mm bulletproof glass added to the front of the canopy are not included.
decals & paintingThe decaling offers three options:
Joseph “Pips” Priller, JG51, Autumn 1940
Feldwebel (equivalent to “sergeant”) Heinz Bär, JG 51, 1940
Swiss Fliegerkompanie J-371, early 1940
The colorful red and white stripes of the Swiss version are really a bold departure from conventional aircraft modeling for anyone looking to think “outside the box.” Stencils appear to be spelled correctly (a problem lately with some Trumpeter armor kits), and swastikas are provided in two-part combinations. The decals appear to be in register.
conclusionThere's a natural tendency to seek out “the best of all possible kits.” The discussion and debate about the Eduard Emils will likely start up now about the Trumpeter versions, especially given the prejudice against Trumpeter in some quarters. In terms of value-for-money, this kit strikes me as an excellent choice for modelers looking to minimize the need (and expense) of after-market upgrades. Given all the decal choices now available, it looks to be a kit that will cover almost any Emil situation.
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