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Stalin’s Cobras - Part 2

By Peter Vill

Some months ago when I heard of the impending release of the Eduard P39 series I decided to make the old Monogram kit that was collecting dust on my shelf. Having completed the kit I commented that I believed Eduard would have to pull out the stops to better the venerable Monogram offering, well I must say that Eduard have done it.

The Eduard kit was first released as the P400 version, other versions of the P39 Airacobra soon followed. I purchased the P400 version and decided to model “Yellow 16” reportedly flown by  Capt. I. V. Bochkov of 19 Gv. IAP in East Carelia during 1942. There is a photograph of both pilot and aircraft on page 65 of Red Stars, but more about this later.

 Ivan Vasilyevich Bochkov was born in 1915, entered the Soviet army in 1937 completing his flying school training in 1939. He won the “Za Otvagu” (For Valour) Medal during the Russo-Finnish war of 1939/40. He was a member of 145 IAP prior to the commencement of hostilities with Nazi Germany but did not score until his unit had been converted to P400 Airacobras. His first of 8 personal and 31-shared victories came on May 15th 1942 hen he shot down a Bf109, claiming another the next day along with a Ju88. On June 15th he claimed another Ju88 and a Bf110, he was killed on April 4th 1943 having been bounced by Bf109 fighters, going down with his aircraft, he is buried in a common grave in Shonguj. He was awarded the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously on May 1st 1943, his other awards included Order of Lenin (2) Red Banner and Patriotic War 1st Class.

Well what do you get for your hard earned cash, well the truth is everything you need to build any version of the P400/P39,  (The kit costs around £15.00 for the non Profi-pack Version) well the truth is everything you need to make any version of the Airacobra apart from the “Q”. To understand where the parts not required for the P400 are fitted on the latter versions you will need to sneak a glance at the later versions of this kits instructions. To make the P400 you get 101 finely moulded parts in green plastic including a choice of weighted or non weighted tyres, 6 clear plastic parts including the cabin doors, a set of Eduard Express masks, a metal nose weight and finally decal options for 2 aircraft flown by the U. S. Army in New Guinea.

Well what can I say about the standard of Eduard's mouldings that has not been said before, nothing, they are first class, excellent. The fit of parts is typical of what we have come to expect from this company, the whole kit was constructed with very little filler.

The cockpit/cabin was constructed first as per the instructions, which I must say leave nothing to chance, all of the little details I had had to make for the Monogram kit are included. The only thing that is required are a set of seat belts, I used the Eduard RAF etched set number 48-247, the purist might also want to add the breaches of the nose mounted machine guns along the cocking mechanism. The modeler will have to decide if fitting the radio is correct for the aircraft in question, a lot of VVS aircraft appear not to have had radios at this stage in the G.P.W.

The front wheel bay that is fitted to the front of the cockpit/cabin assembly is highly detailed, the fuse box is even moulded in, the metal nose weight forms the top of the wheel bay (A very nice touch Eduard, prevents the modeler having to load lead shot in all over the place as in the Monogram kit). The cockpit/cabin and wheel well assembly was now primed and then sprayed with the closest thing I have found to Bell Green
(Yes it does appear that Bell had their own interior colour, this was used to paint not only the cockpit/cabin but wheel wells etc) this is Miniature Paints Deep Bronze Green. After this the small details where picked out by painting them their individual colours. When the painting was finished I gloss coated the entire assembly with “Halfords Gloss”, when dry I applied a thinned wash of black paint (Acrylic) to bring out the detail and recesses, when dry the assembly is matte coated.

Before fitting the cockpit/cabin assembly into the fuselage halves I will give you a tip which I learnt the hard way, decide if you are going to model the kit with both cockpit/cabin access doors open. Now the modeler must remember that the port (Left) side door was not usually used by the pilot as the throttle quadrant pokes out into the aperture, it was quite common for the ground crew to tape up this door and thus reduce drafts,  (There are a number of photos that show this form of wind proofing) but again it is not universal. If you decide to model the aircraft with the Port door shut then you will have to space/pack out the throttle quadrant (Part number C17) from the interior of the fuselage, if not the door will not fit in the closed position, lots of dry test fitting recommended, believe me it’s a lot harder to do when you have fitted it and stuck the fuselage together (Wife claims lots of muttering and gnashing of teeth). At this point you might also want to add the missing splitter plate to the engine air intake, look at the box art and you will see what I am talking about.

The kit gives you the option of external stores, a drop tank or bomb, to fit these the modeler will have to open the holes that are flashed over in the bottom wing section, (Part number B20) again refer to any photographs you can find of the particular aircraft you are representing to see if such external stores were carried. The trailing edge of the main wing needs to be thinned down as from the box it is too thick but this is not a major job.

When the wing had been fitted to the fuselage and all joint lines cleaned up I chose to replace the wing mounted machine guns as well as the pitot tube with brass tube, not vital but I now prefer to do this with small items that can easily be broken off . The modeler is given the choice of positioning the outlet vents in the rear fuselage section in the open or closed position which is one of those nice touches we have come to expect of Eduard.

The under carriage is well detailed and the only  thing that could be added is brake pipes, I built mine up as sub-units which were added after painting and decaling had been carried out, these units are again finished in Deep Bronze Green as are the insides of the under carriage doors.

The cockpit/cabin doors were painted inside first (Deep Bronze Green) with details such as the release handles painted afterwards, prior to painting the Express Masks supplied for the purpose of masking the window were attached, if modeling the aircraft with the Port door closed do not forget to remove the interior mask before attaching it as it would be the devils job to do afterwards. The model was now  ready to prime and paint, this is were I had my only area of complaint, the canopy Express Masks would not stay down tight, in the end I replaced some with masking tape. Having applied a coat of “Halfords Grey Primer” the model was checked for any imperfections, when happy my mind turned to the paint scheme.

I was to model Capt. I. V. Bochkov`s P400, the decals being produced by Aero Master on their sheet number 48-092, once again I question the information supplied to Aero-Master when preparing the sheet and instruction leaflet. Aero-Master state that this aircraft (Ex RAF or built for the RAF, serial number BX 728) was finished in Dark Earth/ Dark Green over Sky. I do not think this was the case looking at the (poor) photograph in Red Starts. Even allowing for a difference in Soviet film the contrast between the two upper surface colours is unlike that normally seen when the above-mentioned colours have been used, the contrast is more typical of  Dark Green/ Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey (Erik Pilawskii, please come to my defense). With the colour scheme that Aero-Master claim it was usual for the aircraft to have had a sky band around the rear on the fuselage, on the photo there is no such band and nor does it appear to have been over painted. The other point of complaint with the Aero-Master decal sheet is the camouflage scheme shown is incorrect, it appears to not only to have the colours reversed but the pattern is wrong, if you do not believe me just check out the photo in Red Stars and you will see my point. The aircraft appears to have had roundels and fin flashes at some time as one would expect with an aircraft built for or used by the RAF and these have been over painted, this can be seen in the photo. With all that chest beating out of the way the model was painted in the following scheme, Dark Green/ Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey, the over painted roundels were represented by spraying circles of W.U.P (Wood Use Primer) on the under-surface and on the fuselage side were the roundel had been on a mostly grey area, the fin flashes and remaining roundel areas were represented by spraying circles of  AMT4 Green. The propeller spinner could be white or sky, I went with White, the red fin flash is there on the photo so that was applied.

After painting the whole model was gloss coated with “Halfords Gloss, the decals as usual from Aero-Master went on without any problem and pulled down skin tight. The sub assemblies (under carriage and starboard door etc) were then fitted and the model given 2 coats of matte coat, exhaust stains and blow back from the guns being applied between coats.

When you model a particular aircraft using a photograph as reference you are looking at a snap shot in time, with this in mind I left “Yellow 16” clean as shown in the photo.

Looking at the model now I ask myself could I have done any thing better, the answer is always yes, to be honest I am happy with the finished article but on the next one ( I have 2 more waiting) I will lengthen the front oleo (chromed moving compression section) to twice its length as it appears to be in the fully compressed state and the model sits a little too level, but is that not what this hobby is about, learning as we go on.

My conclusion is that Eduard have done an excellent job and they have bettered the old and trusted Monogram kit, credit must be given to the Monogram kit as even when compared to this latest offering it stands up well and we must remember that it is over 30 years since it was first released. Well-done Monogram you were top dog for three decades, well-done Eduard you knew what you had to beat and you pulled out the stops and did so. I recommend both kits to modelers of the VVS.

My thanks go to:

E. D. Models of Solihull, England for the kit
Antics of Bristol, England for the etched brass seat belts
Red Stars
Stalin’s Eagles
Erik Pilawskii for his unselfish help and the AMT4 paint
My Wife who helped pick up the bits of broken model when I dropped it on the floor and it broke up into its component parts (I didn’t mention that did I, Pilawskii it was your fault, you introduced me to ice cold Polish Vodka)