The late model (i.e. D and G model) Ju-87 Stuka has always been one of my favourite airplanes. I’m not exactly sure why, since very few people would call the airplane beautiful, but it has a purposeful angularity that I’ve always found at least functionally attractive, if nothing else. Due to the importance of the Stuka to Germany’s war machine, it’s no surprise that there have been a ton of kits of the venerable ‘87’ done in a wide variety of scales.
One of the newer ones is this 1/72 offering from the Korean model company Academy. RecentAcademy kits, such as their Me-163 Komet are widely regarded as being some of the best, and most affordable, kits in 1/72. When I bought this kit, I was very excited. I have the beloved Fujimi Panzerknacker already, but the Academy was rumoured to be even better.
I was not disappointed when I opened the box to find myself treated to what I have come to expect from Academy products. There were 4 sprues of light grey plastic and one of clear, and all of the pieces were exceptionally well cast, clear of flash and drowning in surface detail. The level of detail on this kit is amazing, and clearly light years beyond even the Fujimi. A quick survey of the cockpit interior alone showed the Academy Stuka would be the victor in a nit-picker’s battle against the Fujimi.
Test fitting the pieces together showed that, like Academy’s Bf-109, the Stuka was going to require only minimal sanding. The clear pieces were all very nice, although the one piece cockpit had a major crack right through it. This was of little concern, though, since I was going to be using the other cockpit included. That’s right, this kit can be built either with the cockpit closed or fully opened up! At least, that’s what I thought, since there was a separate 4 piece canopy also in the box. Turns out, as I’ll describe later, that’s actually not how it worked out.
The detailing on the kit includes many beautifully etched, sunken (a nice change of pace from raised) panel lines, as well as hatches, fuel doors and many, many rivets. The rivets are not overly large, either. The only problem with the detail is a missing panel line, on the starboard wing. The right side of a square panel is actually missing. This was easy to correct, though, with a piece of Dymo tape and my trusty etching tool (which is a pin stuck in an Xacto blade holder).
A more serious problem, however, was found on the port wing. After I had painted the cockpit and glued the wings together, I was perplexed to find that there was an indent in the wing that just didn’t seem to belong. It was a deep, nearly perfectly circular indent, reminiscent of, for lack of a better term, a cup holder! Obviously, lattes were not the Luftwaffe’s stock-in-trade, so I knew it had to be something else. Also, it was quite deep, and had a circular, raised part right at the bottom, similar to the center of a dial. I wasn’t aware of any dial in the wing of a Stuka… The other thing bothering me was the fact that the indent cut into the main rib of the wing – right where the Stuka’s ‘bent wing’ bends. Cleary, this was either a strange modification or something seriously wrong had occurred in the moulding process.
After consulting various members of IPMS London, it was found that this ‘hole’ in the wing was a mistake, and would have to be filled. Many thanks to all of you who helped! A little Testors white putty and some CA was used, and after careful sanding, it was corrected. However, this was a major disappointment. I expected a lot better, especially since several other online reviews of the kit mentioned the missing panel line on the starboard wing, but none of them mentioned this, and several reviews show finished kits with the defect UNCORRECTED! To add to the confusion is the fact that the defect is even shown on the painting guide AND the model on the side of the box!
Building the Academy Stuka:
The rest of the kit was mostly free from defect, although there were injector pin marks on the tops of the tail struts and the magazines for the 37 mm underwing cannons. The fit of almost all pieces was, however, exemplary, and the Stuka went together very easily. An exception to this was the lower wing/fuselage junctions, which required far more putty and CA than I would have expected, and the cowling just behind the engine didn’t fit all that well to the fuselage sides, either.
The cannon pods fit together wonderfully, and have excellent detail. The barrels came moulded as one piece, but still have depressions in the muzzle breaks. This was unexpected, since most cannons (even the Fujimi’s, I believe) come in halves, right down the middle. The braces to hold on the guns were also pretty nice, although they were moulded as solid pieces, despite being detailed like trusses. This might be the way they’re supposed to be, though. I’ve never seen good enough pictures to tell.
There were no major issues in building the kit. Most of the interior pieces were left out until the end, as were things like the pitot tube, crew step and radio mast. The landing gear are designed such that the wheels must be completed first and then inserted into the spats, which are then glued. This was unfortunate, and to save masking I simply left the wheels out, breaking off the alignment pins, allowing the wheels to slip in afterwards. To ensure the wheels didn’t “sink” too far into the spats, a shim of spare sprue was glued into the inside of the spat. This trick worked perfectly. The entire gear legs can be inserted into the fuselage after they are painted, which was a welcome surprise.
An interesting detail was the inclusion of balance horns for the Stuka’s flaps. While they add a nice air of authenticity, they are a severe pain in the backside, and all of them snapped or bent at some time during painting. The tail braces could be put on afterwards too, although they didn’t fit all that well at the body. The tail wheel was also added at the end of construction. The holes for the cannon pods need to be drilled out on the underside of the wings, and the pods themselves need to be carefully positioned when being attached. I found that there was no way to ensure the pods were ‘level’ other than eyeballing it – the mounts aren’t angled to deal with the slant of the wings.
Most of the kits of the Ju-87 G that you see have the aircraft done in a two-tone green splinter cammo. According to Academy’s instructions, the colours used for this are RLM 70 and RLM 71, the former of which is a black green. I actually had a bottle of Gunze RLM 70, and used it to do the entire upper surface of the Stuka. I didn’t have any RLM 71, so I used a mixed green that I had left over from my Starfix Mustang (link). This was actually very close to the real colour shown on the box, and it went on very nicely. The splintering was done by using copious amounts of Tamiya tape. While a bit expensive, I must say that the Tamiya tape is godly in its ability to not only prevent leakage but also to not pull any paint of the plane. Of course, primering with Mr. Surfacer 1000 before painting helps too…
The underside was done in Testors Model Master acrylic Light Ghost Grey. The instructions call for RLM 65, but most of my Luftwaffe types have a bluish underside and I just don’t think it looks right on a Stuka. In one of my books there are some pictures of the D-5 at the ImperialWarMuseum, and it is done in RLM 70/RLM 65, and the blue is just too intense. Thus, I stuck to the grey. It has the additional benefit of being able to be touched up by hand without changing colour, which is a major plus when compared to the Gunze. The cheat line was all done by hand, and some green overspray on the underside was also repainted by hand. Gotta love it.
Once finished, the panel lines were coloured in using a filed down 0.5mm mechanical pencil. There’s a lot of detail on the Academy Stuka, including recessed rivets and panel/hatches. The cockpit and interior pieces were painted interior green (a mix of various different greens, greys and a bit of yellow, I believe) and given a black wash with silver drybrushed on for effect. The instrument panel is given as a decal, but it’s also moulded very nicely, so I went with paint instead.
The cockpit frames were painted by masking the canopy segments, inside and out, with Tamiya tape. Unfortunately, the lines separating the canopy bars and the glass are too shallow, and I did some damage trying to cut the tape off the bars. Thankfully, a little bit of post-painting Futuring had them more or less back up to snuff. Not only was the canopy difficult from this point of view, but the glass is very brittle, making careful handling a must. I cracked the rear canopy, but thankfully most of the crack was on ‘metal’ parts. Still, it would have been nice if the canopies were more robust, since they were very clear from the factory. One other thing with the canopies bothered me. Since the kit includes a 4-section hood, I thought I’d be able to build the Stuka “opened up”. Well, that was a lie. The part of the hood covering the pilot doesn’t ‘slide back’ at all; it won’t fit over the fixed third section of canopy, and there’s no notch cut for the radio mast. Thus, I just decided to leave that part off. The rear canopy slides back, but it obscures the fairly well detailed twin machine guns and the DF apparatus, encased in a clear panel. Still, I chose to build the Stuka open, since I liked the interior detail so much.
The decals included with the Academy Stuka are excellent. There are quite a few of them, including some small warning scripts, fuel triangles and other little labels. My favourite is the first aid kit marking, which is so prominent but usually disregarded on most kits. The decals go on very easily, and don’t seem to silver at all. The backing is amazingly clear, and the decals slide quite easily. They are also fairly tough, so you can manhandle them a bit without fear of ruining them. The only problem with the decals that I can think of is that they don’t fall into panel lines very well. However, some decal set might correct that.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Stuka is so accurate a model, the typical gross inaccuracy of no Swastikas continues to plague the industry. This is one place that the Fujimi is better. They actually provide the Swastikas! However, I still had a few Swastikas on the old Almark sheet I got from Eric Green’s (link) estate, so I put a couple on. They were the icing on the cake, although I can’t imagine anyone building this nice kit without bother to go and get some proper national markings. The lack of Swastikas is a personal bugaboo, and I won’t get into a rant here, but it’s just inappropriate, period.
The Ju-87 G-1 was an adaptation of D-model Stukas for anti-tank work on the Eastern Front. To my knowledge, they weren’t used at all against Allied armour in the West. As a result, every G model I’ve seen pictures of sports the yellow fuselage bands and wingtips associated with the operations carried out against the Soviets. However, neither the box art, nor the painting instructions (and thus the completed kit shown on the box) show the wingtips yellow. This is a rather serious mistake, and is disconcerting given the supposedly excellent nature of the kit.
In addition, the underwing radiators are a bit of a problem. On the instructions, they show them going on the WRONG WAY. I instinctively put them on the right way, but was horrified when I later checked and saw I was wrong. I tore one off and re-glued it, only to find it didn’t fit well. On the painting guide and the box shots of the completed kit, the radiators were the way I had originally had them. This is a particularly bad mistake, and one that will cause those who follow directions closely no lack of headaches. Also, the kit comes with two of the hanging rear crew steps, but only has a marking in the fuselage for attaching one, which is all the instructions show. Any book with a three-view of the G-model Stuka shows it having two, so the omission of the second one the instructions is a mystery. Of course, one of my steps went flying off into the void while I tried to glue it on, so I inadvertently ended up following the directions on that one…
The Academy Stuka is, without a doubt, one of the finest pieces of sprue I’ve ever assembled, and that includes all of my Gundams. It is highly detailed and fits together, for the most part, quite well. It is held in high regard, and should be. However, the problems with the instructions, as well as the fact that the 4-piece cockpit can’t be displayed open correctly detract from it. Some people might gripe about little things, like the nose being a bit blunt or the tail being a bit short, but overall, those aren’t problems for me.
Thus, while a very good kit, there are a few things about the Academy G-model Stuka that prevent it from being great. The flaw in the wing is certainly a detractor, and the panel lines on the cockpits could stand to be a bit deeper, to aid in masking. Other than that, this kit pretty much has it all, and will blow every other 1/72 Stuka away like Rudel busting caps into T-34s on the Russian front!