In the annals of aviation history, some designs have growth potential while others do not. Take, for example, the B-17, Boeing 707 and Mig-21. All of these designs evolved (and in some cases are STILL evolving) from humble beginnings to end up as exceptionally potent warplanes. Another worthy addition to this elite club is the Focke Wulf Fw 190, a plane that evolved so far that its final incarnations are only barely recognizable as being related to its first!
When the FW 190 first flew in 1939, it was a short, radial powered fighter that didn’t seem to attract all that much positive feedback from the Luftwaffe high command. Being labeled a ‘dangerous horsefly’, it seemed that the bigwigs were more enamoured of sleek, inline-engined fighters like the Bf 109. However, as the war progressed, later versions of the FW 190, the “Long Nosed” Dora (FW 190 D family), were produced with Jumo 213 inlines. This much modified version of the plane was far longer and sleeker than the A and F models. However, the Dora wasn’t the final step on the 190’s evolutionary path. That honour went to a design that took the Dora’s streamlined shape to the nth degree: the Ta 152 H.
The Ta 152 series was developed as the ultimate evolution of the FW 190. In this design, Dipl. Ing. Kurt Tank wanted to create a fighter that would be able to surpass any of the Allied types that were guarding the bomber stream. Another concern was the potential for the arrival of the new, high altitude, B-29 and B-32 bombers the USAAF was already fielding in the Pacific. To combat this threat, a Hohenjaeger (high altitude fighter) version of the 152 was created with a much longer wingspan (47.5 feet vs. 34.5 feet for the short winged version), a new wooden paddle-bladed propeller and a supercharged Jumo 213E engine.
Very few 152H models were available before the war ended, and it seems that only JG 301 flew them in combat. However, by that point they were restricted to the protection of the airfields used by the new jets, and the design never really did get to prove its mettle at its intended altitude of 49,000 feet. However, the potential of the design was apparently tested by Tank himself when he was set upon by two Mustangs during a test flight. The story goes that all he had to do was open the throttle and the 152 simply left the Mustangs behind…
Well, to start with, this kit is a FROG. That means there’s not a lot to get excited about, at least detail wise. This particular kit is quite old, and the bag in which it came has a Bay price tag of 80 cents on it, if that helps in dating it! The plane is broken down in to simple subassemblies: fuselage halves, the tops of the wings, wing/fuselage underside, tailplanes, canopy and some extra bits, like landing gear and propeller, are all you get. There should be a set of decals, but they weren’t in the bag when I bought this kit, and they would have been fairly rotten if I had gotten them. There are no external stores with the kit, although only an external tank would likely have been carried anyway, so it’s no big deal.
The kit itself is remarkably good for a FROG, with very little flash. This leads me to believe that it is one of the earlier pressings of this kit. The fit of the fuselage halves is good, and the tailplanes fit on very well. The wings fit together alright, but there’s a sizeable gap between the lower wing and the overhang of the upper wing piece. Despite several attempts to fill this in, nothing seemed to work perfectly, and slight depressions in the underside of the wing can still be seen.
The detail on the kit is, of course, all raised. That means that it all has to be re-etched. I used my normal ‘straight pin in an X-acto handle’ trick for this. The raised detail, however, is VERY crisp. I was surprised by the apparent overdetail on the wings’ undersides. There are a large number of circles on the wings, and from what I can tell, they shouldn’t be there. Mercifully, I found that out before I etched them, so sanding them off wasn’t a problem.
There are no Airfix “head-sized” rivets on the plane, which is nice because it would ruin the plane’s svelte lines. The cockpit consists of a chair, and a head rest. Neither is quite the right shape, but they fit in well. The landing gear legs are moulded to the INSIDE of the doors. Because the model also includes a stand, it can be built wheels up or down.
Interestingly, there are separate pieces for this! Usually, if going ‘wheels up’, one has to suffer with poorly fitting doors designed for ‘wheels down’, or, on the other hand, when going ‘wheels down’ one has to cut the doors apart. Not on the 152! There are two sets, one set of doors moulded closed for wheels up, and a set moulded open for wheels down. Just as a note, simply cutting the doors on the wheels up set won’t net you a good set of wheels down doors, either: only the wheels down set has the oleo legs moulded onto the doors.
The detail on the body is crisp, like on the wings, and the cockpit canopy, while thick and a bit distorted, is fairly clear, given the age of the kit.
This is, I believe, the first kit of the 152H that was produced, and for a long time it was the only game in town. From what I can tell, the kit is very good in terms out outline, and stands up well against more modern competition like Aoshima’s kit and the Dragon Ta-152 family. Ironically, it probably fits together better than the Dragon kit, which I’ve heard is a bit of a beast.
Of course, FROG is long dead, but for those of you who simply HAVE to build this incarnation of Tank’s immortal greyhound-lined fighter, it is still offered by Revell Germany. Why RoG would chose to package this little chestnut in its line is beyond me, except that they already paid for the moulds and want to get all the can out of the. As far as that goes, the RoG version doesn’t include the stand the FROG one does, so if you want to go wheels-up, you’re going to have to find a way to support the model yourself. On the upside, the RoG kit includes vastly superior decals to the FROG, including a decal for the Reichsverteidigung (RVD, or Defence of the Reich) bands that one normally sees on Ta-152s.
Building the kit:
There’s really not much to say on this front. The seat has to be inserted into the cockpit before closing the fuselage halves around it because it is flared to form a ‘floor’ as well. Thus, this isn’t like most planes where the seat can go in afterwards. There are no tricky parts to the construction, and the fuselage halves actually fit together quite well. The tailplanes join the body perfectly, which was a shock as well, and the cowling for the supercharged Jumo 213 E engine is keyed so that it fits on only in the correct way.
The wings, however, are the major problem as far as construction goes. The upper skins and the lower skins don’t fit badly at the edges, but there’s a big gap where the shorter lower wing meets the ‘wrap around’ of the longer upper wing. I tried and tried to fill this in completely, but I was never entirely successful. This is, perhaps, the second worst fitting part of the kit.
That having been said, one must wonder what the worst part is, right? Well, it’s the entire wing-body junction and mounting that takes first prize! The wings DO NOT meet the wing roots on the fuselage sides AT ALL. Also, the under fuselage pan doesn’t meet the rest of the plane very well. The resulted in many iterations of filling, sanding and priming before a good result was achieved.
Once the sanding was done, I masked the canopy, glued it in place, and prepared for painting. The fiddly bits, like D/F loop, radio antenna and landing gear were put on after painting and decaling were done.
Painting and Decaling
If there’s one thing I hate about late war German aircraft, it’s that they have very little variation in their official camouflage schemes. It seems to all be two-tone splinter green over blue undersides. BORING. My Stuka is basically that colour, and I hate having two planes with the same paintjob. Thus, I decided to try something a little different, and go with a squiggle on the body and a splinter on the wings.
First, though, I had to mix up a new underside blue. I’ve used the same light blue on a number of planes, and am tired of it. I still have some left, but I wanted a change. I started out with some Tamiya XF-2 Flat White, added some Badger Amtrak Blue, some Tamiya XF-50 Field Blue and some XF-25 Light Sea Grey. After some mixing, I got a colour I liked. I sprayed the entire underside of the plane and the entire fuselage in this new blue.
For the cammo, I used both Tamiya XF-22 RLM Grey and XF-26 Deep Green. My experience with Tamiya greys is that they are always very green, and this was no exception. The RLM Grey went on sort of an olive-green brown colour (grey my backside!), and the brownishness of the tone was made even more apparent by the use of the Deep Green, which is quite a brilliant colour, actually. I painted the XF-22 first, then used Tamiya tape to mask a splinter pattern and painted the XF-26. When this was done, I completely covered the wings and tailplanes and re-sprayed the body blue.
Some Ta-152s seem to have a standard soft-edged cammo on the top of the fuselage, while others add to this some spots below the cheat line. One thing that IS cool about late war German paint is the desperation in which it was sometimes applied. I decided that it would be quite different if I had nothing but scribble cammo on the body, crudely painted over the blue. To get this effect, I dialed the pressure on the airbrush as low as I could get it (8-10 psi) and proceeded to randomly scribble lines on the body.
At 1/72 scale, it’s impossible for me to do individual dots. However, by quickly scribbling over the surface, there are areas of lighter and darker colour, and the result is really quite impressive, if I do say so myself. I encourage anyone who likes blotchy cammo to try this approach and see what you think. The prop was done in Tamiya XF-1 Flat black, and the spinner was spraybombed white. I used very thin cut Tamiya tape to lay a spiral pattern on the spinner before airbrushing it black as well. The result was a white swirl on a black spinner, the first time I’ve been able to accomplish this!
The gear bays and landing gear themselves were painted Testors aluminum (7ml bottle) and then blackwashed. I did the same for the pipes, and found that if I ‘piled on’ the wash, I could actually outline the pipes. This gave a really nice effect, and I’ll try to use it whenever possible from now on. I also black washed the inside of the cowling. Normally, there’d be radiator fins in there for the annular rad on the 213. However, FROG decided that required too much work, so there’s just a tunnel. Thankfully, the black wash is deceiving: looking at it casually, though, you can’t really tell there’s nothing there.
The wheels were done in Testors Model Master second generation acrylic Aircraft Interior Black, with shiny oil black hubs. I flattened the wheels to suggest a load on them, and then glued them into position when I was finished the entire plane. To keep things simple, I didn’t bother flattening the tail wheel.
For decals, I have to thank Pat Cauthery of South Corydon in the UK. and I were in a discussion, and I traded him some Gannet decals for some random German decals. The crosses and Swastikas I used came from Pat, and are the second nicest decals I’ve ever used. I used the outer part of a chevron from the Academy Bf-109 G-14 kit for the fuselage side and the Werke Number came from a RoG kit, perhaps the P.1099 Heavy Armour.
I decided against using any personalizing crests or insignias, since I wanted this plane to represent a ‘nobody’ airframe, something that would have been general issue, had time allowed. For this reason, I also didn’t put on any RVD bands. For one thing, they’re loud, and break up the nice cammo I had put on the plane, and that didn’t turn my proverbial crank much. In the second place, I didn’t want to limit the plane to any one squadron, since it’s a somewhat spurious paint scheme anyway In the third place, it would have made the rear end very decal-heavy, while the front would have had nothing!
It’s no surprise that the FROG isn’t the best kit in the world of this bird, and detail-wise it’s a bit off (like the fact the ventral radio mast is far too thick and on the WRONG side and there’s no pitot tube…). Still, it makes a nice model of a very rare, very elegant and very sexy looking airplane.
Sure, there are better kits of this final ‘Butcher Bird’ out there, and I wouldn’t recommend this as an entry to any IPMS national competition, due to detail issues. However, it’s a good kit for a beginner because they won’t notice that. It’s also a good kit for the casual builder because you don’t have to worry about a ton of pieces no one will see. I liked the kit a lot, and hope I can find a couple more sometime. It would make a neat race plane, if nothing else!