In WWII, the Japanese and Americans (as well as the British) were big proponents of the single-engined torpedo/dive bomber: Helldiver, Avenger, Dauntless, Swordfish, Val and Kate are all names that echo through history. However, the Germans and Italians seemed to prefer multi-engined aircraft to do the same job. The He-111 and SM.79 are two examples of this.
This, to me, seems rather odd. Granted, work was done with FW-190s mounting torpedoes, but these did not see widespread, if any, service. It seems to me that what was needed was an aircraft that was capable of dive and torpedo bombing that fit the mould of those other famous airplanes; a single engine, multi-place machine that was rugged and simple with good range and stability.
Immediately, the Ju-87 Stuka comes to mind. There’s not a lot that’s whiffy about a Stuka with a torpedo, though. Clearly, I needed something more than that to get my blood boiling. The answer came to me from my sister-in-law’s Cessna 172 kit; FLOATS!! While they are for some weird box scale Cessna, when I held them up under the wings of the Stuka, the size seemed just right. Then it all made sense:
The Italians were prone to using flying boats and float planes, and the He-115 was a successful floatplane too. Heck, they tried mounting Spits and Bf-109s on floats (dumb idea…), so why not a Stuka? It made too much sense NOT to do! Looking at it now, I don’t know why they DIDN’T try making the old Stuka into a floatplane. Not like you could do much to reduce the top speed of the thing, and putting it on floats would allow it to operate from bases in the Mediterranean used by Regia Aeronautica. Add in the fact that the Italians also operated the Stuka as a landplane and VOILA!
Thus, the Ju-87J-2 was born.
The main body of this what if came from the well-loved 1/72 Fujimi Ju-87 D/G Stuka kit. This is a nice kit, but despite being marginally more accurate (supposedly it’s better through the tail area) than the Academy 1/72 Stuka, it does show its age. The cockpit isn’t as nice, and the gun pods aren’t either. Of course, I wasn’t using the guns, so it didn’t matter to me. For me, this kit was perfect for conversion; it was relatively simple, had nice (if not faint) panel lines and I really didn’t feel bad messing with it!
The bulk of the plane is entirely stock; the wings, fuselage and empennage haven’t been altered in the slightest. However, the same is not true of the landing gear legs! To fair in the Cessna’s pontoons, I carved a way part of the landing gear spat and shaped it to fit the top curvature of the pontoon. I figured that with some strengthening, the existing landing gear would be able to take the floats, so I didn’t bother to change it or otherwise support the pontoons. If this seems odd, look up pictures of the pontoon Spitfire; it doesn’t have any extra bracing either.
Once the legs were faired in (a bit of Milliput finished off the job at the join of the float/wheel spat) there wasn’t much else to do but find a torpedo and figure out how to mount it. Thankfully, I had a B6N kit (also a Fujimi) that was going to be a dive bomber (just to be different) so it gave up its torpedo. Now I know people are going to scoff at a German whiff in Italian paint lugging a Japanese Torpedo, but again, it made sense. There weren’t many nations on earth that could compete with Japan for torpedoes, especially aerial ones. Why the Germans didn’t buy their “fish” from their Axis allies was something I’ll never understand. So, in my mind, using a Japanese torpedo makes sense.
To sling the torpedo, I decided to go with three vertical supports. I drilled some holes in the plane’s underside and in the torpedo, and then used thin wire pins to stick the torpedo onto the belly. It sits very close to flush, so you can barely see the posts, and it allows me to remove the torpedo for transport, if required.
Assembly was straightforward and went smoothly. The cockpit fit quite well, and there wasn’t a lot of work that really needed to be done to this plane to get it ready for painting. The biggest problem was the detail; it was so soft that lots of it had to be re-etched simply from sanding seams!
I wanted to do this machine in the cool Italian three-colour cammo what is often seen on Belgian-front CR.42s and Breda Be.20s. I love that, and the Luftwaffe just has nothing like it. This helped cement that the plane was going to be Italian, by the way.
To do this, I painted all lower surfaces Light Ghost Grey using Testors Model Master Acrylics. I then masked the grey off using Tamiya tape. However, I needed a wavy line that was also a hard line. So, I put some tape down on some waxed paper, cut the wave in it, and then used that to mask the top/bottom demarcation! It worked like a charm, and I’ve used similar tricks numerous times since!
I painted the top of the plane in Tamiya XF-57 Buff. I then put on the first layer of “scribble cammo” Tamiya XF-11 JN Green. This was followed by a second “scribble” in XF-9 Hull Red. This gave the reddish touch that the Italian cammo seems to have, and was very nice! To unify everything, I gave a very light dusting of Buff over everything at the end.
I then Futured and decalled the plane. The decals were the Sky set intended for Fiat CR.42s in 1/72. I bought this sheet of decals specifically for this Stuka, though; it had a lot of Fascist roundels and markings, and they all fit perfectly on the Stuka. I outlined the panel lines with a filed-down mechanical pencil, as usual, and then flatted the whole thing with Gunze acrylic flat coat. This is an older build, before I found out about the Ceramcoat I now normally use. The Gunze is okay, but it dries DEAD FLAT and can be dangerous to work with; if it turns white, you’re pretty much screwed.
The Fujimi Stuka is a nice kit, but the Academy kicks it in the backside. It is perfect for conversion work, though, and I enjoyed building it. I had a lot of fun with this Whiff project, and while the flat coat was tough to work with, the end result looks pretty convincing!
Like all my whiffs, this one was a lot of fun and allowed me to use my engineering brain and my imagination all at once! What more can you ask for?