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  1. 1:32 Desktop Bf 109F Imcth Catalogue # IMCZ-003 Available from Hobby Link Japan for ¥30,000 This is one we have seriously been waiting to see for what seems like ages, yet it was only a few months ago that Imcth announced they were releasing a Messerschmitt Bf 109F in their amazing 'Desktop' series of all-metal kits. If you've been living under a rock for those last months, check out our reviews of the jaw-dropping Desktop Mustang and Desktop Zero. I do warn you though, prepare to have your wallet seriously dented in the process. Admittedly, these kits aren't cheap, but you are paying for quite a niche item, and one which will never let you see these aircraft in the same way ever again. When you buy something from Imcth, you are getting something which they have obviously poured their heart and soul into. First impressions are everything, and the packing box in which this kit came was also adorned with their 'Desktop Bf 109F' logo, hidden amongst the various address labels and invoice sheets. This study box, once opened, revealed the actual kit box, produced in a glossy white cardboard, with a metallic product sticker on the lid. This rather substantial box is then opened via a large side flap which then lifts the lid to reveal a number of other boxes within. On top, two smaller boxes contain the various white metal parts, wire, vac form canopy etc. These are safely held in situ by a couple of rolls of bubble-wrap around the internal box perimeter. Remove all of these, and underneath is a much larger box, securely fastened with tape, and containing the instruction manual, and various large sheets of stainless steel photo-etch parts. If you've read our previous reviews on the Mustang and Zero kits, you'll know that these aren't simply a flat, two-dimensional affair.....they are actually STAMPED to curve wing panels and fuselage sections! I don't recall seeing any other kit that includes such an innovative idea as this. Whilst we are in this particular box, we'll start to take a look at the various components on these sheets, interspersed with any specific findings on the instruction sheet which might help to colour things in a little for you. Then we'll work onto the white metal parts and other accessories in this release. The PE sheets themselves are quite fragile due to the pre-shaped parts, but thankfully, these are separated from each other with plenty of bubble-wrap. The flat sheets are packaged into a clear sleeve, protected from each other with tissue paper. SHEET A One thing you will notice with these kits is that the stainless steel PE sheets are actually a thicker gauge than you will be used to. This is obviously because it's more to scale with this being a 1:32 model. Whilst I'm explaining this, I will say that there are various parts within this kit, more namely bulkheads, which you will build up from laminated parts in order to achieve the desired thickness, but I digress. This first PE sheet contains wing components, and is laid out so that it is obvious that one half of the sheet is port, and the other starboard. Every wing rib in the 109F's svelte wing is immaculately recreated here, all individually. There are full ribs, sub-ribs to allow for wheel bay placement etc, and also partial ribs where they weren't full depth in the real aircraft. In short, if you could really peel back the skin on one of these iconic fighters, then what you would see, has been beautifully recreated here. This sheet contains the dual upper/lower inboard radiator flaps too, which will actually move on this model, so you can pose them as you wish. The landing flaps are built up from an exterior metal skin and a number of rib-lets, whilst the ailerons start life as a single piece of PE in which you need to twist the various ribs 90 degrees to the upright. As these are still too thin at the leading edge, they will be supplemented with white metal upper and lower frames which will give these parts their aerodynamic shape. Simplicity, but neatly executed. A wing needs spars of course, and this is where you will find them. Wing tips are actually supplied as cast metal parts, and we'll look at those later in the review. These comprehensive wings will eventually be fitted with ammunition, wing slats and slat actuators etc, all from white metal. SHEET B We take a break from the wing at this point and look at a sheet which contains the lion's share of the fuselage parts. All formers are presented here with various notches into which longerons and stringers are inserted. I did mention earlier about laminated formers. You will find these here. These notable go to the front and rear of the cockpit module, and the middle lamination of three is notched to allow the external framework tabs to slide into the recesses cut into the middle lamination. Everything is extremely well thought-out during the design process. This sheet contains those longerons and stringers, as well as various frameworks that exist within the fuselage, and also items such as the sloping plate to the rear of the pilot's head. Whilst we are in that specific region of the aircraft, the cockpit module itself is formed from a single piece of PE which starts at the cockpit wall, bends to form the floor and forward bulkhead, then back on itself to produce the upper framework, extending to the rear cockpit fuselage frame. This clever way of creating the basis onto which every fits, ensures that all the various extra frameworks and internal details should fit perfectly. SHEET C Now we're talking! I mentioned those pre-shaped PE parts, and here you'll most certainly see them in the form of upper and lower wing panels. These contain the caps to the wing ribs and other major wing structural elements. The curvature of the wings is superbly captured here. Apart from the wing panels, spars and ribs are also supplied here for the horizontal stabiliser, as well as a couple of vertical fuselage formers for the construction of the vertical fin. SHEET D This is the last of the PE sheets in this kit, and again it contains pre-shaped parts, namely the fuselage belly, cockpit module side frames, and undercarriage doors. Other parts on here include the elevators and rudder, supplied as per the ailerons with twist ribs and a structure that will be 'bulked' with white metal castings, as well as exhaust plates, nose radiator meshes and a number of other smaller airframe detail, as well as seatbelt buckles. All photo etch is produced to the very highest of standards, with no defect. I'm particularly impressed with the loop tags that Imcth now use to hold the shaped parts on the frets. The previous straight tags could break, meaning a small piece of tape was added to hold the part in place. These looped ones are designed to open up when the fret is stamped into shape. Now, onto the white metal parts. All of these are supplied in grouped bags in one of the smaller boxes. All white metal parts are expertly produced by Model Factory Hiro, who produce some of the very best castings seen in our hobby. There are no horrible pitted textures here, and poor, soft detail as seen on white metal undercarriage legs that we see from a particular manufacturer. These are sharp, smooth and perfect. Nowhere on my sample did I see any parts bent out of shape either. A little clean-up of parts will be required. Some cast parts will have the faintest of mould paring lines that a quick tickle with a fine grade sanding stick, will eradicate. The cloudy appearance of the parts is also only mould release residue, and a polish with a rotary tool will show these parts to be as sharp, if not sharper, than contemporary plastic kit equivalents. E – Propeller Parts This is a simple packet containing just three parts. These are a full piece propeller and boss, and a main spinner with a separate back plate. The propeller locates to the rear spinner plate by means of a cast pin. As with the majority of these white metal parts, you will need to open up most locating holes with a small drill bit, as indicated on the instruction sheet. A hole in the rear plate allows the hub cannon aperture to seat neatly, and the spinner itself falls neatly over the top of everything. You will need to open up the central hole in the spinner as this is cast closed. A little clean-up of the prop edges will be required. F – Engine Parts There are FIFTY-TWO parts which go to produce the Daimler Benz DB 601E engine. That's pretty impressive, as is the design of this area. All parts are split between THREE bags, stapled closed. I would use some cheap zip-lock bags to store the parts, until you come to use them. Of course, you need to check everything to ensure it's all there, and you don't want those parts rolling loose in the box. A very traditional method of assembly is used for the engine, and one that plastic modellers will immediately recognise. What is particularly neat are the cylinder banks. These are supplied as halves, with the cap casing separate. The banks themselves are designed so that the inner half inserts within the outer, meaning there is no horrible and awkward joint line at the front and rear. Another example of how Imcth are evolving their design work. The breakdown of the engine is very traditional, with supercharger intake, engine bearers, oil and glycol tanks, fuel injector block, supercharger induction pipework, ignition conduits, magnetos, hub, prop shaft, and split crankcase. Some parts are supplied on casting blocks with a paired part. These are easily identified as left and right parts with L and R being cast. Even the fragile looking engine bearers are die-straight with no bending. Congrats to Model Factory Hiro for getting this so darn right! G – Main Wing Parts All of the structural elements of the wing that can't be reproduced with PE are here, as well as parts to give the ailerons their correct profile. The latter is achieved by means of adding a half aerofoil section to both upper and lower faces of the flat PE ailerons. This specific group contains TWENTY-THREE parts. Here you will find wing slats, slat actuators, wingtips, radiators and housings, wing ammunition bay, control surface horns, and aileron mass balance etc. H – Cockpit Parts For the detail connoisseur, the cockpit is always a main area of focus, and I think Imcth know that, because this rather detailed and busy group of white metal contains no less than FIFTY parts. In all fairness, not all of them are strictly in the cockpit, but are more concerned with what can only be described as the cockpit module, incorporating the undercarriage unit and forward weapons bay. This kit actually comes with two sets of undercarriage legs; one for deployed, and the other for retracted. You CANNOT change these once you install them, so you need to decide how you will pose your model when complete. Those legs include the bracket/pivot assembly as part of the leg itself, and this is what dictates this move. As it comes, the PE cockpit tub is devoid of any detail except for a number of holes which are used to locate the various white metal components. It's now you really begin to see the level of detail afforded to the modeller. There are THREE bags of white metal included here. These include forward ammunition bulkhead/feed, machine guns, oleo scissors, control column, rudder pedals and rudder pedal spacing bar, foot plate, fuel tank, various instrumentation and avionics units, two part pilot seat, two part trim wheel (to be supplemented with PE), lower fuselage support framework, and instrument panel. That is by no means a comprehensive list, as you'll see from the photo of the parts. The instrument panel is so designed that two colour printed paper inserts fit into a recess from behind to form the dials. On top of this sits a plate depicting the rear instrument area. Those instruments themselves are better than the previous release. The larger panel is very good, but the smaller could do with some Airscale decal magic. I – Tail Parts The TWENTY-FIVE parts included here are concerned with the rear fuselage, right down to, and including, the tail area. Detail in this rear fuselage area isn't often depicted, unless you super-detail using resin aftermarket sets, but here, absolutely everything is included. Here you will find two bags containing compass, radios, compressed gas bottles, choice of retracted or extended tail gear leg, tail fin and stabiliser parts including the elevator and rudder surface profiles, junction boxes and socket plates. All I think could be added as a little extra is some lead wire to wire things up. That's the end of the metal parts. Now we look at the last box in this kit. J – Sheeted Parts & Rubber Parts Vac-form parts are supplied for the canopy. Please don't let that put you off as these are exceptionally clear, and with superb frame line definition. Rubber tyres are provided, but they don't look quite right for a 109. Perhaps these can be replaced with an aftermarket item. For your information, the hubs are separate to the tyres. Some resin parts are supplied for the wingtip lights and gun sight reflector. These are milky in appearance, so I would look at replacing these with clear plastic. The box also contains a fabric material which is for the seatbelts. The parts are pre-cut, but as the sheet is a little thick, I would perhaps use some HGW or RB Productions seatbelts here. As well as the instruments printed sheet, there are two self-adhesive foil sheets which are pre-cut, and contain the canopy framing. These also have laser etched riveting on them. This can be a tricky area, hence the reason you have been supplied with two sheets of parts. Take your time. This sheet also contains gun barrel jackets, designed to be wrapped around wire. Again, I would replace these with barrels from the MASTER series of products. The last remaining parts in this box are some lengths of piano wire and some tubing. Instructions These are about as comprehensive as it can possibly get. Firstly, there are A3 two sheets which contain parts maps and also an explanation as to the different fold styles employed. The assembly drawings have different symbology which refer to things such as 'valley fold', and 'mountain fold', referring to whether parts are to be internally or externally folded. Instructions are also given on how to eradicate any pouring nubs and paring lines on the cast parts. As for the constructional sequences, there are MANY! Whilst this project isn't quite as complex as the Mustang and Zero with regard to airframe (nature of the beast!), it is still a complex model which deserves your time and patience. Construction is broken down into various areas, such as engine, wings etc, as you would imagine, but there are TWENTY-FOUR pages of A4, double-sides diagrams which you need to carefully study, and explain all aspects of that construction, including memos for when you need to fold, drill and file etc. The drawings themselves are actually very clear when you look at them in relation to the parts, and start to mentally visualise the skeletal form of the model. Model Stand My sample was sent with an acrylic stand which simply plugs together. The clear acrylic is protected by paper sheet which needs to be peeled off. Bearing in mind that the narrow undercarriage is white metal, this would probably be a good idea to use, and of course, it's unobtrusive. Conclusion As I just mentioned, the Bf 109F airframe doesn't have the same level of overall complexity as that of the Mustang and Zero, but it is faithfully reproduced here for you in mindboggling detail. You still have a LOT of work to do to complete this model, and the results, from the finished images we have, or staggering. Yes, I would replace the seatbelts, barrels, and the clear resin parts, but that is something and nothing. The wheels and hubs seem simplified too, but there are so many accurate and cheap ones on the market that these can easily be replaced. My only other minor niggle is the lack of weapons tray for the MGs mounted on the upper fuse. This area is faired off with a cowl panel. If you wanted to make something representative here, which I may just do, you'll need to employ a little scratch-building. You may not bother too much about this, and it certainly is no deal breaker for this amazing kit. Where else can you get something which contains all this detail such as fuel tanks etc? Also of note are the wing to fuselage connection points. These employ lugs and pins, as per the real aircraft. The level of detail is simply that good. This is a brand new release, and it just seems that Imcth are getting better and better. If you liked the Mustang and Zero, this will blow you away! VERY highly recommended James H Our sincere thanks to Imcth for this review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.
  2. As I was trying to find some Dutch Courage before starting Dragon's Bf 109E-4, I got cold feet because I want to build that bird with as much engine detail as possible. Since it has been too long since I finished a model I decided to have a go at Hasegawa's Bf 109F-4/Trop in Marseille's markings. To make sure I concentrate on "clean building" and the paint finish, I decided to build it according to IPMS-UK "Standard Kit" rules. Otherwise known as "Straight From The Box". I even plan on using the kit decals. IPMS-UK rules allow the use of aftermarket decals (won't be using them), the addition of (aftermarket) seat belts and the addition of rigging and radio wires. Sooooo..... Because Dave J is busy with W,Nr. 10137, I'm happy that I had already decided to build W.Nr. 8693! You know, the one with the red rudder... Please feel free to chime in with tips & tricks or if you think I made an error in accuracy. I learn from constructive criticism and although it might not be feasible anymore to correct something (or I just decide not to... ) it'll sure be a heads-up for my next project. And besides, it'll add to the value of the WIP as it isn't unthinkable that in the future an innocent new modeller finds this thread through a search machine and learns some new things! So, don't hold back! Although one compliment in ten criticisms would be appreciated by me... Hasegawa's box-top. Mine has Shigeo Koike's autograph... Sounds smug, I know, sorry.... Okay, know your subject. I have Lynn Ritger's books on the Bf 109, but since it isn't practical or legal to copy what he writes on the Bf 109, here follows what can be found on Wikipedia on the Bf 109F: "Compared to the earlier Bf 109E, the Bf 109F was much improved aerodynamically. The engine cowling was redesigned to be smoother and more rounded. The enlarged propeller spinner, adapted from that of the new Messerschmitt Me 210, now blended smoothly into the new engine cowling. Underneath the cowling was a revised, more streamlined oil cooler radiator and fairing. A new ejector exhaust arrangement was incorporated, and on later aircraft a metal shield was fitted over the left hand banks to deflect exhaust fumes away from the supercharger air-intake. The supercharger air-intake was, from the F-1 -series onwards, a rounded, "elbow"-shaped design that protruded further out into the airstream. A new three-blade, light-alloy VDM propeller unit with a reduced diameter of 3 m (9 ft 8.5 in) was used. Propeller pitch was changed electrically, and was regulated by a constant-speed unit, though a manual override was still provided. Thanks to the improved aerodynamics, more fuel-efficient engines and the introduction of light-alloy drop tanks, the Bf 109F offered a much increased maximum range of 1,700 km (1,060 mi) compared to the Bf 109E's maximum range of ~1200 km (746 mi). The canopy stayed essentially the same as that of the E-4 although the handbook for the 'F' stipulated that the forward, lower triangular panel to starboard was to be replaced by a metal panel with a port for firing signal flares. Many F-1s and F-2s kept this section glazed. A two-piece, all-metal armour plate head shield was added, as on the E-4, to the hinged portion of the canopy, although some lacked the curved top section. A bullet-resistant windscreen could be fitted as an option. The fuel tank was self-sealing, and around 1942 Bf 109Fs were retrofitted with additional armour made from layered light-alloy plate just aft of the pilot and fuel tank. The fuselage aft of the canopy remained essentially unchanged in its externals. The tail section of the aircraft was redesigned as well. The rudder was slightly reduced in area and the symmetrical fin section changed to an airfoil shape, producing a sideways lift force that swung the tail slightly to the left. This helped increase the effectiveness of the rudder, and reduced the need for application of right rudder on takeoff to counteract torque effects from the engine and propeller. The conspicuous bracing struts were removed from the horizontal tailplanes which were relocated to slightly below and forward of their original positions. A semi-retractable tailwheel was fitted and the main undercarriage legs were raked forward by six degrees to improve the ground handling. An unexpected structural flaw of the wing and tail section was revealed when the first F-1s were rushed into service; some aircraft crashed or nearly crashed, with either the wing surface wrinkling or fracturing, or by the tail structure failing. In one such accident, the commander of JG 2 "Richthofen", Wilhelm Balthasar lost his life when he was attacked by a Spitfire during a test flight. While making an evasive manoeuvre, the wings broke away and Balthasar was killed when his aircraft hit the ground. Slightly thicker wing skins and reinforced spars dealt with the wing problems. Tests were also carried out to find out why the tails had failed, and it was found that at certain engine settings a high-frequency oscillation in the tailplane spar was overlapped by harmonic vibrations from the engine; the combined effect being enough to cause structural failure at the rear fuselage/fin attachment point. Initially two external stiffening plates were screwed onto the outer fuselage on each side, and later the entire structure was reinforced. The entire wing was redesigned, the most obvious change being the new quasi-elliptical wingtips, and the slight reduction of the aerodynamic area to 16.05 m² (172.76 ft²). Other features of the redesigned wings included new leading edge slats, which were slightly shorter but had a slightly increased chord; and new rounded, removable wingtips which changed the planview of the wings and increased the span slightly over that of the E-series. Frise-type ailerons replaced the plain ailerons of the previous models. The 2R1 profile was used with a thickness-to-chord ratio of 14.2% at the root reducing to 11.35% at the last rib. As before, dihedral was 6.53°. The wing radiators were shallower and set farther back on the wing. A new cooling system was introduced which was automatically regulated by a thermostat with interconnected variable position inlet and outlet flaps that would balance the lowest drag possible with the most efficient cooling. A new radiator, shallower but wider than that fitted to the E was developed. A boundary layer duct allowed continual airflow to pass through the airfoil above the radiator ducting and exit from the trailing edge of the upper split flap. The lower split flap was mechanically linked to the central "main" flap, while the upper split flap and forward bath lip position were regulated via a thermostatic valve which automatically positioned the flaps for maximum cooling effectiveness. In 1941 "cutoff" valves were introduced which allowed the pilot to shut down either wing radiator in the event of one being damaged; this allowed the remaining coolant to be preserved and the damaged aircraft returned to base. However, these valves were delivered to frontline units as kits, the number of which, for unknown reasons, was limited. These cutoff valves were later factory standard fitting for Bf 109G and K series. ArmamentThe armament of the Bf 109F was revised and now consisted of the two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s with 500 rpg above the engine plus a Motorkanone cannon firing through the propeller hub. The pilot's opinion on the new armament was mixed: Oberst Adolf Galland criticised the light armament as inadequate for the average pilot, while Major Walter Oesau preferred to fly a Bf 109E, and Oberst Werner Mölders saw the single centreline Motorkanone gun as an improvement. With the early tail unit problems out of the way, pilots generally agreed that the F series was the best-handling of all the Bf 109 series. Mölders flew one of the first operational Bf 109 F-1s over England from early October 1940; he may well have been credited with shooting down eight Hurricanes and four Spitfires while flying W.No 5628, Stammkennzeichen SG+GW between 11 and 29 October 1940. Bf 109F sub-variants F-0, F-1, F-2Bf 109 F-2/Trop. As the DB 601E was not yet available in numbers, the pre-production F-0 (the only F variant to have a rectangular supercharger intake) and the first production series F-1/F-2 received the 1,175 PS (1,159 hp, 864 kW) DB 601N engine driving a VDM 9-11207 propeller. The F-0/F-1 and F-2 only differed in their armament; the F-1 being fitted with one 20 mm MG FF/M Motorkanone firing through the engine hub, with 60 rounds. The F-1 first saw action in the Battle of Britain in October 1940 with JG 51. The most experienced fighter aces like Werner Mölders were the first ones to fly the first Bf 109 F-1s in combat in October 1940. A total of 208 F-1s were built between August 1940 and February 1941 by Messerschmitt Regensburg and the Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke. The F-2 introduced the 15 mm Mauser MG 151 cannon with 200 rounds. The Motorkanone was supplemented by two synchronized 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns mounted under the engine cowl, with 500 rpg. As the harder-hitting 20 mm version of the same gun become available, a number of F-2s were retrofitted with it in the field. About 1,380 F-2s were built between October 1940 and August 1941 by AGO, Arado, Erla, Messerschmitt Regensburg and WNF. No tropicalized version was built, although individual F-2s were retrofitted with sand filters in the field. The maximum speed of the F-1 and F-2 was 615 km/h (382 mph) at rated altitude. F-0 (Pre-production aircraft built from E series airframes, Adolf Galland was one of the few to fly one operationally) F-1 (Armed with 1 × 20 mm MG FF/M Motorkanone cannon and 2 × 7.92 mm/.312 in MG 17 machine guns) F-2 (Armed with 1 × 15 mm (.59 in) MG 151 cannon and 2 × 7.92 mm/.312 in MG 17)F-2 trop (tropicalized version, only as field conversion) F-2/Z (high-altitude fighter with GM-1 boost, cancelled in favour of the F-4/Z) F-3, F-4, F-5, F-6 Bf 109 F-4. The 1,350 PS (1,332 hp, 993 kW) DB 601E was used in the F-3 and F-4 model together with a VDM 9-12010 propeller with broader blades for improved altitude performance. The DB 601E was initially restricted to 1,200 PS (1,184 hp, 883 kW) at 2,500 rpm; however, the full rating of 1,350 PS at 2,500 rpm was cleared for service use by February 1942. The DB 601E ran on standard 87 octane "B-4" aviation fuel, despite its increased performance; while the earlier DB 601N required 100 octane "C-3" fuel. Only 15 examples of the F-3 are believed to have been produced by Messerschmitt Regensburg between October 1940 and January 1941. Like the F-1, the F-3 was armed with the 20 mm MG-FF/M and two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17s. From the F-4 onward, the new 20 mm Mauser MG 151/20 with 200 rounds was used as the Motorkanone. The first F-4s reached frontline units in June 1941. Production lasted exactly a year between May 1941 and May 1942, with 1,841 of all F-4 variants produced. Some of the later models were capable of mounting two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons under the wing in faired gondolas with 135 rpg. These were designated F-4/R1 and 240 of them were produced by WNF in the first quarter of 1942. This optional additional armament was standardized as field kit for later G and K series. A special high-altitude variant, the F-4/Z featuring GM-1 boost, was also built with a production run of 544 in the first quarter of 1942 and saw extensive use. Finally, the Erla factory produced 576 tropicalized F-4 trop in the first half of 1942. Bf 109 F-6. With its initial engine rating of 1,200 PS, the maximum speed of the F-4 (and F-3) was 635 km/h (394 mph) at rated altitude; and with the clearance of the full rating of 1,350 PS, maximum speed increased to 670 km/h (420 mph). F-3 (As F-1 but with 1350 PS DB 601E engine, produced in limited numbers) F-4 (As F-2 but with DB 601E engine, 20 mm MG 151/20 "Motorkanone" cannon replacing the 15 mm MG 151)F-4/R1 (As F-4, but capable of mounting two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons in underwing gondolas) F-4/Z (As F-4, high-altitude fighter with GM-1 boost) F-5 (Recon version of F-4, only one prototype known) F-6 (planned but not built)" So, this ends tonight's history lesson. Now I'll have a cup of coffee after which I'll continue with Jochen's office... Tomorrow I'll post some pics of "Gelbe 14" under Fair Use policy ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use) that I found on the internet and share my ideas on the pilot's seat of the Bf 109F-4.... S
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