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  1. Special Hobby 1:32 Yakolev Yak-3 "Onward to Berlin" Following the German attack against the Soviet Union, it's soon become clear Soviet fighter aircraft lacked performance against the invading German types. The German attack came during a period when the new Soviet types were just being introduced into both production and service. Types such as the Yak-1, Lagg-3 and Mig-3. Apart from the Mig-3 high altitude aircraft, all the other types were inferior to German machines. Soviet designers were struggling with the storage of high quality raw materials, insufficient equipment, poor performing engines and lastly with directives from the Communist leaders. The Yakovlev design bureau were developing new subtypes based on the Yak-1 fighter, trying to meet the VVS requirements. However, all the versions that emerged from the Yak-1 development, which was designated as Yak-7, were still lacking in performance compared with their German contemporaries. In 1942, a new fighter type known as the Yak-9 was introduced. This type, originating from the Yak-7 seven, was the first of the Yak heavy fighters family. Simultaneously in 1941, a new type was being developed. A nimble and light weight design with smaller dimensions and of mixed wood and metal construction. It utilised a new wing design as well, with a shorter span and the oil coolers moved to the wing root. This type was latter to be known as the Yak-3 and formed the light weight family of Yak fighters. Of interest is that the Yak-3 designation had already been used by the Yakovlev bureau. However it belonged a heavier armed fighter prototype built back in 1940 which, had not progressed be on the prototype stage. This second Yak-3 also had it quite tough from the outset, and development was not easy. The acceptance trials not being completed until October 1943. The new Yak was equipped with the Klimov M105PF – 2 engine. However, because of poor performance and production standards, the overall weight exceeded the limits specified for the test aircraft, which meant that the first production aircraft were armed with only one 20 mm cannon firing through the propeller shaft and 12.7 mm machine gun mounted in the forward fuselage above the engine. Later production machines received the full designed armament of 120 mm cannon and two 12.7 mm machine guns. The new machines were not introduced into service until 1944, and the first units to receive them were the elite units of the VVS plus the French volunteer unit known as the Normandie Niemen regiment. This French unit made its return to France in June 1945 and the Yak-3 remind with them and in service with the new France Airforce for some time after the war. Besides the Soviet and French Air Forces, the Yak-3 saw service with Poland and Yugoslavia. The Yakolev bureau tried to develop the type further, but with no great success because of lack of dedicated engine development. It was only after the war that a small series of Yak-3 M–107 planes were produced. This type was fitted with a Klimov M-107 engine and was of an all metal construction and metal skin. Yet another version appeared, the Yak-3RD with a rocket engine mounted in the rear fuselage. Also the Yak-3 M–108 and the Yak-3U appeared, all of the types failed to progress further than the prototype stage. The Yak-3 fighter is considered amongst some to be one of the best World War II fighter types of soviet design and is the one of the very best to see action over the eastern front. Hot on the heels of their non Hi Tec version of the Hawker Tempest Mk.V. Special Hobby have released a similar version of their Yak-3. It comes like the Tempest in a similarly style of box and as there isn’t any resin or Photo Etch parts the box isn’t too full. Once you get the very tight fitting box lid off, you’ll find five sprues of grey styrene packed into a plastic bag, a separate, smaller bag contains one clear sprue, and lastly there is one bag with two decal sheets be very careful when opening the bag with the decals in as there is a very small plastic bag stapled to it containing a gun blanking piece for one of the decal options. At the bottom of the box is a lovely glossy, colour A4 manual. Sprue A This has both the fuselage halves, the upper gun cowl and two parts of the lower radiator housing. The overall finish on the parts is good, with nice surface detail with finely engraved panel lines (there isn’t too much detail to be seen as the aircraft is of metal and wood construction). The moulding has a satin finish rather than a super smooth finish found on other kits. You might want to give the surfaces a light buffing before applying any paint to the kit. Inside the fuselage there is some sidewall cockpit detail, but not much as the cockpit is inside of a tubular framework. There is also some tail wheel-well detail moulded in the rear of the fuslage. The cowl that covers the machine guns looks very good, and has some lovely detail such as rivets and panel lines Sprue B This sprue has the upper and lower wing, and the sprue is split into two parts to allow it to fit more easily in to the box. As the wings are moulded in full span there will be no issues trying to judge the right dihedral etc. Both flaps and ailerons are moulded in, which would which would require you to cut and reposition them should you wish to pose the aircraft on a base or diorama. Surface detail once again is very minimal as the wing is of wooden construction. However, the ailerons have good rib detail. The wing fairing is nicely blended and has well defined fastener detail. There is two holes in the upper wing, these are for the wing mounted fuel gauges. They are supplied as decals that you fix to the underside of two clear plastic lenses (located on the clear parts sprue). The centre section of the upper wing has the moulding for the cockpit floor with foot plates and control column base. The radiator housing is moulded on the lower wing, and you will need to add the radiator parts before fitting the upper wing as none of this area will be assessable after the wing halves have been cemented. There is more detail on the wing undersides, these are the recesses for the main great wheel well walls, and the inside of the upper wing has detail for the upper surfaces of the wells. Sprue C This has the horizontal stabiliser and elevators, all moulded in the conventional way. The elevators and stabilisers are of a two part construction of upper and lower halves. Once again as the horizontal stabiliser are of wooden construction there is no detail moulded on them. However, the elevators and the moving rudder part has the same ribbing detail as the ailerons. Also on this sprue are the separate propeller blades along with a two part spinner, and the main undercarriage doors, once again with very good rivet and internal detail. Sprue D Contains is the ‘smaller parts’ sprue, on here you will find some of the main gear well walls, the undercarriage ‘legs’, the tail wheel strut, instrument panel, cockpit seat tub and the seat backrest. Also there is the cockpit sidewall panels, main instrument panel, tailwheel mounting plate, radiator actuator parts, and other small parts for the cockpit and wheel wells. There is also parts for the wheels and exhausts. Sprue E This has the cockpit tubular assembly, control column and numerous other small parts for the cockpit and the forward walls of the main gear wells. Before moving onto the clear parts sprue, it is with noting that the kit styrene does seem to be of quite a soft nature. I don’t remember other Special Hobby kits styrene being quite this soft. However with out digging a box out from the stash I’m not sure and I may well be wrong. Sprue CP Sprue CP has the aforementioned clear parts. The canopy of which there are two option one to have the cockpit canopy open the other to have it in the closed position. There is also the two clear parts for the wing fuel gauges, again mentioned earlier. Decals The decals are on two sheets, both very finely printed by Cartograf, and as expected the decal quality is excellent. The larger sheet is a colour sheet with the various markings along with some very nice silver printed borders for the red stars.,The smaller sheet has the the red stars mentioned above, instrument decals, stripes for the tail of one option, the wing fuel gauges and various ‘stencils’. There are three schemes offered in this boxing and they are: Aircraft 15 flown by, Lieutenant Semyon Rogovol of the 64th Guards Fighter Regiment, 4th Guards Fighter Division, 2nd Baltic Front, Autumn 1944. This aircraft was presented to Rogovol by sailors of the Alum River Flotilla located in the Far East. Aircraft 114 flown by Senior Lieutenant Valentin Gregoryevich Ernokhin of 402nd Fighter Regiment, 256th Fighter Division, 1st Belorussion Front, Spring 1945. Aircraft 10 flown by Colonel Boris Nikolaevich Eryomin, Deputy Commanding Officer of6th Guards Fighter Division, 2nd Ukrainian Front, Spring 1945. This aircraft was being Eryomin’s second was paid for by Ferapont Petrovich Golovatyi and was an early production machine with one cannon and one machine gun. Instruction Booklet The instruction booklet is a glossy, colour printed 16 page A4 affair, that started with the history of the Yak-3, the sprue ‘maps’. The construction is listed in 36 steps, with very clear line illustrations with the paint numbers for Gunze-Sangyo paints. The last pages of the instructions are the three scheme illustrations, in colour, with the decal placement guides. The lat three pages of the booklet contain some more of special Hobby’s offerings, several of which have caught my eye! A PDF of the instruction booklet can be seen here. Also in my box but not included in the kit was a replacement resin radio by CMK. Nice crisp moulded replace meant for the kit part. Two Vacform Canopies for the Yak by MH Models, one for an open cockpit and one for a closed canopy. Both come with inner and exterior masks and look very thin and clear This boxing of the kit is well worth waiting for as it give a cheaper and easier option than the Hi Tec boxing as it omits the Resin and Photo etch parts of the previous boxing. I highly recommended this kit. My sincere thanks to Special Hobby for the review sample
  2. Hi folks, Here are a couple of images of my finished Yak-3 from Special Hobby, complete with a rather nice pilot figure that was sent to me. Grass mat courtesy of Uschi van der Rosten. All paint is MR PAINT. Hope you like her.
  3. Sometimes, a kit really grabs you. For me, that grab was the new Yak-3, from Special Hobby. A simple kit, and in some cases, a bit of a diamond in the rough. I don't mean that disrespectfully, but it does need just a few tweaks here and there, and maybe more so that the recent Tempest. It also doesn't have any alignment pins, unlike the new Tempest. It feels a little retrograde, in alignment with previous SH releases.....but better. Does that make sense? This is the scheme I'm going to build. This one is a little different because it has a Tricolour rudder, without the standard Russian star. This kit needs a few tweaks here and there, to aid fit, and when you work out what those tweaks are, then assembly is pretty straight forward. It's not as fraught as it initially looks. As with most things I build these days, here is the rough, taped together kit, minus its tweaks to make it fit better: Looks can be deceiving, and you will need to do a few remedial things to make this fit better. One of them is to reduce the ridge on the upper wing, aiding fuse alignment, by 50%. Do this and all gaps close, magically, with no need for any putty. Maybe a smear of Mr Surfacer, and that's it. Quite neat. The clamp here is to align and secure the underside plate for the rear radiator section. Nothing too traumatic. The cockpit on this model is excellent. I should know, as this is one of my favourite areas, and I like my pits to be comprehensive and engaging. Of course, you can always add more here, but the resin parts included are superb, and you will need to remove the crap moulded radio receiver before you can add the resin replacement. The rudder pedals are also resin, as is the primer pump. The pit fits to the upper wing, but not before you build the undercarriage wells, paint and weather them. Paint on this model is generally from MR PAINT, and here is the Blue-Grey underside work: I'll post more of this when I start to assemble the main components and add some paint. I hope you like it.
  4. 1:32 Yakovlev Yak-3 “Normandie-Niemen” (HiTech) Special Hobby Catalogue # 32067 Available from Special Hobby for 54,90€ Unsurprisingly, the origins of the Yak-3 go back to an original 1941 design for what was to be designated as the Yak-1. At the same time, an alternative design named I-30, was also proposed, which was a smaller version of the Yak-1, carrying a spinner mounted cannon and two synchronised machine guns in the upper cowl. It also carried two wing-mounted cannon. Whilst this machine had metal wings that were fitted with slats for operations from smaller airfields, plus better handling, a prototype with simpler wooden wings, without slats was also flown. Unfortunately, this machine crashed and was destroyed. Due to Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, and raw materials becoming scarcer as Operation Barbarossa snaked through the Motherland, the Yak-3 was shelved. As time progressed, the Yak-1 project did spawn another number of other variants, such as the Yak-7 trainer/fighter and Yak-9 heavy fighter, which, as Russia’s war fortunes changed, allowed for full-scale production. It became apparent that Russia still needed a nimble fighter with a high power to weight ratio, that could take on the best of what the Luftwaffe was flying, and the I-30, or Yak-1M, was revisited. Trials for the new machine began in late 1943, and finally, the Yak-3 entered service in the summer of 1944, as Germany’s fortunes really were fading fast. The Yak-3 had a redesigned wing, and the aircraft was of mixed metal and wood construction, and fitted with a Klimov VK-105PF-2 V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, delivering 1,300hp. Whilst retaining the spinner cannon and the two cowl mounted MGs, the wing cannon were omitted. With an impressive handling and combat performance that more than matched their Luftwaffe fighter counterparts, the Yak-3 with a top speed of over 400mph, was very much liked by those who flew it, and was said by a French fighter ace, to be superior than the P-51D and Spitfire. The type wasn’t without its problems though, including poor performing glues that cause plywood surfaces to break away, plus an unreliable engine and dodgy pneumatic systems that controlled the flaps, brakes and undercarriage. These were never fully resolved. By the time production ceased, almost 5000 Yak-3 had been built. The type was officially retired in 1952, and served with French, Polish and Yugoslav air forces, as well as its native VVK. The kit Special Hobby seem to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, with the recent review of their long-awaited Hawker Tempest Mk.V. Whilst the Tempest seemed to have been in development for an eternity, the Yak certainly wasn’t so. However, this release has been no less anticipated. Like the Tempest, Special Hobby has released this in their ‘Hi-Tech’ format, meaning that it comes with a number of resin parts and a smattering of photo-etch parts. A set of canopy masks is also de rigueur with this type of release. In all, a pretty comprehensive package that will only benefit from whatever else you decide to enhance it with. The Yak-3 is packaged in the same style and size of box as the Tempest, and as there aren’t as many parts here, things aren’t too tightly packed in there too. I have to admit that I really do like their choice of box artwork, and it’s been much lauded on various internet modelling. The box sides show the various extras afforded by this ‘Hi-Tech’ boxing. Removing the lid is easier said than done. This must be the best fitting box I’ve seen. It certainly takes some effort to remove the lid. Once inside, you’ll find FIVE sprues of medium-grey styrene packed into a single, re-sealable sleeve, a separate sleeve with ONE clear sprue, a CMK blister package containing the resin, photo-etch and vinyl masks, and one last sleeve with two decal sheets. Lastly, a glossy, colour-printed A4 manual completes the ensemble. The “Normandie-Niemen” packaging for this release relates to a regiment of the French Air Force that fought on the Eastern Front. This Group re-equipped with the Yak-3, scoring with it the last 99 of their 273 air victories against the Luftwaffe. SPRUE A Both fuselage halves are included on this sprue, as is the upper gun cowl and two parts of the lower radiator intake channel. Firstly, the overall finish on the parts is good, with delicate surface detail, finely engraved panel lines (where appropriate on a mixed wood and metal aircraft), very fine rivets and fasteners, and well defined stabiliser tab location points. Moulding isn’t done in highly polished moulds, and as a result, the surface is satin in finish. You might find that a gentle buffing of the plastic, and a fine polishing will benefit the eventual paint layer you apply. Inside the fuselage, some very subtle sidewall cockpit detail is included, but this won’t be seen easily through the tubular cockpit tub detail. A couple of ejector pin marks exist in this area, but again, looking at the kit more closely, I’m sure they won’t be seen. Some excellent tail wheel well detail is also moulded, which is nice when you consider you’d really need to pop a flashlight over the area to see it! I think the upper cowl is separate simply because of the bulges and gun troughs that are there, and moulding them in situ would have caused problems with tooling undercuts etc. The cowl looks very good, with more beautifully defined detail such as rivets, panel lines and port access detail. Gun trough fairings are also nicely defined. Please note that none of these parts, here or on other key areas, has any form of locating pin arrangement, unlike the recent Tempest design. This is quite normal for many of the smaller companies producing our kits. I certainly don’t find the lack of these locating aids to be a hindrance. In fact, I usually gently rub the joint faces of these parts over a large sheet of fine abrasive paper first, to ensure a perfect mating joint. SPRUE B This sprue contains the upper and lower wing parts, and the sprue is split simply to allow it to fit within the confines of the box. As you can see, these parts are full span, so there’s no having to determine any dihedral etc. It’s all done for you! You’ll also note that the flaps and ailerons are moulded in situ, which would make it a little harder for you if you wanted to pose these dynamically. It’s certainly no issue for me, as I imagine it wouldn’t be for the majority of those wanting to build this kit. Surface detail is extremely minimal as befits a wooden wing, but the ailerons with their rib and fabric detail, are excellent. The wing fairing is also nicely rendered, with its fastener detail, and the two holes you see in the upper wing are for the wing-mounted fuel gauges. The compasses themselves are supplied as decals that fix to the underside of two clear plastic compass units. The centre section of the upper wing contains the cockpit floor with its foot plates and control stick base. Note that the radiator unit is moulded in place on the lower wing, and of course you need to add the channel parts to this before you fit the upper wing plate as this area would be impossible to access afterwards. We have more metal plate and rivet detail on the undersides, with the centre section and landing flaps exhibiting some clean rivet and panel line detail. Internally, there are recesses for the landing gear bay walls, and the inside of the upper wing contains some nice, sharp details for the ceiling of the bays. Again, I will slightly buff out the surfaces of these parts and give them a subtle polishing before I begin work. SPRUE C Special Hobby has moulded the stabilisers here in the traditional way, with upper and lower tail planes and elevators. As the stabilisers were wooden, no detail is moulded here, but the elevators and the rudder parts exhibit the same nicely rendered rib and fabric detail as the wing ailerons. Other parts here include separate prop blades with a two-part spinner, and a full complement of main undercarriage gear doors, with external rivet detail and internal structural elements, all clean and ready to go! SPRUE D This is the first sprue where we see a number of parts that are designated as ‘not to use’, because this boxing has a number of resin replacement parts. More on those soon. This is very much a ‘detail parts’ sprue, and here you will find three of the four main gear well walls, the main gear struts and tail wheel strut, cockpit instrument consoles, cockpit seat tub and armoured backrest plate, cockpit sidewall instrument panels, upper main instrument panel, tailwheel mounting plate, radiator actuator rods, and numerous other small parts that fit around the cockpit and wheel wells, such as small ribs etc. A small number of parts not for use include the wheels and exhausts. I note that the moulding of this sprue and Sprue E, are done in what appear to be more refined tooling, with the parts have a shiny finish to them, unlike the main pieces (wings and fuse etc.) Detailing on the parts here is also extremely sharp, akin to some of our more mainstream manufacturers. Of note at this juncture is the assembly of the main gear wells. Now, I’m not totally 100% on this, but it appears that you have to follow the instructions in the connection of the main gear struts to the wheel wells, including the gear doors, BEFORE they are fitted to the main wing. There may be a way around this if you want to add the struts later in construction, but for the life of me, I can’t see a way around this. It’s a rather unusual system of construction that will of course make your masking a little harder later on, but until I build this for myself, I won’t know if the construction sequence here is flexible or not. SPRUE E We are now onto the last of our grey sprues, but this one is pretty important as it includes both of the tubular cockpit side walls, and other frames and plates that make up this area. Those walls are moulded with their side console panels, sans instrumentation, as those parts were moulded on the previous sprue. Remember to use a razor saw for these fragile, but beautifully moulded parts. Seems on these, and the main gear door frames, look to be virtually non-existent. I’m very pleased to see that. A good number of other cockpit parts are moulded here such as the single piece control column and torsion bar, trim wheels, levers, rudder pedal bar, rear radio receiver shelf, first aid kit box etc. You will need to modify the rudder pedal bar and remove the pedals themselves, in favour of resin replacements. Other parts here include the remaining gear bay walls, instrument panel coaming and lower instrument panel. SPRUE CP Special Hobby has thoughtfully supplied two canopies with this kit. One of them is a single piece unit, for it you want to pose it closed up. The other is a three-part system that allows us to pose it with the hood slid back. The Yak-3 canopy does look odd, as the only frame lines there are, are around the edges. There is no armoured windshield on this aircraft. Clarity is very good, and the frame lines are defined well enough for us to easily place the vinyl masks for the painting phase. Other clear parts are for the wing fuel gauges, and also an armoured glass panel to the rear of the pilot’s head. Resin Parts If you’ve ever seen a CMK resin set, then this sort of blister pack will be very familiar to you. Here, it contains the resin, PE and vinyl mask set. Resin parts included in this release are for the radio receiver, wheels, exhaust manifolds, machine guns for the upper cowl, rudder pedals, fuel primer for cockpit, and main gear strut locking latches for the wheel bays. The resin used is a mid-grey type, and you will of course need to remove them from their casting blocks. Casting is excellent, as it generally the case with CMK, and the instructions are pretty self-explanatory as to where and how the parts fit. Photo Etch There aren’t too many PE parts here, and they come on a single, small fret. Parts include the seatbelts, control column trigger, tail wheel oleo scissor and gun sight targeting hairs. Production is very good, with nice, small connection points with the fret. Masks Masks are included for the canopy, wheels, armoured headrest and wing compass units. Made from sharply cut vinyl, the quality looks good, with no shrinkage. You will need to use liquid mask or infill the mask areas with some tape, as these are supplied as edges only. Decals Two sheets are included, both printed by Eduard, whose decal quality I’ve always found to be excellent. The larger sheet is a single-colour printing in white, containing the various fuselage arrow flashes, crosses of Lorraine, serial numbers, and kill marks. On the smaller sheet, we have multicolour decals for the national insignia, tricolour rudder flashes, instrument decals, compasses, radio receiver decals, and various stencils. TWO types of compass decal are included, so I suppose you can use which ever you want, as none of them seem to be attributable to any specific machine. Printing is of Eduard’s high standard, being nice and thin, and with minimal carrier film. The colours look good, and they have good density. Importantly, they are in perfect register. The FIVE schemes offered are very similar in appearance, but with some nice little individual touches to them. They are: Yak-3, White 6, 1 Sqn, flown by Lt. Marcel Albert, Normandie-Niemen, Autumn 1944 Yak-3, White Double-Zero, flown by Cdt. Louis Delfino, Normandie-Niemen, East Prussia, 1944 – 45 Yak-3, White 24, flown by Roland de la Poype, Normandie-Niemen, August – December 1944 Yak-3, White 22, flown by Asp. Pierre Douarre, Normandie-Niemen, Le Bourget Airfield, June 1945 Yak-3, White 4, flown by Lt. Roger Marchi, Normandie-Niemen, Lithuania, Summer 1944 Instruction manual This is a glossy, colour-printed 16 page A4 manual, starting with the history of the Yak-3, and the parts plans. These are useful, as the sprues themselves don’t contain part numbers. Construction is split over 45 steps, with clear line drawing illustrations and colour infill to denote key areas. PE and resin parts are clearly denoted, and colour call outs are given throughout, using Gunze-Sangyo codes. The last pages are given over to the scheme illustrations, again supplied in full colour, with easy decal placement guides. Conclusion This kit was most certainly worth waiting for. I get the impression that it will be a pretty quick build, but one that shouldn’t leave you wanting, in relation to the detail on offer here. Moulding is excellent, and the kit has a most impressive office and wheel bay arrangement that more than make up for the Yak-3’s distinct natural lack of detail on the wooden areas. The only awkward thing I see is the gear strut construction and fitting being carried out before the model is completed. That’s probably just my own fears though, and not one that at all deters me from wanting to start this one as soon as I can. In fact, as soon as my P-39 is off the table, this one is going to be started! Highly recommended My sincere thanks to Special Hobby for this review kit. Buy it directly from them by clicking THIS link.
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