by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
Valiant Wings have recently published the second volume in their detailed study of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 by Richard Franks. Airframe & Miniature No. 11 covers a lot of ground, from the Bf 109F through the myriad ‘G variants to the ‘K series, and including the illusive Bf 109H and ‘Z projects. The result is very impressive, and probably the most detailed reference I’ve yet read on mid- to late-model Bf 109s.
The softbound 240-page A4 book is divided into two core elements, with Airframe Chapters and Miniature Chapters backed up by a series of Appendices and a set of 1:48 scale drawings.
The Preface provides an excellent 18-page overview of the mid- and late-series Bf 109s, tracing the development and service of the standard types, along with a nod towards some of the unusual offshoots that didn’t reach production.
Such is the scope of the latest Airframe & Miniature volume, the Evolution section has been divided into three chapters covering first the Bf 109F series, then the Bf 109G series and, finally, the Bf 109H, ‘K and ‘Z series. In each case the development airframes and sub-series are discussed individually, with a bullet-point checklist outlining the specific points that apply, plus well chosen photos and side profiles by Karek Jackiewicz illustrating the changes. There are a number of prototypes shown which I’ve not seen covered elsewhere, making this a fascinating read for anyone interested in the Bf 109 and opening up the prospect of some exciting modelling projects.
Richard Franks begins his Camouflage & Markings study with a reminder of the pitfalls in trying to interpret vintage black and white photos. What follows is a very comprehensive look at the various styles of camouflage and markings sported by the aircraft in its widespread service with the Luftwaffe and other air forces. Along with German colour schemes, Bulgarian, Croatian, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, Slovakian, Spanish, Swiss and Yugslavian machines are also covered in detail and, as in the Evolution sections, there are plenty of surprises and unusual schemes to whet the creative appetite.
Backing up the text and period photos is a selection of Richard Caruana’s excellent colour profiles.
The Modelling side of the book begins with reviews of a selection of the many mainstream Bf109F to ‘K kits available, before continuing with some full builds by the highly regarded modelling trio of Libor Jekl, Steve Evans and Daniel Zamarbide.
Things kick off with Fine Molds’ 1:72 Bf 109F-4, expertly built by Libor Jekl. Libor adds cockpit details from Eduard, along with a new vacuformed canopy centre-section by Rob Taurus. As usual with Libor’s builds, you could easily mistake the result for a much larger scale kit, such is the quality of his work.
It’s Steve Evans’ turn next, with two fine builds in 1:48. First up is Eduard’s new-tool Bf 109G-5 which embodies all the corrections introduced after their unfortunate “false start” on their line of Gustavs a couple of years ago. This is a Profi-Pack kit, so everything is built straight from the box without adding aftermarket items and the result is excellent, with Walter Dahl’s overall RLM 76 machine making a nice change from more usual subjects.
Steve then turns to Tamiya’s brand-new Bf 109G-6 and demonstrates the ingenious design that caused so much excitement when the kit was first revealed publicly. Steve admires the engineering throughout, although he admits that he’s indifferent to way you can reveal the engine. Once again he builds the kit OOB, and he uses the kit decals. Interestingly, Steve got excellent results with his set, but Kevin Brant had a hard time in them in his recent Aeroscale review, so Tamiya’s reputation for being rather hit or miss with their decals sadly continues.
Moving up a scale, Daniel Zamarbide tackles the Trumpeter 1:32 Bf 109G-6 and, as you’d expect, the result is something of a masterclass showcasing his exceptional painting ability, including a complex camouflage scheme and masked markings. The kit is basically built OOB, but improved with BarracudaCast wheels and Daniel adds extra interest by fitting a Hasegawa pilot figure with a Master Details head.
Building A Collection covers some of the same ground as the earlier Evolution chapters, but does so with the aid of annotated isometric drawings by Wojciech Sankowski. These work well as a ready reference in highlighting the key points and changes in each development machine and series.
Concluding the main content of the book comes what for many will be a key attraction - an extensive “walkaround” section coving the Bf109F to ‘K with a combination of vintage photos and illustrations from technical and servicing manuals supplemented by modern colour shots of preserved airframes. Coverage in the 50 pages is broken down into the following sections:
Cockpit & Canopy
Engine, Radiator, Cowls & Propeller
Oil, Fuel, Coolant, Oxygen, Hydraulic and GM-1 and/or MW50 Systems
Wings & Flight Controls
Armament, Ordnance & Drop Tanks
Camera, Radio and Radar Systems
The sections are clearly laid out, with the illustrations accompanied by detailed captions. With so many variations spread across the many Bf 109 variants covered, the depth of coverage is impressive. For example, four pages are devoted to the supercharger intake alone in its many forms, with another three pages illustrating the different cowl types.
Rounding off the book are four Appendices listing the many Bf 109F to ‘Z kits, decals, accessories and references that are available, plus a very useful fold-out sheet of 1:48 scale drawings of the Bf 109F, ‘G and ‘K series.
ConclusionThis is another excellent book from Valiant Wings. The inclusion of extensive modelling sections obviously targets the book fair and square at the hobby market, but there’s also masses of content to appeal to historians and aviation enthusiasts too.
Together with Airframe & Miniature No. 5, Richard Franks has produced a real “must-have” for anyone interested in the Messerschmitt Bf 109. And perhaps there’s more to come - because there’s still a story to be told with the Czech and Spanish post-war developments. Recommended.