Series: Polish Wings, No. 17
Full title: PZL.23 Karaś; PZL.42/PZL.43; PZL.46 Sum
Book author: Tomasz J. Kopański
Illustrator: Karolina Hołda
Cover arts: Marek Ryś
PZL.23 Karaś was one of the most popular military aircraft of the Polish Air Force in the last years before World War 2 and during deadly struggle in September 1939. Being delivered to operational units since the end of 1936. At the outbreak of war Poles had 224 Karaś, while combat units were assigned with 114 machines. Other machines were still in training units or undergoing overhauls. Karaś crews carried many types of sorties, like reconnaissance, level bombardment, dive bombardments, assaults armour vehicles and strafing columns from low and medium attitude. To many of those assignments Karaś were simply unsuitable due to the lack of armour or insufficient armament. It resulted in the highest combat losses ratio of any aircraft type used by Polish Air Force which amounted to 86%.
Karaś type was undergoing constant improvement and development which resulted in the types of PZL.42, PZL.43 Chayka (build for Bulgaria and according to their requirements) or PZL.46 Sum, which was build only in two airworthy prototypes. PZL.23 Karaś was exported to Romania before the war. Some of the machines captured in Poland by Germans were later also sold to this user.
The operational story of the whole line started by PZL.23 Karaś, its construction changes and improvements in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria could be easily written in a pretty thick monograph. The Stratus publication which now I have in front of me focuses on colours and details of some particular machines of all the types according to the known photographs.
Inside the book
The book has following chapters:
- PZL.23 Karaś
- PZL.43 Chayka
- PZL.46 Sum
- Colours and markings
Seventeenth volume of the Polish Wings series is published in the same standard of the whole series. After a very essential introduction author focuses of particular machines which are presented on archive photographs and colour profiles. Artworks depict the current and most actual level of knowledge about each plane. On 88 pages author has managed to allocate about 200 photographs which were made in all possible circumstances by Poles, Germans, Romanians, Bulgarians and present planes which were used by them or were captured as abandoned or crashed. According to the publisher many of these photographs are being published for the first time.
What is not difficult to guess the biggest share of the book is devoted to PZL.23 Karaś which was used by Polish and Romanian Air Forces. This type is depicted on 63 pages – 53 of about Polish and 11 Romanian Karaś. What surprised me a lot was a variety of camouflages and markings options of Romanian Karaś.
PZL.23 is followed by PZL.42 which was build just in one example for trial with the twin vertical tails and later allocated to training unit and later sent to Dęblin where it was destroyed in a bombed hangar.
Another chapter presents PZL.43 Chayka (Czajka) in Polish, German and Bulgarian hands. Although similar to PZL.23 this was very different plane, having more powerful engine, better armament, reworked and extended fuselage, different engine cooling system and reworked cockpit glazing. This type was build for Bulgaria, but in September 1939 few machines were used in combat against German Forces. Few machines were captured by Germans and used for trials wearing German crosses and later handed over to Bulgarians. Although Bulgaria was the major user of the PZL.43 although these two machines used by Poles and Germans are depicted on colour profiles. Bulgarian planes are shown on five profiles.
The last machine presented in the book is PZL.46 Sum which is the last construction of the whole family. Prototype was first flown in October 1938 and displayed during XVI International Air Show in Paris. Second prototype was build in March 1939. This type is presented on just few archive photographs and one colour profile, however text describes almost its complete history and combat service.
On the last page publisher provides a handy colour reference chart with examples of colours seen on depicted machines in different periods of time and in hands of different users. We get the name of colour, sample of colour with its Federal Standard number and type of plane on which it was used. The table is accompanied by a written description of finishing colour, time periods, different camouflages and their modifications introduced by Poles, Romanians and Bulgarians.
Polish Wings series one more time provides us very useful and historically accurate reference. We can find here not only a lot of new photographs revealing details of many depicted machines but as a modeller, a lot of inspiration of scale miniatures – from stand-alone models to bases, vignettes and dioramas. All my books of this series were good shots which I never regretted and this one is the same good shot. Beside name of the author is a guarantee of the highest quality. If you are interested in the history of Polish aviation and Polish Air Force, you can easily buy his books blindfolded and you won't be disappointed.
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