With its high speed and good altitude performance, the F series was a natural candidate to be developed into a reconnnaissance aircraft. It was lacking range so it carried fuselage racks for the 300 liter drop tank.
The F-4/R-2-R3-R4 (often wrongly identified as F-5 or F-6) was different to a standard F-4 in that it wasn't fitted with the radio and did not have the external windscreen armored glass. It was instead equipped with a Rb 20/30 camera (R2), a Rb50/30 camera (R3) or a Rb 75/30 camera (R4).
Externally, the F-4/R-2-R3-R4's main characteristic was the specially designed aperture under the fuselage. Also, the reconnaissance Bf 109 Fs didn't carried the same markings as the fighters but instead could be identified by a combinaison of code letters and numbers. Althought built in limited numbers, the high performance of the reco F-4 allowed it to stay on operations well into 1943. There are many documented chases by the RAF aircraft over the desert or over Malta, that never caught what had to be a reco F-4/R doing its job.
(Sources: Bf 109 In Action, Me 109 Tome 2 Histoire & Collections and Bf 109 Part 2 Sam publications).
I won't go too far into detail with this review as ICM's F-4/R3 kit is basically the same as their initialy released F-2 (n°48102) and F-4 (n°48103) references. A review of both model kits can be found here: Bf109 F-2
and Bf109 F-4
To sum up, the ICM kit is fairly accurate but lacks in detail is some places and the moulding is not always very clean. The cockpit in particular is simplified and the wheels are a bit on the soft side. There is some flash here and there and the surface of the plastic part isn't always very smooth.
On the good side you have a kit that looks like a Bf 109 F once finished, that is not too complicated to build (the fit is good despite the fact that the fuselage is made of no less than 8 parts!?), features a nicely done engine, has separate rudder and flaps and has some nice transparent parts. Also one thing to consider is that the ICM kits are usually less expensive than other similar kits.
As I said before, the new F-4/R3 kit is almost the same as the F-4 one but with the notable presence of an additional sprue holding some new parts. Here is a list of the content of the kit:
- Four sprues made of light grey injected plastic.
- One sprue made of transparent plastic.
- One decal sheet.
- One instruction sheet.
- One decal and painting guide.
The new sprue holds the parts to do this special variant of the F-4. It has the specially designed camera fairing which must be fitted on the fuselage's belly as well as the fuel tank rack and the fuel tank itself (type B and C). Other parts are also present (ETC 50 bomb rack, SC50 bombs, AB 50 bombs, SC250 bombs, AB 250 bomb). The presence of parts for rocket pods as well as 20mm gun gondolas (not used) makes it obvious that ICM plan to do other variants of the Bf 109 in the future, probably the G version.
The instructions are made out of one A4 sheet of paper folded so to make a four pages A5 booklet. It has the building instructions printed on it (eight steps assembly guide, parts layout, brief history, Model Master color chart, etc...). A second one has the painting and decaling guide for one marking option. On the back of the box there is also a color version of the latter.
The decals sheet is typical ICM with a matt surface. markings are provided for two different aircraft, though only one is mentionned in the instructions:
- Bf 109 F-4/R-3 "white T", 4.(F)/123, Northern france, spring 1942.
- Bf 109 F-4/R-3 "F6 TH", 1.(F)/122, Sicily, 1942.
Both aircraft wear a RLM74/75 over RLM 76 camouflage with a sawtooth like demarcation of the upper colors. The machine coded F6 TH has a white Mediterranean fuselage band theatre marking. Like I said previously, there is no mention of the second option anywhere in the ICM kit, apart from the fact that they are present on the decal sheet, very odd!
The printing of the decals is not very good being sometimes out of register. The bigger markings (fuselage crosses and codes) are usable but some of the smaller ones (unit insignias and some stencils) must be replaced. One strange thing I have also noticed is that the F6 TH codes are slightly different from one side to another. I don't know if this was a feature of the real aircraft so I won't comment further on this.
While not perfect, the ICM Bf 109 F-4/R3 does represent a nice alternative since it includes options which are not present in other kits. Additional work will be necessary to clean the parts and some scratchbuilding needed to enhance the overall level of detail though. Eduard have a nice PE set in their catalogue if you want to dress up your model, though it is destined to the F-2 kit it will also work for the F-4 variant (see review here
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