Kit No. SH 72315
Decals: Three versions, all Luftwaffe, including one for a night fighter school
Comments: Engraved panel lines, single piece canopy, resin detail parts for airscrew, machine gun, wheels, practice bombs, and external ordnance pylons; photo-etch cockpit details for instrument panels, rudder pedals, and seat straps; detailed assembly instructions with color plates
The Arado Ar 96 was a successful single-engine, two -seat advanced trainer used by the German Luftwaffe during and immediately prior to World War II. Designed in 1936 in response to a Reich Air Ministry requirement as a clean, low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, the Arado trainer was quite modern at the time, using many light alloys. It was designed to fill the gap between the biplanes employed for basic training and the advanced monoplane fighters just entering service, in particular the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
The Arado Ar 96 prototype flew for the first time in 1937, powered by a 179 kW (240 hp) Argus As 10c engine.
The Ar 96 A-1 was initially considered underpowered and production moved on to the B-series, which was fitted with a more powerful Argus As 410 engine capable of 465 hp. The B also had a longer fuselage to allow it to carry more fuel. The B-1 and B-2 were the main production versions, with the B-2 ushering in the inclusion of a single MG 17 7.92mm machine gun in the starboard upper engine cowling. The B-3 which is the subject of this kit was identical to the B-2 but produced in much smaller numbers.
In terms of layout, the instructor and pupil sat in tandem seats under a long glazed canopy. The V1 was powered by an Argus As 10C inline engine and had the typical Arado tail, with the horizontal surfaces at the very rear and a tall fin and rudder just in front of them. On the V1 prototype, the wheels retracted outwards, but this meant that the gap between the wheels was quite small, and so on all production aircraft the wheels retracted inwards. This thoughtful change addressed a critical failing that the Arado prototype shared with the Bf 109, a small wheel-base that contributed significantly to ground accidents resulting in damaged aircraft, mostly on landings. Left unchanged on the 109, it hampered the type’s operational strength throughout the war.
The Arado Ar 96B was used by the A/B pilot training schools, and also by thirteen fighter training wings, the fighter replacement units and the officer cadet schools. 110 were used by the Royal Hungarian Air Force and four in Slovakia. The most dramatic moment in the aircraft’s service career came on April 28, 1945 when Hanna Reitsch used an Ar 96 to fly Ritter von Greim, the new Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe out of the ruins of Berlin.
A total of 11,546 aircraft were produced, although very few were built by Arado. Junkers’ Ago subsidiary did most of the work until 1941, before being replaced by the Czech firm Avia. An improved Ar 296 was planned but abandoned, while the Ar 396, which used fewer strategic materials, failed to arrive in time to serve with the Luftwaffe.
Engine: Argus As 410A-1 inverted inline engine
Wing span: 36ft 1in
Length: 29ft 10 1/4in
Height: 8ft 6 3/4in
Empty Weight: 2,854lb
Maximum take-off Weight: 3,748lb
Max Speed: 205mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 183mph
Service Ceiling: 23,295ft
Range: 615 miles
Armament: One 7.92mm MG 17
Special Hobby’s Arado Ar 96 B-3 is injection molded in grey and consists of 44 plastic parts, and 15 resin detail parts for the airscrew, machine gun, wheels, practice bombs, and external ordnance pylons. It also features photo-etch details for kit’s tandem instrument panels, rudder pedals, and seat straps. Modelers may choose between Arado’s signature bladed airscrew or a smooth version. The cockpit and wheel wells are both well detailed, the cockpit featuring a two-part floor with raised relief, individual rear bulkheads, individually mounted bucket seats, control yokes, instrumental panels, and raised relief for the interior sidewalls.
In addition, the photo-etch set includes parts for at least six individual levers for the lower main instrument panel, as well as a front and rear grills for the small radiator assembly beneath the engine. The instruction sheet is quite detailed and includes a legend for Gunze paint colors. The kit does not include a complete engine, but does feature an engine face offering raised relief to partially depict an Argus engine, although this will not be visible on the finished kit once the forward cowling cover is cemented into place.
There is a central spar to be cemented inside the wing which will provide a measure of detail for the wheel well interiors, as well as resin and PE parts forming the underwing bracket assemblies for the practice bombs.
The PE details also include roll ball framing between the tandem pilot/instructor and trainee seats in the cockpit. The resin machine gun barrel for the armed trainer version, mounted on the right upper nose of the aircraft, provides a nice touch. There are other small bits such as PE parts for sidewall-mounted cockpit controls engine exhausts, and other details. Finally, there are four photo-etch actuator rods for the ailerons and elevators.
The kit decals are by Aviprint and appear to be of excellent quality with a nice, semi-gloss sheen, completely in register. The markings are for any one of three Luftwaffe versions, the first being a nightfighter school designated NJG 101, stationed at Schlessheim airbase in July 1943; the second is for a machine from what may have been a fighter replacement unit stationed at Nancy-Essay airbase in Occupied France, also during 1943; the third is for a machine stationed at Tarbes-Lourdes airbase in Southern France, also during 1943. All three versions are painted in RLM02 overall, although the two latter versions also show individual panels painted a darker shade of “fresh” RLM02 as well as black lower panels on the engine cowling, which per the instruction sheet are intended to reflect recent repairs.
This kit is impressive in its level of detail, representing a quantum leap over the old Heller kit of this type. With patience, it will build into a very detailed representation of the advanced fighter trainer.