Kit No. 72117
Cost: $15.00 – 20.00
Decals: Seven (7) versions – Luftwaffe E-4/N piloted by Adolf Galland, 1940-41; Romanian Air Force E-3; Armee de l’Aire E-3, November 1939; Swiss Air Force E-3, Summer 1939; Yugoslavian Air Force E-3, Winter 1939-40; Condor Legion E-3, Spain 1939; Imperial Japanese Army E-3, October 1941.
Comments: Engraved panel lines; basic cockpit; option for centerline drop tank, centerline bomb, or centerline bomb pallette with four smaller bombs
The Messerschmitt BF109 was a legendary aircraft, and perhaps the best known fighter of World War II. With the introduction of the E series in 1939 (affectionally called Emil by its pilots) the Bf109 became the most high profile German export. The E-3 was first delivered in quantity to the Condor Legion’s fighter unit in Spain, despatched by Hitler to aid General Franco and his Nationalist (fascist) forces. Deploying what was then Germany’s most advanced fighter to Spain, thus giving the Condor Legion priority over regular Luftwaffe units, raised some eyebrows back home, but was part of a deal that included shipments by Franco of strategic iron ore to Germany.
Jagdgruppe 88, the official designation of the Condor Legion, had previously flown the Bf 109 B, C, and D series, and was re-equipping with the E when the Spanish Civil War ended. Examples of the Bf 109 were also purchased for testing and evaluation by Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Switzerland, Yugoslavia and Japan.
In Spain the Bf 109 proved the superiority of the monoplane over existing bi-plane fighters, including the Soviet-made Polikarpov I-15 and the Germans’ own Heinkel He51. However, the Polikarpov I-16 posed a threat even to the new Messerschmitt fighter; few contemporary fighters could match the “Rata’s” manueverability, for no other aircraft designer could produce the incredibily small airframe dimensions that Polikarpov had achieved. Earlier versions of the Bf 109, especially the B, were too lightly armed the I-16’s firepower. Condor Legion fighter pilots scrambled to protect Nationalist bomber formations against intercepting Ratas often had their hands full, but they learned to exploit the I-16’s critical weakness: its performance fell off at altitude. Only by forcing the Soviet fighters into a fight above 10,000 feet could the Messerschmitt pilots have a good chance of shooting them down — although the Bf 109 was faster than both the I-15 and I-16, it could rarely stay with either of them in a low-altitude turning fight.
Early Legion operations suffered significant losses, such as one dogfight in which two of six Bf 109’s were lost in combat against a mixed formation of six I-16’s and a few surviving I-15’s. Steady improvements in the 109 design, and similar development of aerial tactics, such as the diving attack and the ‘Schwarm,” a four-aircraft formation providing maximum visibility against potential attack, led to the reversal of such losses by 1938.
The Bf 109 E participated in the final stages of the air war in Spain, but the D was the version which deployed and saw combat in the greatest numbers (39 in all). However, the E went on to an even greater reputation as the mainstay Luftwaffe fighter by the time of the Battle of Britain, benefitting from the refinement of tactics first implemented by the Condor Legion in Spain.
Amodel’s kit of the Bf 109 Emil is injection molded in grey and consists of 46 parts, including a one-piece clear plastic canopy. The kit has engraved panel lines and a small amount of flash on most of the parts, requiring clean-up with a sharp blade or a sanding stick. The cockpit is basic with a seat, control yoke, and instrument panel (having no raised detail and no decal to supplant it). There is a choice of spinners and the wing-mounted machine guns are molded as a single piece with the upper half of each wing, a drawback as parts so molded are more easily damaged during construction or, as is the case with this kit, shipping. The engraved surface detail is thorough and impressive, certain to add a degree of realism to the completed kit. There is a choice of centerline stores for the belly: either a drop tank, a single large bomb, or a bomb pallette with four smaller bombs.
The kit is devoid of locator pins to assist assembly, and the plastic seems a bit soft. These factors may or may not affect the fit, but should be taken into account for modelers uncomfortable with the prospect of extensive puttying and sanding. The most attractive feature of the kit may be the great variety of markings, including not merely standard Luftwaffe and Condor Legion versions, but also markings for a Messerschmitt sold to the Japanese for evaluation, and another machine that was shot down in Spain by Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War and subsequently carted off to France, where it ultimately flew again under French colors. There are Swiss, Yugoslavian and Romanian markings as well.
In terms of external detail, this is an above average kit of World War II’s most recognized fighter aircraft. It is notable in that it commemorates the version of the Bf109 that signalled Messerschmitt’s design was reaching its high point.
- Messerschmitt Bf 109: The Operational Record by Jerry Scuts; Copyright Airlife Publishing Limited, 1996.