Kit No. KP009
Decals: Four versions – all Soviet VVS, World War II
Comments: Basic cockpit; good fit, aftermarket decals recommended
The Polikarpov Po-2 is the bi-plane with the largest production run in aviation history, with at least 33,000 machines built between 1928 and 1953. Designed originally as a military trainer, due to its simplicity and ruggedness, the Po-2 became a general purpose aircraft used in both military and civilian roles as an air ambulance, crop-duster, ground attack platform, liaison aircraft, and observation platform. Armed with rockets and two 100 kg bombs, it flew close-support missions assisting Soviet infantry, in a more lightly armed version of the Il-2 Sturmovik attacks. Russian troops gave it many nicknames, including “the Mule,” but one of the more popular was “Kukuruzhnik” or “Corncutter,” perhaps in homage to one of its pre-war uses as a crop-duster.
Originally designated U-2, it was conceived by the Polikarpov Design Bureau as a replacement for the U-1, the license-built Russian version of the British Avro 504 trainer. At the time of the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, 13,000 had already been built. During World War II, thousands of Soviet pilots trained on the Po-2. One of its more famous uses was as a psychological warfare weapon, harassing German troops on and behind the front lines with low-level night bombing attacks, to deprive them of a decent night’s sleep. In this role, the Po-2 was flown by the “Night Witches” of the all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment, who flew as many as 18 low altitude raids per night. The Po-2 was difficult to shoot down — even during the day — due to the combination of its slow speed, extreme maneuverability, and tight turning radius. So successful was this supposedly obsolete bi-plane that in 1944, its official designation was changed to Po-2 to honor its creator, M. Polikaropov.
The Po-2 was extremely versatile, being produced in 80 variants during its service life. Medical evacuation versions had either an enclosed rear cockpit for two stretchers, or a cylindrical container for a stretcher on each lower wing. A military liaison version was fitted with five seats. There were also a series of floatplane versions, including one fitted with an American 537 kW Wright Cyclone engine, which set a new altitude record for seaplanes in 1937. The Po-2’s longevity was due largely to its robust design, which included a strong undercarriage with heavy-duty shock absorbers giving it good handling qualities even on rough airfields. Below each bottom wingtip, semi-circular skids protected the wings in the event of rough landings.
Due to its ruggedness and versatility, the Po-2, like the British Fairey Swordfish, proved that apparently obsolete aircraft can stymie their detractors and serve on long past their anticipated service life. Polikarpov’s prolific bi-plane appeared once again during the Korean War, where it was flown by North Korean pilots against United Nations forces, reprising its WWII psychological warfare role as a night bomber.
Engine: Shvetsov M-11D five-cylinder
Wingspan: 11.4 meters, or 37.4 feet
Length: 8.17 meters, or 26.8 feet
Height: 3.1 meters, or 10.17 feet
Max Speed: 94 mph, or 156 km/hr at sea level
Weight: 2976 lbs – 635kg empty; 890 kg loaded
Range: 400km, or 248 miles
Service Ceiling: 8,843 feet
Armament: Racks for up to 120 kg or 264 lbs. of bombs and four RS-82 rockets; one 7.7mm ShKAS machine gun mounted aft of the rear cockpit
Kopro’s Po-2 is injected molded in dark grey and consists of 51 parts. The cockpit is basic but has surprisingly detailed seats and engraved detail on twin half-moon instrument panels for the dials. Control sticks and clear plastic windscreens are provided. The radial engine is OK, but could use dressing up with a photo-etch set. The wings sport raised details but no real stressed fabric effect, and there are rather heavy engraved lines for the ailerons and elevators. Although this is an older kit, there is very little flash.
You begin with the cockpit, which is very basic, so the only kit parts I used for it were the seats, which have relatively nice detail faithfully recreating the Po-2’s rudimentary but notable upholstery, and the control yokes. The parts for the floor and rudder pedals I discarded in favor of the aftermarket brass cockpit set for the Po-2 by Eduard, which includes an entire cockpit “cage,” complete with separate seat supports and frames, seat straps, rudder pedals, and a few exterior detail parts. The fuselage and tail assembly went together smoothly, requiring only a little putty and mild sanding. Attaching the lower wing to the fuselage was a bit challenging, as the lower wing is a single part, and the “spar” section between the two portions of the wing that will be visible once it is cemented onto the fuselage is a bit too thick. This area had to be heavily sanded before cementing to ensure a good, flush fit that would not break the smooth lines of the Po-2’s belly.
The landing gear look very fragile, but are more rugged than they appear and attached to the fuselage without difficulty. The wheels have a hollow “donut hole” center through which the main axle is inserted, and the instructions call for the protruding ends to be heated with a hot knife blade or tack, a la the old Monogram kits. I never liked this look, and fortunately the Eduard detail set included metal hub caps with realistic engraved detail. After trimming the ends of the main axle so that they did not protrude all the way through the wheels, I cemented the axle to the wheels and cemented the hub caps to the wheels’ outboard sides, resulting in a more realistic set of landing gear. The radial engine is fairly good, but required careful clean-up with a sanding stick and Xacto blade. The small brass detail part for it that is included in the Eduard detail set makes it look far more realistic.
Despite the inevitable headache that comes with all bi-planes of lining up the interplane struts to attach the upper and lower wings, the Po-2 presented only minor difficulty at this stage. Using Revell Contacta cement with its precision applicator, instead of quick-drying cyanoacrylate glue, helped this phase of construction proceed smoothly.
The Po-2 is airbrushed in Model Master enamels, sporting a camouflage scheme of Earth Brown (No. 2124), Russian Topside Green (No. 2122), and Dark Green (No. 1710). The underside is Russian Underside Blue (No.2123).
The decals are those provided in the Topshots/Kagero walk-around book on the Po-2 and the manufacturer is not identified, but appears very similar to Techmod in quality. They depict a Po-2 LNB of the 2nd “City of Krakow” Night Bomber Group at the end of WWII. The original aircraft has been restored and is now on display at the Polish Aviation museum. It is the only preserved bomber version of the Po-2 in the world.
- Topshots No. 11005 – Polikarpov Po-2 by Grzegorz Szymanowski (Kagero Books)
- Group 13: Aircraft of the World: Polikarpov Po-2/U-2 (Card 32)