Italeri 1/48 Junkers Ju 87D-5 Stuka – Kit Review

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Kit: Italeri 1/48 No 2709 Ju 87 D-5 Stuka.

Price: £29.99 available from Spot-On Models & Games, Fleet Street, Swindon.

Decals: 4 options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.

Notes: Photo etched parts included. Eduard 1/48 EX368 Ju 87D Canopy Mask for Italeri kit used.

History

Detachment Kuhlmey (German: Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey) was a temporary unit of the German Luftwaffe in operation from the 13 June 1944 – 13 August 1944. The unit was commanded by Oberstleutnant Kurt Kuhlmey and the detachment was built around the unit Schlachtgeschwader 3, which also was commanded by Kuhlmey.

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Operational history

The unit participated in large battles of summer 1944, during the Finnish-Soviet Continuation War. When the Soviet Red Army launched its fourth strategic offensive on 9 June 1944 C. G. E. Mannerheim asked Germany for help. Among the help that arrived was a Luftwaffe unit that arrived to Finland on 12 June. The aircraft landed at the Immola Airfield on 17 June. The unit used the whole airfield from there on. The unit flew some 2,700 missions against the enemy and dropped 770 tonnes of bombs on the enemy. It destroyed over 150 Soviet aircraft, about 200 tanks, dozens of bridges and transport vessels. 23 of the pilots died and 24 were wounded in battle. The unit lost 41 of its aircraft. The detachment consisted of some 70 airworthy aircraft to support the 200 strong Finnish force, but its operational strength varied due to losses, additions and troop movements.

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According to this, II./SG 3 was training at Jēkabpils, I./SG 5 in Pori, and III and IV./JG 54 in Illesheim, and they could not participate in the fighting on the Karelian Isthmus. I./SG 3, which was in Finland, received new Fw 190 aircraft as soon as they left Finland for Tartu in Estonia.

The Junkers 87 Stuka

The Junkers Ju 87 or Stuka (from Sturzkampfflugzeug, “dive bomber“) was a two-man (pilot and rear gunner) German dive bomber and ground-attack aircraft. Designed by Hermann Pohlmann, the Stuka first flew in 1935 and made its combat debut in 1936 as part of the Luftwaffe‘s Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War.

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The aircraft was easily recognisable by its inverted gull wings and fixed spatted undercarriage, upon the leading edges of its faired maingear legs were mounted the Jericho-Trompete (“Jericho Trumpet”) wailing sirens, becoming the propaganda symbol of German air power and the blitzkrieg victories of 1939–1942. The Stuka’s design included several innovative features, including automatic pull-up dive brakes under both wings to ensure that the aircraft recovered from its attack dive even if the pilot blacked out from the high acceleration.

Once the Luftwaffe lost air superiority on all fronts, the Ju 87 once again became an easy target for enemy fighter aircraft. In spite of this, because there was no better replacement, the type continued to be produced until 1944. By the end of the conflict, the Stuka had been largely replaced by ground-attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, but was still in use until the last days of the war. An estimated 6,500 Ju 87s of all versions were built between 1936 and August 1944.

Ju 87D

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Despite the Stuka’s vulnerability to enemy fighters having been exposed during the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe had no choice but to continue its development, as there was no replacement aircraft in sight. The result was the D-series. In June 1941, the RLM ordered five prototypes, the Ju 87 V21–25. A Daimler-Benz DB 603 powerplant was to be installed in the Ju 87 D-1, but it did not have the power of the Jumo 211 and performed “poorly” during tests and was dropped. The Ju 87 D-series featured two coolant radiators underneath the inboard sections of the wings, while the oil cooler was relocated to the position formerly occupied by the coolant radiator. The D-series also introduced an aerodynamically refined cockpit with better visibility and space. In addition, armour protection was increased and a new dual-barrel 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81Z machine gun with an extremely high rate of fire was installed in the rear defensive position. Engine power was increased again, the Jumo 211J now delivering 1,420 PS (1,044 kW or 1,400 hp). Bomb carrying ability was nearly quadrupled from 500 kg (1,100 lb) in the B-version to 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) in the D-version (max. load for short ranges, overload condition), a typical bomb load ranged from 500–1,200 kg (1,100–2,600 lb).

The internal fuel capacity of the Ju 87D was raised to 800 L (of which 780 L were usable) by adding additional wing tanks while retaining the option to carry two 300 L drop tanks. Tests at Rechlin revealed it made possible flight duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes. With an extra two 300 L (80 US gal) fuel tanks, it could achieve four hours flight time.

The D-2 was a variant used as a glider tug by converting older D-series airframes. It was intended as the tropical version of the D-1 and had heavier armour to protect the crew from ground fire. The armour reduced its performance and caused the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe to “place no particular value on the production of the D-2”. The D-3 was an improved D-1 with more armour for its ground-attack role. A number of Ju 87 D-3s were designated D-3N or D-3 trop and fitted with night or tropical equipment. The D-4 designation applied to a prototype torpedo-bomber version, which could carry a 750–905 kg (1,653–1,995 lb) aerial torpedo on PVC 1006 B rack. The D-4 was to be converted from D-3 airframes and operated from the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. Other modifications included a flame eliminator and, unlike earlier D variants, two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, while the radio operator/rear gunner’s ammunition supply was increased by 1,000 to 2,000 rounds.

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The Ju 87 D-5 was based on the D-3 design and was unique in the Ju 87 series as it had wings 0.6 metres (1-foot) longer than previous variants. The two 7.92 mm MG 17 wing guns were exchanged for more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20s to better suit the aircraft’s ground-attack role. The window in the floor of the cockpit was reinforced and four, rather than the previous three, aileron hinges were installed. Higher diving speeds were obtained of 650 km/h (400 mph) up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). The range was recorded as 715 km (444 mi) at ground level and 835 km (519 mi) at 5,000 m (16,000 ft).

Organisation of Detachment Kuhlmey

The following units and aircraft in Finland belonged to Detachment Kuhlmey:

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The transport squadron TGr.10 also belonged to the unit, and it consisted of 35 Savoia Marchetti SM.81/AR transport aircraft and a number of transport, liaison and reconnaissance aircraft.

The majority of the aircraft of the unit left Finland on 23 July, but I/SG 5 who stayed until 13 August. A memorial was raised at the Immola Airfield on 23 July 1994 in memory of the unit.

Schlachtgeschwader 3

Schlachtgeschwader 3 (SG 3) was a Luftwaffe Dive bomberwing of World War II. It was formed on 18 October 1943 in Eleusis from the Stab/Sturzkampfgeschwader 3. A special detachment was formed 13 June 1944 to 13 August 1944 referred to as Detachment Kuhlmey. The detachment was built around elements of I./SG 3, I./SG 5, II./JG 54 and NaGr.1.

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Commanding officers

Kommodore

Gruppenkommandeure

I./SG 3

  • Hauptmann Helmut Naumann, 18 October 1943 –      1944
  • Hauptmann Hans Töpfer, 1944 – 19 February 1945
  • Hauptmann Heinrich Smikalla, 4 March 1945 –      8 May 1945

II./SG 3

  • Hauptmann Theodor Nordmann, 18 October 1943 – 18 January 1945
  • Hauptmann Adolf Heimlich, 18 January 1945 –      8 May 1945

III./SG 3

  • Hauptmann Heinz Hoge, 18 October 1943 – 31      December 1943
  • Hauptmann Heinz Hamester, 31 December 1943 – 15 June 1944
  • Hauptmann Heinz Hoge, 15 June 1944 – 15      October 1944
  • Hauptmann Siegfried Göbel, 15 October 1944      – 25 January 1945
  • Hauptmann Fritz Eyer, 25 January 1945 – 15      February 1945
  • Hauptmann Horst Schnuchel, 15 February 1945      – 6 March 1945
  • Hauptmann Erich Bunge, 6 March 1945 – 25      March 1945
  • Hauptmann Hans Niehuus, 25 March 1945 – 8      May 1945

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The Kit

The kit is supplied in a ‘Tray-type’ top-opening box. The contents consist of six sprues in grey injection moulded plastic; one clear sprue, one sheet of etched brass components and a 16 page, A4 instruction booklet in black and white, which is well laid out in an ‘exploded-view’ format, set out in 16 easy to follow steps with a 3-view stencil data diagram and four versions to choose from towards the back of the booklet. The mouldings look crisp and the detail subtle yet convincing for this scale. The transparencies are clear and well-defined and the decals are in register and of excellent quality, which we have come to expect from Italeri.

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Construction

The parts were washed in a warm soapy solution before being left to dry in order to remove the mould-release. Once dry, the kit was primed using grey auto-primer from a rattlecan. The construction process began with the cockpit tub. This is dealt with in stages 1 to 3 of the instruction booklet.

Stage 1 involves the construction of the pilot’s control panel. This is supplied in three pieces, a plastic back-plate, then a decal overlaid with a photo-etched component. The foot pedals are attached to the rear of this assembly and the instrument panel coaming is added after the gunsight has been glued into position. The combing is a photo-etched part which requires bending in 6 positions to fit, however, this is a straight forward process.

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Stage 2 is concerned with the assembly of the cockpit floor, seats and bulkheads. All of the interior parts including the cockpit side-walls and fuselage halves were airbrushed with Humbrol Matt 240 (RLM 02) from their Luftwaffe paint range. The radio gear, switch boxes and control column handle were painted Humbrol 33 Matt black. The Photo-etched seatbelts and gunner’s seat-sling were painted using WEM deck teak with the buckles picked out in silver. Once assembled, the whole unit was given a wash of heavily-thinned Windsor & Newton Ivory Black and Burnt Umber.

After the interior had been left to dry overnight, the fuselage halves were joined and taped as per Stage 3, the Photo-etched armour-plating was applied to the fuselage sides and the airframe was set to one side to dry.

Stage 4 consists of joining the upper and lower wings. Several holes were drilled out to accommodate the bomb carriers, coolant radiators and the forward-firing 20 mm MG 151/20s. Once complete, the wings were glued, taped and set to one side.

Stage 5 consists of joining the completed fuselage assembly to the wings. The fit was excellent and required no filler. Peripheral accessories were added as per the instructions before the engine was assembled. The Jumo 211J engine, radiator and exhausts went together seamlessly. The cowling comes in three sections, the top and two-sides. These fitted together extremely well and attached to the fuselage without any trouble, which completed stage 8.

Stage 9 deals with the canopy fitting. The armour plate and the radio aerial is fitted to part 6E, I recommend using white glue to achieve this in order to prevent the canopy from ‘fogging’. Next, the Eduard canopy mask was applied, the rear guns and PE gun-sights were glued into position and finally, the canopy was attached to the fuselage.

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Stage 10 deals with the application of the rear horizontal tail surfaces, rudder and tail-wheel. During stage 11, the dive-brakes, ‘spatted’ undercarriage and tail-plane support struts were attached. The actuating arms and radiators were then fixed into position and the airframe was left to dry overnight.

Camouflage and Markings

Four camouflage choices are available with this kit. Version A; Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légieró (Hungarian Air Force), 2/2. zB. Század, pilot Gyózó Lévy, Ukraine 1943. Version B; Stab 3/SG 3 Staffelkapitan Theo Baurle, Immola, Finland 1944. Version C; Stab 3/SG 2, Hauptman Ulric Rudel, Russia 1943/1944 and Version D; 1/NSG9, Ravenna, Italy 1944.

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I chose Version B: Staffelkapitan Baurle’s Ju 87D-5 based at Immola, Finland 1944. Once primed, the intakes and wheels were masked before the undersides were airbrushed using White Ensign Models RLM 65 Hellblau, the outer-wings were then given their ‘Eastern Front’ recognition bands using WEM RLM 04 Gelb. After drying overnight, the lower-surfaces were masked off and the upper surfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol 242 (RLM 71 Dunkelgrun). The aircraft was then masked in a late war ‘splinter-pattern’ and airbrushed with Humbrol 241 (Schwartzgrün). These aircraft received some demanding use as part of Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey; to reflect this, I weathered the airframe heavily using a prismacolor silver pencil. Once the decals had been applied using decal setting solution, the entire aircraft was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear.

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Final Construction

The mass-balances, pitot-tube, aerial wire, bombs and 20 mm MG 151/20s were the final components completing this project.

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Conclusion

This kit was a delight to build. It went together with the minimum of fuss and represents a fine example of this iconic aircraft. Highly recommended.

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References

  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Bagration to Berlin – The Final Air Battles in the East: 1944–1945. Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Valtonen, Hannu (1991). Lento-osasto Kuhlmey: Saksan Luftwaffe Suomen tukena kesällä 1944 [Detachment Kuhlmey: German Luftwaffe supporting Finland in summer 1944] (in Finnish). Tikkakoski: Keski-Suomen ilmailumuseo. ISBN 951-95688-1-6.
  • Bergström, Christer. Bagration to Berlin – The Final Air Battles in the East: 1944 – 1945. London: Ian Allen, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-91-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. Barbarossa – The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • Bergström, Christer. Kursk – The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chervron/Ian Allen, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
  • Bergström, Christer. Stalingrad – The Air Battle: November 1942–February 1943. London: Chervron/Ian Allen 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4.

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External links

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Thanks to Chris and Bob Hext of Spot-On Models & Games, Fleet Street, Swindon for the review sample. This kit is listed on Spot-on Models facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/spotonmodels?hc_location=timeline

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