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The Neomega Yakovlev UT-1 in 1/72

 

By Chris Bucholtz

 

HISTORY

Although little known in the west, Yakovlevís UT-1 played a vital role in the growth of the Red Air Force, both before and after the German invasion of 1941. Although it was small in size and had just a single seat, it was the Russian equivalent of the T-6 Texan, especially before American lend-lease shipments began, and served as the principal Soviet advanced and aerobatic trainer for the early part of World War II.

The YAKOVLEV UT-2, a two-place basic trainer powered by the M-11E five-cylinder air-cooled radial, preceded the UT-1. The smaller UT-1 was powered by the same engine and was built to be rugged, simple and easy to maintain. The plane was only 18 feet, 8 inches long and had a span of 23 feet, 9 inches, and weighed 1300 pounds, but could reach a top speed of 158 mph and was both maneuverable and forgiving, making it a logical choice for advance training duties.

In order to reach production status, the then fledgling Yakovlev firm entered two UT-1s in the Moscow-Sevastopol-Moscow air race of July 24, 1937. The 19-entrant race turned into a two-plane duel between the two UT-1s, which finished the course in 10 hours 41 minutes, at the time a class record. Of the seven competitors that completed the course, none were within 15 minutes of the UT-1s. On the basis of this performance and ruggedness, the UT-1 was ordered into full production.

The UT-1 found immediate favor in military and civil flight schools and in sport flying clubs, all of which were being carefully organized by the Stalin regime to prepare for war. It was often presented by the Communist Party as a gift to the Osoaviakhim, the Soviet organization that supported and promoted interest in aviation. The plane could be fitted with two pontoons, and in this configuration it was known at the VT-1. A The UT-1 set an altitude record of 10,700 feet in October 1937, and a VT-1 set an altitude record for floatplanes shortly afterward.

When war came, the UT-1 was pressed into emergency service, training the pilots who would combat the invading Germans. The plane made an excellent liaison aircraft, and in 1942 the UT-1 was pressed into combat duties. A total of 21 aircraft were modified to carry a machine gun mounted externally on each wing and two RO-82 rockets under each wing. Starting July 16, 1942, these aircraft began flying night harassment missions against the German invaders from the airfields at Koukharevka and Semenovka. The pace of these missions was high during August and September, and by the end of the year only seven of the modified UT-1s was left in service.

The UT-1 was produced in significant numbers, 1241, and for many years, from 1937 to 1948. It helped build interest in aviation among the men who would build the Soviet Air Force, and for that reason it is a very significant aircraft.

THE KIT

The Neomega kit of the UT-1 is not the first in 1/72; Wings 72 produced a UT-1/VT-1 vacuform kit some years ago. The simplicity and detail of this kit made it an attractive departure from my more involved projects, and the Osoaviakhim presentation scheme offered an opportunity to add some color to my collection.

The kit comes in a brittle, bright green resin. Ribbing and fabric structures are portrayed in restrained and realistic manner. The chief components are the wing and fuselage, each a single part; the wing includes the floorboard detail for the cockpit, and the fuselage has the pilotís entry doors already separated from the fuselage. The engine cylinders were separate, well-detailed parts, which made them easy to paint. Small details, like the control yoke and pilotís seat, were provided in resin. Unfortunately, the kit has its share of problems, chief among them the instructions, which are in Cyrillic and provide nothing more than a three-view of the assembled model. The wheels are supplied as resin parts that are supposed to be inserted into rubber tires, but doing this is impossible without wrecking the wheels, thanks to the thinness and brittleness of the resin. Also, the technique used to locate the wheel pantsóa stub on the lower wing, rather than a recess or an unmarked flat areaómeans that building a VT-1 or a unspatted version is out unless the modeler wants to do some conversion work. The packaging also left something to be desired; one of the engine cylinder shields on the fuselage was snapped off and an engine cylinder was broken in the bag when I opened the kit. The two side doors were missing altogether.

Construction of this little plane was much less straightforward than I thought it would be. The rudder suffered from warpage, and in trying to correct this warp using hot water, I discovered just how brittle the resin was. The upper rudder snapped off, forcing me to glue it back and sand the seam down. This brittleness would come back to haunt me later.

The cockpit sidewalls, control panel and floorboards were painted in a dark gray color close to FS 36175. I added black to the instruments and followed them with drops of Future floor polish to simulate the shine of the instrumentsí lenses. The instrument panel fit surprisingly well into the fuselage, leaving nary a seam between it and the cockpit rails. The sidewalls feature a map case, radio and throttle handle, but lack the prominent ribbing detail of the exterior. I added a length of styrene strip to this location to simulate the ribbing, then painted the sidewalls and picked out the details with a fine brush.

The seat was painted next, in a lighter gray shade with olive drab belts and silver buckles. The seat itself had an odd texture to it, but one that was impossible to remedy without ruining the seat belt detail. I prefer to think the seat was simply roughly cast. A bigger problem was that the seat was slightly too large for the cockpit when the sidewalls were installed. I sanded the edges carefully, then lodged the seat in placeóno glue was required!

The fuselage itself had a mold-part seam running across the top of the fuselage; unfortunately, this line crossed two prominent fuel filler caps atop the nose. These were sanded away and replaced with spare brass "caps" that began life as trim wheels. A few other small pinholes had to be corrected to make the fuselage ready for the addition of the wing, which was beautifully molded. I superglued the wing in place, but as I was adjusting the alignment, the brittle resin struck again and the entire left wing ended up coming off in my hand! Luckily, the break was clean and I soon had the lower part of the wing joint cleaned up.

The top joint would not have been bad except for the raised detail on the walkway at the left wing root. This had to be eradicated in order to clean up the joint and took a lot of elbow grease to completely remove.

The horizontal tails were molded with locating pins, but these position the stabilizers slightly too far aft. I sanded the joins and attached the stabilizers in the correct position using superglue, then carefully sanded the resulting seams.

Next came the wheel pants. One of the pants snapped in half as I was cutting it from the carrier sprue; again, it was a clean break and was quickly repaired. The pants didnít quite fit the stubs at the bottom of the wings, and considerable clean up was required to eliminate the seam between the wing and the wheel pants.

Once this was concluded, I was ready to paint this simple little aircraft. I masked the cockpit and sprayed three coats of Halfords white primer, a British automotive spray carried surreptitiously across the Atlantic by a Limey acquaintance of mine. Once this was completed, I gave the model a coat of water-based Varathane, thinned with water and windshield washer fluid and sprayed through my airbrush. This provided a nice gloss for decalling and provided a perfectly smooth surface for the masking of the trim, the next step in finishing the model.

I masked the rather involved Osoaviakhim trim with Tamiya masking tape and airbrushed a coat of Model Master insignia red. There were a few small areas that needed touch up when the masking was removed, but the most notable of these was the rudder, which again broke. After sanding the seam flat for a second time, I masked the rest of the airplane and let fly with the Halfords. About the time that this was done, one of the horizontal tails broke, and I went through this exercise yet again.

After this ordeal was concluded, I shot another coat of Varathane and started to look for decals. The kit decals, printed by Travers, are simply too large for the model; instead, I swiped a set of stars from the Wings 72 kit and applied them in eight positions. The walkway was replaced by a bit of black trim film, which I first airbrushed with Testors dullcoat.

The engine cylinders came next. They were each painted grimy black and drybrushed with silver, followed by a mixture of brown, dark gray and silver on the exhausts. I had some trouble fitting them into the holes in the nose, but some careful sanding of the cylindersí bases allowed me to slip them easily into place. The control yoke came next, followed by the pre-painted tailskid.

The model was given a wash with dark gray watercolor paint, which popped out the control surfaces and panel lines. The propeller was airbrushed with Testors aluminum buffing metalizer and placed into place.

Next came the tail struts and rigging. The kit provides copper wire for the braces on the wheel spats, but I chose to substitute stiff steel wire. I drilled small holes to accept the wire and glued the ends into the holes; a similar approach was taken on the tail. It was imperative that these holes are in precisely the right location; any deviance in alignment would have turned this detail into a real detriment. Two small struts were fashioned from plastic strip and were installed under the tail in alignment with the bracing wires.

The cockpit entry doors were made from styrene strip and were given a bit of a curve by stressing them over a paintbrush handle. Once they were painted and detailed with opening handles, they were glued in place against the side of the cockpit. The wingtip lights were picked out using Tamiya clear red and clear green, adding a bit more color to this colorful plane.

I dispensed with the resin wheel centers and superglued the tires into the wheel pants. They project far enough to give the model the proper stance.

The final detail was the frameless windscreen, which is not provided in the kit. A sheet of clear plastic is provided, as is a full-size template on the instructions. I cut the plastic sheet to size according to the template, then bent the plastic using a pair of flat-nosed pliers more often employed for photo-etched brass. This new windscreen was attached with white glue. My UT-1 was now ready for flight!

This kit is a nice replica of an important plane, but the brittle resin and the useless instructions make it suitable only for advanced modelers.

My thanks to Mike Burton for providing the Wings 72 kit and Robin Powell for importing the paint used in this project.

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