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Balkan Bridgebuster: Turning Hasegawa's Hurricane IIc/Trop Into A Hurricane IV With The CMK Resin Sets

By Tom Cleaver

 

Introduction

With all the problems in the Balkans in the past decade, it is sometimes difficult to remember that there was a time when Yugoslavia was part of the anti-Nazi Alliance of the Second World War. While the struggle of the Yugoslav Partisans is well-known, the work of the Balkans Air Force in the struggle to free Yugoslavia is less so. Inasmuch as this period was the last time warplanes of the Western Alliance flew combat in the Balkan region, it's a subject that interested me.

The Royal Air Force during the Second World War was truly an international force, with squadrons composed of refugee fliers from all the occupied states of Europe manning its ranks. The exploits of Polish, Belgian, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech and French aviators have passed into popular history, but not those of the fliers from the Balkan states. The Desert Air Force of the Mediterranean theater was probably the most-international part of the RAF, and it included pilots of the former air forces of Yugoslavia and Greece. By the time the Allies had pushed into Italy and up the "boot" by early 1944, the Yugoslav partisans on the other side of the Adriatic Sea controlled substantial portions of the Balkan countryside. It was decided that the international squadrons, and the squadrons of the Italian Co- Belligerent Air Force, composed as they were of fliers with experience in that region, would begin to fly air support missions over Yugoslavia for the partisans. One of the most effective units in this role was 351 Yugoslavia Squadron, which had been formed in Egypt in 1941 and fought through the North African campaign, manned by former Royal Yugoslavian Air Force pilots.

By late 1944, full squadrons of what had come to be known as "The Balkans Air Force" were operating "behind enemy lines" in the liberated regions for several weeks at a time, as well as from liberated Greece. The result of this western involvement in the region likely had a lot to do with the fact that the Red Army never "liberated" Yugoslavia as they did the surrounding states to the north and east, which was why Josip Tito was able to establish his "independent" state after the war.

The Airplane

By mid-1941, the Hurricane was passe as an air superiority fighter, at least in northwestern Europe. It was the primary British air superiority fighter in North Africa until 1942, but it had already shown itself an excellent fighter bomber over Northwestern France, where it gained the nickname "Hurribomber." In North Africa, the Hurricane IIb and IIc became excellent front line close support aircraft. The Hurricane IId, armed with two 40mm "can openers" became one of the most feared anti-armor weapons in that conflict. In Britain, the Hurricane was the first RAF fighter to carry RPs and prove their effectiveness in ground attack.

By 1943, Hawker determined to create a Hurricane specifically tailored to the needs of these missions. The result was the Hurricane IV with the "universal" wing and a low-altitude rated Merlin XXV engine, giving its maximum performance at altitudes below 5,000 feet. The Hurricane IV wing was strengthened to carry full loads of eight 60-lb RPs, or 500-lb bombs (instead of the 250 pounders of the earlier fighter- bombers), or the 40mm cannons of the IId version. The cowling panels were armored, as was the radiator fairing, to provide additional protection against ground fire. 183 Squadron in Great Britain took the Mk.IV into its first combats, but by the end of 1943 their aircraft had been replaced with Typhoons. The Hurricane IV soldiered on in the Mediterranean and SEAC theaters to the end of the war, where it gave good account of itself wherever it was used.

The Model

Hasegawa's Mk.IIc Hurricane betrayed its development potential in the fact that the fairings for the cannon breeches were separate moldings on the wing, and that the leading edge of the wing where the cannon barrels were mounted included an alternative with the single .30 caliber "sighting" weapon of the Mk.IId tank buster. This was later proven when the company brought out a limited release of the IId.

Czechmaster Resin also brought out sets for the Hurricane cockpit, for the separate rudder and elevators, and for underwing loads in the form of the non-jettisonable 44-gallon wing tanks and the fairing for the bomb mount.

Given that I had an early Aeromaster sheet, "Foreign Hurricanes," (48-005) which included a 351 Yugoslav Squadron Hurricane IV, I decided to use the CMK sets, along with the underwing ordnance from an old Monogram Hurricane kit, to make this airplane. Photographs in both the Squadron "Hurricane in Action" book and "Hurricane at War" showed Hurri IVs of the Balkan Air Force with asymmetric loads of a drop tank under one wing, and four RPs under the other; the airplane on the Aeromaster sheet can be identified on one photo in the "In Action" book, sitting on an airfield in Greece with this load.

Construction

I first started work on the CMK cockpit, but I quickly determined that the only part of this set that was superior to what was in the kit to begin with was the floor, which provided better detail, and the photo-etch parts for the spade-grip control stick. Quite frankly, the side parts were too thick, and made the cockpit far too claustrophobic. The seat was good because it had the seatbelts molded in. I ended up using the CMK floor and seat, with the rest of the cockpit detail coming from that supplied with the kit.

I cut off the rudder, to replace it with the resin rudder from the control set. The horizontal stabilizer and elevators from the CMK set were also used. I did not use the resin ailerons, since the work to make them look right did not seem worth the effort, given their lack of quality in comparison with what was there to begin with. However, one is not obligated to use everything in the set, merely those things that add to the project.

The rocket rails and mounting plate from the ancient Monogram kit are serviceable, but need a bit of extra effort to bring them up to contemporary standards; mostly this involved adding shape with putty to the mounting plate. I also replaced the terrible RPs with four left over from a Tamiya Mosquito kit.

Once the fuselage was assembled, it was necessary to build up the area of the upper fuselage spine immediately aft of the cockpit, which is cut down to give the closed canopy a proper position if the kit is built out of the box. I was going to use the Squadron vacuformed Hurricane canopy - which I recommend to anyone making a model from this kit - which would allow the canopy to be displayed open to see the nice cockpit detail.

Painting

Whereas most of the Hurricane IVs initially delivered to the Mediterranean theater were in desert camouflage of dark earth/mid stone/azure blue, by mid-1944 they were being delivered from the factory in the standard temperate scheme of ocean grey/dark green/sea grey medium, which is how I painted this airplane.

Decals

The 351 Squadron airplanes differed from standard RAF markings in having the new Yugoslav marking of a red star superimposed over the standard RAF fuselage roundel, and the RAF fin flash replaced by one which represented the new Yugoslav flag, with a yellow-outlined red star superimposed on the white center stripe. The two-part fuselage insignia presented no problem, but I discovered that the fin flash as supplied on the sheet was too small, with the red star also too small. I replaced this with a post-war RAF fin flash out of the decal dungeon, with a small yellow-surround red star taken from the victory markings of an Aeromaster MiG-15 sheet.

Final Details

Once the model had been cleaned of decal setting solution and sprayed with gloss varnish, I used several coats of flat varnish to bring it to the matt finish. I picked out a bit of metal wear on the cowling and around the gun bay on the wing. With the canopy glued into position using Elmer's Glue, the model was finished.

Overall

I like the Hurricane as an airplane, and I like the Hasegawa kit, with the caveat that I wish they had re-engineered the lower wing-to-fuselage joint so it didn't come right in the middle of the fabric effect, and I wouldn't complain if the fabric effect had been done in a more-subdued manner; in reality, the fabric on the rear fuselage should be tightly stretched over the formers. Oh well, one can't have everything. Producing an airplane in international markings memorializes the pilots of many nations who flew this often-outclassed airplane to its place in the history books.




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