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"WHITE ROSE OF STALINGRAD"

YAKOVLEV YAK-1
296 IAP, VVS
STALINGRAD, U.S.S.R. - SPRING 1943
PILOT: LILYA LITVYAK

ACCURATE MINIATURES, kit no. 3424

By Caz Dalton

History of the aircraft modeled

The first pre-production series of I-26 (Fighter Series 26) fighters left GAZ 115 (State Aircraft Factory 115) at Moscow in November 1940 and were assigned to a special evaluation unit to prove the type under field conditions. The pre-production I-26 was armed with a single 20-mm Shpital'ny-Vladimirov (ShVAK) cannon with 120 rounds mounted between the engine cylinder banks firing through the propeller hub and two 7.62-mm Shpital'ny-Komaritsky (ShKAS) machine guns with 375 rounds each in the upper fuselage decking. Optional armament consisted of six RS-82 unguided rockets or FAB 50 bombs mounted on underwing racks. In December 1941 Joseph Stalin decreed that the designation of the I-26 was to be changed to Yak-1. By the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union 399 had been built, but only one Air Regiment had a full stock of them. Overall, 8,721 Yak-1 variants were built.

Historical note on Lilya Litvyak

Lilya Litvyak was born in Moscow on August 18, 1921. Lilya was her nickname, as her birth name was Lidiya Vladimirovna Litvyak.. She began her air service with the all-woman 586 IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment), where she flew mostly defensive missions from January to August 1942. In August she was posted to an all-male squadron because of her merits. The first was the 286 IAD (Fighter Aviation Division), then to the 437 IAP, which had recently been equipped with the new Lavochkin La-5. With this unit she recorded her first three air victories in September 1942.

At the end of January 1943, Lilya was transferred to the 296 IAP along with two other skilled women pilots. In February she was awarded Order of the Red Banner and promoted to Junior Lieutenant. Soon afterwards she received her Senior Lieutenant rating. With the 296 she was to fly the "Yellow 44" Yak-1. Overall, she was to score six victories in "Yellow 44" before the plane was hit by escorting Me-109s on the Ides of March 1943. Lilya managed to make her home base and crash-landed. She remained in the hospital until May 1943.

When she returned, 296 IAP had been renamed 73 GvIAP (Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment) for their exploits in combat. On her return, 73 GvIAP was given a fleet of improved Yak-1b aircraft; Lilya's aircraft was "White 23". She was repeatedly successful on escort missions and scored four more victories before being shot down and killed by eight Me-109s while escorting a unit of Il-2 "Shturmovik"s returning from an attack on August 1, 1943. Her body and aircraft were never found during the war, but a marble monument with 12 gold stars was erected in her memory in the Donetsk region of Krasny Luch. Lilya had completed 168 combat missions and had twelve personal victories and three shared victories. She was 22 years old when she died.

In 1979 her remains were found near the village of Dmitriyevka, buried under the wing of her fallen Yak-1b. Ten years later her remains were recovered for an official burial and on May 5, 1990 she was posthumously conferred the title "Hero of the Soviet Union" by President Mikhail Gorbachov.

Additions, modifications, etc.

Interior

Needless to say, being an ACCURATE MINIATURE's kit, there's not much to be added here. I added photoetched sheet belts from a True Details British set, because the Soviet GAZs (State Aircraft Factories) were supplied a huge quantity of leather Sutton harnesses by the British. I also added a tiny photoetched ring sight to the gunsight. I cut the rudder pedals and reversed them, because they looked backwards according to photographs I have of Yak cockpits. The strap should be on top, not at the rear of the rudder pedal.

The cockpit and wheel bays were painted RLM 02 as per instructions, but I still don't think we'll ever know the absolutely correct color for Soviet cockpits. The ones I have seen in color photographs seen to be more of a light ghost gray (FS36375) color, but these were shot of the interiors of museum aircraft, so this too is subjective. Various boxes were brushed in flat black and Reheat Models Control and Data Placard decals were used in several places. Control knobs were picked out in red, blue, or black as per reference on a Yak-3. The cockpit received a very light wash, but I gave the wheel bays a heavy wash of grimy black.

The radiator and oil cooler radiator were painted graphite and ink washes were used in the cooling screens. A piece of black trim film decal was used on the inside of the radiator. The oil radiator was cemented when the fuselage halves were joined, but I delayed attaching the oil radiator outlet door and radiator outlet door until final assembly to aid in sanding the fuselage join seam and masking for painting the undersurface.

Don't forget to paint the rear wheel bay RLM 02 and also paint the undersides of the two horizontal tail joint slats, as these can be seen by nitpicky judges, who will hold your model up and look inside the wheel bay. How do I know? I am sometimes asked to nitpick.

Exterior

As with the interior, there's not much to do here. AM should have included some upper deck machine guns instead of leaving the ports open and empty. I scratch-built two barrels from perforated steel tubing and a 25-gauge hypodermic needle. These were painted gunmetal and attached with white glue in the final assembly.

The exhausts are very well molded, but are just waiting for that opportunity to go "sproing". By the grace of God I was able to drill out the openings and paint them burnt iron. They were set aside in a film canister with all the other little add-ons for the final assembly.

I decided to add the RS-82 rockets, but not the extra fuel tanks. The rockets and racks were first paint Russian Underside Blue, with the warheads painted hull red, the fuses silver, and the rocket bodies graphite. These received a light black wash and were set aside for the finals.

The gear struts, door interiors, rear strut/wheel, and retraction struts were painted RLM 02, with the rear wheel oleo brushed in chrome silver and the main wheel strut oleo gaiters painted Guards Red. Like the wheel bays, the struts were given a wash of grimy black. Tires were painted Polly Scale Tire Black and given a moderate mud wash. The gear and flap indicator rods were cut from the kit's wing and replaced with fine wire in the final assembly. Although these were painted red and white at the factory, they were generally overpainted the camouflage color in the field.

I found it necessary to superglue the landing light cover and wing navigation lights before painting in order to get a smooth finish in these areas. The landing light cover may have been the most ill-fitting piece in the kit. Lots of small fillings and sanding were required to get it flush with the wing. The tail navigation light was a better fit and was attached with Kristal Kleer in the final assembly.

I culled the figure of Lilya Litvyak from the Hasegawa release of Axis and Allied pilots in 1/48 scale. I had to resculpture one of the Japanese figures, because it was the shortest of the bunch and had a flight suit that resembled the Soviet suit the nearest. The figure was primed in medium gray and brushed with acrylics before receiving ink washes and dry brush highlights.

Painting and decaling

The canopy pieces were masked with Bare-metal foil on the exterior and masking tape on the interior before receiving two coats of RLM 02. The cockpit and radiator openings were covered with masking tape and wheel bays were filled with damp paper towel. The entire airframe was primed in Polly Scale Russian Underside Blue. I also gave the gear door exteriors and radiator door exteriors a shooting of Underside Blue.

After the blue had dried, I removed the wheel bay towel masks and masked the undersurface with masking tape, The entire uppersurface was given two coats of Polly Scale Mid-Green. I had previously run off some enlarged copies of the instructions for the camouflage pattern, but upon seeing actual photos of Yak-1s and Don Greer's painting of Litvyak's "Yellow 44" on Squadron/Signal's YAK FIGHTER in action, it seemed to me that AM's pattern may be incorrect. I used Don Greer's painting more for pattern reference, because it closely matched the photos I had. Using his painting I drew in the camouflage pattern on the enlargements and cut out those to remain Mid-Green. I covered these areas with the paper masking using two-sided tape placed so that I could leave about 1/32-inch of the mask raised from the surface for a softer demarcation. I then gave the uppersurfaces a coat of Polly Scale Black-Green with a little extra black added. AM would have you paint this black, but every color print, painting, or photo of a Yak-1 showed this to be a very dark shade of green, not black. The only Yaks I could find with black and green uppers were Yak-7s.

Once dried and all masking removed, I gave the model two coats of Polly Scale Clear Gloss for decal prep. Decals from the kit were used and they worked better than many aftermarket decals; no problems whatsoever. Congratulations AM! Good decals on a kit this detailed should be a requirement and AM delivers. I'm glad to say that others are listening also with Tamiya and Hasegawa now using aftermarket decal makers, but Revell-Monogram still insists on using go old out-of-register decals from Mexico.

After the decals had dried, I gave the model another sealing coat of clear gloss; I next inked in all the control and access recesses with India ink. Antenna attachments were done with aluminum beading thread tightly wrapped around a sewing needle and aerial wiring was done with smoke-colored invisible thread.

Whether to gloss or not to gloss! I had intended to give the model a final clear coat of Semi-gloss, because Soviet aircraft were built mainly of wood and fabric and received a very heavy coat of gloss clear varnish. However, this clear coating quickly dulled in the field without the UV protection like modern clear coats have. Photographs of many Yak-1s, including "Yellow 44" tend to show the finish a little more matte than gloss. I mixed a 50/50 ratio of Polly Scale Clear Flat and Semi-Gloss and overcoated the plane with this mix as a compromise. This had a bit of a patina, but lacked that wet glossy look, which I don't think works in this scale, unless you're doing racing planes.

Masking was removed from the canopy pieces and they were polished with Meguiar's Mirror Glaze #3 before receiving a coat of FUTURE in the clear areas. The forward canopy was simply attached with Elmers and the sliding canopy left to attach in the open or closed position. The two small windows were on a piece that was attached to the upper decking before its attachment to the two fuselage halves.




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