Peshka: MPM's 1/48 Pe-2 Light Bomber
The Pe-2 became the most successful light bomber in the VVS (Soviet Air Force) during WW2, despite its initial conception as a high altitude fighter by the temporarily gulag-imprisoned aircraft design team of V.M. Petlyakov, V.M. Myasichev, A.M. Izakson and A.I. Putilov in 1939. Combat conditions in the Great Patriotic War which broke out a scant two years later showed that there was very little practical use for a high altitude fighter in the VVS arsenal. There was, however, an urgent need for a high-speed ground attack/dive bombing aircraft with longer legs than the Shturmovik that would be capable of harassment and interdiction far from the front, deep inside German-held territory.
Fitted with dive brakes, various defensive weapon layouts (including rearward firing rockets and aerial mines a la 007!), a modest bomb bay and extensive ordnance pylons, the Pe-2 found its niche and took to its new tactical mission with gusto. The design had hitting power, range and speed, and at least until later models of Bf109s came out, was often able to escape from German fighters when in trouble. The Pe-2 was so successful, in fact, that at the peak of its production, the main design and its variants comprised some 75% of the twin-engined aircraft in the VVS. Important variants included photo reconnaissance and tank-busting types in addition to the prevalent light/dive bomber model. I think I can speak for most VVS fans in saying that it is high time a model of an aircraft this important came out in 1/48.
My first impression upon viewing the contents of this attractively packaged kit was "Oh boy, time-space continuum slip back to early Nineties Eduard". And, as first impressions often are, this one was accurate, at least as far as the simple injection molding is concerned. Many of the parts were warped - with the fuselage being the worst case - and severe flash and ejector pin marks were omnipresent. The clear parts (including an interesting piece of engineering to deal with the bombardier compartment - more on that later), however, were crystal clear and beautifully done.
A well-done but rather fragile resin detail set is provided for guns, dive brakes, engine exhaust pipes and some cockpit details. Unfortunately, I found that several items in my kit had already been broken before I even opened it. These had to be patched up with CA, or in the case of the rudder pedals, scratchbuilt from Evergreen plastic stock. The resin dive brakes were so flash-infested as to be virtually unusable. Later construction stage attempts at sanding this flash between the slats away only resulted in irregularly curved surfaces, and in the end the brakes had to be trashed and scratched out of more Evergreen strip.
The Cartograf decals are crisply printed and bang-on register, with the excellent quality we have come to expect from that firm. They responded well to setting solution, and carrier film virtually disappeared between layers of Future. Schemes are provided for a VVS Black Sea Fleet Pe-2, as well as for Polish and Czech aircraft. Construction notes Construction started off fairly headache-free (with the exception of the snapped rudder pedals) with separate cockpit, navigator/radio operator and tail wheel compartments. Detail level was acceptable, if not impressive. One bizarre gaffe in the kit is the lack of any instrument panel detail. I was able to use cut out sections of Tamiya Mosquito instrument panel decal (I already have the Eduard etched set for my Mossie) as a replacement, and I suppose they'll do if you don't look TOO hard. Several problems still remained to be ironed out, however, before the fuselage halves could be joined (with much difficulty - I finally had to use a vise!
One issue to mull over carefully before busting out the plastic cement and rubber bands was how to deal with the flush windows on the top and sides of the mid-fuselage navigator's compartment. Initial dry fitting revealed that the clear parts provided did NOT fit flush into their respective openings in the fuselage halves, a problem which required judicious router, file, CA filler and sandpaper use to remedy. In the case of the side windows, I got them into their holes as flush as possible after routering and filing big enough apertures, then gap-filled with CA (making sure to zap with plastic-safe accelerator ASAP to prevent clouding). Then, going against primordial modeler instincts which told me to treat clear parts with sanctimonious respect, I put the sandpaper to them. #400 grit got me in the ballpark structurally, and then it was just a matter of progressively finer grit grades of paper and a final buffing with Tamiya compound and chamois to get them crystal clear again.
The navigator compartment's dorsal window, however, could not be dealt with in such a straightforward manner, as it: 1) lay between the fuselage halves; and 2) had panel detail on its surface, so it couldn't be sanded over. I dealt with this by fixing the window to the right fuselage half and doing another version of the CA gap-filling and sanding routine again, this time being extremely careful not to let any glue or sanding stray out onto the window glass (masking helped here), keeping it only on or between the window frame and the fuselage half. After everything had dried, getting it to match with the other fuselage half was just a matter of more dry fitting before - then gap-filling and careful sanding after - the fuselage was joined.
Fuselage interiors and compartments were painted separately before setting the compartments in their respective slots, but before the halves could go together, tape-secured dry fitting revealed yet more problems, this time centered around the ventral gun station. For one thing, the V-shaped gun cradle that is supposed to hang into the ventral Plexiglas dome/tub was too short. A new one had to be scratchbuilt to give the crux of the "Vee" enough depth to allow the gun to hang at the proper angle. To make matters worse, there was no hole in the clear dome/tub part to run the gun through (the dorsal turret has the same problem), so I had to drill one out, then router and file the hole into something realistically presentable. With the gun in place, I cut the delicate barrel off and stored that away to put on after all the kit assembly and painting was complete.
With the fuselage halves finally together, gluing the ventral dome/tub into place presented me with an unwelcome repeat of the other clear parts dilemma, i.e., poor fit and alignment. In this case, all I could do was glue it on (remembering to keep the opening aligned with the gun hanging from the fuselage), then mask off the areas that are supposed to be clear (neither the instructions nor the box-art, unfortunately, are clear on exactly what areas these are!) and start sanding and gap-filling. As CA was going to be too hard for this delicate operation, I was forced to bust out the trusty old Squadron Green putty tube and layer/sand until I had achieved a decently smooth joint.
The kit features an interesting mantel-like arrangement to go between the large, one-piece canopy (not counting the dorsal gun turret attached later) and the fuselage. Dry fitting, however, revealed that the mantlet did not align properly with the fuselage, leaving about a one millimeter overhang at the joints on both sides. This had to shimmed and ground away before a suitable fit could be obtained. After all of this grinding, of course, all panel lines and rivet holes in the vicinity had to be re-engraved and re-poked.
Similar operations had to be carried out for attachment of the clear bombardier glass/lower fuselage section, a very well thought out piece of engineering which seems to have been designed with the intention of giving the glass a seamless joint with the fuselage. Well, that aspect of it worked as intended, but with the result that the ugly joint just got moved up a centimeter or so where the clear piece meets the fuselage. Painting note: make sure to do the clear fuselage skin area in gray to match the fuselage interior before putting on your FS 34058 Forest Green base coat on later. If you don't, then your cockpit interior will have unwelcome green swatches when viewed through the canopy.
The gun turret went on next, but the resin gun turned out to be too large to fit inside it. Remedying this involved radical breech reduction surgery and yet another gun aperture drilling operation in the clear plastic.
Checked against what sparse photographic reference for the Pe-2 I could come across, dry fitting of the wings (after sanding off all the harsh sprue remnants on the inner surfaces) revealed wings that were way too thick in chord, especially from the nacelles out to the wingtips. Sanding brought them down to true Pe-2 graceful beauty, but the drawback to this is that the gaping air intakes and the air intake backing panels in the wing were thrown out of whack. So, out came the router and I tried to get the holes as even as possible while also trying to file the intake backing down enough to get the wing halves joined.
At the risk of understatement, the nacelles were a hair-raising exercise in seat-of-the-pants modeling. Fit ranged from merely vexing to outright Sisyphean nightmare. Every conceivable joint in the section required shimming, puttying, sanding or some combination of the three. Making things worse, the spots where the landing gear and wheel well walls were supposed to go in were not well defined, so it was just a matter of eye-balling and dry fitting before slathering on the glue and hoping everything would hold together.
Finally, getting both the nacelles to sit in the wings and getting the wings to mate with the fuselage properly required more seemingly endless carefree hours of shimming, puttying and sanding fun. I'm guessing that I put a pretty sizable dent in the abrasives inventory of my local hardware store by the time all the dust had settled.
The last major structural area to tackle was the tail section. The horizontal stabilizers involved a process of careful eye-balling, cross-reference to photos and the line of thewings as well as a little timely pushing and yanking on the half-cured plastic in the joints to get them to set at the correct angle. The twin rudders required a similar operation, with the added field expedient jig rigging of modeling clay at the joints to fine tune the angles just right as the cement dried and the joints cured (by the way, this is a very convenient technique to use with tail assembly on other simple injection kits that lack those builder friendly guide holes and posts you get with the Tamiya, Hasegawa, Revell, etc. kits).
The paint scheme I chose for my plane was the one I felt to be most historically relevant to the type (as well as being, of course, the scheme I most wanted to do so I could use those big gaudy propanda slogan and Guards emblem decals!), i.e., the Black Sea Fleet light bomber. I would imagine that this scheme depicts a machine in use some time around the big offensive of Summer 1944, but I'm not sure. The paint job is a simple solid top color scheme of "Factory Green" FS34058 over standard Crayola Sky Blue-like VVS undersurface FS25466. Referencing the FS guide for the unfamiliar topside shade revealed a green that was almost Fresh Mint Listerine-ish in hue. The nearest thing in my paint stock I could find was a packet of Modelmaster Acrylic European Green FS34092 to which I added a touch of blue to get something close to what I thought would be a reasonably sun-faded and combat worn shade of the FS34058 without giving everyone who looked at it a sudden urge to start gargling. Undersurfaces were done in my usual VVS concoction of Modelmaster Flat Sky Blue mellowed out with liberal doses of white.
Masking was done with yellow Tamiya tape cut away from the cockpit and other Plexiglas panels and carefully cut around the flush fuselage windows. Panel lining was done with a Japanese animator's waterproof pigment ink pen after the initial Future layer had cured. Cleaning up after jumping out of the lines was a simple matter of swabbing with petrol spirits-dipped Q-tips and redrawing. After the decals and the second layer of Future went on and dried, a final overspray of heavily diluted Modelmaster Flat clear went on, which was in turn buffed a bit after drying to tone down the "dust layer" effect overspraying gloss with flat clear sometimes produces. Final weathering was done with both dry and acrylic thinned pastel. The antenna wire was done with black nylon thread from unraveled panty hose (not mine).
What is the short and skinny of the MPM Pe-2? Well, let's just suffice it to say that key words of the day in psychologically preparing you for this test of modeling stamina and courage will be "dry-fit", "shim" and "putty". In addition, given the fact that this plane took about 60 hours to build (estimating very conservatively), I would say that an innate love of, and sheer, overwhelming need to possess a 1/48 model of the "Peshka" is indispensable for the successful completion of the MPM kit.
I would give this kit an overall BST (Blood, Sweat and Tears) rating of 8.5 out of 10 (where a scratchbuild of the same kit would rate a 10 and a Tamiya version a 2 or 3).
Accuracy of the kit was impressive. Wingspan was within two scale centimeters (i.e., less than one scale inch) and fuselage length within eight scale centimeters (about three scale inches) of official data. Panel lines were relatively crisp and seemed to be in the right places.
So, am I happy with the results? Yes. I've wanted a "Peshka" ever since I first saw one in a Ballantine's History of the Second World War book about thirty years ago, and when all is said and done - all the tears have been wept into the beer, expletives hollered to echo about the neighborhood and blood and sweat mopped from the brow and fingertips - yes, MPM has done justice to the Pe-2s beautiful lines and graceful, swan-like sweep.
Would I ever want to build another one? To encapsulate that sentiment properly, fair reader, allow me to leave you with an old Japanese proverb: "It is a fool who never climbs Mount Fuji, but a bigger fool who climbs it twice".
As always, Happy Modeling to everyone, and thanks to MPM for this "Survivor" experience in modeling. The tribe has spoken.
http://vectorsite.tripod.com/avpe2.html (extensive Pe-2 documentation by Greg Goebel)
http://hep2.physics.arizona.edu/~savin/ram/pe-2.html (ditto, by Alexander Savine)
http://www.oz.net/~xopowo/VVS/vvs.htm (Matt Bittner and Erik Pilawskii's comprehensive VVS reference site - a MUST-link if there ever was one!)