by: Matthew Lenton [ ]
Marketing two different kits in the one box is nothing new, in the UK, at least, the Airfix Dogfight Doubles formed quite an extensive and popular range. In 2016 Academy introduced two offerings each comprising a tank and a ground attack aircraft, enemies naturally, so that after completion, fun can be had strafing the tank from the air, or alternatively blasting anti-aircraft fire from the turret machine gun. While there may be nothing new here in terms of the kits, it reminds many of us of a form of modelling from younger days – and indeed there are still younger modellers to whom this will undoubtedly appeal.
One of these new boxing’s pairs the Ilyushin IL-2M with a Panther D, the other reverses the polarity and has a Ju 87G-2 facing off with a JS-2, and it is this second kit that Armorama has received for this review.
A quick look at the sprues reveals the separate origins of the two kits. The Ju 87 mouldings are Academy’s 2002 sprues and it basically looks to be the same as their 2005 boxing of the G-2, labelled “Kanonen Vogel”, but with the Hans-Ulrich Rudel decal option only. The JS-2 on the other hand is the 2013 release from Zvezda, which in their own boxing is labelled as one of their Snap Fit kits, although that aspect isn’t mentioned here.
The big (for 1/72) box is quite impressively designed with new artwork showing a couple of JS-2s advancing along a battle scarred street, the second of which has started to burn after taking a hit from the Stuka which is now climbing away. A flash on the box states “Special Edition with Limited Availability”. The instructions are provided as Manual 1 and 2, although these are not the sheets from the original boxings: Manual 1 includes the box artwork, general tips, paint list, sprue diagrams, and the assembly instructions for the Ju 87; Manual 2 starts with the paint scheme for the Ju 87, then the assembly and finishing of the JS-2. The only logic I can think of for this split is to enable two modellers to build them simultaneously without having to refer to the same sheet, which is a thoughtful touch.
For some reason the JS-2 kit sprues are labelled like this:
Sprue B = tracks in hard black plastic
Sprue C = the first sprue C, sprockets, turret and turret details
Sprue C = the other sprue C, the road wheels, upper hull and hull details
The lower hull.
A consequence of this is that all the parts in the instructions are referred to as C-something, although there is no clash of numbering, with C1-C25 being on the turret sprue, C26 on being the wheels sprue.
The Ju 87 kit:
Sprue A = fuselage, prop, spinner
Sprue B = nose, cockpit interior
Sprue C = 37mm underwing cannons
Sprue D = upper wings, wheel struts, stabilisers
Sprue E = lower wings, wheels, underwing radiators
Sprue F = clear parts.
Decals for both are presented on a single sheet, the Ju 87 representing the machine of Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Schlachtgeschwader 2, Summer 1944, Russia. The decals look to be of decent quality and the print registration of the sample looked perfect; a sheet for the cockpit dials is included, but the tail swastika is omitted for compliance purposes. The JS-2 decals, although not labelled as such, I believe represent 104th Heavy Tank Regiment, 7th Guards Independent Heavy Tank Brigade: three rows of white numbers 0 to 9, a pair of red stars with white polar bears, and white turret stripes and crosses. Whether these two set of decals are truly compatible, I do not know, the tank certainly looks well at home in Berlin in 1945, while the Stuka would be fighting in the Ukraine / Belarus sector of the front in 1944. However, Rudel is known to have operated right to the very end, flying from late March 1945 with a modified rudder pedal following the amputation of his right lower leg the previous month.
Starting with the Ju 87, Academy’s sprues appear very cleanly moulded in the green grey plastic. Mould seam lines are very slight, and there is no flash, with the single exception of a small amount on the propeller. I must admit it is a long time since I have looked at a kit of an aircraft of this type, and it seems to me that the panel lines and rivets are finely and clearly engraved, but not at all overstated, and will no doubt benefit from careful painting that doesn’t fill in any of that detail. The kit is fairly simple, with only minimal cockpit detailing including some basic features moulded on the inside of the main fuselage halves. No crew are included which may look slightly awkward when playing at shooting up the JS-2, though there is the basic pilot seat without seatbelts, moulded instrument panel, and the rear facing gunner’s folding seat with twin MG 81Z on a GSL-K81 mount.
As far as accuracy goes, I am not really placed to comment, although it seems to me that the shrouding on the shock absorbers is depicted as perfectly regular corrugations, while close up photos appear to show something a little less regular, being, I think, leather. I have read some criticism of the spinner and prop being a little incorrect, the spinner apparently not pointy enough, while the prop is said to be somewhat too short. Unsurprisingly, the Stuka being so iconic, there is a large number of aftermarket parts available, including for this specific kit, covering revised wheel spats, propellers, cockpit interiors, cannon, right through to a full detail kit including engine.
Construction follows the usual sequence for an aircraft of this type and is simple enough so that if building straight from the box I expect there to be no problems. Inevitably there is the need to ensure that everything is symmetrical, and there is a helpful front-on diagram at step 10 specifically to show the alignment of the underwing cannon and the undercarriage. The kit includes the odd fiddly details, including fixing the mass balance weights under the wing, but note that the full length flaps / ailerons are already integrated with the one piece lower wing section. The paint job could prove slightly more of a challenge as a hard edged splinter type pattern is called for, which will present an opportunity to test masking skills. A display stand is included, though it by no means gives sufficient height for attacking the tank…
Moving to the JS-2, the pale grey sprues are also finely moulded, again with no notable flash present and only subtle mould seams. The real tank had quite a simple and sparse shape but there are some examples of well-defined details such as the cast spoked road wheels, spare track links, turret hatch, the tow rope, as well as the clean rendering of the open engine ventilation slats on the hull rear.
This kit is even simpler than the Ju 87, with construction being covered in seven quite brief steps, although there is a bit of elision in that only two of the twelve half road wheels and two suspension arms are illustrated in step 5. It does look like most of the build time will be spent cleaning up the wheels, suspension arms and return rollers. As I have seen previously with Zvezda’s very nice snap together Panther, the upper and lower hull are joined together like a sandwich with a sheet of plastic that has large locating pegs and holes as the filling. This hidden component allows a solid join to be made without the need for cement; bearing in mind, too, the open slats on the rear of the hull, I think if this component was painted matt black before the hull top is added then it may well eliminate the chances of any unwanted light or views of the empty void being apparent through those slates. Another hidden part is provided to hold the turret in place.
Although the kit is originally designed to be built with no glue, glue is indicated in these instructions, though some steps retain the “snap!” symbol showing the part being clicked in to place. My experience of building the Zvezda Panther was that the design and fit of that kit was so precise that even small parts could be assembled firmly and accurately. This includes the tracks, which are moulded in hard black plastic, but are flexible enough to be bent around the sprockets and inner road wheels. The track run is locked into place by the insertion of the three return rollers through small eyes that replace the guide horns at the appropriate position on the underside of the upper track run; the outer road wheels and idler are then clicked (or cemented) into place. This is a well thought out system that allows the tracks to be properly detailed on both sides, and is not only more realistic than old style vinyl or rubber, but is easier to work with than multi-part link and length type solutions. The only issue I would have with it in this kit is that Russian tanks, the JS series in particular, normally exhibit considerable track sag, and it remains to be seen if there is sufficient length included here to be able to achieve that effect.
In terms of accuracy, all the necessary parts seem to be here, including a separate well detailed tow cable, four external fuel tanks, a section of spare track link, and there are no erroneous post war details (e.g. additional lamps inside cages, revised track guards). The IS-2 depicted here is the later war model, with the straight angled one piece front plate, wider gun mantlet, a separate component for the gun travel lock on the rear plate, and the important, considering its Ju 87 box mate, turret anti-aircraft machine gun. Inevitably for a kit of this type and price, there are simplifications, so the turret hatches cannot be opened, the handles on the fuel tanks are moulded in place, but on the other hand the tow cable and tools are separate components, not always the case even with kits costing double the price. The only thing I can see missing is a rough cast texture on the turret and hull front, these areas being perfectly smooth, although the turret top plate does have some very decent weld details. The modeller will need to carefully drill out the end of the main gun, ensuring that the visible ring on the end is retained, although the muzzle brake side openings are open and well rendered.
One of the most impressive aspects of this boxing is that you get two decent kits for only a touch over £20 - RRP is £22.99 but it is on sale at two UK retailers for £20.69; it was only a few weeks ago that I reviewed a single 1/72 tank kit that cost more. While the Ju 87 has been around for a while, it’s by no means from the plastic kit stone age, while the JS-2 is a release from the very recent past. I know when I was a kid I built both tank and aircraft and would have been thrilled with this combination, and the fun and simplicity of this set makes it ideal for the younger modeller, although, of course, that includes all of us.