The original Karaś A was hamstrung by numerous technical problems, which rendered it largely useless for operational flying. While the early machines flew on in training roles, urgent efforts were made to correct the defects, resulting in the Karaś B. The most important change was to the engine, with the Pegaz II M2 replaced by the more powerful Pegaz 8. The new engine was fitted to the 3rd prototype and the improvement was instantaneous - service ceiling soared from just 3,000m to 7,300m at a stroke!
There were also a number of external changes, including the deletion of the temperamental leading edge slats and the fitting of new elevators with a larger balance area. The plan was to equip Karaś Bs with a pair of forward firing machine guns, so an additional cut-out was added behind the engine cowling. However, due to insufficient production of MK 33 guns, Karaś Bs could still only be fitted with a single machine gun fitted, as before, on the starboard side.
With the improvement in performance offered by the new aircraft so obvious, it was demanded that the production of the Karaś A be cancelled after just 40 had been built, with the remaining 160 ordered being completed a 'Bs, with a further 50 ordered before production ceased in February 1938 The Karaś arrived at a critical time, marking the transition from biplanes to monoplanes with much higher landing speeds, so accidents were inevitable and in the 18 months leading up to WW2 it became apparent that there were not sufficient aircraft to keep units at full strength. By the outbreak of war the situation was critical. There were just 114 operational PZL 23s; Bomber Brigade flights had 50 machines, with Army units an additional 64. There were just 10 aircraft in reserve; the rest included 45 in training roles and an amazing 55 (more than the total in service with the bomber force) undergoing repair and overhaul.
During the invasion of Poland, the combined Bomber and Army forces flew a total of 400 sorties, dropping 84,000 kg of bombs. Losses were appalling; 120 PZL 23s of all types - about 86% of the operational force - were lost, giving the Karaś the unfortunate distinction of suffering the highest loss-rate of any Polish aircraft involved in the struggle against the Wehrmacht.
When Mirage Hobby released their excellent PZL-23A Karaś earlier this year, it was immediately a clear contender for kit of the year. This relatively small company took a long-requested subject and treated it to a superbly detailed kit. Now a few months later, a new version is available, with even more detail and a set of extra resin parts to take the original kit to new heights.
When I reviewed the original PZL-23A
, Steffen Arndt (Alpha_Tango) posted the intriguing news that a strictly limited version was also available. Well, I'm delighted to see that this kit, complete with extra etched metal and resin parts is now more widely available. The release reviewed here is labelled "UK Version" - which opens the possibility that this special edition may also appear in other guises.
So what's new about the Limited Edition. Well, first off, this kit includes parts and decals for the operational Karaś B - and addresses my only real disappointment with the original kit by including a set of resins bombs, plus a crew of 3 resin figures. The new kit contains:
133 x Grey styrene parts
15 x Clear styrene parts
178 x Etched brass parts 66 34 78
23 x Resin parts
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The box is labelled "Warsaw Model Center" (which I assume is an arm of Mirage Hobby) and, as you'd expect, the new kit is based closely on the Karaś A, with most of the basic parts identical between the releases - so I won't bore you with repetitions of the earlier review
. However, the difference is evident from the word go as you compare the instructions - with the new kit including painting guides for the resin bombs and crew on the first page. The assembly diagrams are printed once again in colour with rendered 3-D CAD illustrations and, although the general sequence is unchanged, there are a number of new stages inserted to cover the extra etched details of the Karaś B.
New Etched Parts
The already exceptionally detailed cockpit receives quite a number of additions, including a choice of etched pilot's seat-backs, rudder-pedal straps, additional frame and bulkhead details for the sidewalls and a delicate framework to represent stringer detail in the top decking between the navigator's and gunner's positions. Type-specific extras such as the Karaś B roll-over frame, oil deflectors and aerial are included.
Also new are a mass of exterior inspection covers to adorn the fuselage and wings, replacing the engraved details if you so chose. Separate instructions are included for the intricate 2-part covers which are intended to be displayed closed but, of course, they could also be built open with a bit of ingenuity - increasing the diorama possibilities for servicing scenes etc.
The kit actually includes all the parts needed for the earlier Karaś A - leading-edge slats and cowling cover - but do note that all the decal options are all Karaś Bs, despite the old parts still appearing as options in the assembly sequence.
New Resin Parts
All the parts are cast in Mirage's distinctive pale grey resin. The casting is pretty good with few signs of bubbles or other problems on the detail parts and figures.
Using the resin crew will require a little lateral thinking as the pilot and bomb-aimer are cast complete with their seat and couch respectively. The instructions don't illustrate fitting the figures, but you're basically faced with two choices; trim down the figures to use the plastic items, or dispense with the plastic/etch pilot's seat and go with the resin version. The bomb-aimer doesn't really offer a choice - his cast couch will sit proud, so there's not much choice other than to trim it away.
The bombs are the major plus point for me, as the original kit looked rather bare with no offensive load. The bombs' bodies are neatly cast with retaining straps and they are certainly a distinctive shape, unlike anything I've got stashed away in the spares box. The fins are a little distorted in the review kit, but the fins of the full-size ordnance might also have been prone to becoming bent - I don't know, that's definitely something to check in reference photos. It won't be hard to replace the fins with plastic card if you feel it necessary but, with such a wealth of etched parts in the new kit, it's rather a shame that etched fins weren't also included.
Painting and Decals
Once again Mirage include a detailed description of both the exterior and interior colours of the Karaś, with reference to few surviving relics of the original aircraft. The instructions include keys to the Vallejo range of acrylics which Mirage market in Poland, along with FS equivalents where possible. Interestingly, Mirage have also developed their own set of Polish WW2 colours in collaboration with Vallejo.
A huge sheet of TechMod decals is included for 3 aircraft. As you'd expect from TechMod, the designs are printed in perfect register and are thin and glossy with minimal carrier film.
1. PZL 23B "White 3", 44.67, 22nd Line Flight, 2nd Air Regiment, Cracow-Rakowice, 1938
1. PZL 23B "White 6", 44.214, 41st Line Flight, 4th Air Regiment, Torun, 1938
1. PZL 23B "White 7", 44.??, 32nd Line Flight, 3rd Air Regiment, wearing a white fuselage band during training exercises in 1939.
The aircraft are each adorned with attractive unit emblems on the fuselage and, by way of a final bonus, the kit includes a resin badge for scheme #1. This is cast in the form of a drinks coaster and, surprisingly, the surface is rather pitted with small bubbles - but these should be quite simple to fill and the badge should look very attractive painted and displayed separately, or incorporated onto a display-base
I was hugely impressed by Mirage's original Karaś A - and the Limited Edition Karaś B only increases my high opinion of the kit. With the extra etched details, plus resin bombs and crew, this is the definitive version and the one to go for if you spot it on the shelves. Highly recommended.
"PZL.23 Karaś" - by Tomasz J. Kopański, Mushroom Model Publications #8101, 2004
"The PZL P-23 Karaś" - by Jerzy B. Cynk, Profile Publications #104, 1966
Thank you to Mirage Hobby for kindly supplying review sample.