by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
A little history...As the tide of war began to turn increasingly against Nazi Germany, so the need grew for the Fw 190 to defend its airspace against large formations of heavy bombers. Agility was sacrificed for a heavier armament - beginning with the interim A-7, the rifle-calibre fuselage machine guns were replaced with heavy 13mm weapons, resulting in the distinctive bulged cowling, while the wings carried 4 fast-firing MG151 20mm cannons or 2 x MG151s and a pair of MK108 30mm cannons.
In the desperate need to tackle the bomber formations, some A-8s were fitted with external armour plate around the cockpit sides, and heavy armoured-glass on the canopy. The idea was for special formations of these heavy fighters to approach a bomber box from astern in a Breitkeil (wide-wedge) formation - ignoring return fire before opening fire at the closest possible range to ensure a kill. The pilots of these Sturmgruppen had to sign the following affidavit:
"I, ... do solemnly undertake that on each occasion on which I make contact with an enemy four-engined bomber I shall press home my attack to the shortest range and will, if my firing pass is not successful, destroy the enemy aircraft by ramming." As a mark of their commitment, many Sturmgruppe pilots wore a special "whites of the enemy's eyes" insignia on their flying jackets.
Over 1,300 Fw 190A-8s were produced from February 1944 until the end of the War in Europe - a greater number than any other variant.
The kitAs you'd expect, the kit is based closely on Tamiya's earlier 'F-8 and uses some of the same sprues, so there'll be plenty of items for the spares box. All Tamiya's Fw 190s have received some criticism over the years in terms of accuracy - particularly around the tail and undercarriage - and the parts are unchanged for this release, so those points still hold true. Against that, Tamiya's Fw190s are undoubtedly much easier to build than the comparable Dragon kit. The kit consists of:
102 x dark grey styrene parts (including the unused items)
6 x clear parts
1 x set of vinyl side-armour panels
1 x set of canopy masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
In true Tamiya fashion, the kit is beautifully presented. All the sprues are bagged but, strangely on the review sample the aerial post on one fuselage-half had been bent in transit. The moulding throughout is nigh on perfect. The basic moulds may be 10 years old, but you'd never guess it - there's hardly a trace of flash or signs of wear in sight. The only blemish I found was a shallow sink-mark where the tailwheel locators are moulded inside the fuselage. Surface detail is all-engraved; very precise and not too heavy - just about the right balance between scale appearance and making weathering easy.
As mentioned above, most of the parts are unchanged from the 'F, but Tamiya have modified the lower wing to allow drop-in inserts for the outboard cannon ejector chutes. The panels are on a new sprue and are nicely done - there's a choice of 3 styles offered. The inserts don't quite follow the panel line, so there's some extra filling to do. At first I thought this was an oversight by the designers but, on closer examination, the panels aren't quite the same shame. The difference is slight, but it's neat that Tamiya spotted the difference - and a quick smear of filler will hide the resulting joint.
Also on the new sprue are a paddle-bladed propeller and spinner for one of the decal options, plus headrest-armour, a new gunsight (strange it isn't on the clear sprue) and other small items. The propeller blades match the picture of a wooden blade in Squadron Fw 190A/F Walkaround quite well, but the tips need rounding off slightly. On the other hand, the tips match a reference photo of the aircraft featured in the decals. I've read that a number of styles of propeller were tested on the A-8, so check your references.
The cockpit and engine details are all unchanged and a pretty good. The cockpit matches photos quite well and, while there are superb aftermarket sets available, the kit parts should look good with careful painting.
Clear Parts & MasksTamiya include both plain and bulged canopies - although the latter isn't required for any of the decal options, many A-8s were fitted with the late-style canopy. Tamiya have included armoured-glass side panels for the Sturmbock variant. All the transparencies are crystal-clear.
A new departure for Tamiya is the inclusion of a set of canopy masks. These are printed on material which seems very similar to Tamiya's highly regarded masking tape. The odd thing is that the masks aren't die-cut, but it's nice to see Tamiya following the example set by Eduard and Accurate Miniatures.
Vinyl PanelsWhile including canopy masks is following a trend, Tamiya have scored a "first" (as far as I know) in the way they've tackled the external armour plates fitted to the Sturmbock fuselage. Rather than supply a template, Tamiya have printed them on self-adhesive vinyl. Again, they aren't die-cut, but they include panel lines and rivet holes. Quite how permanent the adhesive is remains to be seen, but it will obviously be wise to make sure clean the plastic well with isopropyl alcohol or detergent prior to applying them.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly instructions are well up to Tamiya's usual standard - beautifully illustrated and straightforward to follow. The parts needed for each of the colour schemes are clearly noted. Colour references for Tamiya paints are keyed to the exploded drawings and these are probably this only weakness in the instructions - some, but not all, the paints are matched to RLM colours - for instance, the RLM 66 interior is shown as "German Grey". The camouflage guide does include RLM colours, but a mix is needed to obtain RLM 74.
Decals are included for no less that 5 colours schemes:
"Black 8" - Fw 190A-8/R2 flown by Uffz. Willi Maximowitz, 11/IV/JG3
"Red 1" - Fw 190A-8/R2 flown by Lt. Klaus Bretschneider, 15/II/JG300, with "Raubautz" under the cockpit in yellow script.
"<<" - Fw 190A-8/R2 flown by Hpt. Wilhelm Moritz, IV.(Sturm)/JG3 - this is the option for the paddle-bladed propeller and also the external R8 armour.
"Red 8" - Fw 190A-8/R2 flown by Uffz. Matthaus Erhardt, 5/II/JG300 - with "Pimpf" (the pilot's nickname) under the cockpit it red. This aircraft has the fuselage guns removed and the openings faired over.
"Red 19" - Fw 190A-8 flown by Uffz. Ernst Schröder, 5/II/JG300 - a well-known aircraft with "Kölle alaaf!" (a slogan from the Köln carnival) under the cockpit on one side and "Edelgard" on the other in red script. This aircraft carries the new gunsight (is it an EZ 42 gyroscopic sight?) and lacks the aerial-pulley on the canopy. I've got one close up photo of the pilot posing in the cockpit - unfortunately the gunsight isn't shown, but the pulley doesn't seem to be fitted... although the internal aerial wires still seem faintly visible.
The decals themselves are printed perfectly in register with a semi-matt finish. In common with many Tamiya decals, they are fairly thick, but should respond well to setting solution. A fair number of stencils are included, along with instrument faces and a seat harness.
ConclusionIt's been a long time coming, but Tamiya's Fw 190A-8 has been worth the wait. The presentation and moulding is nearly faultless. Value for money really depends on where you buy it; the UK price of £21.99 seems a little high for a mainstream kit of this size, but I bought mine direct from Japan at the equivalent of £10.74 plus about £3.80 P&P - at that price, the kit is a real bargain!
Of course, the old argument about which is the most accurate Butcher Bird will rumble on, but Tamiya's new kit is guaranteed to sell in squillions! The only mystery is why on earth it's taken Tamiya so long to release it...