Since it was announced back in the early summer, I’ve been itching to get Special Hobby’s new-tool kit of arguably the supreme VVS fighter of the war. Well it’s here – and it’s a beauty! I’m keen to get the kit onto the workbench at the earliest opportunity, so this is just a quick look ahead of a full build to follow soon.
Special Hobby’s new Yak-3 arrives in a sturdy and very stylish top-opening box. The main sprues are bagged together, with the clear parts in their own bag for protection. This being a “Hi Tech” version, the kit also includes a set of CMK upgrade parts which I expect will also be available separately. The kit comprises:
104 x grey styrene parts (plus 18 unused)
8 x clear styrene parts (plus 2 not needed)
15 x grey resin parts
13 x etched brass parts
A set of vinyl painting masks
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
First impressions are overwhelmingly positive. The styrene parts are moulded in two different styles, with the main airframe hinting slightly at Special Hobby’s “limited run” origins, while the sprues with the detail parts are clearly from steel moulds and match the best in the business for crispness. That’s not to decry the older-style parts; in fact the only tiny flaws I found are one or two spots where the detail’s filled in, and a pair of rather thoughtlessly placed ejector pins. That said, the pin marks are much lighter than in traditional short-run kits, there’s hardly any flash and no worries about sink marks. So, if you want to still call this a “semi-limited run” kit for want of a better term, it represents the state of the current art.
The main surface finish is nice and smooth, and I found just one small blemish that’ll polish away in a jiffy. Panel lines are delicately engraved, while depiction of the fabric covered control surfaces is quite subtle. The effect on the elevators is lighter than the ailerons and rudder, and I prefer the tighter look, so I might reduce the latter areas with a heavy coat of paint and gentle sanding.
There are no locating pins on the main parts, but they tape together very neatly. The fuselage halves are good and straight, and the separate top cowl slots in place with no fuss. The stabilisers have very solid locating tabs, and match the roots precisely for chord. Dry-fitting without adjustment, they both leave a slight gap, but careful trimming should help avoid the need for filler.
Similarly with the full-span upper and lower wing halves, which tape together well and set the dihedral very firmly. The wing root joint is long and follows panel lines back through the integral radiator bath. It would be an ambitious joint in a Tamiya kit, so it’s really no surprise to find it’ll need a little extra care and clamping here. Special Hobby have done a fine job, and anyone used to limited run kits should have no problems.
A Few Details
Construction begins conventionally with the cockpit, which is very nicely detailed with a mix of styrene, resin and etched parts. The side frames are styrene and feature separate fascias and levers etc. For this Hi Tech boxing, you’ll need to do a tiny bit of surgery, trimming off the standard rudder pedals to replace them with better detailed resin parts and etched straps. The instrument panel has crisply defined bezels with individual decals for the instrument faces, and there are more decals provided for the resin radio set that sits on the shelf behind the pilot’s seat. The seat itself is moulded in styrene in two parts and comes complete with an etched harness. A sign of just how good the standard styrene detail parts are is the beautifully moulded control column; the kit offers a replacement etched trigger, but I expect many modellers will be happy with the plastic version.
The only point which I find strange is that the instructions indicate to install the upper side consoles after
the wings and fuselage are joined. That seems counter-intuitive, so I’ll probably add try to them earlier in a more conventional manner.
The undercarriage features resin wheels which are much more detailed than the original plastic ones. The difference is really in the tyres, with delicate treads (the styrene tyres are bald) and extra maker’s writing – plus, the resin versions are weighted. The gear legs are styrene and very nicely moulded, with the tailwheel including an etched oleo scissor.
The main wheel wells are nicely detailed multi-part affairs, and the gear covers are thin with some fine moulding on their inner faces. It’s impressive to see that there aren’t any ejector pin marks to worry about.
The propeller has separate blades with solidly defined lugs to set the correct pitch angles in the separate backplate for the spinner.
Finally, the clear sprue offers a choice of open or closed canopies, along with an armoured headrest, fuel gauge windows, and a reflector for the gunsight. The canopy parts are thin and crystal clear, and the inclusion or painting masks is a nice touch.
Instructions & Decals
Special Hobby have printed the assembly guide in colour as a glossy 16-page A4 pamphlet. The drawings are very clearly rendered and the sequence is pretty logical. Colour matches for Gunze Sangyo paints are keyed to most details throughout assembly.
Decals are included for five Normandie-Niemen aircraft:
a. “White 6”, flown by Lt. Marcel Albert
b. “White Double-Zero”, flown by Cdt. Louis Delfino
c. “White 24”, flown by Roland de la Poype”
d. “White 22”, flown by Asp. Pierre Douarre
e. “White 4”, flown by Lt. Roger (Robert) Marchi
The decals are printed on two sheets by Eduard. The larger sheet contains white individual markings, while the smaller sheet has the national markings, stencils and instrument faces. The items are thin and glossy and in perfect register. A neat touch is that two styles of fuel gauges are included to set in the wings under clear covers.
The camouflage patterns shown broadly match the schemes illustrated in Erik Pilawskii’s “Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945”, although he does note that some Normandie-Niemen aircraft were repainted by the unit. There was clearly some variation between machines if you go by colour shots included in the book of the unit’s aircraft at the end of the war. The decals include tricolour rudder stripes, but the blue used (and the Gunze Sangyo blue suggested for the spinners in the painting instructions) is much paler and brighter than that in original colour photos.
The new Yak-3 is a great kit which will easily stand alongside fully mainstream offerings. Perhaps it would be a little ambitious for inexperienced builders, but Miroslav Hraban showed just how good it can look in the hands of a skilled modeller in his Blog
in the Forum. With it’s well moulded styrene parts and a small selection of high quality resin and etched extras, it would make a great choice for someone looking to step up to multi-media kits, and its compact size also makes it an ideal subject if you want to try a largescale kit but find space is at a premium. Highly recommended.
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