by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The latest Airframe Extra edition follows the now well established format of this popular series, with the 82-page softbound A-4 book printed on high quality glossy stock and presenting a very enjoyable combination of an historical overview, period photos, a mass of high quality colour profiles and a selection of excellent model builds.
Patrick Branley does a fine job of condensing into just seventeen pages the history of the sprawling North African campaign, from the limited clashes in 1940, through the cataclysmic battles which followed, to the end of fighting in the spring of 1943. While the outcome might have been inevitable once the full might of the western allies was brought to bear, the see-saw nature of the earlier battles is unlike any other theatre of operations during WWII, as first one side, then the other, made sweeping advances, often capturing vast numbers of prisoners, only to suffer crushing setbacks in turn.
Reading it, one canít avoid the uncomfortable feeling that the German forces were totally hamstrung by Hitler's obsession with attacking the USSR and wonder how differently things might have unfolded if he had focused exclusively on the Mediterranean and North Africa, ensuring the Suez canal was under Nazi control and the oil reserves of the Middle East within grasp, before turning his sights east.
Along with outlining the campaign, the author includes brief technical details of the opposing aircraft and the breakdown of the forces involved. Backing up the text are numerous maps which form a timeline of the clashes, along with a selection of period photos, some of which are in colour. If I have a criticism, it's that some of the photos are rather small, limiting their usefulness, so it would have been nice if space could have been found to reproduce them larger, even if that meant losing the shots of afvs and infantry which, while they undoubtedly help set the scene, are arguably of limited value in a title aimed primarily at aircraft modellers.
The profiles are broken down into five separate sections - which gives some idea of what a rich vein of subjects the North African campaign is for modellers. Richard Caruana does his usual excellent job, tackling the following broad groups - German, British & Commonwealth, Italian, French and American aircraft - with 90 profiles in total. The expected favourites are present, plus some rarer birds that should really get the create juices flowing for anybody looking for a subject that's a bit "different".
For the model builds, Steve Evans and LIbor Jekl once again do a great job, with the first subject being preceded by a very handy list of appropriate acrylic and enamel paints across eleven widely available ranges.
Things kick off with Eduardís delightful 1:144 Junkers Ju 52/3m. Steve Evans builds it straight from the box and shows what a gem it can be. The chosen colour scheme is a striking 3-colour splinter pattern on the upper surfaces - similar to the classic pre-war scheme but, in this case, apparently the result of spraying RLM 02 over the existing 70/71 camouflage.
For the next build, Libor Jekl tackles Special Hobbyís 1:72 Curtiss Kittyhawk Mk. Ia. As usual with Liborís work, you could easily mistake it for a larger scale model in the photos. Once again the camouflage is a bit unusual, with Dark Mediterranean Blue on the undersides instead of the expected Azure Blue.
Steve Evans turns to Flyís 1:32 Hawker Hurricane Mk. IId for his RAF subject. Iím pleased to see Flyís kit included, because it doesnít get the coverage it deserves. I was very impressed when I reviewed it and Steveís excellent build shows just how well it captures the look of Sydney Cammís iconic aircraft.
For the second Luftwaffe build, Libor Jekl goes to town on Hasegawaís 1:72 Heinkel He 111H-6 with a mix of a little scratch-building and aftermarket sets to add extra detail where it counts. Once again the colour scheme is interesting, with the topside pattern of RLM 70/71 heavily overpainted with RLM 79 and 80, plus black undersurfaces.
Next itís Liborís turn again with a 1:72 Dewoitine D.520 from RS Models. This is quite an advanced build as he adds a lot of extra detail, a vacu-formed canopy, plus delicately embossed rivets on the exterior. The result is spectacular, with the aircraft resplendent in Vichy neutrality stripes.
Finally, Steve Evans brings us Eduardís popular Messerschmitt Bf 110C/E in 1:48. The simple camouflage is nicely weathered to give an impression of a well used airframe in the harsh desert conditions, and it rounds off a fine selection of interesting variety of subjects and scales. Itís surprising not to have at least one Regia Aeronautica aircraft in the line-up, but the inclusion of a Vichy French machine gives a neat twist for anyone looking for something a little unusual.
ConclusionI really enjoy the Airframe Extra series, and Valiant Wings have once again produced a title that fulfils its dual purpose in laying out the historical framework for the topic along with providing a modelling manual that's focused on a specific set of subjects. As such, it should appeal to anyone with a purely historical interest in the North African campaign and to modellers alike.
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