Sunday, July 25, 2010

Going "3D"- the IL-2 Sturmovik

Fascists beware!!!

While waiting for various components on my heavy tanks to dry out, I decided it was time to look at some air support for the Soviets, started on the Airfix Ilyushin IL-2 Sturmovik kit.
Clearly, Airfix thought the IL in the name stood for  "Ill" fitting, and this kit was something of a pig to put together.  

All the parts  are somewhat heavy, and needed some work with file and sandpaper to make them fit properly, particularly the undercarriage doors.  I would have been better of replacing them completely, but instead I used the kit ones and realized that I needed lots of plastic scrap to fill in the gaps.  This one will need a fair bit of time with putty and sandpaper.

Still, to be fair the kit is an old and venerable one from Airfix and deserves to be given some allowances for its age.  And to tell true I've been enjoying working on my first aircraft model for over twenty years.

The kit comes with a load of bombs, but I'm thinking of adding a pair of underwing 37mm A/T guns, as in the version in the video which I found on YouTube.  They shouldn't present any particularly difficulty for scratch building.  A little more challenging is how I'm going to make a stand and base that will be solid enough to support the kit over the table, without looking too ungainly and detracting from the tabletop.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Housing boom, and some suburban transportation.

I've been quite productive recently with making model kits- I've been churning them out at a great pace.  

The weather for the next few months here in Tokyo is going to be hot, humid, and generally unpleasant- which means that any spray painting is out of the question.  So it's build, build, and build in the summer months and once the weather becomes cooler and drier, then I'll be able to prime, undercoat, and airbrush the lot in batches.

I've put together all the Pegasus Hobbies buildings which I ordered recently.  After looking at pictures of Russian villages online, I've cut out some MDF bases and have been planning the layout.

The brown plastic buildings are the ones from Pegasus Hobbies, with a lone Britannia Miniatures resin house in their midst.
The first step will be to plane down the edges of the bases.  Once the buildings have been painted, then I will glue them down and texture the bases with acrylic putty and PVA-soaked offcuts of old cloth to make small potato patches and the like.  I'll then add fences, the occasional duck pond, water troughs, wagons, wood piles and other such farmyard impedimenta so that the bases will look a lot less spartan than they do in the photos.
Yet to be done are the "commercial" buildings.  A railway station and water tower (as at Ponyri), a grain silo, and an administration building for the local Party bigwigs.

Note the BA-6 and T-34/76 prowling the roads for Fascists.  The tank is the Zvezda model.  

This is really a great model.  The best T-34 kit I've built in this scale so far.  It went together fairly quickly (after I corrected my initial mistake when constructing the road wheels and suspension- a classic case of "when all else fails, read the instructions, nitwit!"). 
This is the kit just as it comes, built straight out of the box.  The only non-regulation things I did to it were to drill out the gun muzzle and the exhaust pipes in the rear.

The detail is very fine, and the track assembly system is quite ingenious. I was surprised just how easily almost all the parts fitted together.  The 76.2mm gun itself is of very simple construction.  None of those ill-fitting, multi-part gun housing/ mantlet pieces that seem to be the curse of many T-34/76 kits. 

The only parts requiring filling were some mould sinkholes on the gun mantlet cheeks.  You can see one side puttied over in the photo.  Once it's cured, I'll sand them down and texture the turret with Mr. Surfacer 500 for the rough-cast look.  

Curiously, there are no external fuel tanks provided, but I've seen lots of photos of T-34's without them.  And it does make for a faster build (two days.)

I was a little apprehensive as to how the delicate tow cables would fit, and whether they would break while removing them from the sprue, but the whole thing went together really smoothly.

This is definitely my T-34 of choice for 20mm gaming.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I came home the other day to find my Pegasus Hobbies BT-7's had arrived.  Really simple kits- about 12 parts per model! The track links are a little on the thick side, but nothing to detract from the model.  The Pegasus kit captures the look of the Betushka perfectly.

Here they are, assembled but not yet glued together.  Some filing, filling, and sanding to be done but not much.  Six vehicles, which would be a battalion's worth for service in the Far East, or I can use just four and have them do service as the light companies of the 1942/43 tank brigade.

In the background can be seen the KV-1s models I'm working on.  I love these kits, and as there are only to be four of them I'm taking the time to "tart 'em up" a bit.  Aside from adding plastic strip stock to suggest more track detail, I want to work more on the turret.  

The turret castings of the real things were rough.  REALLY rough, as you can see if you click on any of the images here.  So I will apply liberal coats of Gunze-Sangyo's product Mr. Surfacer 500 to give the cast parts a really porous-looking finish.  

I may also replace the barrels with more substantial turned aluminum after-market parts, but that may have to wait a while.  I'll also have to add some towing cables, which were such a noticeable part of the KV's equipment.

One of the KV's is of course to be the regimental command tank, so I also "opened" the hatch, and have yet to make the hatch cover itself from plastic card.  Unlike other Soviet tanks, the hatch opened sideways, so I will need to chop up some tankisti miniatures so that I can make a commander who would be holding on the the hatch with his left hand while leaning slightly to the right.


Quick update.  Received my order of Zvezda's brand new, snap-together T-34/76's from Hannants in the UK.  I'm glad I ordered them when I did- they've already sold out!

First impressions are extremely good. For a snap-together kit, this one is really well-detailed!  Not really a quick-build, but it should take a lot less time to put together than the UM kits!   There are more parts than is the case with the Pegasus Hobbies models, but it has to be said that overall this one is very finely engineered

I'm looking forward to getting them done- once I get the current crop of models finished!  I may put one together just to see how it goes. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Changes in Plan...

While looking for information on Guards heavy tank regiments, I found this .pdf file from Battlefront on their Flames of War site.  Unfortunately, it looks like the 36th Guards Heavies used the Churchill rather than KV-1's, so a change in the force I want to represent is in order.  Bugger.

So I diligently scoured all the Internetz, which led me to come across another article, this one on the 12th Guards Heavy Tank Regiment.  It served with the 9th Guard Rifle Corps in the offensive launched after the Battle of Kursk.  An interesting order of battle, as it had a tank brigade in support as well.    

9th Guards Rifle Corps ( 61st Army)
12th, 76th and 77th Guard Rifle Divisions
68th Independent Tank Brigade
12th Guards Heavy Tank Breakthrough Regiment
1539th SU Regiment (with twelve SU-152s)
16th and 17th Artillery Divisions
13th Mortar Brigade
310th and 311th Guards "Mortar" Regiments (twenty-four BM-13 “Katyusha” rocket launchers each).
310th Army Engineer Battalion
Lots of goodies there. Along with the12th Guards Heavies and the 68th Tank Brigade, I'll focus on recreating the 12th Guards Rifle Division, which stayed with the 9th Rifle Corps for the whole war.  According to R.G. Poirier and A.Z. Conner in their very useful book The Red Army Order of Battle in the Great Patriotic War,  the 12th Guards Rifle Division consisted of the 29th, 32nd, and 37th Guards Rifle Regiments and the 31st Guards Artillery Regiment.  

Originally raised as the 258th Rifle Division, it was used to form the 9th Guards Rifle Corps April 1942.  It saw fighting around Bolkov, on the Dnieper River, Belorussia and Poland, as well as in Riga and Berlin.  It served a number of times as a "breakthrough" division, for major offensives, and was awarded the Order of the Red Banner for its combat service.

For the 68th Independent Tank Brigade, I'll be needing some light tanks.  For a number of reasons, I settled on ordering some Pegasus Hobbies BT-7 tanks

Now these were on the way out by late 1942 let alone 1943, when they really should be replaced by T-60's, T-70's, or even Lend-Lease Stuarts or Valentines.  They aren't even in the BKC II stats for a mid-war Soviet army.  But there were a number of practical considerations that made me decide to get them;
  1. The Pegasus models are cheap- and easy to put together.
  2. While absolutely Kat food, the BT-7 looks cool, and has always been one of my favourites.
  3. I can also use them in games set against the Japanese, where they were used right up to 1945.
So I ordered three boxes' worth- six vehicles in all.  I can assume that in the aftermath of the high losses taken at Kharkov and Rhzev, reinforcements have been sent from the Far East, and that due to supply and/ or administrative reasons the 68th Tank Brigade has not yet the chance to re-equip it's light companies with something more modern.  At some time in the future I can get some Valentines or T-70's if I want to set the games later in the war.

Summer is here, the heat is increasing, and I'm off on a teaching intensive for a week.  So updates may be slow in coming for July.  When I get back from that business trip the pace at work picks up considerably, and I have to get working on some stuff for July's game as well.  Blogging may well have to take a back seat for a while.