by: Jean-Luc Formery [ ]
Originally published on:
HistoryDuring the early raids over England, collisions with British anti-aircraft barrage balloons had posed a serious and often fatal threat to bomber crews. The balloons were particularly effective at night when the balloons and their dangling cables were practically invisible. to counter this threat, both the He 111 and Ju 88 were modified with specialized anti-balloon equipment.
During late 1940 a number of Ju 88 A-5s were converted to the anti-balloon role with a large swept back cable fender mounted in front of the bomber supported by ten nose and wing leading edge struts under the designation Ju 88 A-6. When the Ju 88 A-6 flew into the cables strung below a barrage balloon, the cables would be deflected along the fenders to the wingtip, where they would be severed by cable cutters mounted on the wingtips. To offset the 840 pounds of the cable fender, a 130 pound counterweight was installed in the rear fuselage. Formations of Ju 88 A-6s were to precede the main bomber force over the target to eliminate the balloon threat and allow the main force to attack the target at a lower altitude.
The weight and drag of the cable fender, however, cut the speed of the Ju 88 A-6 by nearly 20 mph and severely impaired maneuverability, making the aircraft vulnerable to enemy fighters and flak. Although a number of operations were carried out by Ju 88 A-6s during 1941, the system quickly proved impractical for wide spread use and after a few months of operations, most Ju 88 A-6s had the fenders removed, reverting to the bomber role. The nose and wing fender attachment brackets were usually retained and covered with streamlined "tear drop" fairings. One Ju 88 A-6 (coded 4D DL, Werk-Nr.3457) was examined by the British when it crash landed in England on 27 July 1941. In official British intelligence report the bomber was described simply as being "... like the Ju 88 A-5 but with balloon fenders..."
(text copyright of squadron/signal publications inc.)
The KitDragon's new Junkers Ju 88 A-6 Balloon Cutter kit comes in a large and sturdy top opening box. The box art shows a plane coded 4D DL (see history above) which represents the only marking option provided in this reference.
When you open the Ju 88 A-6 box for the first time, you soon realize that this is quite an ambitious kit. It is composed of 14 grey plastic sprues of various sizes (A, B, F x2, J, K, N, O x2, P, R x2, S and Z), four transparent sprues (G, H x2 and Q), two photoetched frets (MA which is pre-painted and MB which is not), two decal sheets (more on that latter) and one assembly guide. The content really fills the box to the top!
The Ju 88 plastic sprues are well known in the modelling world since they have been released several times before by Dragon to depict many variant of this famous aircraft: Ju 88 A-4, Ju 88 C-6, Ju 88 P-1, Ju 88 G-1/G-10, Ju 188 E-1, Mistel-2/S2 to name a few. The quality of the injection moulded part is still very good with delicate surface detail (engraved panel lines) and crisp looking parts. I found no sink marks on my sample and virtually no flash. Only some ejector pin marks are present in some places, particularly inside the seats which is annoying.
The clear parts are also very nice. Their transparencies are very good and they are distortion free. Some areas such as the frames and the gondola feature a matt finish which will make them easier to paint for sure.
InstructionsThe instructions are printed on a huge sheet of paper in a panoramic layout. This is something I don't like since I find it to be impractical but this is a matter of taste. There is a parts layout, a colour table (Gunze), a 16 step assembly guide spread over 6 pages and a painting & marking guide. There is unfortunately no history provided by Dragon for such an interesting and original aircraft.
Now when you look at the parts layout guide in the instructions, you can notice that quite a lot of pieces will end up in the spare box. They are marked in blue on the drawings but it seems Dragon made some mistakes in their instructions. The pilot's seat which is clearly represented as part A29 in the first steps of the instructions (but labelled S4) shouldn't be used and is accordingly coloured in blue in the parts layout. In step 4 of the guide, the seat's shape has magically changed to match the look of part S4. In fact it seems Dragon mixed up older and newer drawings for their instructions which isn't very serious. Similarly both ailerons (parts S1 and S2) are marked in blue and appear nowhere in the instructions. Don't trash them! If you do so, your Ju 88 model will not be equipped with ailerons! I didn't checked further but if I can give you one advice: be very careful when reading the instructions and do not blindly trust them!
Photoetched partsThe PE parts are located on two different sheets. The first one, which is pre-painted, is mainly composed of parts to dress up the cockpit interior. It is not written on the fret but it was probably made by Eduard. The second, larger fret, also holds some parts for the interior but of course also all those needed for the external cable cutter installation.
Both frets are nicely done and they will both greatly enhance the level of detail of the kit. However, the finished model will be very fragile and I think that it would be wiser to replace some PE parts with styrene or even metal rods for a more solid construction. I'm not sure that the bracing struts that hold the cutter were flat on the real thing. It does not seem to be the case on the aircraft painted on the boxart if you ask me.
Painting and DecalsAs I said previously, only one decal option is provided in the kit:
Ju 88 A-6 4D DL from KG 30, France 1941, which is precisely the aircraft which crash landed in England on 27 July 1941. Some other sources say the plane was mislead by the Meacon transmitter at Lympsham and, being low on fuel, landed intact at RAF Broadfield Down (Somerset) in the night of 23/24 July.
The painting instructions are given for the Gunze and Model Master range of colours and I must say they are quite confusing. According to the guide, the propellers should be painted in silver (H18) and the hub in a rather odd mix of 70% yellow (H329), 29% dark green (H64) and 10 %light gull grey (H51) ... err... this makes 109 % by the way! The underside colour is a mix of 55% "air superiority blue" (whatever it is) and 45 % light gull grey. The upper surface splinter camouflage is composed of a "hemp" colour (!?) and a mix of 10% IJN Gray (H61), 40% RLM dark green (H64) and 50% IJA green (H60). Now if you think this has anything to do with a Luftwaffe WW2 camouflage, please share your references with me. It would be interesting to see the original intelligence report by the British by the way. My guess is that the plane was painted in the common RLM 65/70/71 scheme of that period and possibly received a black underside for night operations. But that's only speculation on my part.
The decals are nicely printed and perfectly in register. A small sheet has been added which represents the emblem of I/KG30. It must have been forgotten by Dragon and someone (a magician perhaps?) must have told them it was missing.
AccuracyAccording to the references I have, the Ju 88 A-6 was a modified A-5. The latter was based on the A-1 airframe but with modified extended outer wing panels that had been designed for the A-4. However that doesn't make it into an A-4 since it was fitted with different Jumo 211G engines.
Now you are probably asking yourself why I tell you all that. Well, it's because the kit is based on the Ju 88 A-4 kit and therefore won't represent an accurate A-6 Balloon Cutter out of the box! The main difference is the prominent bulged asymmetrical fairing below the engine nacelles. However the design of the exhausts as well as the frontal radiator and the shape of the propeller blades are also slightly different (see drawing from the squadron book). Out of the box, you can do a Ju 88 A-8 which was the Balloon Cutter version of the A-4 but not an A-6. The problem is that no A-8 was ever fitted with the cable fenders, since the system had proven to be impractical on the A-6!
To sum up, here is what you can do with this kit:
- build the kit out of the box but the engine nacelles will be wrong for the markings provided.
- build the kit and modify the engine nacelles for a 100% accurate model.
- go wild and build the kit as a "What If?" A-8.
Sure, you can also build the kit as a Ju 88 A-4 (and maybe night fighter versions with the spare parts), but it wouldn't make sense to buy this boxing and end up not using the additional photoetched parts.
Conclusion It's difficult to rate this kit. The package is very nice and, once completed, will make into an impressive model. But it seems Dragon chose the easy way by not adding newly tooled engine nacelles. That's a shame, as it would have also allowed them to do the A-5 variant which at one time equipped every Kampfgeschwader which operated the Ju 88. I think I know now why there is no history in the kit's instructions...
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AeroScale.
- Junkers Ju88 in action - part 1- squadron/signal publication
- Junkers Ju88 - Editions Atlas