by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
It's a good many years since Dragon cornered the Ju 88 market in 1:48 with an extended family of kits that completely eclipsed the rather dismal Hobbycraft kit (itself based on the earlier AMT model). Now there is a new contender in the shape of a completely new-tool kit from ICM Holding - and it really is something of a stunner.
The first release in what promises to be a series of versions is the Ju 88A-5 which appeared in the summer of 1940. The Ju 88A-5 jumped out of sequence, preceding the 'A-4 into service as something of a "hybrid", being developed from the 'A-1 and adding the extended wings of the forthcoming 'A-4, while retaining the earlier metal VDM propellers.
The KitICM's new Ju 88 arrives in a large, sturdy box. The ingenious design combines a flip-top plain inner box that is ideal for holding the parts during construction, with a lighter printed outer cover. The main sprues are all bagged together, with the clear sprue in its own bag within the main pack. Arguably that's not the ideal way of doing things, but my kit arrived safe and sound, so it obviously works well enough in this instance. The kit comprises:
233 x pale grey styrene parts ( 1 spare)
18 x clear styrene parts ( 2 unused)
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The moulding is very crisp and the smooth surface finish comprises neatly engraved panel lines and a few raised details. Ejection pin marks have been kept to a minimum, so clean-up should be quick and easy. I found just a couple of faint sink marks where locating pins are situated on the fuselage, and again on the engine crankcase covers (but the latter will be hidden anyway).
I compared the main parts against the 1:48 plans in Kagero's Ju 88 Vol. II and they match very closely. The plans also include rivet patterns, which will be handy for anyone wanting to depict them.
Test FitICM have taken a very different approach to the layout of the main airframe to the classic old Dragon kit. That featured a separate nose section to allow for different versions to be produced, and it often drew complaints over the awkward seam behind the cockpit.
ICM's fuselage parts are designed purely for bomber versions, so doing away with Dragon's unpopular vertical seam. On the other hand, the base of the nose is included with the belly and wing centre section, so you get a horizontal seal running to the nose that doesn't follow a panel line. The fit is very good, however, so I definitely prefer this approach.
The rest of the fuselage clips together very neatly, and there's a separate section on the spine, so it's clear ICM are planning more versions with the radio direction finder fitted.
With the wing centre-section setting the dihedral correctly, ICM give one piece top sections to each wing and a lower piece that runs from the tip to join the centre-section in the wheel wells. The fit is basically perfect and the roots line up precisely, so you should get a no-filler joint if you're careful. There's no spar included to support the roots, which I thought might be a little over-optimistic, but the wing panels are surprisingly light so the kit really doesn't need one.
The nacelles clip snugly in place, but the inner slots for the locating tabs are just visible when they're fitted, so I'll line them with thin sheet.
The stabilisers and early-style fin attach neatly. All the control surfaces are separate, and the elevators are designed to hinge, but of course you can always cement them in place.
A Few DetailsWith over 230 parts, this is obviously a pretty detailed kit, and construction kicks off with a very nicely fitted out "office". There are no less than 65 parts by the time you include all the ammunition drums. The instrument panel is nicely handled, with a decal to add to the crisply defined bezels, and each seat is a multi-part affair. The pilot's armoured seat is a very awkward shape to mould, so ICM have been forced to split it down the middle resulting in a seam to hide - pretty inevitable, really, and a price worth paying for the complex contours.
There are no seat harnesses provided, and these are all you may want to add (they'll also help disguise that seam and a couple of light pin marks on the seat pans). Almost certainly we can expect superdetailed aftermarket sets to come out for the kit but the cockpit should look really good and busy straight from the box.
The tailwheel is only one piece, but it's beautifully moulded and the detail should pop out with careful painting. Construction then continues with the major sections of the airframe, before adding the gondola and the main undercarriage.
The main gear legs attach to sturdy plinths set into the lower surface of the wings that form the roof of each well. The detail on the legs themselves is excellent, with separate retraction arms and oleo scissors. It may be possible to leave the legs off until after the nacelles are fitted, but only one section of the doors is open (correctly) so it could be a tight squeeze. The main wheels have nicely moulded treads, and are un-weighted so I'll definitely add flats to give a sense of the bulk of the aircraft. After the excellent detail in the rest of the undercarriage, the hubs are a bit bland, although just adding the prominent brake line will cheer things up a bit.
Part of the reason for the large number of parts in the kit is that it includes a pair of very nicely detailed engines and firewalls. Each comprises a 18-part assembly and can be viewed through open cowling panels. The cowls feature separate cooling flaps. The radiator faces are rather simple, so I expect they'll be another target for aftermarket sets. The same could be true of the propellers. The slender blades look fine to my eyes, but the roots are a bit basic. Note: Sergey Kosachev has pointed out that the exhausts are Ju 88A-4 types and thus incorrect for a Ju 88A-5, and is additionally concerned about the spinners.
The kit includes two pairs of crisply moulded 250kg and 500kg bombs and neatly detailed racks with sway braces. The dive brakes attach to small hinges on the wings, but remember to leave them off until after painting and decaling the lower surfaces.
The transparencies are excellent - crystal clear, with well defined framing for the cockpit "greenhouse". There's a choice of styles for the nose glazing and rear gunner's mounts.
Instructions & DecalsThe assembly guide is nicely printed as a 24-page A-4 booklet. As befits the complexity of the kit, the construction sequence is broken down into a phenomenal 103 stages! Don't worry, though - it's not as daunting as it sounds, as many only involve a few parts. The sequence itself is refreshingly logical and the clear diagrams are well sized to make construction look pretty straightforward. Colour matches are given for Model Master paints along with RLM references.
ICM include decals for 4 interesting colour schemes including Battle of Britain, Balkans and Eastern Front aircraft:
1. Ju 88A-5, 4.LG 1, France, August 1940
2. Ju 88A-5, 5.LG 1, Greece, May 1941
3. Ju 88A-5, 5./KG 30, Puri, Finland, Autumn 1941
4. Ju 88A-5, 8./KG 76, Russia, December 1941
The decals appear to be printed by Begemot and are excellent, being thin and glossy, with pin-sharp registration on my sheet. Begemot really seem to have raised their game of late and I'll be more than happy to use these decals. The only omission is the lack of swastikas (even in split form) in a nod towards political correctness - slightly frustrating, but there are plenty of aftermarket sources.
ConclusionOn the basis of a partial test assembly, ICM's new Ju 88 looks to be a superb kit - well-designed, with masses of detail while promising straightforward assembly. It's also remarkably good value for money for a kit of this size and quality, so it deserves to be a huge success. Highly recommended.
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