In the early 1930s, the Soviet Air Force was a small but growing force. Though it had been around since 1923, the Air Force was still in its infancy when the German invasion of the Soviet Union gave the Soviets the opportunity to show what they could do in a large-scale war. In the opening days of Operation Barbarossa, the Red Air Force proved itself not only a capable opponent, but a determined one.

Is the Polikarpov I-16 the most successful fighter aircraft ever built? It is largely considered to be the most successful Soviet fighter, with the Soviet air arm losing over 30,000 aircraft of this type during the course of the war. But did it achieve this success because it was the best, or because the Luftwaffe was the only air power opposing the Soviets?

The Bf-109D land-based version of the Bf-109 was the most common variant of the Bf-109D, eventually replacing the Bf-109C on the production lines at Regensburg. Towards the end of its career, the Bf-109D was supplanted by the Bf-109K, which had a longer-range engine, improved armament, and an increased fuel load.. Read more about messerschmitt bf 109 and let us know what you think.

For the first time in battle, several of the most advanced and famous weaponry of the mid-20th century were used in the Spanish Civil War. During the 1936-39 war, tactics and technology were devised and tested in the skies above Madrid, Barcelona, and Guernica. The Messerschmitt Bf-109 and I-16 Polikarpov, two of the most sophisticated fighters of their day, would go on to combat for the following eight years in various forms. Our two Spanish heroes have been modelled by Hobbycraft in a variety of various ways.

Bf-109D Messerschmitt

Hobbycraft’s Bf-109D is a fantastic addition to any Messerschmitt enthusiast’s collection. In 2010, Academy of South Korea reissued the outfit. The model is now out of production (for the time being), although it may be obtained on eBay and at swap meetings.

The cockpit consists of three parts: a tub, a control panel, a seat, and a control stick. The assembly is simple, with lots of opportunity for scratch-built intricacy. There are several aftermarket detail kits to choose from, and even a basic resin seat and harness may offer some additional appeal. The German Air Ministry required that aircraft interiors be completed in a gray green hue at the time (officially called RLM 02). Between the fuselage sections, the finished cockpit fits snuggly. Before gluing the parts together, be sure you dry fit them. Add the engine exhaust stubs, which are two parts that connect through the engine cavity. Set the finished fuselage aside to dry after attaching the engine cover and chin intake.

Attach the main wing to the fuselage using the basic three-piece assembly. Fill up any gaps and sand as needed.

A tiny oil cooler is attached to the underside of the wing, directly within the port landing gear bay (part C-5). Unfortunately, the directions do not indicate where the component should go, so you’ll need some reference material. Flaps are sold as two separate parts that may be “dropped” into place to give the completed aircraft a more realistic appearance.

Hobbycraft Bf-109D vs. Polikarpov I-16

Assemble the landing gear, painting the tires a medium gray, the hubs almost black, the struts, and the insides of the wheel wells RLM 02. 

The camouflage is basic, with a light gray green (RLM 63) on top and light blue on the undersides (RLM 65). The rudder and wingtips are painted white. To preparation for the decals, give the aircraft an overall shine coat. Hauptmann Werner Mölders, one of the most renowned Condor Legion aces, is credited with 14 aerial victories in this Bf-109D. His time in Spain served him well in the Luftwaffe, as he became the first fighter pilot to shoot down 100 enemy planes during WWII.

Add the landing gear and some minor weathering after applying the markings and a clear layer of Matt varnish. 

The kit has a single-piece closed canopy, but it’s simple to change with an aftermarket vacuformed set. Carefully cut and sand the canopy parts to fit, then mask them for painting. To show off your hard work in the cockpit, attach the canopy center part in an open position. Assemble the propeller and paint the blades aluminum. The reverse side of the blades should be painted an extremely dark, nearly black hue. The pilot’s glare was reduced by painting the prop this way.

It’s time to put the finishing touches on your project. Attach the antenna mast to the cockpit’s back wall. Each aileron has two weight-and-balance vanes attached to the bottom (parts A-6). Stretched sprue will be used to make the L-shaped pitot tube. 

Your Condor Legion Messerschmitt will be ready to exhibit beside its Republican opponent after those parts are connected.


Polikarpov I-16

The I-16, like the Messerschmitt, is a simple aircraft to construct. Begin in the cockpit, where the very basic cockpit floor, seat, and control panel will need some assistance. Quinta Studios, a newcomer to the aftermarket detail set industry, has chosen a novel approach. The tiny Ukrainian firm specializes in “3D” decal kits. The elevated, three-dimensional control panel and seat harness are simple to use and look fantastic once installed.

The I-16 featured two small doors on each side of the cockpit that allowed getting in and out of the little fighter simpler. With a little work, the cockpit may be made more open, enabling the detail you’ve added to stand out more. Plastic card may be used to make a pair of new cockpit doors. 

Dry fit the finished cockpit, as well as the engine firewall, between the fuselage halves. Assemble the wings and attach them to the fuselage. Fill and sand seams before putting the whole thing away. 

Then, go on to the engine. Paint it an aluminum color and use a dark wash over the cylinders to bring out some of the detail, then attach it to the firewall. There’s no need to spend a lot of effort on wire harnesses and push rods since the fuselage cowling’s louvered covering will hide much of the engine detail.

Connect the engine cowling to the engine. Replace the breech covers on the two machine guns at the fuselage’s top (parts D-20).

Hobbycraft Bf-109D vs. Polikarpov I-16

It’s time to go to the painting studio. The Polikarpov I-16 was painted in the typical Soviet scheme of the period, which consisted of an overall dark olive green (about FS34102) on top and a sky blue (FS35550) on the lower surfaces. Red identification panels were painted on the wingtips, as well as a large red stripe across the fuselage, immediately below the cockpit, by Republican troops. Make sure the sizes of the painted areas are accurate using your reference material. Paint over them after masking them off.

After the painting is finished, apply a layer of clear gloss to the model to ready it for decals. The markings on this “Mosca,” as the stubby fighter was fondly called, are for an aircraft flown by José Mara Bravo Fernández, a 12.5-victory ace from the Spanish Republic’s 3rd Escuadrilla of Groupo 21 in the summer of 1938. Fernandez survived the war and went on to serve in the Soviet air force during WWII.

Assemble and connect the landing gear, taking care to avoid the gear door covers’ small overlap. Add the propeller, which has a black blades and a blunt hub. In areas where the aircraft has seen a lot of use, give it a gentle wash. Pick out the six exhaust openings around the cowling with a black wash and add some exhaust staining. Finally, using your knowledge as a guide, put your scratch-building abilities to the test on a gunsight. Your Mosca is now complete with the addition of a basic windshield.

The two opponents make for a fascinating contrast in fighter aircraft design in the years leading up to World War II, and will undoubtedly stir some debate.


Aces of the Condor Legion, by Robert Forsyth; Spanish Republican Aces, by Rafael A. Permuy López; and, of course, How the Spanish Civil War Served as a Dress Rehearsal for World War II, from the September 2023 issue of Aviation History, for more information on the fighter pilots and aircraft of the Spanish Civil War. Today is the last day to subscribe!





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