Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Eastern Front Strike Planes
I have been making 1/72 close-support strike aircraft for my Rapid Fire Eastern Front games.
Henschel manufactured the two specialist strike planes for the Luftwaffe.
The biplane is an Hs 123, a 1933 design that first flew in '35. They were used in the Spanish Civil war where they were considered something of a failure. They came into their own in the Great Patriotic War on the Eastern Front fighting in Barbarossa, Leningrad, Moscow, Crimea, Kharkov, Stalingrad and the great air battles over Kursk. In 1943, von Richtofen asked that the Hs123 production lines be restarted only to be told that the jigs had already been destroyed. The secret of the 123 is that it could operate in conditions that grounded more modern aircraft. One is reminded of the Swordfish. The last 123s were retired in 1945.
Speed 211 mph, armed with two MGs and two 20mm cannon, plus around 1000lbs of bombs.
The monoplane is an Hs129, the panzerknacker, the 123's replacement. The A10 was supposedly inspired by this plane. The pilot sat in an armoured tub that was so cramped that critical instruments were mounted outside the cockpit. It was an underpowered dog to fly.
Speed 253mph, armed with two MGs and two 20mm cannon, plus 800lbs of fragmentation bombs or a 30mm tank-busting cannon in a ventral pod.
At Kursk, Hs129 tankbusters supported by FW190A4s carrying cluster bombs stopped a Soviet attack on the flank of the SS Panzer Corps without any support by land forces. This was the first sign of the terrible damage that strike planes of the Western Allies were going to inflict on the armies of the Third Reich.
The 123 is a classic Airfix plastic kit and the 129 a diecast metal model.
The next photo shows two planes converted to strike missions.
The JU87 Stuka dive bomber blazed a trail across Poland, the Low Countries and France but its vulnerability was ruthlessly exposed by Fighter Command in the Battle for Britain. Nevertheless, it soldiered on until 1943 in the less dangerous skies of the Eastern Front. In 1943, Rudel's squadron tested the JU87G at Kursk. It was a Stuka fitted with two underwing 37mm gun pods for tank busting.
Speed 242mph (probably slower with gunpods), two MGs in wings and one flexible defensive rear gun.
The yellow plane is an FW190A4. This was a strike version of the famous fighter introduced in 1942. It had two 20mm cannon in the wingroots and carried a 1000lb bomb. Unloaded, it had a speed of 426 MPH which gave it much greater survivability than the other planes described here. Indeed, it was the only one of these aircraft to operate in the West.
Both are Revel plastic kits.
Finally, the Russian answer. The white tailed plane is the famous Shturmovik. This is a 1943 model with a rear gunner. Over 36,000 'flying tanks' were manufactured, more than any other plane in WW2. It had a top speed of 257mph and was armed with two MGs and two 23mm cannon in the wings and could carry 1300lbs of bombs or rockets. A variant was armed with two 37mm tankbuster cannon.
The rear aircraft is a PE2 dive bomber. Like the Mosquito, it was used in a wide variety of roles and was considered to be one of the best planes of its class in WWII.
Speed 360mph, armed with twoMGs in the nose and two MGs in a rear mounting, and 3,500 lbs of bombs.
Both are Airfix models.