The Bf 109G-2 was the first of the Gustavs to enter widespread service, preceding the 'G-1 by several weeks despite its later version number. In fact, the two types were produced simultaneously, the 'G-1 having a pressurised cockpit, while the 'G-2's remained unpressurised and sported small ventilation scoops under the windscreen. Other than that, the versions were basically identical.
The early Gustav's marked a distinct turning point in the development of Messerschmitt's famous fighter. Along with the heavier DB605 engine came an increasing spiral of extra weight as their initial armament of a single 20mm cannon and a pair of 7.9mm machine guns soon proved inadequate. To overcome this, extra weaponry and equipment in the form of Rüstsätze
was frequently fitted and this soon required a stronger landing gear - which in turn raised the weight still further in what became a vicious circle. The flying qualities of the fighter which had reached their apex with the earlier Bf 109F series began to suffer badly, but the deteriorating war situation meant that there was no choice but to continue producing the Gustav in vast numbers despite the evidence that the '109 had already passed the peak of its development potential.
The first sixteen Bf 109G-2s supplied to the Finnish Air Force departed Wiener-Neustadt on 10th March, flown by Finnish pilots but wearing full Luftwaffe camouflage and delivery codes. Thirteen arrived safely at Helsinki Malma on the 13th March after an eventful journey to Finland. Read the full fascinating story of the early Finnish Gustavs HERE
Hasegawa's 1:32 Bf 109G has been around for about 10 years in various guises, and was followed by a highly acclaimed Bf 109F in 2010. This new limited edition Bf 109G-2 combines parts from both kits and arrives in a large, attractive top-opening box. All the sprues and accessories are bagged separately, but I still spotted a few parts have been scuffed at some stage - nothing a few moments' polishing won't sort out though. Something that is noticeable is that the main sprues are moulded in two slightly different tones of grey - a result of the way the kit has been produced with parts drawn from the Friedrich and Gustav models.
99 x grey styrene parts (plus 68 unused)
8 x clear styrene parts (plus 3 not needed)
A set of poly-caps
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
The moulding is generally excellent, with a highly polished finish and no trace of flash, with very crisp detail throughout. Panel lines are engraved and fasteners are neatly embossed, with a few raised details such as hinges. Ejector pin marks are very light and should present no problem, but I did spot one or two light sink marks where there's think moulding on the reverse side of a part. One instance is on the top surface of the wings where, ironically, the designers have added a substantial "spar" on the inside to keep everything straight. The mark is only faint, and may not show under camouflage - and if you don't want to fill it, you could always argue it's depicting the stress in the skinning where the spar of the full-sized aircraft runs.
Something old, something new...
The Hasegawa Gustav is very modular in its breakdown, which makes some elements of construction a little more complex than the norm. The fuselage features a separate tail section to allow for later "tall tail" versions, but the fit seems very positive, with a massive block for the locator to hold it square. This leads to a compromise for the 'G-2, which in reality had a retractable 'F-style unit (although it was usually locked down). The reason is clear enough - Hasegawa's Bf 109F has a full length fuselage, whereas the Gustav kits have the separate tail. So, short of moulding a complete new tail (which wouldn't be economical for this limited edition kit), we're left with the later sealed-off tailwheel well and a tailwheel leg with a garter.
The wing assembly is quite unusual, with a clever "spar" arrangement onto which slide the completed left and right wings. The fit is literally perfect on the sample kit, and should require no filler at all if you're careful - the final seams looking just like surrounding panel lines. The trailing edges of all the flying surfaces are quite nice and thin, and the horizontal tail has a pair of interlocking tabs to keep it straight. All the control surfaces are moulded integrally, except for the radiator and landing flaps.
Commentators have highlighted a few issues with Hasegawa's various Bf 109G's over the years, some of which the manufacturer has been able to address in this release by taking parts from their well-regarded Friedrich. Looking at the overall shape, the short nose that has been noted remains, but the rest of the kit appears very good me. Checking against Kagero drawings the nose discrepancy seems to lie in the area between the cockpit and the cowling. Modifying it would require really expert modelling skills and, to be honest I'd leave well alone. Elsewhere, the kit outline matches the plans very closely.
One area of concern was always the spinner, and there have been a number of aftermarket replacements released to overcome this. This time, however, Hasegawa have taken the spinner from their Friedrich, and it looks much better to my eyes and makes for a big instant improvement. Similarly, the top of the cowl has also been taken from the Bf 19F, and something the instructions fail to point out is that it simply won't fit without some simple modification because the original kit's gun mounts get in the way. You'll also need to fill the prominent seam left by the separate cowling top.
A few details
A legacy of the main parts serving for other '109 versions is that you'll need to fill a few panels before assembly. Holes are still there for the later "Beule" on the nose, and these need to be plugged.
Turning to the cockpit, this is quite simple, but should look pretty effective if painted carefully. The sidewalls are neatly detailed and a further 18 parts should make for a suitably decent "office". There are no seatbelts included, and their absence will be very noticeable in this scale if you chose not to fit the multi-part pilot figure supplied. The instrument panel is retained from the original 'G-6 kit, but that for the full-sized 'G-2 was largely identical. The bezels are really crisply moulded but, if you prefer not to paint them, Hasegawa provide a decal too.
Not surprisingly, since Hasegawa have taken their Gustav fuselage parts, the instructions also show to use original rather basic exhausts. However, included on the sprues taken from the Friedrich are a set of much better individual stacks with lightly hollowed-out end. They're not designed to fit this kit, but it shouldn't take much to persuade them to do so, and the result should look superior.
Two sets of wheels are included in the kit. The 660mm x 160mm mainwheels from the original 'G kits, and the 650mm x 150mm wheels from the Friedrich, and used on the 'G-2. Conventional wisdom in my references is that the smaller wheels were used on the bulk of the 'G-2s built, with the larger type being introduced at the end of the production run, and necessitating an accompanying wing bulge.
Hasegawa show to use the smaller wheels and the wing bulges on all the featured colour schemes, but checking photos available on-line, it appears that MT-222 and MT-225 had bulges, while they aren't apparent in a shot of MT-213. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to tell which wheels were used, as covers were fitted when the photos were taken, or they simply weren't in shot. As ever, the order of the day is to gather as many references as you can to form your own opinion.
Instruction and decals
The assembly guide is printed as a large fold-out sheet, which breaks construction down into 15 stages. The sequence is logical, and the individual stages all quite straightforward, but the overall effect on the page is a bit cluttered. so it'll pay dividends to read things careful - particularly the numerous "info views" which point out the modifications required to the parts. Gunze Sangyo paint suggestions are keyed to most parts at each stage.
3 colour schemes are offered, providing a real variety of camouflage, but I think the designers may be mistaken in their call-out for tan and green topsides on options #2, as the classic Finnish olive green and black seem more likely to me:
1. MT-222, 1/LeLv 34 W.O. I Juutilainen, July 1943.
2. MT-213, 2/HeLv 24 Lt. E Riihikallio, May 1944
3. MT-225 1/HeLv 24 Lt. L Nissinen, April 1944
The decals arrive on a large sheet and are beautifully printed in perfect register with a silk finish. I must admit I'm a bit worried about some of the colours though. The blue Finnish Hakaristi (swastikas) appear a touch too green, but a bigger problem is the background of the "toned down" roundels, which is a sort of pastel green-blue, whereas all my references point to light grey being correct. Still, with their simple geometric shape, it'll be easy to use the decals as a basis to cut painting masks, while an excellent source of Finnish national insignia and serials is Techmod decal sheet #32023.
The designers have erred on the safe side for the sake of political correctness, also providing plain crosses instead of Hakaristi as an alternative, but it should be noted that these are not historically correct. The sheet includes a healthy selection of servicing stencils,, but I don't know whether all of these would have been reapplied (especially in the original German) after the aircraft were repainted in Finnish camouflage.
Hasegawa's 1:32 Bf 109G was always a lovely kit in my opinion, and this still holds true some 10 years after its first release. Backdating it to a 'G-2 is a bit trickier than it appears at first sight, and the resulting kit represents something of a compromise - however it should definitely be a very satisfying build.
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