Italeri 1/48 Ar 196A Kit First Look
|Date of Review||June 2010||Manufacturer||Italeri|
|Kit Number||2675||Primary Media||Styrene, Photo-Etch|
|Pros||New tool kit of this unique Arado||Cons||Back to the drawing board - see text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$54.95|
The Arado company was awarded a contract for reconnaissance aircraft that would operate off of water and be capable of sustaining catapult forces from being launched from German warships. The resulting design was the Ar 196 which was the only monoplane design submitted to the RLM, the rest being biplane floatplanes. Arado built the aircraft around the specific BMW 132 engine which would be a reliable engine and wasn't competing for the same resources that the RLM's fighter developments were seeking.
In early prototype configurations, the RLM wanted to test the Ar 196 in a single and a twin-float configuration. While both designs operated well, there was some concern about potential accidents should one of the two outrigger floats 'dig in' on the single main float design (the same configuration used by the OS2U Kingfisher). Production standardized on the twin-float configuration and the first Ar 196As entered service.
As designed, the aircraft could operate effectively off the water allowing for basing on lakes and coastlines. The aircraft was equally at home aboard ship and could be shot off a catapult, conduct its mission, then land alongside the ship where it could be hoisted back aboard for its next cat shot. While much of the Ar 196 production was centered around floatplane configurations, the Ar 196 was also built with a conventional landing gear (tailwheel) for land-based operations. By the time the war was in full-swing, the land-based Arados were relegated to other duties or retired, while the floatplane Ar 196 aircraft served through the end of World War 2.
When Italeri announced a new-tooled Arado in their future, it sounded like an interesting project. If the aircraft was done right, it would look great on a scratch-build catapult or floating on a small clear-resin vignette. Unfortunately, such was not the case.
The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on four parts trees, plus a small clear tree containing the windscreen and canopies. The detailing is nice and the parts are well engineered to go together easily.
At first blush, the cockpit is nicely laid out and features some nice detailing. Looking at the CAD-based images in the instructions, I noticed that either the pilot's seat is undersized, or the cockpit main decking is too wide. With the sidewalls installed onto the main deck, the front cockpit appears quite spacious, not quite enough for a handball court, but lots of room. With the relative positioning of the rudder pedals and the control yoke, it looks like it is the pilot's seat being underscaled that throws off the interior proportions.
The engine is also nicely done and only lacks some photo-etched ignition wiring to complete the look. The kit does provide the option of a separately molded cowling access panel to be left off to reveal the BMW engine.
I remember overlooking the nose profiles on the Trumpeter versus Classic Airframes SM.79 Sparviero kits and I might have missed it here too had it not been for some three-view diagrams I was examining for another problem. In the kit, the nose profile gently falls off from the windscreen to the firewall. On the box art, in the diagrams, and in photos, the nose actually drops off more distinctly the further forward you go from the windscreen. Italeri missed this distinctive profile.
When I imaged the sprues, I noticed the wings didn't look right to me, hence the three-view diagrams and photos mentioned above. The Arado was designed for quick and simple construction, which in those days was a wing with an absolutely straight leading edge. Jigging up the ribs and stringers are a snap when you can start with that leading edge being straight as well. Italeri seemed to miss this as the wing in this box has a slight 2-3 degree sweep and the wing roots have an even sharper angle to them.
Rounding out the missed shapes, that rudder also needs to be replaced. The chord should be longer near the top of the tail and probably proportionally over the whole rudder.
I was somewhat amused by the notation on the box that inside was a 'Super Decals Sheet' and inside was a small sheet with four options. There's nothing wrong with the decals themselves, but when I see 'Super' on the box, I expect a huge sheet inside much like the monster decal sheets provided in most of Revell/Germany's kits. But I digress...
The kit provides marking options for four aircraft:
- Ar 196A-5, 7R+BK, 2./Sagr. 125, Crete, 1941
- Ar 196A-2, T3+IH, 1//BordfliegerGr. 196, Battleship Bismarck, 1940
- Ar 196A-2, Auxiliary Cruiser Vidder (HSK-3), 1941 (French)
- Ar 196A-2, Auxiliary Cruiser Thor (HSK-4), Malaysia, 1941 (Japan)
It is a shame that Italeri missed out on the perfect opportunity to produce THE Ar 196 in 1/48 scale. An AMS modeler can apply his or her craft to this kit and fix these issues, but given the computer-based CAD design and the price, it should be nearly perfect straight out of the box. Pity...