VEB 1/72 Polikarpov Po-2 Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||September 2007||Manufacturer||VEB|
|Kit Number||N/A||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The Polikarpov U-2 or Po-2 served as a general purpose Soviet biplane, nicknamed “Kukuruznik” or “Maize”. This reliable, uncomplicated and forgiving aircraft served as a trainer and crop-duster. It is the second most produced aircraft in the history of aviation.
The prototype of the U-2, powered by a 99 hp (74 kW) Shvetsov air-cooled radial engine, flew for the first time on 7 January 1928. It was designed by Nikolai Polikarpov to replace the trainer U-1 (Avro 504). It changed name to the PO-2 in 1944, after Polikarpov’s death, according to the new Soviet naming system using designers initials.
From the beginning, the U-2 became the basic Soviet civil and military trainer aircraft, mass produced in the “Red Flyer” factory near Moscow. It was also used for transport, and as a military liaison aircraft, due to its STOL capabilities. Although entirely outclassed by contemporary aircraft, the Kukuruznik served extensively on the Eastern Front in WWII, primarily as a liaison, medevac and general supply aircraft. It was especially useful for supplying Soviet partisans behind front lines. Its low cost and easy maintenance led to a production run of over 40,000. Manufacturing of the PO-2 in the USSR ceased in 1949, but until 1959 a number were assembled in Aeroflot repair workshops.
After first trials at arming PO-2’s, with bombs in 1941, from 1942 it was adapted as a light ground plane. German Wehrmacht troops nicknamed it the “Nahmaschine” (sewing machine) for its rattling sound. The material effects of these missions was mostly insignificant, but the psychological effect on German troops sleep and keeping them constantly on their guard, contributing yet further to the already exceptionally high stress of combat on the Eastern Front.
These usual tactics involved flying only a few meters above the ground, rising for the final approach, cutting off the engine and making a gliding bombing run. This left the targeted troops with only the eerie whistling of the wind in the wings’ bracing-wires as any indication of the impending attack. Luftwaffe pilots found it extremely hard to shoot down a PO-2, because the stall speed of both the Me-109 and the FW-190 exceeded the Soviet crafts maximum speed.
The PO-2 became famous especially as the plane used by the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, composed of all-women pilots and ground crew. The unit became notorious for its daring low-altitude night raids on German rear-area positions. As such, they earned the nickname “Night Witches”. The unit earned numerous Hero of the Soviet Union and dozens of Order of the Red Banner medals; most surviving pilots had flown nearly 1000 combat missions at the end of the war and had taken part in the Battle of Berlin in 1945. North Korean forces used the PO-2 in similar roles in the Korean War (1950-1953).
In addition to North Korea, Albania, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, Germany (captured machines), East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Turkey and Yugoslavia used the PO-2.
The kit comes in a poor quality of cardboard, end-opening type box that has lock tabs. The box art shows a PO-2 in a green and brown wave pattern camouflage over blue undersurfaces with a tail number of 11 in yellow outlined in black. The kit offers only the Soviet stars and Polish red and white checkerboard markings. We do not get the yellow 11, so that one will have to come out of our spare decals. The decal sheet is solid carrier film too, which means very close trimming next to the markings. Modelers might want to opt for a better after-market sheet of Soviet markings. This kit is actually a 4 in 1 kit as there are that many options possible with what is included for parts.
You can build it as a U-2M (also known as MU-2) which is a seaplane version of 1930, with a central main float and two out-rigger floats; range increased to 670 km (416 miles)
You can build it as a U-2S-4 “sanitarni” ambulance, which carried a pilot, a cylindrical stretcher container on top of each lower wing and had a seat for an attendant in the rear fuselage. Some had a small nosewheel to prevent overturn on landing on rough ground. In production in 1941.
You can build it as a U-2-VS “Voiskovaya seriya, military series, two seat version which entered production in 1941 in large numbers for reconnaissance and light attacks, later know as 2LNB (legkii nochnoi bombardirovshchik) light night bomber, fitted with a 7.62 mm (0.30 in) ShKas machine-gun in the rear cockpit and able to carry 300 kg (660 lb) bombload. Powered by M-11D engine.
You can build it as a S-13 license built Polish ambulance version.
Some other possibilities may be possible too.
The kit contains a single cello bag with all the kit’s contents in it. The bag is held shut with a metal clip. There is a little brown glass bottle that has it’s cap sealed with a rubber seal that contained glue. However, the glue now is all dried up and hard inside.
There are 4 white parts trees and one clear tree in the kit. The decal sheet, the instructions and that brown glass bottle of glue complete the kit’s contents.
The instructions are all in Cyrillic Russian only. The instructions consist of a large 15” x 10 5/8” sheet that is printed on both sides. This sheet is folded over numerous times to fit the small kit box.
One side has what looks like a list of what the parts are and then a bunch of numbered paragraphs (numbered 1 to 12). I haven’t a clue as to what they are telling us here as it’s all in Russian…sigh. Apparently, the Russian model company that made this kit had no plans to market it outside of the country.
The other side of the instruction sheet has 12 assembly steps on it. They take you slowly through the build, with only a few parts each step to assemble. What is labeled as step 13 is a 3-view of the only Soviet marking offered. The one mentioned above with the rudder number yellow 11 (as mentioned, not on the decal sheet) and a single side-view of a Polish PO-2 with just the national markings of the red and white checkerboard and sporting an enclosed cockpit. Below these is a head on drawing of a PO-2 with skis and the personnel carrying pods on the lower wings. A second head on drawing shows a PO-2 with the floats and 6 underwing bombs attached. In assembly step 6, you have to decide whether to arm the model with the machine-gun in the back seat.
In step 8, you decide whether you want wheeled landing gear installed.
In step 9, you decide if you want the 6 underwing bombs installed.
In step 10, you decide if you want an enclosed cockpit. For this, you have to do some surgery to the top of the fuselage, cutting away part of it’s spine with an X-acto knife.
In step 11, you decide on the ski type landing gear.
In step 12, you decide on the floats.
The first parts tree holds: one fuselage half, the prop, wing struts, 6 underwing bombs with their racks molded to them, one of the wounded personnel carrying pods and two of the horizontal tail supports (17 parts).
The second parts tree holds: the other fuselage half, another wounded personnel carrying pod, the horizontal tail surface, rudder, main wheels, pilot and co-pilot seats, the other two supports for the horizontal tail piece, prop retainer washer, pivots for the skis, control cable arms etc. (26 parts).
The third parts tree holds: the upper wing, landing gear oleos, cowling parts, machine-gun, joy sticks (for front and rear seats) foot pedals, engine and exhaust pipes, dash boards (for front and rear seats) tail ski etc. (29 parts).
The fourth parts tree holds: the lower wing parts, main float and wing floats, cockpit floor, skis, main float supports, enclosed cockpit roof etc. (12 parts).
The last parts tree is the clear one. It holds two wind screens for open cockpit version and a canopy for the closed version (3 parts).
As already mentioned, the decal sheet only has Soviet and Polish national markings on it and is of rather poor quality.