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Bf 109E

Trumpeter 1/32 Bf 109E-3 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2010 Manufacturer Trumpeter
Subject Bf 109E-3 Scale 1/32
Kit Number 2288 Primary Media Styrene, Photo-Etch
Pros Nice exterior and interior details, detailed engine Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $62.95

First Look

Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E
Bf 109E

Dr. Willy Messerschmitt was a true aeronautical pioneer whose designs and concepts would transform aircraft designs on drawing boards around the world for generations. In the years between the world wars, Messerschmitt helped to rebuild Germany's armed forces and keep abreast, if not ahead, of the world's transformation from biplane to monoplane aircraft.

The initial prototype of the Bf 109 first flew in 1935, and incorporated many of the transformational innovations being applied elsewhere in the world, along with a few innovations of their own. Powered by the Rolls Royce Kestrel V12 engine, the aircraft used a liquid-cooled engine to reduce the frontal area of the nose and improve the pilot's forward visibility. The wing was a low-wing monoplane design that housed a narrow-track retractable landing gear and used spring-loaded leading edge slats and manually activated trailing edge flaps for lift augmentation at low airspeeds. In other words, the wing design allowed for fast airspeeds while retaining relatively low airspeeds for take-off and landing. The pilot sat in a fully enclosed cockpit. Only the horizontal stabilizer retained external bracing of the biplane era and would do so through most of its production versions.

The Bf 109E was the first model to be powered by the Daimler Benz DB601A rated at just under 1,100 horsepower. The E-1 was armed with two 7.92mm MG17s in the nose and two MG17s in the wings. The E-3 followed with two MG17s in the nose and two 20mm MG FF cannons in the wings. Some E-3s were powered with the DB601Aa rated at just under 1,160 horsepower. The E-4 incorporated a number of improvements with many E-3s upgraded to the E-4 configuration. The E-4 was armed with two MG17s in the nose and two MG FF/M cannons in the wings.

If you want to start a heated discussion among modelers, release a kit in one of the cardinal subject areas: Spitfire, P-51, or Bf 109. These subjects have been long favorites of modelers worldwide and are among the best selling kit subjects on the market, hence that is why so many companies continue to release their own renditions of these subjects.

In 1/32 scale, the Bf 109E has long been served by the Hasegawa kit which is from older tooling and has a few bugs in its accuracy, most notably the spartan cockpit and the omission of the small windows below the windscreen side panes. I'm sure some of the experts out there could tell you a few other areas, but this kit has served us long and well.

More recently, Eduard released their first 1/32 kit and it was of course the Bf 109E. There were many serious debates about the kit and while I'm no expert on the aircraft, I learned a few things from these folks. I believe the Eduard kit is widely regarded as the best Bf 109 in any scale up to this point. Much to many peoples' surprise, Trumpeter has entered the fight with their own new-tool Bf 109E in 1/32 scale and it is clear from the outset that they've completely reworked their designs and research after their 1/24 scale releases of the later 109 series.

The kit is molded in the usual Trumpeter light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus two trees of clear parts, one fret of photo-etched details, and a set of rubber tires. This kit consists of 274 parts and you can see from the images that there are lots of details in there.

While I'll leave it to the Bf 109 experts out there to judge the accuracy of this kit (it looks good to me!), the kit has the following features and options:

  • Nicely detailed cockpit
  • Ammo cans ahead of cockpit bulkhead
  • MG 17 Gun tray atop ammo cans
  • Oxygen cylinders on rear deck aft of cockpit
  • Detailed DB 601 engine
  • Detailed 20mm wing cannons
  • Photo-etched wheel well liners
  • Photo-etched radiator grilles
  • Positionable leading edge slats
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable ailerons
  • Positionable elevators
  • Positionable rudder
  • Positionable canopy
  • Positionable radiator flaps
  • Rear fuselage radio bay
  • Choice of spinners
  • Photo-etched antenna mount for vertical stabilizer

The kit includes two external stores options:

  • 1 x centerline drop tank
  • 1 x centerline bomb

The cockpit looks really nice and based upon many of the discussions and how-to videos on the subject, I think you'll agree that Trumpeter did a nice job here. The canopy frame has some nice details provided as well which include grab handles and a canopy locking handle.

There isn't a provision for a removable gun hood ahead of the windscreen. The top of the cowling can be left removable to view the detailed engine and at least the gun barrels.

There is a provision to have removable underwing access panels for the 20mm cannons.

The rear fuselage radio bay has an access door which can be removed (if you don't glue it) to reveal the radio gear.

The engine is nicely done and only lacks some wiring to complete the job. With the provision of a removable hood, you can appreciate the detail inside.

The kit provides markings for three examples:

  • Bf 109E-3, Yellow 1, 6./JG 51, Autumn 1940, as flown by Joseph Priller
  • Bf 109E-3, White 13, 1./JG 51, Sept 1940, as flown by Heinz Baer
  • Bf-109E-3, J-371, Swiss Fliegerkompanie, early 1940

There are two sheets of decals in this release, one for the two Luftwaffe options and the other for the Swiss air defense unit. The decals include a set of airframe stenciling as well. Swastikas are also included in their politically correct segmented design.

This is another impressive release from Trumpeter and if this kit builds as nicely as it looks, I think we may have a new candidate for best Bf 109 in any scale. Nice work Trumpeter! How this kit stands up to the Eduard kit I will leave to more knowledgeable folks, but it is clear that Trumpeter is taking aim on Eduard with this release and even has a suggested retail price lower than the Eduard kits. In fact, the price of this kit is about par with the last release of the Bf 109E from Hasegawa.

My sincere thanks to Stevens International for this review sample!