Dragon 1/48 Junkers Ju-88 A-6

Kit #5513                                            MSRP $46.95
Images and text Copyright © 2007 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The Junkers Ju-88 looks clumsy and all out of proportion but it demonstrated during the Second World War that it was perhaps one of the most versatile aircraft of the period. First designed in 1936 as a "Schnellbomber" the Ju-88 had its first flight in that same year and was soon to display its superior performance. With the demise of Professor Junkers, the engineers saw the potential of this fast medium bomber and felt that improvements could still be made. Knowing the advantages of tactical dive-bombing with the pilot aiming the aircraft at the target, tests were carried out after dive brakes had been fitted. It was to give the Ju-88 an additional advantage over other bombers that were in the Germany inventory at the time.
       The Ju-88 was well built and could take a substantial amount of damage and still fly home. Despite its complexity the plane was greatly prized by those who flew it and was one of the most widely used planes in the Luftwaffe. Not only was the aircraft used extensively by the Luftwaffe, the Ju-88 was even used against the Germans by Romania and France in 1944-45. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, five variants had been produced but the Ju-88 never saw service in any of the early campaigns such as the Spanish Civil War or the invasion of Poland. The A-version was the most heavily produced version and measured 20 meters from wingtip to wingtip. About 20 meters long and weighing nearly seven tons the 88 received its baptism of fire in 1940 during the battles in Norway. A group from Kampfgeschwader 30 almost sank the British cruiser H.M.S. "Suffolk"
       Although the Ju-88 had an extensive array of machine guns for defensive purposes, two in the rear fuselage, one underneath, one in the cockpit and even one that could be operated by the pilot. The main problem was that all forward machine guns had to be operated by the Flight Engineer with the exception of the pilots’ gun. As a result of this defensive inadequacy the Ju-88 was very vulnerable against single engine fighters and by the end of the war was used almost entirely as a night fighter where it enjoyed high levels of success against heavy bombers. Many variants of the 88 were produced during the war years with the most bizarre version being the "Mistel" This was a Ju-88 equipped with a warhead and with a Me-109 or an Fw-190 on the top as the lead plane. This unmanned Ju-88 was then dropped against the target, often with very little success.
       Another unusual variant was the Ju-88 A-6. This craft was based on the popular A-4 variant and was designed to clear enemy airspace of barrage balloons and had a large steel fender mounted forward of the wing with cable cutters attached to each end at the wingtips. This addition weighed in at 380kg and seriously unbalanced the aircraft. To compensate an additional weight of 60kg was mounted in the tail boom. These modifications caused serious deteriorations to the flight characteristics and only a limited number of A-6 aircraft were produced. The design did not end there however, field engineers removed the cable cutters and counter balance, removed the lower gondola and installed a type FuG 200 Hohentwiel search radar and used for long-range sea reconnaissance. This modification earned the designation Ju-88 A-6/U. Other A-6 aircraft had the balloon cutters and counterweights removed and were used as standard bombers.
       The Ju-88 was produced from August 1939 to March 1945. The production of 88's was to end with the production of Ju-188 and Ju-388 however this never materialized due to the German war situation worsening resulting in the Ju88 being produced throughout rest of the war. Total production was estimated to be 14,780 of all sub-types with the A-4 version (bomber) and the G-series (night fighter) being the most heavily produced. Today there are only two fully restored (and original) Ju-88's left in the world, one in London and one in Ohio, USA.

The Kit
       The hard cold economics of model manufacturing say that you will not make any money off the first issue of a new kit, in fact you’ll be lucky to recover your initial investment. The model industry makes its money off of reissues, mold leases and minor modifications. Well, this kit is a money maker for Dragon – we have seen this one before or at least 99% of it before. In 1998 we saw this as the Pro Modeler Ju-88 A-4 after its initial run with Dragon then we saw it come back to the Dragon stables as the Ju-88 C-6, the G-6, the P-1 and now as the Ju-88 A-6. These molds were also used in the making of the Mistel kit. These are the exact same molds just with new decals and some new accessory pieces. This time, along with new decals, Dragon has added a very large brass photo etched fret that contains the balloon cutting hardware and some interior details. In addition to this is a small colored steel photo etched fret that really upgrades the cockpit from earlier releases. You may click on those small photo etch images to see full sized scans of the parts.
       This kit arrives in a medium size sturdy cardboard box with bright, vibrant art work. Inside are several poly bags containing 15 sprues of light gray high pressure injection molded plastic pieces and a single poly bag containing three sprues of clear parts. There is a medium sized cardboard sheet enclosed in a poly bag with one medium and one small sheet of decals. Attached to the cardboard sheet are three small zip-lock bags with yet another small sprue of clear parts, a large brass photo etched sheet and a small colored steel photo etched sheet. It is clear that a lot of forethought went into packing this box to ensure minimal transit damage and combined with the sturdy box material this kit is sure to survive well in a stash environment.
        It’s difficult to find fault with parts quality in Dragon kits and that holds true here. The exterior parts all offer nice consistent crisp engraved panel lines with smooth surface textures. Ailerons are provided as separate pieces but the rudder and elevators are molded in the neutral position. The kit includes a solid gun nose and alternative clear parts for different versions. We also get the flaps that came with the original A-4 kit which makes it nice if you want to back-date the kit. Inside we have a very well detailed cockpit in plastic with the only serious fault being a couple of nasty injector pin markings inside each crew seat. When originally manufactured this kit was intended to be done entirely in plastic so the modeler has the choice to not use the kit provided pe frets and simply go with the easier interior. All parts fit together very nicely and little if any filler is needed to build this kit.
        We get lots of clear parts and could build this aircraft with either a single or dual aft gun installation. Here is where things definitely get tricky with the kit, to build this with the correct twin aft guns takes some serious fiddling around with a three part upper canopy. I built the original A-4 with the twin guns and remember it being quite a challenge to get everything aligned properly. The clear parts are nicely done and are even better once treated with Future. Overall we get twenty eight clear parts on four sprues, two hundred thirty four gray plastic pieces on fifteen sprues and two photo etched frets containing about one hundred fifty fine detail pieces. That means this box contains a whopping four hundred twelve pieces!!!! Okay, not every one of these pieces will be used but regardless, that is a pretty impressive parts count.

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Decals and instructions
        The kit instructions are basically the original A-4 instructions overhauled slightly to accommodate the photo etched parts and the decals for this version. While this may sound okay it does create a problem. The technical writers at Dragon tried to fit small exploded views within the existing framework to address the PE parts. Unfortunately they did not have enough room for everything needed in the cockpit area so near the end of the instructions appears another frame addressing more cockpit detail. If you follow the instruction in a linear fashion you will get screwed up. The modeler needs to carefully read the instructions before beginning any assembly.
        Where this kit provides such an amazing parts count it really falls down on the decals. We get one relatively small sheet of markings and a single tiny additional sheet with two unit badges on it. We get markings for one and only one aircraft. The basics markings are of good quality with good print registry and color density but are totally lacking in service markings or warning stencils.

        The Dragon series of Ju-88 kit are simply excellent kits regardless of the particular version. Parts engineering is very good and overall fit is very good. The lack of comprehensive decals is a real let-down but the aftermarket has already come to our rescue on this score. The inclusion of photo etched details for the later releases makes for a tremendous improvement on the front office and greatly reduces the need to buy additional detail packages.
        There are several items out there that can be beneficial to the modeler such as mask sets from Eduard and E-Z Mask. Airwaves, Aires, CMK, Eduard and Verlinden all make cockpit details sets aimed at the original A-4 kit. True Details does a set of replacement wheels and Aeromaster does a couple of decal sets for the kit. Probably the most important aftermarket item to the modeler comes from Tally Ho who make a very comprehensive stencils set for the Ju-88. Overall this is a great kit and I give it a very good recommendation, I have three in the stash as it is.

9/30/07 Construction Begins
        Construction begins with the cockpit on this which should come as no great surprise. The front office will take a couple days to get together simply because of the complexity and quantity of very small pieces. Ammo cans need to be bent from photo etched parts and instrument panel details need to be shaved off plastic parts. I am using an Etchmate from Mission Models to bend all my PE parts in this build. Once the basic floor pan is assembled and the non-colored photo etched pieces attached with medium super glue it is painted RLM-66 as are the sidewalls, radios panel and seats. Before painting the seats I had to fill small injector pin marks on each seat back with Mr. Surfacer 500 and sand them smooth. Once these are dry then the real detailing can begin. I spent something like three evenings of modeling time adding little pre-colored instrument panel faces, seatbelts and control levers to the interior in addition to some fine detail painting. Once all the pieces were in place I added some silver dry brush followed by a Payne’s Gray sludge wash. I added fine pieces of magnet wire to the rudder pedals to replicate the cable connections. The instrument panel had all the face detail shaved off then was painted RLM-66. The acetate instruments and pre-colored bezels were layered on using Future as my adhesive. Additional Future was dropped into each instrument face to replicate a glass lens. The IP was flipped over and invisible thread painted black was added as wiring. This was later pulled to each side and bundled when the panel was installed so if you look through the front glazing with a light you will see some pretty intense wiring. Now all the pieces can be fit together and this is a very fiddly job. I spent several hours test fitting and gluing before the nose section was complete. All told I have nearly a week of modeling sessions involved in the nose cone alone.

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        Next the tail gear well is painted and the main tail strut is installed then the aft fuselage is assembled. Now the nose cone section is attached to the rest of the fuselage and the wings are attached. After all the seams have been filled and sanded I can move back to the nose section. The upper front glazing is completed, masked and installed with gun in place. The nose ammo can is bent to shape and attached with a fine spot of superglue with accelerator. I think the ammo feed chutes are one of the most challenging aspects of this kits and here is how I dealt with them. First the photo etched piece is annealed with a hot lighter. Next I used a small piece of wire to measure the approximate length needed to reach the gun breech. Next a piece of ammo feed chute was cut and bent then twisted to the approximate shape. One end was glued to the ammo can and the nose glazing was test fit. The other end of the chute came within a couple millimeters of where I wanted it. The nose cone was now glued in place and the end of the feed chute was glued to the gun breech with a fine spot of superglue. Next the left aft glazing is done but here the ammo chute is first glued to the gun then attached to the can after the glazing is in place, The last upper glazing is done and attached with the final ammo feed chute connection being done through the lower access hatch using very fine tweezers.

You may click on any of the small images above to view larger pictures

        I need to step back a bit and talk about some of the finer detail steps that led to this point. There are several antenna insulating panels that go into the fuselage and are clear parts. To mask these I used my Waldron Punch and simply placed some masking tape on some thin plastic stock then punched it out and pealed off the tape to reapply onto the clear part. I wanted to drop the elevators to add some character to the model so they were cut free with a fresh Xacto knife making multiple passes. I needed to blank off the inner areas of both pieces afterwards and used some thin Evergreen stock to do that then the elevator was reattached at the new angle. The photo etched gun barrels are another slightly challenging piece. The instructions call for the plastic gun barrels to be removed and the PE piece to do a straight replacement but I do not feel this looks correct. I opted to wrap the PE part around the plastic barrel after drilling out the tip of the barrel. As with the ammo feed chute I annealed the part first then laid it on a hard surface. I took the round handle on one of my files and pressed it to the part with a lot of pressure, this caused the PE part to begin to curl. Next the PE part was placed over the thin round shaft of a dental pick (a heavy sewing needle would work just as well) and the rest of the curve was formed by rolling this between my fingers. Now the rolled PE barrel was slid over the plastic barrel and glued in place.
        When working on the wings the instructions call for the wing base pieces to be assembled and the wing tips to be assembled then for the two assemblies to be put together. I don’t like this approach feeling it can leave a nasty step in the wing. Instead I attached the tips to the wings on a flat surface then assembled the wing halves. I still had a little filling to do but most of it was along the leading edge which confirmed my feelings about a potential step. Before attaching the wing to the fuselage I put a grinding stone into my Dremel and ground out the inside of the wing root face to eliminate and tendency for a gap to form then attached the wings. Some final details were addressed such as adding the ailerons, aileron hinge parts, bomb racks and pitot tube. The engine faces are simply pressed into place for painting and will be removed later to install the propellers.
        The lower gondola was brush painted with some RLM-66 to verify that the seam had been properly filled then the hatch area which will be open on the completed model is masked with a strip of masking tape. The tail wheel area is also masked with strips of tape. The main gear bays are filled with damp tissue paper. The model is given a very good inspection at this time looking for any defects that have not been addressed and looks like it is about ready for some primer. As a primer I will be using Mr. Surfacer 1200 thinned about 50% with lacquer thinner. When you use Mr. Surfacer in this manner should your airbrush begin to spit spider webs it means you have not thinned the stuff enough. Simply add more thinner until the spider web thing stops and you are all set.

        The model is primed and preshaded with flat black then the yellow identification bands are applied. Once these are dry they are masked off and the lower surfaces are done with RLM-65. This is allowed to dry overnight then the lower area is masked off. On the upper surfaces the RLM-71 areas are done first and masked off then the RLM-70 is applied. With each upper color panels are misted with some lightened base color for panel fading. Now the paint masks can be removed.
        We have reached one of my favorite parts in any build – the application of decals. Once the model has been sealed with Future floor polish and cured for an evening the decals start going in place. The kit decals are not that great providing only national insignia and unit markings. I am doing this in Rumanian markings and am using some custom decals provided by Mike Grant Designs for the King Michael’s Cross. For the various service markings and warning stencils I am using Owl decals stencil set for the Ju-88. This set includes a lot of markings that may have been painted over in the field including wing walk outlines that I cannot ever recall seeing on a Ju-88 so I left these off. All decals were treated with Micro-Sol to help them snuggle down to the kit surface. Once dry the kit was sealed yet again with Future then the wash process could begin. I used a basic sludge wash made with Paynes Gray. I used this color to help accent some of the panel lines in the darker top surface areas. Other fine details were attached at this point such as gear doors and gun sights. I drilled out holes in the belly of the fuselage and installed a rail antenna made from fine magnet wire. Next the model was sealed with Polly Scale clear flat.
        Final clear parts details need to be added at this point such as the wing marker lights, lower trailing antenna mount, landing light and engine inspection ports. The masks on the canopy glazings could all be removed. The access hatch in the gondola is painted and assembled separately then attached. This is the only access to this aircraft and when examining all the stuff hanging around inside it must have been quite the job for the crew to get in place. Now imagine the radio operator having to move from three different gun positions during combat with enemy aircraft closing at speed – not a pleasant idea. In the event the crew needed to bail out the aft glazing over the radio operator could be jettisoned. Anyway, back to the build. The next thing to be taken care of is the upper antenna which is made from invisible thread drawn across a black magic marker and attached with spots of superglue. Additional spots of super glue are placed on the aerial as insulators and painted white. Lastly, the bombs are attached and this build is complete.

You may click on these small images to view larger pictures

        I want to make a couple additional observations on this kit. First, the kit instructions are not at all adequate for building this, especially if you are not already familiar with the Ju-88 series of aircraft models. They are lacking many fine detail steps. Many years ago I had built the Pro Modeler issue of the original Dragon A4 kit and had saved those instructions. I am very glad that I did save those instructions as I had to rely on them heavily during the construction of this kit. I will be posting those instructions to the Instruction Archive for other modelers benefit. The kit decals as mentioned earlier are not very good; I added the Owl Ju-88 Stencil package that included all the service markings, warning stencils and fuel markings. The Owl package also includes propeller logos for both the Jumo and the VMD propellers. While this kit does include a very extensive and very nice PE set the other versions of the Ju-88 offered by Dragon do not so I suggest the modeler pick up the Eduard Ju-88 A-4 photo etched set for use in the cockpit. Overall the model did go together very well and almost all pieces fit perfectly. The multi-part main canopy is a real pain to get together and even now I am not happy with how mine fits.

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