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Special Hobby 1/48 Petyakov Pe-3 Radar Gneis 2

Kit #48022                    MSRP $48.00                  $36.75 from Roll Models
Images and text Copyright © 2014 by Matt Swan

Developmental History
       During the Great War German night time bombing of Moscow drove the NKO to issue an emergency requirement for a high speed night fighter to combat the bombers. The NKO basically selected the aircraft and issued for a crash development program on the Petlyakov PE-2 with only four days to meet the requirement. One PE-2 was pulled off the production line and additional fuel tanks were installed in the fuselage bomb bay and the ventral gunner's position providing an additional 700 liters. The nose armament was beefed up with an additional 12.7mm Berezin UBK machine gun and a 7.62mm stinger was added to the tail cone. Several more modifications were made such as a mechanical bomb release for the bombs mounted in the engine nacelles, removal of dive brakes and radio modifications but by the end of four days the prototype was ready for initial speed and maneuverability trials. The NKO was sufficiently satisfied with the results to order five pre-production aircraft to be delivered eleven days later.
       Petlyakov only had a starting point at this time, there was still a lot of work needing done on this modification. Right away it was found the Plexiglas panels in the nose could not support the recoil from the machine guns plus the 12.7mm simply did not provide sufficient punch to get the job done. It was found that ejecting shell casings caused damage to the wing skin and ultimately these had to be contained within the aircraft which brought with it new issues. Defensive armament was too light, crew armor was insufficient and gun flash caused issues with the pilot throughout development and was never fully rectified. Mission turnaround time was lengthy, center of gravity issued developed with the addition of heavier armament and crew armor, icing issues were causing problems and with the increased aircraft weight leading edge flaps were required. By time all the issues were addressed to some degree or another the aircraft was not fully ready for operational use until early 1942 then issues developed at the factory when it had to be evacuated due to the German advance and only 132 aircraft were completed in 1942 with 13 more coming off the line in 1943 before the type was discontinued in favor of the Ilyushin IL-4.

The Kit
       This is a limited run kit and everything about the packaging reinforces that concept. The end opening box has a nice piece of artwork barely secured to it with only a dab of glue on each end of the sheet. Inside the sprues display heavy gates and thick parts. Surface detail is acceptable with finely etched panel lines and relatively smooth exterior finish however there are some small amounts of flash. Clear parts are acceptable is still somewhat thick and specific to the Pe-2. We also get a single sheet of vacuformed clear parts that have a slightly yellow cast for the Pe-3 version. Interior details are minimal with some very heavy casting boogers in certain areas requiring some heavy razor knife work to clean up. The kit includes a resin package of very fine parts with plenty of flash to keep the modeler busy cleaning things up. In both plastic and resin there are plenty of spare parts for not only the two versions offered for this packaging but I surmise at least one earlier PE-2 version. We get a single small PE fret with radar receivers for the second version offered. One small sheet of decals is included with the very basic national markings and a single unit number. Overall parts fit is very poor; I found some heavy warping in the fuselage that required both razor saw surgery and the liberal application of bar clamps to straighten out. I also found several fit issues with interior parts and the five piece wing assembly. Instructions are adequate to get the job done.


Construction
       As I worked my way through this build more than once I wondered why I was putting myself through this. I had to carefully rework several of the internal parts to achieve a fair fit and in a couple cases had to add material to some resin parts to close gaps. The IP has no detail whatsoever which may be acceptable to some modelers as it is barely visible but I simply could not let that go. I used PE and acetate parts from my spares box to create instrument details. I also scavenged some seatbelts from the spares box to dress up the crew seats.


       The kit fuselage comes with the Pe-2 tail section molded in place. It also includes the correct Pe-3 tail cone. So not it is surgery time which is really a good thing. Remember earlier how I said the fuselage was severely warped? By chopping off the original tail and adding the new corrected parts in place this really helped to straighten things out. I added the new pieces to the fuselage sides first and allowed the glue to fully cure before putting the fuselage halves together but still needed to use a couple small bar clamps to pull it all together. While this cured I started work on the wing.
       There are a lot of problems in the wing, the blanks for the radiator inlets do not fit worth a darn and the five panels do not meet along any lines, front to back or top to bottom. Ultimately I had to place plastic stock inserts inside the wing to adjust the cord and shave the outside edges for a correct profile. It still needed putty. Connecting this assembly to the fuselage required liberal amounts of filler and multiple sanding sessions.


       And then I had to deal with the engine nacelles. Boy howdy, these things have some serious issues. Rather than ramble on for some time about this just take a good look at the image above. You know what they say; a picture is worth a thousand words. So after a lot of grunting, groaning, cursing and swearing the basic model was all together and masked; time to paint.
       Things get a little different here. I want to do the winter distemper but want some of the original olive drab green to show through. To accomplish this I must first paint the aircraft in the summer colors then apply four to five coats of thinned washable white paint. What is this washable paint you may ask? It is simply a children's finger-paint from the local arts and craft store which can easily be removed with water no matter how long it has had to set up. After five coats of this white paint I simply took a folded piece of damp paper towel and began to gently wipe off the white until the OD began to show through.


Construction Update 8/24/14
       From here it is a matter of final details. I've sealed the washable white with a couple coats of Future floor polish then applied the decals. Some of the more prominent upper panel lines were highlighted with a sludge wash and most of the lower side as well. After a layer of dull coat the masks were removed and the last parts such as landing gear doors and antenna were installed. The last bits of weathering were applied from ground pastel chalks with a make-up swab and the kit was complete. Overall this thing was a real bugger to build. I would expect more work than normal with any short run kit but this one really tried my patience. In the end it does look cool on my shelf but I think I'll build something easy like a Tamagawa kit next, just to let the wounds heal a little.


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