The Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 holds world records for number produced – and now Tamiya has added to the Shturmovik’s popularity by releasing a tour de force in 1/48 scale.
Inside the box you will find 166 crisply molded parts, paint masks, and poly caps, all for Tamiya’s chosen late-model two-seat “arrow wing” version. The stout, “agricultural” look of the real thing is captured well. But there is nothing low-tech about Tamiya’s approach, with beautiful surface detail that includes petite hinges for the access panels. One of the most prominent features of the Il-2 is the complex nose profile that features an intake “hidden” from enemy fire. Tamiya captures this look perfectly, with parts that have a surgical fit. A full intake trunk leads to the radiator — also molded — under the wing. If you were to replace the molded-on radiator face with screen, you could blow air in the top intake and have it exit the radiator bath.
Although there were myriad changes during the long production of the Il-2, by choosing the late-war version Tamiya has focused on weapon options, with two different bombs and two different rocket rails. You also get the option of a closed or open canopy, and a pilot and gunner to place inside. Decals are provided for three aircraft, all in variations of the standard three-tone Il-2 scheme.
The cockpit is fully furnished and has decals, all of which fit well in their locations. Don’t forget to apply the mask for the eyebrow windows that are molded in the clear bulkhead behind the pilot.
The one major disappointment for this kit is the use of decals for the seat belts. Such thin material is not effective in this scale, especially in a cockpit that is otherwise so well appointed. To compensate, I cut the decals out and applied them dry with the backing still in place to give them some thickness.
The nose assembly called for adding a seemingly unnecessary dummy engine block; I slowly realized that it prevents a clear view through all of the many intakes. It also adds significant stability to the complex nose moldings. I had attempted taking pictures of the intake and radiator assembly, and in the process had installed the engine block and intake on one side only. Much to my dismay, when I fitted the fuselage together for the final gluing I realized the engine had shifted ever so slightly, which in turn slightly threw off the alignment of the nose intakes and top engine cowl. Follow the instructions and assemble everything all at once and you will end up with a seam that can’t be distinguished from a molded part. A bit of “persuasion” got my nose joint back in line.
The complex wing root needs a careful hand – stick to the directions and you will end up with a filler-free seam, as there is a series of tabs that must be inserted in sequence. For instance, do not glue the lower center section to the fuselage without first attaching the top wing halves, as they are interlocking. One drawback is the necessity of installing the main landing gear before attaching the knuckle fairings on the wing. This requires extra care later to avoid accidentally retracting the gear permanently.
To help paint my Il-2, I enlarged and photocopied the directions and used them as a paper masks for the pattern. The instructions seemed to have conflicting patterns for my choice, as the dark green paint shown in the top view doesn’t show in the right-side view. I cheated and used the closed cockpit parts as masks, filling in the gaps with tape. I applied the masks provided to the open canopy parts, which fit well and stayed in place for the numerous spraying sessions.
I sprayed Tamiya colors, then a gloss for the decals. Even with a heavy gloss coat, Tamiya’s decals are thick and don’t conform to fine surface details without a lot of setting solution. I ripped a couple while dragging them into place, surprising for their thickness.
After removing the masks and applying details, I attached the bombs and the landing gear. The RS-132 rockets have a number of knockout marks that need cleaning up, but they look great finished.
I spent almost 27 hours on my Il-2, mainly because of the color scheme. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the airplane, buy one and build it for the sheer modeling pleasure. I doubt you will find a better-fitting kit.
Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2012 FineScale Modeler.