Special Hobby 1:32 Brewster B-239
Special Hobby 1/32 Brewster B-239. Kit: SH32004 Special Hobby Model 239. Price: £36.50 available from Hannants UK. Decals: Three options. Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts.
Review available to view on Modeling Madness: Special Hobby 1/32 Brewster B239 Buffalo
Reviewer: Richard Reynolds.
The Soviet Union invaded Finland on the 30th November 1939. At that time, the only modern fighters available to Finland were 36 Fokker D.XXIs. The Finnish embassy was in negotiations with the United States for modern fighter aircraft at the time of the attack, as Finland hadn’t declared war on the Soviet Union, US laws about selling war materials to a country at war did not apply. Due to the shortage of modern types such as the Grumman F4F Wildcat and Seversky EP-1, (the latter having been purchased by Sweden) 44 Brewster 239s declared surplus by the USN were purchased by the Finnish government.
44 Brewster model 239 aircraft were bought on the 16th of December 1939 with a unit cost of $54,000 including delivery. A lack of standard Wright R-1820-34 engines meant that Finnish Brewster 239s were equipped with refurbished R-1820 G-5 engines taken from DC-3 airliners.
Three aircraft were completed and test flown in the USA, the remaining 41 machines were assembled and test flown in Trollhatten, Sweden. Only six aircraft had flown to Finland at the end of the winter war on the 13th of March 1940. Finnish Brewster 239s differed from their American counterparts in having the inclusion of instruments originally bought for licence-made Fokker D.XXIs and British Aldis telescopic sights which were replaced with Finnish copies of the German Revi 3/c deflector sights before the continuation war. The B-239s were equipped with three Colt MG 53-2 .50 cal machine guns and one colt MG-40 .30 cal (later changed to .50 cal). The Brewster’s were coded with numerals BW-351 to BW-394.
Brewster B-239 BW-355 (Below) was purchased with funds donated by the well known Finnish Company NOKIA. In return, the aircraft was adorned with the inscription “NOKA”. On the 18th of April 1940, BW-355 was assigned to LLv 24 and continued to carry it’s name until the aircraft was destroyed on the 24th October 1944.
The Finnish Brewster’s started their service career with Lentolaivue 24 commanded by Major G. Magnusson. 24 Squadron had been very successful during the winter war, scoring 89 kills with the Fokker D.XXI for the loss of 8 aircraft.
Two aircraft were lost from LeLv 24 in the inter-war peace in crashes. Modifications were made to the Brewsters in this period, the most notable being the replacement of the rear wheel to a larger 12X4 inch wheelbarrow wheel more suited to grass-field operations.
During the Jatkosota or Continuation war between June 6th 1941 and 21st May 1944, Squadron 24 was based at Vesivehmaa field near the city of Lahti in southern Finland. At the beginning of the Continuation war the Soviet Union deployed six air forces totalling some 1000 combat aircraft, comprising DB-3 and SB-2 bombers, I-153 and I-16 fighters with some MiG-1s against Squadron 28 with 23 Morane Saulnier 406s, Squadron 26 with 16 Fiat G.50s, Squadrons 30 and 32 with 52 Fokker D.XXIs and 8 Hurricane Mk.Is and Squadron 24 with 37 Brewster 239s.
Squadron 24 shot down 459 Soviet aircraft during the continuation war, losing 15 aircraft in aerial combat, 4 in crashes and 2 in bombings yielding a kill ratio of 30.6 to 1. The extraordinary success of the Brewster against the Soviets can be explained in the good quality of the well trained Finnish pilots, the comparable performance of Soviet aircraft to the Brewster 239, the adoption of Luftwaffe-style fighter tactics with the use of Schwarms and inexperienced pilots being paired with experienced pilots as opposed to Soviet air combat tactics being predictable with en-masse air regiments being deployed and the use of the ‘Spanish-ring’ developed during the Spanish civil war in which the Soviets flew a tight circle which was countered by the Finns using pendulum tactics, which was a vertical dive from high, climb up and repeat which suited the Brewsters well. In addition, radio intelligence and Finnish ground control was very good especially from 1943 onward which contributed to a professional and effective air package.
The best Brewster 239 pilots and indeed the best in the Ilmavoimat or Finnish air force were Captain Hans Wind with 39 kills on type and Staff Sergeant Ilmari Juutilainen with 34 kills. 13 Brewsters remained on strength with squadron 26 in the Lapland war between Finland and Germany between September 1944 and April 1945. 5 aircraft operated between the end of the war in April of 1945 and the autumn of 1948, the last flights being flown on the 14th September 1948 by BW-377 and BW-382.
The Brewster model 239 was known as ‘Taivann Helmi’ in Finnish or ‘Pearl of the Skies’ reflecting the high esteem in which it was held by its pilots and ground crews.
The kit comprises 9 sprues in grey injection moulded plastic, one clear bag of 8 resin casting blocks, one clear sprue, one photo-etched fret, a clear instrument film, decal sheet with options for three Finnish Air Force machines, one colour reference sheet and an instruction booklet.
Lifting the lid reveals a busy, well packaged box with the resin parts and the clear sprue in their own plastic bags stapled to a cardboard bridge which spans the injection moulded parts. The injection moulding is crisp with fine recessed panel lines. No sink marks or blemishes were apparent and the fit of the fuselage halves was good. The sprue-gate attachments intrude slightly on the fuselage halves and the upper and lower wings, however these can be easily trimmed and sanded flush.
This kit contains several parts which are meant for different marks of Buffalo and are therefore redundant. These parts are clearly marked in the instructions with an ‘X’. They include: Fuselage halves, alternative windscreen, fuselage bottom window, engine parts and cowlings.
The engine is well detailed with pushrods supplied; I have added the ignition-leads by using 0.3mm stainless steel wire to enhance the look of the Wright R-1820 G-5 engine.
The parts were washed using a warm-soapy solution to remove the mould release from the kit and then dabbed dry. All of the parts were then sprayed with auto-primer from a rattle can. Air Publication 1806A Pilot’s notes for the Buffalo Aeroplane were used as a reference guide in the cockpit construction phase.
The interior was painted with Xtracolor X-142 Aluminium representing aluminium lacquer as indicated by the IPMS Stockholm magazine 2004/05. The instrument panel was painted in black as per pictures of Brewster 239 BW-372 on display at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo (the Aviation Museum of Central Finland) near Jyväskylä airport in Tikkakoski.
The undercarriage bay, engine-mount and the interior of the cowling were also painted in Xtracolor X-142 aluminium. Footage of airframe BW-372 recovered from Kolejärvi Lake, Russian Karelia reveals that with the engine removed, the undercarriage bay and engine-mount is natural metal.
The cockpit is extremely comprehensive and stands up to comparison to pictures in Air Publication 1806A Pilot’s notes for the Buffalo I Airplane. Using this publication as a reference, I enhanced the cockpit detail by adding 0.1 and 0.3mm stainless steel wire to represent the wiring and cabling represented in the aircraft. In addition, I attached glass beads to the tops of the flap raising and lowering control and the undercarriage raising and lowering control. 1.9mm purl wire was also added to represent the windscreen heater hose. Finally, I downloaded a period map of the Karelia region, over which this aircraft fought, and placed it folded in the pilot’s bucket seat.
Construction of the undercarriage bay and gun mount were straight forward, it is advised that the parts are dry-fitted at each stage as the instructions are not clear on the location of completed assemblies.
At this stage the fuselage halves were sealed together, there were some minor fit issues; however these were rectified with the application of small amounts of green putty.
The engine is well detailed, however an inspection of photographs of the Wright R-1820 G-5 engine reveal that the instructions are incorrect in the positioning of the ignition harness. This needs to sit on top of the pushrod ring and not beneath it as indicated by the instructions. I added 0.3mm stainless steel wire to the ignition harness to represent the spark-plug leads, once completed the engine was encased in the cowling and mounted to the fuselage.
The wings and tail-planes were then assembled and once dry fitted to the fuselage. The wing-roots were filled with small quantities of green putty, as were the tail planes and the fuselage join. Once sanded down with a combination of sanding sticks and wet and dry, the canopies were masked with Eduard’s 1/32 Buffalo canopy mask and attached using liquid cement.
The aircraft was then primed in preparation for its first coat of Xtracolor X-142 Aluminium. Once the camouflage and decals had been applied, the undercarriage was fitted with the addition of wire brake cables and finally the propeller, tail-plane and aerials were added completing the kit.
Camouflage and markings
Three colour options are available: BW-393 of Eino Luukkanen C/O of 1/LLv 24 November 1942, BW-393 belonging to Luutnantti Hans Wind, C/O of 1/LLv 24, Suulajärvi airfield, April 1943 and the option that I chose, BW-378 of Kni Per-Erik Sovelius, C/O of 4/LLv 24, Lunkula airfield late 1941.
The model was airbrushed overall in Xtracolor X-142 Aluminium and then the top-surface green was applied and matched from WWII aircraft exhibits that I photographed on my visit to the Suomen Ilmailumuseo, Vantaa, Helsinki (The Finnish Aviation Museum in Vantaa) and from the Finnish Air Force colour reference on the IPMS Stockholm website.
Finnish Air Force green at the time of the continuation war consists of: Humbrol hu 116 (6 parts) + hu 117 (6 parts) + hu 163 (1 part). Top-surface black was similarly matched as: Humbrol hu 33 and 0.5ml of a pipette of Humbrol hu 64 added to lighten the hu 33 black. Photographs of BW-378 show that the aircraft was heavily weathered with large areas of aluminium showing through the camouflage, this effect was achieved by lightly sanding the top-coats back to the X-142 Aluminium undercoat. Paint chipping of the upper surfaces and the wing walk areas was achieved with a prismacolor 753 metallic silver verithin pencil.
Under-surface camouflage is aluminium dope as indicated in the excellent Kari Stenman publication ‘Warpaint’. Finnish aircraft of this period were painted with aluminium dope on their under surfaces, until a comparison was made with newly delivered Dornier 17Z’s in January-February 1942 and the air depot decreed that a light blue matt colour matched from Luftwaffe Hellblau 65 would better camouflage the fighters and was introduced from march 1942. Xtracolor X-213 RLM 04 Gelb mixed with a few drops of Hu-33 Black was used for the nose, under the wing tips and for the tail-band.
After the application of the decals, the model was weathered with a wash of heavily thinned burnt umber and ivory black oils on all surfaces and the aircraft was post-shaded with thinned Humbrol Hu-33 Black. Once dry, future was applied to finish the kit.
This kit contains few drawbacks and although minor alterations and a careful study of the instructions are required it builds into a nice example of the Finnish Brewster B-239.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 1B, Brewster model 239 by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
- Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 23, Sotamaalaus/Warpaint by Kalevi Keskinen & Kari Stenman, Stenman Publishing.
- IPMS Stockholm Magazine, Finnish Air Force camouflage and markings 1940-44 2004/05 edition.
- Air Publication 1806A, Pilot’s notes, The Buffalo I Aeroplane.
Brewster B-239 Volumes 1 & 2 available from Kari Stenman Publishing.