Tag: Flygvapnet

GOTLAND: Sweden’s Fortified Baltic Island

Gotland, Sweden’s largest island, is located in the Baltic sea between Sweden and Latvia, and represents the most strategically important defensive stronghold in the entire Baltic region. The Swedish government decided in March 2015 to begin reestablishing a permanent military presence on Gotland, starting with an initial 150 troop garrison, consisting primarily of elements from the Swedish Army. It has been reported that the bulk of this initial garrison will make up a new motorised rifle battalion, alternatively referred to in other reports as a “modular-structured rapid response Army battalion”. A later report claimed that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and an Air Force “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to also be based on the island to support the new garrison and further reinforce the defences. Prior to the disbandment of the original garrison, there had been a continuous Swedish military presence on Gotland in one form or another, for nearly 200 years.

Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.
Map showing the strategic location of Gotland.

The original Gotland garrison, also known as the Visby Garrison, could trace its roots back to at least 1811. That was the year the Gotland National Conscription was formed to strengthen the islands defences after the Russians had briefly occupied the island two years before. Although, the “new” garrison was just the latest in a long line of Swedish military forces protecting the island, and consequently the rest of Sweden, continuously since the 1640s. The exception being the 23 days when Russia occupied the island during the Finnish War (1808–1809), after Gotland had been left undefended due to errors in overall Swedish strategy early in the war.

In 1887, a new country wide conscription system replaced a number of previous regional recruitment and reserve systems, including the Gotlands nationalbeväring (the Gotland National Recruitment) The existing regiment defending Gotland under that system was reorganized into two new regiments, the Gotland Infantry Regiment and the Gotland Artillery Regiment. Those two units would go on to provide the bulk of the garrison forces both directly and indirectly, throughout the various crisis that threatened to overtake Sweden (including two World Wars and the Cold War), for most of the next two centuries right up to the final dissolution of the garrison in 2005.

From 1811 to 1873, the commander of military forces on Gotland (at that time, effectively a military district in its own right) also served as the governor of the island and during the existence of the Gotland National Conscription (1811–1892) the commander was by default the senior officer of that regiment. Under the military reorganisation of 1892, the then commander and his successors (up until 1937) automatically became the senior officer of the Gotlands infanteriregemente that succeeded the Gotlands nationalbeväring. He remained in charge of army troops on the island, even though Gotland was no longer the center of a military district under the new 5 area (district) system which lasted up to shortly before World War II.

During World War II, Gotland was part of both the VII Military area [area=army district] (from 1942) and the Gotland Naval District, both of which the senior military officer on the island acted as head of. Army and air force units assigned to Gotland came under the former, while naval, marine, and coast artillery units based on/out of Gotland came under the jurisdiction of the latter. With a change in the Naval Districts (see naval section below) in 1957, the commanding officer lost his maritime responsibilities, but regained them in the 1966 military reorganisation that created the Gotland Military Command (the Gotlands militärkommando), or MKG, and which changed the VII. Military area into the new expanded Eastern Military District or Milo Ö (also known as Milo Z) which was now headquartered out of Södermanland.

gotland-bunker
World War II era Kulsprutebunker (Machine gun bunker) located near Brucebo, Gotland County.

This command structure continued relatively unchanged until the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, when Milo Ö was stood down in 1991. The MKG remained operational into 2000, albeit increasingly downgraded in importance despite concerns,with a corresponding steady reduction in the units and capabilities under the MKG. In the now discredited Swedish Defence reform of that year, the MKG was replaced with the, in theory, autonomous Gotlands Military District (the Gotlands militärdistrikt) or MDG, which despite its name, only had control over the island itself (that control was also severely constrained by the existence of the, later infamous, post-Cold War Swedish Fortifications Agency). In practise this meant the MDG was responsible for overseeing the Army garrison units remaining on the island, along with coordinating with any reserve and civil defense elements still in place. There were, and as of 2015  still are, no maritime or coastal defense units remaining on the island, with the exception of a couple of naval units that did not come under the new MDG and which in any case were withdrawn in 2004. The MDG was stood down in December 2004, with the remaining garrison forces being abolished in 2005.

Alongside the Swedish Army, the Swedish Navy have played a major role in the garrisoning of the island over the last two centuries; not only helping to defend the island but also using it as a well placed base to defend Sweden and its interests in the Baltic Sea. Prior to (from 1931) and during World War II, Gotland was the headquarters of the Gotland Naval District. In 1957, during the Cold War, Gotland became part of the (now defunct) Sound Naval District, headquartered at the Muskö naval base. The Sound Naval District itself came under the new joint Eastern Military District in 1966, with operational control of naval units (including coastal defense forces) in the area of the former Gotland Naval District being returned to the commanding officer of the new MKG centered on Gotland.

In the early part of the Cold War (late 1940s to late 1950s), elements of one of the three major task forces that then made up the navy’s front line strength, including cruisers and destroyers, were based out of Gotland’s various anchorages and harbours. This was in addition to locally based elements of the Coastal Artillery’s significant support fleet, which included coastal minelayers, inshore minesweepers, and patrol craft. However, in 1958, a doctrinal switch from heavier surface combatants to smaller ASW combatants (increasingly corvette sized and smaller) and Fast Attack Craft began with most of the former being retired without replacement. The operations of these new combatants were still coordinated with submarines though, which, along with the fact that some major combatants weren’t immediately retired (e.g. the two Halland-class destroyers), ironically helped to disguise the problems with relying so heavily on light combatants in the short term. In the late 1960s, this shift towards lighter types accelerated, though more for political and economic reasons than military.

For Gotland, this meant that the naval units based out of the island by the 1970s were mostly light combatants such as FACs with relatively short range, though there were still a few larger corvettes mixed in. Submarines were generally not based out of Gotland at this point, being housed in purpose built bases such as Muskö, though they still made port visits.

By the early 1980s, flaws with the “FAC based doctrine” had become impossible to ignore, with incidents such as the so-called Whiskey on the rocks confrontation proving that the Swedish Navy had become outgunned in the Anti-surface warfare arena, and that even in areas where it should have had a local advantage in such as Anti-Submarine Warfare it was materially outmatched by potential aggressors, with intruding submarines able to breach Swedish waters almost at will.

In the short term, the navy and government attempted to address these issues with various emergency measures and programs, such as the hasty revamping of the Ytattack-81 (the Surface combatant-81) project into what would become the Stockholm corvette program. Another hastily introduced program was the construction of four new heavy coastal missile batteries based around the Rb-15 missile, one of which was placed on Gotland. Delivery and installation of the systems was to take place from 1987 to 1992. Existing installations such as coastal gun batteries and mine stations were continuously upgraded. In the longer term, among the new programs that were started in the late 1980s were two to provide replacements for various FAC and corvette classes; the Ytstridsfartyg Mindre (the Surface Combatant Small) and the Ytstridsfartyg Större (the Surface Combatant Large) programs. In the post-Cold War cutbacks of the early 1990s, those two programs were merged into a single program, the YS2000 (the Surface Combatant 2000) program, that later became the Visby-class stealth corvette. Originally, it was planned to have a class of 10 in two variants; the ASuW/Anti-Air ‘Series II’ and a lower cost ASW dedicated ‘Series I’. Finally, only four Series Is and a single Series II were built in the 2000s (with a second Series II being cancelled), and even those were not fully manned or equipped as part of further economy measures to support other non-defence areas. As a result of this reduction in class size being decided on in the late 1990s, plans for some of the Visby-class corvettes to be based out of Gotland were scrapped. This was against a background of severe cutbacks for the navy at that time, which would continue into the 2010s. Those cutbacks apparently also led to the cancellation, just prior to the disbanding of all coastal defence units on Gotland, of plans to install elements of the KAFUS coastal/underwater surveillance network in and around the island.

In an echo of events from over 60 years earlier, the navy would lose its Marinflyget in 1998, with its helicopter units being absorbed by the air force’s new ‘joint’ Helikopterflottiljen (Helicopter Wing) (the Army also losing its helicopters to this new wing). The air force then promptly retired the former navy ASW helicopters without any immediate replacement.

Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 - HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.
Boeing-Vertol 107/Kawasaki KV-107 – HKP 4A/B ASW Helicopter.

The resulting lack of ASW helicopters, along with the operationally incomplete state of the Visby-class corvettes, were issues that would become apparent just under a decade and a half later, during the ‘October 2014 Submarine incident’ when the military made a prolonged search without any public results, for alleged underwater activity.

Swedish Air Force elements have operated from the island since the late 1920s. The Swedish Air Force was created by the amalgamation of the air arms of both the army and the navy in 1926. The formation of the new air force would leave the navy without an air branch until it was reestablished in the late 1950s with the navy’s first helicopters. Swedish Naval aviation had already established a major presence on the island in the late 1910s, so the air force was able to take over or share some facilities with the navy, as well as building ones of its own, such as the Bunge and Roma airfields in the late 1930s. By the outbreak of World War II, the Flygvapnet was well established on Gotland. The air force’s general wartime strategy in regards to Gotland was primarily based around bombers, in particular 20 B-17s based at Bunge airfield and seaplane torpedo bombers out of Fårösund. The intention was to use them against enemy ships in the support of the navy and coastal defence units (including both gun batteries and minefields), that were the islands first line of defence against an invasion. The air force also had fighters and reconnaissance aircraft based on the island to further support the island’s defence, the latter also including seaplanes.

Even into the Jet Age, and the Cold War, the Swedish Air Force insisted on remaining being able to operate from semi-prepared airstrips and dispersed emergency airfields, which influenced its equipment development and procurement choices greatly along with the development of tactics and strategies. This allowed the air force major flexibility in its role of defending Gotland and the rest of Sweden against intruders. In some respects, this flexibility made the air force more capable than most NATO member air-forces who, especially before the advent of such aircraft as the Harrier and the A-10, were arguably over reliant on permanent airbases and long concrete runways, unlike their Soviet foes, who put in at least as much effort as Sweden into being able to disperse and operate their tactical aircraft from semi-prepared airstrips and other temporary or semi-permanent locations, including those based around specially strengthened stretches of road.

For Gotland, this meant the air force was not only able to operate out of Visby Airport (especially after its BAS-60 upgrade in 1968) and its existing airfields such as Bunge and Roma, but also from semi-prepared sites such as the Visby 1 and Visby 2 highway strips, which were officially classified as dispersed emergency (wartime) airfields as per Sweden’s general overall Cold War doctrine.

Apart from the threat of direct Soviet aggression against Gotland and the rest of Sweden, another potential wartime problem was to increasingly weigh on the minds of both the island’s defenders and Sweden’s politicians: cruise missile transits. In the event of an all out war, the airspace of neutral Sweden was seen by both NATO and Warsaw Pact planners as a possible handy shortcut for the flight paths of cruise missiles that both sides were developing, and in the case of the United States had already deployed, during the 1980s. The airspace in and around Gotland was one of the areas of Sweden seen as especially vulnerable to transit by cruise missiles en-route to their targets. A particular worry in Sweden in the early 1980s was that the US would program some of their new nuclear armed cruise missiles to fly through Swedish airspace on their way to targets in the Soviet Union. This was seen as a violation of the country’s neutrality, so Sweden officially stated that it would be obliged to shoot down any such missiles that were fired over Swedish territory in wartime. In light of this policy a number of major anti-cruise missile exercises were held by Sweden during the 1980s, at least one of which was held in and around the island. As the decade went on, fears grew that the Soviet Union would be at least just as likely to violate Sweden’s neutrality in this manner; such fears regarding the two superpowers were only partially eased by the advent of the (defunct as of 2014) INF Treaty.

Late 1980s plans to reinforce the air cover over Gotland, including one for the reactivation and deployment to the island of an additional J-35 Draken squadron to take place in the early 1990s, were to be overtaken by world events such as the Revolutions of 1989 and the Soviet dissolution.

After the end of the Cold War, the air force’s presence on Gotland had rapidly diminished to practically nothing by 1992, with the final withdrawal of deployed elements of the F13 Wing including a Saab 37 Viggen fighter detachment from Visby Airport. This was a direct result of the initial cutbacks by Swedish politicians seeking the peace dividend in order to, among other things, to fund increasingly costly social programs in an economic downturn (in part caused by the fall of the Soviet Union). Due to this, the Bunge airfield was closed in 1991. The Roma airfield had been deactivated in 1988. In the intervening years, the air force has been absent from Gotland, with only the occasional transport or support aircraft (such as ASC 890 Airborne early warning and control) making visits to Visby Airport as part of an exercise or similar.

In the 2010s, the relatively dilapidated state of the county’s defences had to be addressed by the Swedish government, with a newly resurgent Russia stepping up probes of Sweden’s defences alongside those of her neighbours with both air and sea incursions. The most noted of these to date occurred in March 2013, when two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M nuclear capable bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27, were able to enter Swedish controlled airspace unimpeded and simulate strikes against targets in and around Stockholm with the Swedish Air Force unable to effectively respond at any time during the incident. During their operation, the Russian aircraft skirted around Gotland. In the aftermath of this highly controversial failure to avert the intruders, the air force for the first time in many years deployed a detachment of four Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighters to Visby Airport. This short lived deployment was followed by another smaller one the following year, consisting of two Gripens. However, because of their strictly limited nature, these deployments were seen by observers as unsuccessful PR exercises rather than a coherent response. By the close of 2014, Swedish public confidence in the government’s ability to defend the country had dropped to 20% or lower, depending on the poll. This was a continuation of a general trend that could be traced back to even before the Stockholm incident, but which had rapidly worsened in its aftermath.

JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.
JAS-39 Gripen at Visby Airport.

In late March 2015, it was reported that plans were at an advanced stage for a support helicopter squadron and a “fast response Gripen jet squadron” to be based on Gotland in order to support the new garrison and further reinforce the island’s defences.

In April 2015, a decision was made to reestablish troops permanently on Gotland within three years. The recruitment started in September 2015. The Battlegroup Gotland is to consist of 300 personnel, half of which are soldiers and half a permanent staff. As of 2016, the main issue of where to house the battle group was still unresolved. The barracks in Visby formerly owned and used by Gotland Regiment were evacuated and sold to a private company in 2006. Since 2006, the property is used by the Gotland County Administration and several private companies.

The re-militarization of Gotland once again reopened the debate about a possible threat to Sweden from Russia and Sweden’s accession to NATO.

The Battlegroup Gotland (18th Battlegroup) will fall under administrative control of the Skaraborg Regiment, which will also train the troops destined for Gotland. The battlegroup will be based at the Tofta firing range near Visby and will field 301 men.

18th Battlegroup (18. Stridsgruppen):

  • 180th Staff Company “Havdhem”
  • 181st Armored Infantry Company “Roma” with 12x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicles, 1x Bgbv 90 armored recovery vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 183rd Tank Company “Lärbro” with 11x Stridsvagn 122 main battle tanks, 1x Epbv 90 forward observation vehicle, 1x Bgbv 120 armored recovery vehicle, 1x Strf 9040B infantry fighting vehicle and 1x Bandvagn 309 tracked ambulance vehicle
  • 185th Logistic Company “Garde”

In the meantime, before the 18th Battlegroup is ready for deployment on Gotland (originally scheduled to begin in 2018), it was hoped that a combination of an increase in training rotations by mainland based regular army units to the Tofta range, combined with some rather public exercises around the island by the Särskilda operationsgruppen since late 2015, would be enough to discourage any Russian adventurism.

Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT
Stridsvagn 122/Leopard 2 MBT

However by Autumn 2016, the regional situation was considered to have deteriorated even further. So much so that following representations from the current Supreme Commander Micael Bydén, the Swedish Government reluctantly agreed that Gotland’s defences would have to be reestablished on a much shorter timescale than previously mooted (despite ongoing major divisions within the current ruling parties with regards as to the strategy & resources required to defend Sweden). To this end, the Supreme Commander announced on the 14th of September 2016 that not only would the deployment of the 18th Battlegroup to Gotland would be moved up to the first half of 2017, but also a rifle battalion from the Skaraborg Regiment which was then in the middle of a training rotation at Tofta, would now be held in place on Gotland as a interim garrison. A few Giraffe 40s normally on the strength of the Luftvärnsregementet (Lv 6) are to be attached to the battalion to provide some early warning capability. Despite this though, neither air defence vehicles such as the Luftvärnskanonvagn (lvkv) 9040, nor MANPADS have been attached to the garrison battalion to take advantage of this local radar coverage.

The plan is to within a few months relieve the battalion with another battalion or a equivalent formation, which will then remain in place until the 18th Battlegroup is ready to take up it’s posting.

Reference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italeri Fiat CR.42 Falco Aces – Review

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Kit: 2702 Italeri 1/48 scale Fiat CR.42 Falco

Price: £24.99 available from Spot-On Models UK.

Decals: 6 options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Flying Colors Aerodecals FCA 48103 “Swedish Warriors” were used to complete a Swedish Air Force/Flygvapnet example.

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History

The Fiat CR.42 Falco (Falcon) was the last biplane-era aircraft to enter service in May 1938. The CR.42 was produced in greater numbers than any other Italian type, with manufacturing and production ending in 1943.

The Falco represented the apex of biplane fighter design. It was fast, maneuverable, robust and agile. However, by the time it entered service it was an obsolescent aircraft, becoming superseded by faster, more modern monoplane fighter types. Nevertheless, the Fiat saw service throughout the Second World War.

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The Fiat CR.42 was an export success, seeing service with Belgium, Hungary, Germany and Sweden. It fought in many theatres of combat; most notably the North African campaign, the Mediterranean and the Battle of Britain.

On the 30th of November 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland. The Swedish volunteer unit Flottilj F 19 fought with distinction with Gloster Gladiators and Hawker Harts in the North of Finland where there were no aircraft to defend against Soviet attacks. An in-depth report on this operation can be viewed on this site by clicking on this link: Flygflottilj 19, Finland’s Swedish Defenders.

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The Fiat CR.42 was ready for service with F 19 Squadron in April 1940, too late to see combat in the Winter War which had ended on the 13th of March. Finland was offered the aircraft, but curiously declined preferring instead to receive the equivalent in cash. The Swedish Air Force took delivery of the 12 Fiats, using them as reconnaissance aircraft at F 3 Squadron based at Linköping.

In the meantime, the United States Government cancelled the delivery of the P-35 aircraft (see the article on this site at: Seversky J-9/EP-106 ‘Swedish Defender’), Sweden received 60 of the 120 aircraft that were ordered. This resulted in a shortage of fighters for the Flygvapnet. Sweden, uncertain of German intentions, especially in light of Swedish ball-bearing and ore mining production, desperately needed fighters.

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Sweden ordered an additional 60 Fiat CR.42 Falco’s from Italy, bringing the total number of aircraft in Flygvapnet service to 72, making the Swedish Air Force the third largest operator of the type. The Falco received the designation J 11. Part of the package included the purchase of 60 Reggiane Re.2000 (J 20s) from Italy.

Sweden resolved not to be disadvantaged by relying on foreign aircraft in future and set about developing an indigenous aircraft industry, producing aircraft types such as the FFVS J 22 a single-engine fighter aircraft, The SAAB 21 which was a Swedish fighter/attack aircraft and the Saab 17/B 17A.

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The J 11s were initially assigned to the F 9 wing, responsible for the air defence of Gothenburg, but were transferred to the newly established F 13 wing in Norrköping in 1943 when F 9 received more advanced J 22 fighters.

The J 11s operating from Kiruna, in the north of Sweden, were equipped with ski undercarriage. In spring 1942, the J 11s of 1 Division were moved to Luleå airfield. The J 11s scrambled several times to intercept German aircraft violating Swedish borders, but usually failed to make contact. The J 11s of 2 and 3 Divisions based in Gothenburg managed to intercept intruders a few times, forcing them to leave Swedish airspace.

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During their service in the Swedish Air Force, the CR.42 suffered many accidents, sometimes because of the poor quality of materials used by the Fiat factory. By the end of 1942, eight had been lost, and 17 more by the end of 1943. In all, over 30 CR.42s were lost due to accidents and mechanical failures. Swedish pilots appreciated the J 11’s formidable close-in dogfighting abilities; however, they complained about low speed, insufficient armament and the open cockpits that were unsuited for the severe climate of Scandinavia.

The remaining J 11s of the F 13 wing were decommissioned for good by the Air Force by 14 March 1945. A total of 19 aircraft were sold to a civilian contractor, Svensk Flygtjänst AB, who used 13 of them as target tugs for one season, although the type was not well suited for the role. Another six J 11s were delivered to Svensk Flygtjänst AB as a source for spare parts. The aircraft were given Swedish civil registrations. The last J 11 was removed from the register in 1949.

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One surviving Swedish “Falco” was preserved. It was stored at the F 3 wing; the aircraft was “hidden away” for a future museum. Number NC.2453, marked as 9 9, is today on a permanent static display in the Swedish Air Force Museum (Flygvapenmuseum) in Linköping.

The Kit

The kit is comprises 2 large sprues in soft grey injection moulded plastic with an additional clear sprue for the windscreen. A decal sheet is included for four Reggia Aeronautica, one Hungarian and one Belgian Air Force aircraft. The instruction sheet is a comprehensive 9 step “exploded view” booklet in A4 format.

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Construction

The parts were washed in a warm soapy solution and dabbed dry before construction commenced. Stage 1 deals with the cockpit construction. All of the parts are well detailed. The instrument panel is moulded into the forward bulkhead, the cockpit side-walls are separate items which fit neatly to the cockpit floor and once detailing has been added the entire unit fits neatly into the fuselage halves which are joined together in stage 2.

Stages 3 to 5 deal with the wing assembly. I encountered few difficulties here as the instructions are clear and precise. I would nevertheless recommend dry-fitting the struts and checking the upper-wing for the correct alignment before cementing the upper-wing to the lower-wing struts.

The engine in section 6 is an extremely well detailed four piece unit with push rods supplied, the cowling covers were the only minor difficulty which required small amounts of green putty, that said, the engine, with the addition of some HT leads would certainly benefit from leaving the engine covers off.

Stages 7, 8 and 9 focus on the undercarriage and the propeller assembly as well as fitting the final accessories.

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Camouflage and Markings

Despite the excellent decal sheet provided with this kit, I decided to model a Swedish Air Force aircraft in keeping with the theme of this website. The aircraft was primed with grey auto-primer from a rattlecan, once dry the undersurfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol satin 129 grey. This was masked off with Tamiya tape before the upper-surfaces were airbrushed with Humbrol matt 84. Thinned matt 105 green was applied next, using a small soft brush, allowed to dry overnight before matt 186 brown was applied using the same technique. The decals supplied by Flying Colors Aerodecals were excellent; these were applied with micro-set and micro-sol setting solutions to ensure that no “silvering” would occur.

Once dry, the J 11 was post shaded and given a wash of Windsor & Newton ivory black oil paint.

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Final Construction

0.2mm wire was used on the outerplane struts; this was the only rigging that was required on this late-model biplane. Once the decal setting solution had dried, the entire model was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear.

This kit comes highly recommended.

Review sample kindly supplied by Bob & Chris Hext of Spot-On Models and Hobbies, Swindon.

GALLERY

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References

Richard Reynolds.

Special Hobby J-20/Reggiane Re-2000 “Swedish Service”

Kit: SH72226 Special Hobby 1/72 scale J-20/Reggiane Re-2000 “Swedish Service”

Price: £9.67 (Special Offer) available from Hannants UK.

Decals: 4 options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts.

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History

The Reggiane Re.2000 Falco I, first flew in 1939 and was an all metal, low-wing monoplane fighter design, developed towards the end of the 1930s. The aircraft had good endurance, superior to contemporary Macchi and Fiat fighters. The Re.2000 was powered by a single Piaggio P.XI RC 40 14-cylinder twin-row air-cooled radial engine, 986 hp (736 kW) (1000 CV) at 4,000 m (13,125 ft), however, this power-plant was considered unreliable and despite good performance and flight characteristics the Re.2000 was considered unsatisfactory by the Italian authorities.

A limited number of aircraft were ordered by the Regia Aeronautica, despite this, the type found export success with Hungary (70 machines) and Sweden (60 machines). Due to a shortage of fighter aircraft at the outbreak of the war (It was US policy to favour the UK in arms supply in order to combat the Nazi Regime); neutral nations such as Sweden had to resort to ingenious methods to acquire combat aircraft.

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The Swedish Air Force obtained 60 Re.2000 Serie I aircraft, which received the Swedish designation J 20 and were delivered during 1941-43. All of the J 20s were stationed at the F10 wing near Malmö. Maintenance was a problem but nevertheless it was satisfactory. At the end of the war, the 37 J 20s that remained in service were so badly worn out that they were decommissioned in July 1945.

They were equipped with two 12.7 mm automatic guns made by Breda in Milano. The aircraft were used in the neutrality guard and had the important mission to intercept Axis and Allied fighters bombers that violated Swedish airspace from the south. One J 20 was shot down while intercepting a German Dornier Do 24 near Sölvesborg in April 1945.

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The Swedish J-20 was based on the Re.2000 Serie I, but differed in a number ofways. Empty weight was 4,828 lb (2.190 kg), typical weight was 6,393 lb (2.900 kg), max take-off weight was 6,724 lb (3.050 kg). Max level speed was 311 mph (450 km/h) at optimum altitude, and range was 808 miles (1.300 km). Climb rate was 19,685 ft (6.000 m) in 8 minutes 0 seconds, and a height of 31,170 ft (9.500 m) could be reached.

The Swedish pilots liked the aircraft for its speed, climb rate and manoeuvrability, but the ground crew had another opinion of the aircraft mainly because of the unreliability of the engine and the problems in cold weather circumstances with the propeller and gun equipment.

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The Kit

The kit comprises 2 sprues in grey injection moulded plastic, one clear bag of 13 resin casting blocks, two vacu-formed canopies, one photo-etched fret, a clear instrument film, decal sheet with options for four Swedish Air Force machines and a ten page instruction booklet.

The kit is supplied in an end-opening box with full-colour box art. 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 instructions come in an ‘exploded-view’ format in 13 steps. These are clear and easy to follow, with each stage presented in a logical style.

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Construction

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. The interior was airbrushed with Humbrol 226 interior green. The cockpit is well furnished including; a 6 piece instrument panel and bulkhead; a 9 piece cockpit seat and a beautifully moulded floor and side walls. All are contained in a ‘tub’ which fits neatly into the fuselage halves. The Piaggio engine comprises a polyurethane central cylinder to which 14 cylinders are attached.

The fuselage halves and wing components fit easily and do not require filler. After the tail planes had been fitted, the airframe was left overnight to dry. Next, the vacu-formed canopy (two are supplied in case of mistakes), was softened for 30 seconds in warm water to make the unit more malleable for trimming. Nail scissors were used to carefully trim around the base of the canopy which was dried before Eduard’s Reggiane Re.2000 canopy mask was applied. Finally, the canopy was fitted using white glue and the airframe was sprayed using grey auto-primer from a rattle-can.

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Camouflage and markings

Four options are available in this kit. All are examples from F 10 Air Wing of the Flygvapnet. I chose J-20 (Re 2000) FV-nr 2353, F10-53, 2. Divisionen (squadron), F 10 Air Wing. F 10 Ängelholm, also known as Skånska Flygflottiljen, Scania Air Force Wing, or simply F 10, is a former Swedish Air Force wing with the main base located in southernmost Sweden. The undersides were airbrushed using Humbrol 166 pale grey, which were then masked using tamiya tape before the top-sides received several coats of Humbrol 84 sand. This formed the base-coat for the colour scheme. Next Humbrol matt 186 tan was airbrushed in a ‘honeycomb’ pattern before Humbrol matt 105 green was applied in a mottle effect allowing the edges of the sand and tan to show at the edges.

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Final Construction

The last stage of construction included the addition of the exhaust stubs, pitot tube, main undercarriage and doors. Finally, the decals were applied using micro-sol and micro-set decal setting solutions. The decals were of good quality, opaque, thin and in register. This kit was a pleasure to build; I can recommend it to all modellers interested in Swedish, Italian or more esoteric subjects.

Highly recommended.

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References

Richard Reynolds

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Special Hobby Seversky J-9/EP-106 ‘Swedish Defender’

Kit: SH72235 Special Hobby 1/72 scale Seversky J-9/EP-106 ‘Swedish Defender’.

Price: £15.50 available from Hannants UK.

Decals: 4 options.

Reviewer: Richard Reynolds

Notes: Multimedia kit with resin and photo etched parts.

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History

The Serversky P-35A was born out of a USAAC requirement for a single-seat fighter tendered in 1935. 76 P-35’s were built and delivered to the USAAC between May 1937 and August 1938. The Air Corps stopped delivery of the P-35 in 1937 in favour of the Curtiss P-36 citing their dissatisfaction at the slow delivery rate and the sale of the 2PA two-seater to the Japanese Navy as their reason for discontinuing the contract.

Despite this setback, Seversky continued to develop the P-35 with the intention of exporting the aircraft. Seversky re-submitted the design to the USAAC in 1938, two P-35’s, the XP-41 fitted with a 1,200 hp (895 kW) R-1830-9 engine and the AP-4, which had a turbo-supercharger mounted in the belly of a deeper fuselage were tendered. The Air Corps preferred the AP-4D, which was ordered into production as the P-43 Lancer.

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In an effort to increase sales, Alexander P. De Seversky took a demonstrator on a tour of Europe in early 1939. Sweden ordered 15 EP-106 aircraft on the 15th of June, these were re-designated the J-9 by the Swedish Air Force upon delivery. The Swedish Air Force ordered 120 aircraft, receiving 60 J-9s in the spring-summer of 1940. The aircraft were operated alongside other units assigned to the F 8 Air Force base protecting Stockholm, replacing the obsolete Gloster Gladiators. Swedish J-9s served with the Flygvapnet as a fighter until 1946. 10 aircraft were equipped with cameras but retained their J-9 fighter designation. In addition, a number of others were used for liaison and flight training. The last seven J-9 aircraft remained in service until September 1952.

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On the 18th of June 1940, the United States declared an embargo against exporting weapons to any nation other than the United Kingdom. Despite this, Republic continued to manufacture the EP-106. Sweden’s second batch of 60 aircraft were requisitioned by the USAAC on the 24th October 1940 and re-designated the P-35A. The aircraft were re-armed to American standards with a pair of 0.50in machine guns mounted on the top of the engine cowling; these aircraft retained their Swedish specification 0.30in machine guns mounted in the wings. The Flight instruments were metric, and the cockpit placards, stencil data and flight manuals were written in Swedish.

Three of these aircraft were kept in United States as instructional airframes for mechanics; six P-35As were delivered to Ecuador to form the first combat unit: the Escuadrilla de Caza. The remainder were sent to the Far East Air Force in the Philippines during February 1941.

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Eventually all of the pilots of the three pursuit squadrons based at Luzon transitioned onto the P-35A from the P-26. Most P-35s were assigned to the 17th and 20th Pursuit Squadrons; all were lost in action early in the war and were hopelessly outclassed by Japanese fighters. Nearly all of the P-35As were quickly shot down in combat or were destroyed on the ground, 10 were lost in accidents. By December 12th, 1941 there were only eight airworthy P-35As left in the FEAF.

The P-35s were used primarily as gunnery trainers by all three squadrons because of a critical shortage of .50-caliber ammunition in the Far East Air Force. In October 1941, the P-35s were earmarked for transfer to the Philippine Army Air Corps after being replaced by Curtiss P-40 Warhawks in Far East Air Force service.

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The Kit

The kit comprises 2 sprues in grey injection moulded plastic, one clear bag of 2 resin casting blocks, one clear sprue, one photo-etched fret, a clear instrument film, decal sheet with options for four Swedish Air Force machines and a ten page instruction booklet.

The kit is supplied in an end-opening box with attractive box art on the front and four full colour profile views of the J-9 on the reverse. 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 instructions come in an ‘exploded-view’ format in 13 steps. These are clear and easy to follow, with each stage presented in a logical style.

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Construction

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. The interior was airbrushed with Humbrol 226 interior green. Stages 1 to 9 deal with the construction of the aircraft interior. The cockpit is exceptionally well detailed with an incredible assortment of parts that would grace any 1/32 scale kit. Both seats are furnished with photo-etched seatbelts, foot-pedals, a 3 piece instrument panel, throttle assembly and a well detailed moulded floor and cockpit side-walls that provide options to model this aircraft with the canopy and rear crew compartment window open.

The engine is supplied in three parts which can be easily enhanced with the addition of copper-wire pushrods and HT leads. Once the cockpit and engine had been completed, the fuselage halves were glued together and set to one side, the upper and lower wings were glued and both sub-assemblies were left to set overnight.

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Next, the wing assembly was fitted to the fuselage. The fillet joint between the fuselage and the upper-wing did not require any filler; small amounts of green putty were required between the engine cowling and forward lower-wing join and the rear lower-wing join connecting to the rear fuselage. The filled areas were sanded down using 600 grit wet and dry paper and accessories from step 11 such as the engine cowling scoops, nose guns and ammunition collector fairings were added before the aircraft was given a second coat of grey auto-primer from a rattle-can.

The lower-fuselage was then airbrushed with Humbrol satin 127 which I selected as a close approximation of the blue-grey undersurfaces for this aircraft. In addition, the wheel hubs and undercarriage doors were also airbrushed with Hu 127. Once this had dried, the aircraft was masked off in preparation of the application of the first coat of paint on the upper-surfaces.

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Camouflage and markings

Four options are available in this kit. All are examples of Swedish Air Force machines, I chose ‘Camo C’, J-9, F8-White “8”, 1st division, F8 Wing, 1942. This aircraft sports a two-tone ‘Italian-style’ scheme of Zinc-chromate (Humbrol matt 36 – 70% + Humbrol 117 – 30%), over which I added a ‘mottled’ effect of Humbrol matt 155 olive green, applied with a stippling brush. After this had been left to dry for approximately 30 minutes, the scheme was over-painted with heavily thinned Humbrol 116 dark green. This softened the edges of the mottled olive green. The main-wheel and tail-wheel tyres were painted using Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black. Once dry, the J-9 was post shaded and given a wash of Windsor & Newton ivory black oil paint.

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Final Construction

The last stage of construction included the addition of the exhaust stubs, pitot tube, wing-guns, aerial loop, main undercarriage and doors. Finally, the decals were applied using micro-sol and micro-set decal setting solutions. The decals were of good quality, opaque, thin and in register. This kit has been on my shelf for some months due to a reluctance to build because of the complicated camouflage scheme. It was however an enjoyable build and as always Special Hobby does not disappoint.

Highly recommended.

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References

  • Seversky P-35 in Detail by Martin Waligorski, IPMS Stockholm, last updated 22-09-2006: http://www.ipmsstockholm.org/magazine/1998/04/stuff_eng_detail_p35.htm
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (Sixth impression 1969).
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. “The end of the beginning…The Seversky P-35”. Air Enthusiast, Ten, July–September 1979, pp. 8–21
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Seversky P-35 fact sheet. Last Updated: 04-02-2011.

Richard Reynolds.