Review

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The Arado Ar 196 - A Detailed Guide to the "Eyes of the Kreigsmarine"
Airframe Album #7 - Valiant Wings Publishing
by Richard A. Franks
ISBN 978-0-9930908-5-1
Published: August 2015
Reviewed: December 2015
Available from: Valiant Wings Publishing
Price: 16, US$24, EUR 22, AU$33
The Arado Ar 196 Detailed Guide to the Eyes of the Kriegsmarine is the seventh title in the Valiant Wings Airframe Album series and is the first seaplane subject and an essential companion for anyone tackling the Revell (1/32), Italeri (1/48) and the many offerings in 1/72 scale.

The Arado Ar 196 was the most produced German seaplane during the war and was considered to be the best by those that flew it. Production of the Ar 196 ended in August 1944, after approximately 551 had been built. The Ar 196 certainly proved to be the 'Madchen fur alles' (Maid of all Work).

The softcover, 106 page, A4 format, colour contents are broken down into 5 sections :
  1. Introduction - 14 pages providing a brief narrative of the development and operational use of the Ar 196, both in Germany, Bulgaria and Rumania as well as captured and evaluated examples.
  2. Technical Description - 41 pages detailed coverage of construction and equipment
  3. Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants - 6 pages of 3D Isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski showing all prototype and production airframes illustrating difference between variants
  4. Camouflage & Markings - 16 pages of colour profiles and camouflage detail by Richard J. Caruana including side profiles, notes and photographs
  5. Models - 22 pages of listings of all Ar 196 kits, accessories and decals produced in all scales plus kit builds of The Revell (1/32), Italeri (1/48) and Sword (1/72) examples
The introductory 'Preface' section provides an interesting background to Arado itself, to the RLM (Reich Air Ministry) requirement in 1936 for a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft capable of catapult launch, through the competitive selection process against Focke Wulf, the prototype development cycle and finally onto wartime operational use by Germany and subsequent foreign and captured examples.
As you would expect the 'Technical Description' section consitutes the bulk of the book, containing 41 of the total 106 pages. It contains "an extensive selection of images and diagrams that will help you understand the physical nature or the Arado Ar 196".
Almost all the drawings appear to be orignals with the text in German with English translations provided where needed. I really like the format used where photos are used to reinforce what is being shown or discussed in the drawings and text. Its worth noting that all the photos, and drawings for that matter, are quite clear and the glossy finish on the paper makes it possible to see the details close up.
Somewhat surprisingly (and perhaps a little disappointingly) there are no photos of the cockpit interior, only drawings. This is probably because there are so few airframes left and perhaps of those that are left the authors could not obtain access.
Details and photos in section 2 are provided for the entire aircraft and broken into 7 sub-sections.
  1. Fuselage - Cockpit Interior, Canopy & Forward Fuselage, Main & Aft Fuselage, Fuel, Hydraulic & Oil systems and Electrical & Radio
  2. Floats - A & B Series
  3. Tail
  4. Wings & Control Linkages - ailerons & flaps
  5. Engines, Cowling & Propeller - exhausts
  6. Weapons - ordanance, sighting & release, camera
  7. Miscellaneous - lifting bridle, catapult and beaching
Section 3 provides a total of eighteen 3D isometric drawings that visually detail the differences between each of the prototype, production and projected (planned) variants. The evolution of the Arado Ar 196 series involved a couple of prototype machines to test the two type of float configurations being considered by the RLM (single or double floats), plus the smaller number of production variants.
As explained by the author, "As you would expect with a subject now 70+ years old there is much contradiction in both period and subsequent documentaion, so we have based all our drawings, where possible, on existing photos and when not, on the most likely layout based on other developments from other German aircraft manufacturers during the same period"
Section 4 documents the Camouflage and Markings of the Ar 196. Richard Franks reminds us that "... nothing is certain when trying to determine colours from old black and white photographs." With that in mind, this section provides a host of period photos (some even in colour) and corresponding colour side profile drawings which cover both the Ar 196 Prototype (V-series) and Production (A-series) aircraft.
Each photo is well captioned, often detailing not only the camo and markings configuration but also the location and date, giving us some context as well.
A total of 20 colour side profiles are provided in the book covering the A-series Production aircraft. These range from the A-1 in 1939 thru to the A-5 in 1944. Both German and foreign operators are covered including captured examples.
For something a little different the final colour plate is of an overall yellow Ar 196 which appeared in the tenth title (The Shooting Star) of the 1941/42 popular fiction series TinTin.
The final section covers modeling the Ar 196 in scale. We are provided with four detailed builds with two in 1:72, one in 1:48 and one in 1:32. Each build is well documented with step by step photos with supporting text. A nice inclusion is the 'verdict' by each modeler giving their final opinion on the kit in question.
The four builds cover off the 1:72 Heller and Sword kits and these are modeled by Libor Jekl. In 1:48 we have the Italeri kit built by Steven Evans. Finally in 1:32 we the Revell 1:32 kit built by John Wilkes. I enjoyed reading thru each of the builds but I do wish that the in-progress photos were larger as it was quite hard to see the specific detail. I'm quite a visual person and firmly believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, especially one that has been captioned well.
Each of the models have been very well photographed which certainly adds to the quality of the publication. Nothing is worse than photos of a nicely built model which has been poorly lit or is out of focus.
As mentioned above its a bit frustrating that the model progress photos have been sized so small. I realise there is a lot of text that needed to be included in the book but I really think a extra couple of pages would have been warranted to allow the model photos to be larger. Each of the in-progress pics are only a few centimeters across which is just too small for poor old eyes !!
The very final pages of the book provide modelers with a shopping list of the kits, aftermarket accessories and even other publications relating to the Ar 196. I have to admit that even though I have the Revell 1:32 kit I had no idea that so much after market resin, belts, masks, decals and PE had been done for it. I think I'll be hitting the Hannants website once I'm done here :)

Verdict
Having looked thru the book now in some detail I feel comfortable in recommending this publication to fellow modelers (or just aircraft enthusiasts) who want to learn more about the Arado Ar 196. With so many of us turning to the internet these days for our reference material (myself included) its been a good reminder just how useful having access to all that information in one place can be.