Reviewed: Aug 2019
Certainly the most versatile German warplane of World War II, the Junkers Ju 88 in progressively improved versions continued in production throughout the war, serving as a bomber, dive bomber, night fighter, torpedo bomber, reconnaissance aircraft, heavy fighter and at the end of the war, as a flying bomb. Despite a protracted development, it became one of the Luftwaffe's most important aircraft. The assembly line ran constantly from 1936 to 1945 and more than 16,000 Ju 88s were built in dozens of variants, more than any other twin-engine German aircraft of the period. Throughout production the basic structure of the aircraft remained unchanged.
First introduced in early 1941, the Ju 88D-1 was a dedicated photo reconnaissance variant based on the Ju 88A-4. The photographic equipment consisted of Rb 70/30 or Rb 50/30 high altitude cameras and Rb 20/30 low altitude cameras in various combinations depending on the mission. Unlike the Ju 88D-2, the D-1 had its cameras mounted in the fuselage immediately behind the rear bomb bay. In operational service, however, only the two starboard camera were carried, while a prepared rivet pattern on the fuselage underside marked the position for an optional third port side camera window.
The Ju 88D-1 featured an optional gasoline fired heater in the camera compartment with an exhaust vent in a streamlined fairing on the fuselage spine. The camera compartment was accessible for servicing through the rear bomb bay. To make way for the new camera ports the FuBL2 Lorenz blind approach radio antenna was also moved further aft. The Ju 88D-1 was able to carry the complete range of bombs or auxiliary fuel tanks available to the Ju 88A-4. The Ju 88D-1 quickly became the mostly widely used Ju 88 reconnaissance-bomber variant. [source: In Action #85]
A new tooled Ju 88 in 1:48 has been needed for some time, with our only real option previously being the 1993 Dragon family. It's therefore of little surprise that since the ICM initial release in 2015 their kit has been re-boxed by Hasegawa (2016), Revell (2017) and Special Hobby (2017). ICM themselves have now released nine (9) kits based on the original Ju 88A-5 tooling. Accordingly most of these re-boxes have been variants that were derived from the A-4 (tropicalised, photo-recon and torpedo bomber variants for example).
Scalemates provide a very handy 'kit history' feature which shows the origins of any kit and as you can see the latest Ju 88D-1 kit (the subject of this review) has a long lineage of boxings before it, dating back to the initial A-5 kit release in 2015.
I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert on Luftwaffe aircraft, but once I started to explore this kit, did some test fitting and some general research into the Ju 88, I kinda got hooked. This led me to look more closely at the other 1/48 Luftwaffe aircraft that ICM have kitted in recent years, including the Dornier Do 17 (215) and Heinkel He III. I have to say I liked what I saw, again based on a comparison of the alternatives we've had previously such as the Classic Airframes Do-17Z and the Monogram He-111. In both cases the ICM kits win hands down IMO. Are any of the ICM 1/48 kits (Ju 88, Do 17 or He 111) perfect, no of course not, but having now spent time with the kit I believe it to be an excellent choice for those wanting to build out of the box and also a great starting point for those that want to go the extra mile.
Speaking of extra's, because this kit has been around now for some time the aftermarket companies have been busy. Some of the items that will help spruce up your 1/48 Ju 88 include:
The original 2015 boxing of ICM's new Ju 88 was of the A-5 variant, which was the forerunner to the A-4 (yes, the numbering was not sequential). To better understand the differences between these two versions we need to consider the following:
By early 1941, sufficient quantities of the 1400 HP Jumo 211F/211J engines had become available to allow Junkers to begin production of the Ju 88A-4. The increased power allowed Junkers to increase the armor, bomb load and fuel, raising the gross weight to some 3700 pounds heavier than the Ju 88A-1/A-5. The main structural and visual changes (which are of most relevance to us as modellers) that are needed to model a Ju-88A-4 (or D-1) from a kit based on the earlier A-5 are as follows:
For this review I once again went down the 'dry build' path rather than a simple sprue inspection. I'll mention it more as I go but the one thing that struck me as I assembled the kit was just how good the fit was. I encountered little or no gaps, especially with the clear parts (and there are a lot of them) which fit perfectly. When it comes time to select a paint scheme, ICM have provided a varied set of marking options (ranging from North Africa to the Russian Front) which should cater to most tastes.
The kit decals are standard ICM, meaning they are 'home grown' and not from Cartograph etc. I've used the ICM decals recently on my MiG-25 build and they don't really seem to like setting solutions, at least not the Microscale type. They are much happier with just some soapy water to slide them onto the model surface once they decide to separate from the backing paper (which can take a while). The one thing conspicuous by its absence on the boxart, color schemes and the decal sheet are the tail swastika's. You will need to source these yourself from third party sheets.
The build kicks off (as usual) with the fuselage interior, specifically the cockpit. Checking a few reference photos it looks to me like ICM have done a nice job of replicating the crew cabin adequately. I like that the parts are detailed enough without feeling sparse or over done, just a nice balance. Decals are provided by ICM to represent the assorted analog instruments spread in and around the cabin.
The rear wall of the crew cabin contains the main radio and navigation gear. ICM provide quite nice raised details and if this is not adequate for your tastes then Eduard does an interior pre-painted PE set (49782) with replacement equipment faces. For the Ju 88A-4 the primary defensive machine gun was changed from the drum fed MG 15 to the faster firing belt fed MG 81J. Ammunition bins were installed in the cockpit which provided 750 rounds for the forward forward windscreen weapon, 1000 rounds for each of the rear cockpit guns and 1800 rounds for the ventral MG 81Z. ICM has not provided any of these ammunition bins or belts on their A-4 sprue so you can either leave them out or utilise the aforementioned Eduard set which does include the bins and belts in photo-etch.
Unlike many aircraft models, the rudders pedals and control yoke are quite visible through the glass nose of the Ju 88. Luftwaffe rudder pedals were made from sheet metal with leather toe straps and the ICM plastic parts are quite bulky and really don't capture the look of the real thing very well. I had a spare set of generic PE pedals handy and it was a simple job to replace the plastic parts with them.
The Ju 88 operated with four crew members: Pilot, Bombardier, Radio Operator/Rear Gunner and Rear/Lower Gunner. Three seats were provided with the fourth crewman allocated a fold out bench close to the lower gondola. In late production Ju 88A-4s, the pilot had a fully contoured armored seat that featured head and shoulder protection and an armoured backplate.
Based on photos and drawings I feel that ICM have done a very credible job of reproducing the Ju 88 seats and general cockpit layout. They have included enough detail in plastic to make the model feel busy without going overboard. About the only thing you really need to add are seat belts and if you really want to jazz things up some extra photo-etch detailing from Eduard or others is available.
During my research I managed to compile a decent set of period photos of the general Ju 88 cockpit layout. I've included the best ones here to save you the trouble and also as a spot for me to find them in the future (yep, I'm lazy).
Early in the development of the Ju 88 both Junkers and Luftwaffe officials began discussions towards development of a long range high speed reconnaissance variant to replace the Dornier Do 17P. By 1940 plans were in motion to produce a dedicated reconnaissance variant of the Ju 88A under the designation Ju 88D. During the life of the D variant the cameras were relocated within the fuselage with the D-1 version having them installed just aft of the rear bomb bay. This new location necessitated the relocation further aft of the FuB L2 antenna.
Rather than produce a new fuselage sprue with the camera ports integrated, ICM have simply provided instructions for the modeller to measure and drill two 6mm holes in the appropriate location.
Using a set of calipers I marked out the centers of the hole according to the ICM layout. The ICM plastic is relatively soft so don't make the same mistake as I and try and use a 6mm drill bit to cut the hole in one go as this only results in tearing the plastic making a mess. The clear covers for the ports are curved to allow for the fuselage shape so be sure to align them correctly before committing to glue.
When you bring the two fuselage halves together it becomes obvious why Junkers had to relocate the FuB L2 antenna further to the rear, away from the new camera ports. Oddly ICM have not made any mention of this easy adjustment in their instructions, so bear this in mind.
In preparation for closing up the fuselage you will need to paint and fit the one piece tail-wheel assembly. This part fits very snugly in its mounting points and looks to be a good representation of the real item. I'd have preferred if ICM had molded the wheel separate to the strut and mud guard (much easier to paint etc)
The Ju 88A-4 derived variants, such as the D-1, were fitted with updated navigation equipment such as the Peilgerat EZ6 direction finder and FuG 101 radio altimeter. The EZ6 power operated swiveling antenna was installed in a recessed well in the upper fuselage decking. This antenna well was sealed with a flush circular plexiglass cover with a "starburst" pattern of metalized sensing strips on the interior of the glass.
ICM provide an updated insert piece for the upper fuselage which contains the EZ6 well and clear cover. Rather than provide a separate part for the sensing strips they have moulded them into the bottom of the well, which unfortunately once you understand what it should look like, ends up looking pretty lame. I noticed that Eduard provide a PE part for the starburst sensing strips in their Ju 88A-4 Exterior Set (48994). If you use this set be sure to ignore Eduard's instructions and instead fit the PE part (3) to the inside of the clear cover and not to the bottom of the well.
A closer look at wartime drawings of the EZ6 antenna assembly and a more recent color photo of a He-219 undergoing restoration shows us quite clearly how the sensing strips are meant to look.
With the fuselage work now complete its time to focus on the tail assembly. Gratefully ICM provide us with separate and fully movable control surfaces. As can be seen, once again the fit is very good and the hinges allow for full movement of the elevators.
To allow me to glue all the parts together first and then join them later I did some minor surgery to the elevator hinges as shown. This means I can glue and sand the fixed part of the horizontal tail and clean up the seams without the movable elevators getting in the way.
Another change from the Ju 88A-4 onwards was the addition of a rudder balance to the top of the tail. To reproduce this a new rudder and vertical tail parts are needed. ICM provides both options in the kit with the A-4 parts on sprue C1.
ICM have used a slightly different solution than usual to engineer the wing to fuselage join. The top seam is naturally along the wing root but the lower seam has been offset to instead be located under the engine nacelles. This is quite clever as it effectively hides that seam away and due to the offset nature provides considerable extra strength to the join.
I could not help but be impressed with how well the upper wing fitted to the fuselage. Even with my dry fit using only tape I was able to achieve a join with virtually no gap.
The lower gondola is provided in halves. When I glued these together (step 39) I temporarily mounted (with tape) each part into the fuselage locating holes to ensure the shape of the gondola was correct as the glue dried.
I applaud ICM for providing the front and rear sections of the gondola as clear parts. The optically clear panel in the front was to allow the bomb sight a clear line of sight whilst the rear of the gondola was for both crew access as well as the mounting point for the MG 81Z ventral guns.
At first glance the main landing gear looks quite complicated however once you start to assemble the parts they all fit firmly and accurately. I had no problems with the alignment of the parts and following a quick check against reference photos I was satisfied they look accurate.
The undercarriage has many hinge points and I felt these would benefit from the addition of some plasticard discs. I used my Waldron punch and die set to make the discs and attached them in place with Tamiya Liquid glue. I'll also be later adding some copper wire for the brake lines.
The Ju 88 was fitted with two quite distinct types of wheel rims and tires over its service life. Unfortunately ICM provide only the early (small) ribbed tires and rims which are suitable for Ju 88 A-1 thru A-5 models but not so for the later A-4. Luckily several aftermarket companies (including Eduard Brassin and CMK) make resin versions of the later (larger) rims and smooth tires suitable for A-4's. Note that most of these resin items are designed for the Dragon kits but I have no reason to believe they won't work with the ICM kit.
The ICM assembly instructions advise to glue the landing gear in place before attaching the engine nacelles. I like to avoid this method if possible so I did some testing and can confirm you can (with a bit of jiggling) install the landing gear after the nacelle is attached to the lower wing.
ICM generously provide two fully detailed Jumo 211 engines with the kit. I was initially a bit confused when I started to construct the engine as I was holding it upside down. It was not until I did some further reading that I realised the engine was in fact fitted to the nacelle inverted (with the engine 'V' at the bottom).
The fully assembled ICM gives a very credible representation of the actual Jumo 211. I feel that with some careful painting and weathering this plastic part will not really need any extras, especially when you realise how little of it will be seen once installed in the nacelle.
The completed engine and the annular radiator front face (part C1-5) are sandwiched in between the nacelle parts. Be sure to use the correct nacelle and radiator parts from sprue C1 as these are the correct ones for the A-4 version. The earlier A-5 parts are included in the box but these should be ignored. If you would like to show off some of the engine detail then glue the side access doors in the open position instead.
ICM provide all the powerplant parts needed to accurately represent the updated Ju 88A-4. The new nacelles feature the bulged asymmetrical fairing underneath. The annular radiator has had the third (lower center) air intake added and a new enlarged spinner and broad chord VS-11 wooden propeller provided.
The Jumo 211 fits cleanly into the nacelle locating supports. Still a bit of cleanup work needed on the ejection pin and mold seams but as you can see it certainly looks the part.
It's unfortunate that once you close up the nacelles that very little of the engine is seen. Its also frustrating that the ends of the exhaust stubs are not hollowed out but I think that's just a 'bridge too far' for plastic injection technology at present. I could not find any resin replacements for the ICM kit (even Quickboost has not come to the party) so have ordered an old set for the Dragon kit and hopefully can make that work as the idea of drilling out each stub (across two engines) does not appeal all that much.
ICM have done justice to the distinctive annular radiators and air intakes of the A-4. The radiator ribbing detail looks quite convincing and under a coat of paint and dry brush will do very nicely. As before everything fitted here nicely like a 'hand in a glove'
The completed nacelle with updated spinner and VS-11 propeller looks very tidy.
The engine nacelles fit cleanly to the large locating holes in the lower wing. Also notice how the nacelle now completely covers the seam between the fuselage and outer wings. The very rear end of the nacelle is also open by designed so that the flaps can be lowered correctly if desired. Smart design by ICM all around.
The last major component of the model is the clear parts. Like most medium bombers of the day, the Ju 88 had a lot of glass in and around the crew compartment. I was most interested in how all these clear parts would fit. The good news is they fit like a glove. Literally no gaps and they simply click into place. At the sight of all that masking I weakened and purchased the Eduard pre-cut masking set (yes I am getting even more lazy in my old age).
I don't actually plan to fit the ETC racks or bomb load to my Ju 88D-1 but thought I would assemble them for the review anyway. Like the rest of the kit the fit is spot on and based on reference photos I could find the general size and shape of the pylons and 500/250kg bombs looks good.
The very last thing I felt was noteworthy was the omission by ICM of the FuG 10 under-fuselage trailing antenna mast. Used for longer range HF radio communications the antenna wire would extend and trail behind the aircraft in flight from the mast to keep it away from the fuselage. Seen quite clearly in this photo of a Ju 88D-1, I'm a bit surprised that ICM left this one out of their kits completely.
Whilst the base ICM Ju 88 kit is now over four years old (having been first released in 2015) I'm glad I got the opportunity to have a close up look at it. It's opened my eyes to the good work that ICM has been quietly doing with their Luftwaffe light/medium bombers kits of the Do-17, Ju-88 and He-111.
If I had to summarise my opinion of this kit into one word it would be enjoyable. The kit does not fight you and goes together without any drama. I believe that ICM provide more than adequate detailing for a kit in 1/48 with the cockpit, engines and main landing gear being good examples of this. It's also a solid starting point for extra detailing and I intend to use some PE sets, resin wheels and add surface riveting to mine down the track.
I have a couple of the older Dragon kits and whilst I did not do a side by side comparison, the new ICM tooling is a clear winner in my eyes. I'd have no hesitation in recommending this kit to any modeller, be it beginner or advanced as it has something for everyone.
I expect that ICM will continue to release new boxings of more of the Ju 88 variants like the G night fighter etc. I'll have to work hard to resist the urge to purchase those when they arrive :)
Many thanks to ICM and The Modelling News for supplying the review kit.