Reviewed: Sep 2022
Eduard's latest dual combo, limited edition release, entitled "Red Tails & Co", is dedicated to the fighter units of the 15th Air Force which flew the P-51D Mustang. The most well known of these being the 332nd FG, “RED TAILS”, manned by the Tuskegee Airmen who were a group of primarily African American military pilots.
From the kit you can build both early (-5) and late (-20) P-51D Mustangs as all the parts needed (fin fillet, fabric/metal elevators etc) are included. The twelve marking options cover P-51D's flying with the four Groups (31st FG, 52nd FG, 325th FG and 332nd FG) of the 15th AF during WWII in Italy.
This dual combo boxing includes:
The 15th Air Force was formed at the end of 1943 in Tunisia as the main part of the Mediterranean (MTO - Mediterranean Theater of Operations). The 15th consisted of heavy bombing groups equipped with four-engined B-24 Liberator and B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers transferred from 12th and 9th Air Forces. As of December 1, 1943, the 15th AF Headquarters was located in Bari, southern Italy.
Merlin-powered P-51s, equipped with jettisonable drop tanks, had an operational range of more than 1,600 miles (2,500 km), and they mounted their first long-range bomber escort missions over Germany in mid-December 1943. They quickly established ascendancy over Germany’s premier fighters, the Me 109 and the Fw 190. The P-51’s superiority was particularly evident above 20,000 feet (6,000 metres). By March 1944, P-51s were available in quantity and, in combination with drop tank-equipped P-47 Thunderbolts and P-38s, had taken the Luftwaffe’s measure in the daylight skies over Germany.
The crippling losses which the U.S. bombers had previously suffered were thereafter drastically reduced: in October 1943 as many as 9.1 percent of the Eighth Air Force bomber sorties credited with attacking their targets had failed to return, and a further 45.6 percent had been damaged.
In February 1944 the corresponding figures fell to 3.5 percent and 29.9 percent. From that point, Germany was effectively under round-the-clock bombardment. Though fewer in number, the P-51 could penetrate deeper into German airspace than the other U.S. fighters and was better in air-to-air combat; it thus played a disproportionately large role in the defeat of the Luftwaffe.
Beginning (as we modeller always do, right?) with the instruction booklet, Eduard have once again included a generous amount of background research on the 15th AF and the Mustang units that served therein. For a more in depth read be sure to also download the July 2022 issue of Eduards INFO magazine which includes (on page 6) an article by Vladimír Šulc with even more information to whet your appetite.
The four fighter groups which flew the P-51D in the 15th AF seemed to operate a mix of early and late block aircraft. Because Eduard want to cover all bases have included in this boxing all the variations that are needed to cater for airframes ranging from the early block -5 to the later -20 Mustang. One such example of this starts early on in the build with the choice of instrument panel. Three options are included on the PE fret and as per the instructions you need to mix and match the right combination of plastic and metal parts based on the aircraft you have decided to model.
A flight of P-51 Mustangs from each of the four 15AF groups, 31st Fighter Group, 325th Fighter Group and 332nd Fighter Group.
Being essentially two profipack kits in one large box, you are naturally provided with a set of paint masks. The included mask sheet seems to be especially made for this Red Tails boxing to cater for the need to mask two styles of the P-51D bubble canopy. Whilst this is nice it's a little disappointing that Eduard did not go the extra mile to include a TFace (both inside and out) set for both canopy types. If you are at all interested in the evolution of P-51D bubble canopies then check out this useful page P-51D/K Mustang canopy variations
A quick scan of the parts list shows us a few things. First two different fuselage sprues are included, one for the early un-filleted tail and the other for a filleted tail. Only the all-metal 75 gallon drop tanks are needed, so you will have some spare 108 gallon compressed paper tanks. Likewise with the propellors, all 12 aircraft markings included require only the Hamilton Standard "cuffed" propellor parts from sprue H. Finally, a choice of canopy is needed to model either the early or late airframes along with choices for smaller details like shrouded or un-shrouded exhaust stubs etc.
Captain Andrew "Jug" turner CO of the 100th Fighter Squadron poses with some of his pilots. Left to right- Lt. Dempsey W. Morgan, Jr. - Lt. Carroll S. Woods - Lt. Robert H. Nelson, Jr. - Capt. Andrew D. Turner - and Lt. Clarence P. "Lucky" Lester.
Being a dual combo kit you get two full Mustang kits. One difference between the two kits is the fuselage sprue, with one early (fillet-less) tail (sprue C) and one filleted tail (sprue D) being provided by Eduard. Because two styles of dorsal fin fillet (DFF) were used on the P-51D over its lifetime Eduard have designed this fuselage with a cutout into which you install the appropriate style of DFF
To correct the tendency, existing when certain manoeuvres (eg snap roll) were performed, for P-51D airplanes to assume a high angle of yaw which may result in over-loading the horizontal stabilizer, a dorsal fin fillet was installed. The Dorsal Fin Fillet (DFF) was first installed at the factory on P-51D-10-NA's in California and P-51D-5-NT's in Texas. A DFF kit was made available and retrofitted in the field to some P-51D-5-NA's. There were two types of DFF used on Mustangs, a slightly curved (or swayback) fillet and the "straight" fillet. Early fillets were the swayback's, with the straight ones appearing with the first P-51D-20-NA (or possibly the last P-51D-15-NA) in Inglewood and with P-51K-15-NT's in Dallas.
With the attention to detail we have coime to expect from Eduard they have provided both the swayback and straight DFF's in the kit. You need to look very closely to see the subtle differences in the shape of the spine and the panel lines.
Not only do you need to decide which tail to use, and then which fillet, but based on your own research (Eduard bows out here) you need to decide which elevator (fabric or metal) is appropriate. Based on my searching it appears that the metal elevator became a standard factory fit 401st P-51D-20NA and the very first P-51D-25NA. Of course its never that simple because all the earlier P-51D's were eventually retrofitted as well.
Eduard provides both fabric and metal elevator options in the kit. As to which one is appropriate for your build, the following may help to guide you: "Two batches of D model Mustangs, under construction simultaneously at Inglewood, introduced the metal covered elevator and change of tailplane incidence. This change occurred with serial numbers 44-63560 and 44-72627 being the 401st P-51D-20NA and the 1st in the assembly lines of the P-51D-25NA airplanes. This change was incorporated at Dallas with the P-51K-10NT and P-51D-20NT and subsequest production and all P-51D aircraft already produced were eventually retrofitted." - Mustang: The Story of the P-51 Fighter, by Gruenhagen (Arco [uSA], 1980; 252 pages)
“Tuskegee” airman Edward Creston Gleed from Lawrence, Kansas, Class 42-K, with two unidentified crewmen adjusting an external seventy-five gallon drop tank on the wing of a P-51/D Mustang, “Creamer’s Dream” (generally flown by 1st.Lt.Charles White) 301st FS, 332nd Fighter Group air base in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945.
If you decide that you want to add that something extra to your Mustang build then Eduard certainly has you covered. Since their first release (in 2019) Eduard has produced a literal truckload of detail accessories for their Mustang kits. Everything from replacement cockpits, engines, wheels, propellors, gun sights, cameras in photo-etch brass and resin (both cast and 3D printed).
The main purpose of these Limited Edition boxings by Eduard is to provide a unique set of "subject" focused marking options. The included plastic parts can be found in any number of earlier releases but in truth the thing that makes this kit a "limited edition" is the decals. These specific options cannot be found elsewhere in the Eduard catalog and its the main reason you'd buy this particular release over a weekend or profipack kit.
As per the intent of this release the included 12 marking options cover P-51D's that flew with the 15th AF as escort fighters. Each of the four 15th AF fighter groups is covered with three aircraft per FG.
A P-51D-5-NA Mustang (MX-A, serial number 44-13464), flown by Major Sam Brown of the 307th Fighter Squadron, 31st Fighter Group, 15th Air Force. Photograph probably taken between 14 July 1943 and 20 September 1943 at Sicily, or between 21 September 1943 and 5 August 1945 at different Italy Airfields
Tempus Fugit, a P-51D-20, 44-63237 flown by Col. William Allen Daniel. While flying with the 31st FG, Daniel scored five confirmed kills, with the last one being a Me262 shot down on March 24, 1945, during the escort of bombers to Berlin. By this deed he ranked among 33 air aces who flew with this group.
A P-51D-5 formation from 308th FS, 31st FG, photographed in June 1944.
The 325th FG, “CHECKERTAIL CLAN” converted to the P-51D during the second half of 1944 which it flew until the end of war. 325th FG comprised the 317th FS (tactical markings by black numerals from 10 to 30), 318th FS (tactical markings by black numerals from 40 to 69) and 319th FS (tactical markings by black, yellow outlined numerals from 70 to 99). The tactical numbers from 1 to 9 were used by the staff flight. The unit markings were yellow-black checkered tail surfaces or the whole aircraft tail and red nose and red propeller spinner.
A P-51D-15-NA #44-15648 "Lollipoop II" of the 332nd Fighter Group, Fossia (sp. Foggia) Italy.
A P-51D-15-NA #44-15648 "Lollipoop II" of the 332nd Fighter Group, Fossia (sp. Foggia) Italy.
To complement each of the 12 squadron markings a full set of airframe stencils are provided (for both kits). Worthy of note is the small credit to Fundekals in the bottom left corner, with whom Eduard collaborated during the marking development.
As is now "the norm", the decals in this kit are the Eduard printed digital decals. Eduard seem to be incrementally achieving better results with these new digitally printed decals since they were first introduced in 2018/19. This is the first Eduard review I have written since actually trying out some of the new "removable carrier film" sheets. With a bit of experimenting I was able to achieve good results in removing the carrier film from the decals after they were applied to the model (in my case the Eduard 1:48 Tempest Mk.II). I believe that the decals look best with the carrier removed and even though Eduard have never said you should it just seems obvious to me.
There is no arguing that the clarity and resolution of the decals is very good. Even under strong magnification the smallest of stencils is readable.
The one issue I have had with the new Eduard decals, on more than one occasion, is with the carrier film on the sheet coming away. Below are two examples from the Red Tails sheet where the carrier film has come away from the decal as I was slowly removing the protective cover sheet. What seems to be happening is that the clear carrier coat is reacting with the coversheet and adhering to it. Unfortunately, this has now rendered the affected decals on my sheet essentially unusable. Given these markings really are the main reason for buying a Limited Edition kit it very quickly puts a sour taste in your mouth.
Small sections of carrier film coming off is one thing, but at the very edge of the extra-large Red Tails sheet the problem becomes ever worse with several decals were the whole carrier film has delaminated and stuck to the coversheet. Normally I would write this off as a one off issue and contact Eduard for a replacement, but this is now the fourth time I personally have experienced this with an Eduard decal sheet so it is not just a random occurrence. Eduard really needs to figure out what they are going to do about their decals because it's starting to hurt their reputation, at least in my mind.
This is another well thought out release by Eduard. I was certainly aware of the story of the Tuskegee Red Tails but was more or less ignorant of the critical role that they, and the other fighter groups, played in supporting the bombers of the 15th Air Force in the MTO.
The included markings are all very colourful (which makes for visually appealing models) and the research done by Eduard is very thorough, as usual. The plastic parts and profipack inclusions mean that you really can build incredible models right out of the box.
The one problem I have with this kit, which joins an ever growing list of Eduard releases, is the poor quality control on the decals. The problem I encountered with this decal sheet with carrier film tearing has rendered the decals unusable or at the very least un-trustworthy. I'll contact Eduard for a replacement sheet and hopefully they will have spares, but it's the latest in a growing line of such issues that I've been experiencing lately with their decals.
I really do hope they figure out what do to about the decal situation because I love their choice of subjects, but releasing Limited Edition kits is not much use if the main reason people buy them, the unique marking options on the included decal sheet, are faulty.