IAR-80, the famous fighter no one has ever heard of. Hobby Boss, 1/48
The IAR-80 was a Romanian built and designed single seat, single engine fighter that was active during WWII. The airplane came into being due to a requirement for a home defense fighter, though the requirement did not anticipate an entry coming from its own aircraft industry. IAR (Industria Aeronautică Română) was building PZL and Savoia Marchetti designs under license and developed the aircraft based on that experience. The tail assembly on an IAR-80 is essentially the same as that for a PZL-24. It was powered by a license built Gnome-Rhone 14 cylinder radial engine of between 930 and 1000 hp. Early versions were armed with four 7.9mm FN machine guns, later increased to six, but due to difficulty obtaining those guns because of the German occupation of Belgium, later models mounted MG FF heavy machine guns and MG151 20mm cannon sourced from Germany. The fighter was never able to reach full potential due to the inability of the Romanians to procure or produce weapons and more powerful engines internally.
Often mistaken for the Fw-190, the airplane saw combat alongside the Luftwaffe on the southern flank of the Eastern Front, and for home defense, where it opposed the heavy bombers and fighters of the USAAF . IAR-80s intercepted the B-24s of the Tidal Wave attack on Ploesti in August 1943, and had its biggest day against P-38's of the 1st and 82nd FG's, contributing to the downing 22 Lightnings attacking the Ploesti refineries in June 1944. But due to the lack of improvements to the aircraft and combat losses, it began to be withdrawn from service by late 1944 and replaced by Bf-109's. The IAR-81 was a later model equipped with a trapeze style bomb release for ground support operations. There are no original survivors, though a complete replica and the tail and cowl of an aircraft shot down in 1945 exist in the Romanian Military Museum in Bucharest.
This is the Hobby Boss kit in 1/48. It represents an earlier four gun IAR-80. The model is well laid out, and features a very nice out of box cockpit complete with a small photoetch fret containing seatbelts and a map case. Construction was fairly straightforward, apart from the maddening abundance of heavy sprue gates and sprue blobs smack dab in the middle of incredibly small parts. For example, the four engine sections were attached to the sprue at the top of each cylinder, 56 in all. It was not fun trimming all those nubs off. Anyone building this model would do well to get a copy of Radu Brinzan's book on the IAR-80, which fills in all the info that isn't available elsewhere:
My model depicts an IAR-80A assigned to the 47th fighter squadron of the 9th fighter group on the Eastern front in the summer of 1942. It features the wraparound camouflage of RAF dark green and dark earth over what is thought to be RAF duck egg blue with the yellow theatre markings. Later aircraft were painted in RLM colors, though much of that is up for interpretation. Radu's book goes into detail on all the colors, and is worth referring to as the kit painting guide is not correct. Decals are from the kit, though Radu has aftermarket sets available on his website, which appears to be inactive right now:
A few interesting oddities about this aircraft - it was equipped with a shock absorbing tail skid that limited it to grass airfields. The pressure gauges for the fuel and hydraulic systems are mounted in a panel on the floor forward of the rudder pedals. Earlier models had flaperons to improve low speed performance. The number on the tail is not a squadron ID number, it is the production number of the aircraft! So this model represents the 137th airplane built, out of approximately 425. And the airplane never got a name, it was referred to as the "yee ah reh", Romanian for I-A-R.
My build log is here for those who are interested. It was a fun build of an unusual and overlooked aircraft!