1/48 Accurate Miniatures IL-2m3 Night Fighter
I built this kit as part of a IL-2 "combo-build" with several other iModelers in the Work-in-Progress Group. This was a great experience where we were all building an IL-2 at the same time. I had an Accurate Miniatures IL-2m3 that has been sitting in my garage for a long time, mainly because I had heard it was a difficult kit to get right.
I am always on the lookout for something that is just a little bit different, and I managed to find an unusual plane for this build. I found a photo online of a Yugoslavian IL-2m3 that had been converted into a night fighter. The plane had been over-painted in a black or dark gray paint that faded, allowing the underlying camouflage and markings to show through. I looked through my decal stash and found a set of 25-year old Aeromaster decals for this exact plane.
I was doing some research into things like interior colors and cockpit configuration when I started running into photos that made me doubt the accuracy of the colors depicted in the decal diagrams. As I did more research, I was also able to discover a lot of cool info about the Yugoslavian Air Force and their IL-2s. It turns out that the Russians and Yugoslavians had a falling out in 1947, and the Yugoslavian military went their own way. Their IL-2s were repainted in either an overall dark gray or a two-tone gray camouflage. At some point, this plane was over-painted with a black or dark gray paint to be used as a night-fighter. Some sources say this was a permanent conversion and others say it was part of an experiment. This black paint subsequently faded, allowing the underlying camo and markings to show through. Based on this, I decided to paint this model in a two-tone gray camouflage, which would be over-painted in a thin black paint that allows the camo to show through.
The next issue was with the yellow tail and fuselage bands. The diagram with the decals shows these to be yellow, and I found several diagrams online that also showed the same thing. But I noticed that the white stripe in the national markings on the tail looks lighter than the paint on the rudder and bands. Black and white photos are notoriously difficult to determine colors, but I started to doubt that the tail was yellow. I found a great website by Massimo Tessitori that has a tremendous number of photos on a variety of Soviet airplanes. He analyzed the same photo and came to the conclusion that the fuselage bands were white and the tail was a light gray. He discovered that in this particular squadron the rudders, ailerons, and elevators were painted with a light gray paint as part of a maintenance routine. He had photos of other squadron aircraft that confirmed this. He had also analyzed the fuselage bands and come to the conclusion that they were white.
The build was slow and frustrating. The model seemed overly complicated in places. Thanks to some suggestions from Tom Cleaver (@tcinla), we were able to avoid some fit issues with the wings. I used a Quinta Studios 3D decal set designed for the Zvezda kit for the cockpit. They worked very well and created a nice-looking cockpit. I eventually got to the painting stage, which I think is the most fun part of the build. I used AK Real Colors and Tamiya paints to create the camouflage, and then sprayed some chipping fluid on the appropriate areas. I then sprayed a very thin coat of Tamiya Flat Black (with some Panzer Gray mixed in), over the camouflage in very thin layers. I was a little worried about the age of the decals, but they performed flawlessly.
That's about it. I am glad to be done with this one so I can move on to something else. If you want any information on the build, please visit our thread in the Work-in-Progress Group. Thanks to Spiros (@fiveten) and John (@johnb) who initially started this combo-build and then allowed me to jump on the wagon. Great idea. Cheers.