Polikarpov U-2/Po-2VS

Published: February 7th, 2013     
Box Art
Box Art
Reviewed by: 
Brian R. Baker, IPMS# 43146
Scale: 1/72
Company: ICM
Price: $14.99
Product / Stock #: 72241

History

The Polikarpov U-2 biplane was designed and built during 1928 as a primary trainer for the fledgling Soviet Air Force, and it seemed to possess all of the characteristics desired by that service, including rugged all-wood construction, a low-powered but reliable power plant, and excellent flying characteristics.  It was produced in massive numbers, approximately 40,000 of them eventually being manufactured in the Soviet Union and foreign countries. The type was adaptable to many uses, including training, air ambulance, night bombing, crop dusting, and a few were even used as floatplanes. During the war, the plane was re-designated Po-2 in honor of the designer, Nikolai Nikolaevich Polikarpov.  A few were even used by the North Koreans during the Korean War for night harassment, as, having all-wood construction, they had a very low radar profile.  There are still a few flying today, especially in Europe.

As a comparison, the all-wood U-2 had a 125 hp. radial engine and a gross weight of around 2000 pounds, while the American wood and metal Stearman PT-17 had a 220 hp. radial engine and could fly at a gross weight of about 2600 pounds. The Stearman was slightly smaller, but was adaptable to engines of 450 hp. to 600 hp. for postwar ag-plane conversions.  At least one Po-2 was fitted with a 700 hp. Wright Cyclone engine for record attempts before the war, but most power increases did not exceed 200 hp.

References

Aside from the internet, there aren't a lot of materials available on this aircraft.  Several years ago, I obtained a book from Kagero entitled Polikarpov Po-2 which included 44 pages, 175 photos, color information, and a set of Polish decals for 1/72 and 1/48 models. This book primarily shows the structure of the aircraft, using the restored example in the Polish Aviation Museum.  This is in English and Polish, and has been extremely useful in showing the details of this aircraft, but it doesn't have a lot of information on markings of specific aircraft.  There are lots of photos of the type online, but the kit provides color schemes for three aircraft, including one snow-camouflaged ski-plane.

The Kit

This is certainly not the first kit produced of this aircraft, as Burns' Guide lists kits issued by ABC, Ace/Poland, A-Model, Frog, KP, Omega, and Ursus. My suspicion is that most of these kits were issued using the KP molds, or molds based on them.  I built one of the KP kits, which was produced before 1975, so these models have been around for quite a while.  The KP kit was accurate in outline, but very basic in detail, and the new ICM kit is infinitely better in interior and engine detail, as well as in surface finish.  Consisting of about 75 parts in light grey and clear plastic, it has crisp, clear detail, a complete interior with excellent sidewall features, delicate engine parts for the five-cylinder radial, and an alternative wheel-ski landing gear.  In addition, it hosts very petite bomb racks, bombs, and a very finely done rear machine gun and mount.

The instructions are entirely pictorial, and the sprue diagram is very useful in locating the parts when they are needed.  Although the kit appears to be overcomplicated, it really isn't, and the parts are positioned where they can be taken from the sprue at the time they will be attached, therefore reducing the possibility of losing them, as some of these parts are very small.

There were some discrepancies in the kit I built, including a lot of flash and some parts not complete. The seat bracings (parts 48 and 49) are supposed to have the side structure the same length, but both parts had one much longer than the other, requiring trimming to the shorter length. In addition, the vertical stabilizer is very weak, and care must be taken when handling the fuselage until the horizontal stabilizers are attached.

Assembly

This kit has a lot of detail, requiring many of the small parts to be assembled before major components can be joined.  The cockpit interior consists of two seats (5 pieces each, not including seat belts) and a floor positioned on the upper portion of the lower wing, which holds the rudder pedal structure and the control sticks.  The instrument panels are supposed to be glued to the side of the fuselage interior, but they don't fit, and I had to trim them and then insert them into the fuselage after the halves were joined.  The seats, however, were narrow enough to fit inside the fuselage, but due to the above-mentioned defect in the seat bracing, they are probably too low.  I also added masking tape seat belts.

The five-cylinder radial engine goes together easily, although there are a number of exhaust stacks that must be added after the engine is installed.  The prop, by the way, is backwards and rotates the wrong way. All the photos I have of the airplane show that the prop rotates in the American fashion, or clockwise from the pilot's seat view, whereas the prop in this kit rotates in the British fashion, or counterclockwise. This really jumps out at you when you've hand-propped airplanes all your life.  I had to replace the prop.  There is a nose cap that is supposed to cover the front of the engine.  This shows in the instructions, but does not show on any of the three-view drawings except for the front view.  The problem is that this part does not show up on any photos I can find of the aircraft, either the wartime examples or restored or museum types.  I left it off.

Some of the drawings on the instruction are not very clear,  including the actual configuration of the bomb racks, and the completed seat assembly on the top of the lower wing center section.  The drawings shown aren't very helpful, even under high magnification.  This would have been helpful.  On the color scheme drawing of the ski-equipped version, there is an external fuel tank that does not appear on the sprue.  Although the skis are provided and the drawing shows the installation, there is no indication on the assembly instructions concerning the wire bracing that is attached to the front and rear of the ski assemblies.

The horizontal stabilizer is very realistically done, but it attaches to the rear fuselage with three small pins, and this is replicated in the kit. The result is a joint that appears to be very weak, and I had to be very careful when handling and masking that portion of the model.  That worked, and I didn't break it off, although it certainly looks very fragile.  On the bomb racks, there are two small attachment points for the bombs, and while one attaches to the rack, the other attaches to the bomb itself.  There are small notches for the attachment points, but they are not complete and the little parts will not fit without trimming.

The lower wing attaches to the fuselage quite nicely, and all of the seat detail is mounted on this.  The main problem comes with the attachment of the upper wing.  My usual procedure is to glue the "N" struts onto the wings, let them dry overnight, and then attach the upper wing the next day.  Once this was securely dried, I add the cabane struts, which attach to the fuselage and wing center section.  The problem is that the cabanes don't fit quite right, and it took a lot of twisting and jockeying around to get them into an acceptable position.  The struts are quite flimsy, but they look really good once they are in place.  With the wing in place, the landing gear can be attached.  This looks a lot harder than it is, and although it doesn't look like there's a place to attach it, it goes on easily.  The tailskid doesn't have any real attachment points, just a large hole, but I managed to glue it in place anyway.  The tail bracing struts were very tiny, and after looking at them and trying to trim the attachment points (which were in the middle of the struts), I just replaced them with plastic strip. The windshields are very tiny, but there was no outside bracing on the real thing, so I just glued them on before I attached the upper wing.

Painting and Finishing

I opted for the green and black camouflaged U-2VS used by 213rd NBAD (Night Bomber Air Division) in Russia during 1943.  Most painting was done before assembly, and all of the small parts had been painted right at the beginning.  Decals were of good quality, although I had the points of two stars separate from their bodies, but these were not a problem as I just moved them around into the proper position. They don't require trimming.

I used electronic wire for rigging, rolling it out and cutting each wire to the proper length.  There are a LOT of wires on this plane, including the usual flying and landing wires, but also including aileron, rudder, and elevator cables.  Towards the end, handling the model became a very touchy procedure, but I didn't break any wires loose.

Recommendation

While I was building this kit, I decided to build an old KP kit that I had in the stash, and it is interesting to compare the two kits.  The ICM kit has much better detail in every respect.  Although there are some glitches, especially the prop, the ICM kit builds up into a very nice representation of this classic little biplane, and it is certainly worth getting, especially if you can't obtain a KP kit.  The KP kit is a lot easier to build, but the ICM kit results in a much more sophisticated model, provided you are careful and do things like replacing the prop. If you're serious about building this one, get hold of the Kagero book on the Po-2, as I found it very useful.  I certainly wouldn't recommend this kit for a beginner, but an experienced modeler should have no problem making a decent model out of this one.

Thanks to Squadron for supplying the kit for review, and IPMS for supplying the opportunity to review it.

  • Sprue 1
    Sprue 1
  • Sprue 2, decals, clear parts
    Sprue 2, decals, clear parts
  • Instructions 1
    Instructions 1
  • Instructions 2
    Instructions 2
  • Under construction 1
    Under construction 1
  • Under construction 2
    Under construction 2
  • Under construction 3
    Under construction 3
  • Right front
    Right front
  • Left front
    Left front
  • Right rear
    Right rear
  • Left side
    Left side
  • Right side
    Right side