The Blohm und Voss BV 138 was officially named 'Seedrache' (Sea Dragon) but with the unusual configuration of a three engined flying boat with a short hull, high mounted wings and two tail unit beams it quickly became known as “The Flying Clog”. The BV 138 was first flown in 1937 and was used by the Luftwaffe all over Europe, the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia - often flying for hours far out over the sea in search of allied convoys. This long-range maritime reconnaissance flying boat was utilized until the end of the war not only for anti-shipping but also for personnel transports whereby ten fully equipped infantry troops could be carried which actually required no modification of the plane. The Luftwaffe's famous special-operations unit, KG 200, used one for this purpose. Fully loaded it could fly over 4000 kilometers and stay up for 16 hours. This range could be increased even further when using RATO packs (Rocket Assisted Take-offs) or when launched from catapults on board seaplane tenders.
Originally known as Ha 138, Hamburger Flugzeugbau being the aircraft subsidiary of the Blohm und Voss shipyards, the prototype was first developed in 1935 but displayed marked lateral stability deficiencies, structural deficiencies and poor hydrodynamics during trials, which resulted in extensive redesign of the aircraft. The BV 138A-1 was the first production version entering service in April 1940. Only 25 were built and these were immediately used in the occupation of Norway. This experience brought to light the necessity to further strengthen the aircraft's structure. The BV 138B-1 had a reinforced hull and floats, improved engines and armament. This version entered service in Dec 1940 with 24 being built. The BV 138C-1 featured additional structural strengthening, a four-bladed airscrew on the central engine, a 13-mm MG 131 replaced the 7.9-mm MG 15 machine gun, and an optional 7.9-mm MG 15 could be added. It entered service in March 1941 and 227 were built. This final production version of the “Clog” was powered by three Junkers Jumo 205D-1 diesel engines and although they were fuel-efficient they made the aircraft very slow and gave it a maximum ceiling of only 5000 meters (16400 ft). However, armed with 20mm cannons in two turrets and a 13mm heavy machinegun in an open position as well as an optional MG15 the BV 138 could often take care of itself when attacked. It has for example been known to shoot down a British Blenheim as well as a Catalina flying boat in air-to-air combat. And since the BV 138 could also take a lot of battle damage and keep flying, especially as the diesel fuel rarely ignited when hit by machine gun fire, she was generally well liked by her crews.
Although the BV 138 was able to carry small loads of bombs and depth-charges and thereby do attack missions such as sub-hunting, most operations were pure reconnaissance and surveillance, often working together with the German U-boats. But they were also used for convoy escort, air-sea rescue or equipment transport. The BV 138 MS was a minesweeper variant, converted from BV 138B-0 pre-production aircraft and a few C-1s. All armament was removed and a degaussing loop of duralumin and field-generating equipment were installed. About 70 BV 138 C-1s were equipped with catapult points for operation from seaplane tenders and about 20 BV 138C-1s were equipped with a modified fuel filter to remove possible pollutants when refueling from u-boats. Some C-1s were also equipped with the FuG 200 Hohentwiel or FuG 213 Liechtenstein S radar to easier search out enemy ships and attack submarines.
Of the 227 BV 138C-1s built, 164 were equipped with two racks for bombs and thereby doubling the offensive payload of the earlier built aircrafts. These later versions were designated BV 138C-1/U1 although they were mostly still just called BV 138C-1. Also some BV 138B-1s are believed to have been modified into U1 versions. The BV 138 flying boats were used almost all over Europe and patrolled the North Sea, Skagerrack and Kattegatt, Baltic Sea, Arctic Ocean, Norwegian Sea, Bay of Biscay as well as the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
This Italian manufactured kit has been out of production for several years now and is a fairly rare item to find, even in places such as e-bay. While Super Model still exists as a producer of plastic kits they do not seemed inclined to reissue this kit. A friend in Rome, for the amazing price of about $16.00 US, purchased this particular kit for me. This kit includes parts to make any one of three different versions of this aircraft; the early B model, the more predominant C-1 version or the Mine Sweeper version with its large degaussing ring. The kits dimensions are exact when compared with those published and it produces a surprisingly large model when completed. In the picture to the right that is a 1/72 Yak-9 sitting next to the 'Clog', you can click on that picture for a larger image.
The box contains three very large sprues of grey plastic with raised panel lines and engraved control surfaces. The kit contains 144 injection parts including 15 clear parts for hatches, turrets and windows. There is no flash at all and all parts are easily removable from the sprues. Looking over these parts I can’t help but think of a Revell or Monogram 1970’s kit, the quality level of the plastic is very good and the castings are top notch. All the molds appear to have proper alignment; there are no sinkholes apparent on any of the parts. I did not notice any injection pin marks on any of the exterior surfaces. The front and rear turret clear parts will definitely test the modelers ability to work with clear seams as both turrets are two piece assemblies, split right down the middle. All the clear parts demonstrate good clarity and nicely defined panel lines. The individual windows for the fuselage seem like they may fall into the ‘fiddly little pieces’ category. The side windows for the cockpit give you the option to pose them open or closed.
There are four crew figures included with separate arms. These are some of the finest quality 1/72 scale crew figures that I have ever seen with a production kit, they have good, clean facial details and uniform details and look like they will paint up to be very striking. I checked all the primary kit pieces for general fit and could find no problems there. In the size comparison picture you can see that there is very little gap on any of the large pieces while taped together. The pieces lined up nicely and all the panel lines formed continuous lines across the joints. Notice also that the ailerons, rudders and elevator are separate pieces.
Decals and Instructions
The instructions are a very large fold-out sheet that contain a numbered view of all parts which comes in handy, as there are no numbers on the sprue. There is also a very nice little historical background section on the aircraft in four languages and unlike many pieces of written material coming from the European community, the English is very well done. There are nine well-detailed exploded views to help the modeler assemble the model. All painting instructions and decal placement instructions are located on the back of the box and are in color. The color chart provided does not give any paint codes but simply names colors.
While the decals appear to have good registry and color density they provide us with no stencils whatsoever. There are markings for three different aircraft and there are complete swastikas, which may be an illustration of just how old this kit really is. Included in the decals are fascia markings for all the instrument panels in the cockpit.
This is a superb kit. If the panel lines were engraved rather than raised it would be very competitive in today’s market. The quality of the plastic and molds are very good and the subject matter is unusual to say the least. I would like to have seen more in the line of stencils and service marking on the decal sheet. There is only one other BV 138 kit out there that I am aware of and that is the very pricey 1/48 HML resin model from the Czech Republic. There are no aftermarket goodies available for this kit so any additional details (like inside the sparsely outfitted cockpit) will need to be scratch built. Overall this is a very nice and very unusual addition to any 1/72 scale seaplane collection.
Under the Super Model name tag this kit is very difficult to get hold of but in late 2004 Revell of Germany acquired these molds from Super Model and will re-issue the kit in October 2005 under their own logo. The box art may change but the kit is the same. Keep in mind as these molds age we may start to see some quality issues with the parts. I do not know what, if any restoration work Revell has in mind for the molds. As far as a collectible the Super Model box will hold more value simply due to rarity but for building the Revell kit will soon be readily available.
This has been sitting in the stash for quite some time softly calling my name so I figured it was time to haul it out, that and somebody decided to pay me to build it. :o)
I’m approaching this kit a little differently than most of my builds, I’m kind of sneaking up on it and building the beaching dolly first. Beaching dollies always seem to give me a hard time on these seaplane kits so I figured it would be to my advantage to get this piece out of the way right up front. Most of the time here was spent removing the pesky mold separation lines that ran across both sides of all the pieces. Once assembled I airbrushed it with a dark Olive acrylic, painted the wheels with my custom tire gray and did a little weathering by dry brushing silver across wear areas, washing the model with a sludge wash then adding some ground pastel chalks. I put the chalks on while the wash was still wet which caused it to clump in a few areas much like mud – exactly what I was hoping for. I’m afraid the picture came out a little on the dark side and looks almost black, oh well.
One advantage to having the beaching dolly complete is that I now have somewhere to set the fuselage assembly between building sessions. I sat and studied this model for nearly a week before I started actual construction and finally decided that the raised panel lines just had to go. I was guessing that the actual aircraft most likely had overlapping panels and raised detail but what the kit has is too far out of scale to remain. Shortly after I made this decision I received the Squadron Signal Bv-138 booklet and from a close review of the pictures there it was readily apparent that the “Clog” had a very smooth finish with recessed lines.
Before beginning the scribing process I glued the two hull inserts into the main hull and saw that some filler putty was going to be needed along this seam. As for the scribing process I start with a #2 Xacto knife with a large leaf blade and scrape off a raised panel line. Once the surface has been smoothed I lay a piece of Dymo tape along the site of the line and scribe it with a scribing tool. Basically I am using the same techniques described in my previous feature A Systematic Approach to Scribing. Once an areas has been scribed it is wet sanded with fine sand paper to remove and remaining raised pieces then the new panel lines are cleaned out by lightly running the scribing tool down them one last time. While this is going on I am also beginning work on the cockpit and adding some detail based on period pictures.
Plastic shavings are everywhere. I’ve been working on this off-and-on for a few days now and have managed to get the right side of the hull completely scribed. Three of the crew figures are painted and installed. I added some flap levers to the center consol but after checking the view with the canopy in place realized that most if not all of any additional work done in here will never be seen. Enough of that! The cockpit floor was installed to the right side fuselage where the instructions indicate you should glue it to the left side fuselage. I reversed this so I could get a good fit on the radio operator’s floor pan and am glad I did. The radio operator’s floor pan needed almost 1/16 of an inch removed from one side and had to be raised about the same amount from where the kit says to place it in order for the operator to be sitting in anything like a normal position. The fuselage pieces were test fit several times while doing this and the view into the interior was checked from the aft gun positions. Depending on how much of the view is blocked by the gunners I may add some detail back here – we’ll see.
I have been doing all of my scribe work with a steel scribe. Just the other day I received from Great Models the Bare Metal Foil ‘Expert’s Choice’ Panel Scriber tool. Now I’m not a very gullible person and when I see advertisement stating that something is the best since whatever came last I tend to take it with a grain of salt. BMF has done quite a bit of advertising showing how this tool supposedly removes a fine line of plastic and does not raise the edges along the new engraved line. This raised edge thing is certainly something that happens with the steel scribe so I figured ‘what the heck, for ten bucks I’ll take a chance.’ You know what – this scribing tool does everything they said it does, it’s really quite amazing! With all that said I am now going to return to scribing the left side hull and if you have any scribing work to do I strongly suggest you get one of these Bare Metal Foil scribing tools – they kick ass.
This section scribed with a steel scribing tool.
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