by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Valiant Wings' latest volume in their Airframe & Detail series examines the Focke-Wulf Ta 154 - Germany's answer to the Mosquito, which the Luftwaffe hoped would be their own "Wooden Wonder", but was so plagued by delays and mishaps that it never reached full production before the war's end.
Author Richard Franks follows the highly successful formula that he's established in this series and has written a very useful 66-page softbound A4 guide to the aircraft that will appeal to modellers and enthusiasts alike.
The book is broken down into four main sections, with appendices rounding things off:
Camouflage & Markings
Big Scale Moskito
As usual, the Introduction is actually far more than its title might imply, and is actually a 16-page history of the Ta 154 through its frustrating and accident-prone development. As with so many advanced German designs, the aircraft suffered through seemingly endless revisions to the specifications, and this was compounded by the non-availability of the required engines. To make matters worse, increasingly effective Allied bombing offensive lead to the destruction of vital prototypes and equipment and, crucially, the crippling of the plant that was producing the adhesive required for the largely wooden airframe.
The section describes each of the prototypes and it's revealing just how many were involved in accidents or lost to bombing. The small run of 'A series airframes that is known to have been built is listed - pitifully small when compared to the 600 per month envisaged for January 1945! Finally, there are the revised 'B and 'C series which never reached the prototype stage. Perhaps the saddest revelation from a present-day perspective is that three Ta 154s were captured by the advancing Western Allies in various states of repair, but none was preserved, so depriving future generations of a fascinating aircraft to study and model.
With no surviving airframes, the Technical Description relies on period photos and manuals to produce a very detailed 29-page "virtual walkaround" of the Moskito. The lack of modern colour photos really isn't a handicap, because the illustrations chosen provide ample reference material for even the most ardent superdetailer. In fact, using servicing manual diagrams in many cases actually reveals details that are usually hidden in conventional walkarounds.
The section breaks down its coverage into the following categories, most of which are further subdivided to provide modellers with the most exhaustive pictorial guide to the Ta 154 that I've seen:
Engines, Cowlings & Propellers
Fuel & Coolant Systems
Suffice to say, the photos and illustrations in the Technical Description, together with their comprehensive captions, are reason enough alone for modellers to buy this book; it's a gold-mine of info for anyone building a kit of the aircraft.
As always, Richard Franks begins the Camouflage & Markings chapter with a caveat concerning the dangers inherent when interpreting vintage black and white photos. Itís possible to draw informed conclusions, though, and the 8-page section reveals quite a surprising number of variations to the schemes worn by the various Ta 154 prototypes and the few production airframes. Richard Caruana provides high quality colour artwork to bring the schemes to life, along with a handy set of 1:72 scale drawings showing the different styles of national markings and servicing stencils applied to the airframe.
When you think of a Big Scale Moskito nowadays, there can really only be one kit that comes to mind - HpH Modelsí gorgeous 1:32 resin model. Steve Evans provides a wonderful build of this extraordinary kit (and this is despite apologising that he couldnít devote more time to it!). It really is an inspiring build that will doubtless start many of us saving our coppers towards buying this dream kit one day.
And there, I suppose, is the one weakness with the model section in this volume; the HpH Models Ta 154 is likely to remain a dream kit for the majority of the readers. So, it would have been really good if space could have been found to include the 1:72 and 1:48 kits which are still easily found. Builds of these would have served as very useful references to refer to for a much wider range of modellers.
And talking of models, the Appendices begin with lists of the various kits of the Ta 154 that have appeared over the years, along with quite a surprising number of detail sets. Rounding everything off is a comprehensive guide to further reading on the aircraft.
ConclusionI really enjoyed Valiant Wings' study of the Focke-Wulf Ta 154. Itís served as a timely reminder that I still have a couple of examples of the Pro-Modeler 1:48 kit stashed away - and, of course, Steve Evansí build has got me wanting to add the HpH Models beauty to my collection. I canít help but think it would also make a perfect subject for Revell-Germany to release an affordable kit of, thoughÖ
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE