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I.A.R. 80-A Special Hobby 1:32 The IAR 80 was a Romanian World War II low-wing, monoplane, all-metal construction fighter aircraft and ground-attack aircraft. When it first flew, in 1939, it was comparable to most contemporary designs like the German Bf 109E, the British Hawker Hurricane, and the Supermarine Spitfire. However, production problems and lack of available armament delayed entry of the IAR 80 into service until 1941. It was forced to remain in front-line use until 1944, when – even if for some aspects outdated – it still could compete under certain conditions with more modern aircraft such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Work began on the IAR.80 prototype in late 1937, originally with an open cockpit and the 870 hp (649 kW) IAR K14-III C32 engine which was a licensed Gnome-Rhône 14K II Mistral Major. The prototype was completed slowly, and first took to the air in April 1939. Test flights of the prototype were impressive; the aircraft could reach 510 km/h at 4,000 m (317 mph at 13,000 ft), service ceiling of 11,000 m (36,000 ft) with the ability to climb to 5,000 m (16,400 ft) in 6 minutes which was respectable at the time, though not up to the contemporary Supermarine Spitfire or Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters. In comparison the P.24E was almost 450 kg lighter, yet over 80 km/h slower even though it used the same engine. The IAR.80 also proved to be a delight to fly and highly manoeuvrable. A number of minor problems turned up during the prototype phase, and were dealt with over the next year. To improve power the design was updated to mount the newer 930 hp (690 kW) C36 version of the K14-III. However this engine was slightly heavier than the C32, which required the fuselage to be stretched to move the center of gravity back into the proper position in relation to the wing. The extra space in the fuselage was put to good use by increasing the size of the fuel tanks to 455 l (100 imp gallons). The wing was also enlarged and the tail was revised to eliminate the bracing struts. Since the space was inserted behind the engine, the cockpit ended up further back on the aircraft. A side effect of this extreme rearward position was that the pilot had even worse forward visibility while taxiing than most other tail-draggers. To address this somewhat, the pilot's seat was raised slightly and a bubble-style canopy was added. The updated prototype was tested competitively against the Heinkel He 112, which had just arrived in Romania as the start of a potentially large order. Although the He 112 was somewhat more modern and much more heavily armed with two machine guns and two 20 mm cannon, the IAR.80 with its considerably more powerful engine completely outclassed it in all other respects. The ARR was impressed and ordered 100 of the new fighters on 18 December 1939. Orders for additional He 112s beyond the original 30 were cancelled. Production of the IAR.80 was to start immediately, although the armament proved to be a serious problem. The prototype had mounted only two Belgian-made Fabrique Nationale 7.92 mm machine guns, a licensed modification of the Browning 30 cal. This armament suite was clearly not heavy enough for combat use, and the production model was supposed to mount six of these guns. The German invasion of Belgium and the Low Countries in 1940 ended the supply of the FN guns, and there was no indigenous machine gun that was suitable for use in aircraft. Lacking armament, production was put on hold. It wasn't until November 1940 when Romania joined the Axis that the Germans eventually allowed the delivery of the guns to resume. As a result the first production IAR.80 didn't roll off the line until January 1941, although the first batch of 20 had been quickly delivered by the middle of February. The new armament supply still wasn't enough to fully equip the aircraft, so the production models only carried four guns. The production models also included new oxygen gear. The initial batch of fighters was well received by the Romanian pilots, but they considered the aircraft underpowered and lacking firepower. In order to address the power issue the aircraft mounted the 960 hp (716 kW) K14-IV C32 engine in the 21st through 50th examples, but there was little they could do about the firepower issue at the time. The Model The kit comes in a very attractive top opening box with an fine painting of an IAR 80-A in the foreground and its victim, a damaged Yak 3 diving away. Once you get the lid off, you are confronted with a single poly bag filled with six sprues of medium grey styrene, plus separate bags containing the clear styrene sprue, resin parts, etch sheet and decals. On inspection the styrene is very nicely moulded with finely moulded panels lines and details such as the rivets and “screw heads”. There doesn’t appear to be any blemishes or sink marks on any of the parts, but still has the feeling of a limited run kit, in that there are no attachment points on any of the parts, so careful fitting will be the order of the day before hitting the glue. The instruction booklet is very nicely printed in an A4 portrait format, which just feels quality. There is a very handy parts/sprue layout on the first two pages followed by five pages for the build. These could be a little clearer as it would be easy to confuse the colour call outs with the parts numbers. Take your time in reading the instructions before building to become acquainted with what’s what. The build naturally begins with the cockpit, which is quite complex and care will need to be taken with the rather fragile looking centre instrument panel support struts which are attached to the forward bulkhead. There is no floor in these aircraft just a pair of foot plates, which along with the seat, forward bulkhead and shoulder height deck that holds the structure together. Details, such as the two piece joystick, four piece rudder bar, (including etched foot straps), lower instrument panel. Main instrument panels, trim wheel and various other controls make up into a very busy looking cockpit. The seat itself is made up of nine parts and is finished off with a set of etched lap and shoulder straps. The five piece gunsight, with two glass segments looks superb. With the cockpit completed, the insides of the fuselage halves can be detailed with items such as the fire extinguisher, throttle, complete with control rods, and gear retraction lever and painted up accordingly. The cockpit is then attached to one half along with the engine mounting disc, before the fuselage can be closed up. Moving on to the wings, which are provided as a single piece lower and two upper sections. These are joined together and fitted with the machine gun barrels, pitot probe, intake grilles and navigation lights, (for which a 0.8mm hole will need to be drilled into the wingtips before fitting). The flaps and ailerons each consist of upper and lower halves and can be positioned as per the modeller’s wishes. There are two types of flap hinges provided, one set for raised flaps and another set for lowered. The ailerons are fitted with both hinges and mass balances. The completed wing can now be attached to the fuselage. The tailplanes are assembled in much the same way with upper and lower halves for each and with separate rudder and elevators all attached to the rear fuselage. Before moving on, the beautifully detailed gunsight is assembled and fitted to the forward bulkhead of the cockpit before the windscreen and canopy are fitted. The aerial mast is slid through the hole in the windscreen framing and there are clear diagrams to ensure the modeller achieves the correct angle, so be aware. The engine is a model in itself and going by the instructions will be a complex build in which care and patience will be required in spades. Especially as although the instructions are pretty clear, the number of red lines showing different parts positions does make it a mite confusing. The front and rear banks of cylinders come in two halves, which when assembled are joined together, followed by the crankcase and flange ring. The valve rods come in individual or paired parts, which is why the modeller will need to take care on what goes where. To the rear of the engine the intake manifold is assembled from individual pipes attached to the manifold ring before being fitted. For the exhausts the two main parts are in very nicely rendered resin, onto which the individual exhaust manifolds are attached before fitting to the engine. The completed engine is now attached to the mounting ring on the fuselage and encased in the three part cowling, which is then detailed with etched cowl flaps. It’s a shame that such a beautifully detailed engine is all covered up, so I’d imagine some modellers opening up the access panels in the cowl to show it all off. Turning the model over there are quite a few details to add, these include the two piece car intake, the five piece centreline bomb rack and the tail skid. The undercarriage is each made up of single piece main legs/oleos which includes one half of the wheel axle yoke, two piece wheels/tyres and the other half of the axle yoke. Each of the undercarriage bay doors are detailed with individual flange pieces and strengtheners before being fitted to either the undercarriage leg or the wing. The actuator jack and scissor links are then attached to their respective positions. Again, separate clear diagrams show the angles required for the undercarriage legs and doors. The final part to the build is the assembly of the propeller, which is assembled from three separate blades, the back plate and the spinner, then attached to the model, not forgetting the addition of the aerial wire once painting has been completed. Decals The single decals, designed by Radu Brinzan are really well printed, by AVIPRINT of The Czech Republic. Register and opacity are good and there appears to be very little in the way of carrier film. The coloured markings are bright and vivid. The markings are for four aircraft, all in variations of the standard Olive green, over light blue grey and yellow fuselage and cowling bands. The aircraft depicted are:- I.A.R.80-A “Anghel”, Escadrilla 47 Vanatoare, Grupil 9, Aerodrome de Pipera, Bucarest, Agust 1942. I.A.R.80-A Escadrilla 53 Vanatoare, Mamaia, July 1942 I.A.R.80-A “Felicia”, Escadrilla 47 Vanatoare, Grupil 9, Pipera, Bucarest, Summer 1942. I.A.R.80-A “Mamy” Escadrilla 47 Vanatoare, Grupil 9, Pipera, Bucarest, Summer 1942. Conclusion This aircraft, in my view, falls into the familiar but still unusual camps. I certainly knew of the aircraft, but didn’t know much about the genesis of the design and it’s quite successful use in the hands of the Romanian pilots. The kit itself is very nicely produced, and even in its short run format it should build into an interesting and colourful model. The detail is certainly there, yet I’m sure there are those who could do wonders with some additional scratch building. All in all a very nice kit and recommend it highly, with the caveat that you will need to take care in the areas mentioned above. Review sample courtesy of