1:72 Avia C-2B (Ar 96 B-2), '02-ב' of the Israeli Air Force, allocated to 101 Tayeset; Ekron (Canaan region), during the War of Independence, June 1948 (Whif/Heller kit)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Arado Ar 96 was a German single-engine, low-wing monoplane of all-metal construction, produced by Arado Flugzeugwerke. Designed by Walter Blume as the result of a 1936 Reich Air Ministry tender, the prototype first flew in 1938. In 1939, an initial batch of Ar 96A aircraft was produced, and this was followed by the major production series, the more powerful Ar 96B, fitted with the Argus As 410 engine.
The Ar 96 was the Luftwaffe's standard advanced trainer during World War II, being used, among others, for night and instrument-flying training. Shadow production was undertaken by Letov and the Avia factory in occupied Czechoslovakia, where manufacturing continued for some years after the war. These machines were designated the Avia C-2B, but virtually identical to the Ar 96 B.
Some Avia C-2Bs were sold, together with other types of Czech production, in 1948 to Israel, when the Israeli Air Force (IAF; Hebrew: זְרוֹעַ הָאֲוִיר וְהֶחָלָל, Zroa HaAvir VeHahalal, "Air and Space Arm", commonly known as חֵיל הָאֲוִיר, Kheil HaAvir, "Air Corps") was founded, shortly after the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
The Israeli Air Force was initially equipped with commandeered or donated civilian aircraft, but a variety of obsolete and surplus ex-World War II combat-aircraft were quickly sourced by various means to supplement this fleet. The backbone of the IAF was initially procured from Czechoslovakia and consisted of 25 Avia S-199s (essentially Czechoslovak-built Messerschmitt Bf 109s with a Jumo 211 engine instead of the Daimler-Benz DB 605 from wartime production) plus 60 Supermarine Spitfire LF Mk IXEs.
Several other second line duty types like transporters or trainers were purchased, too. Among these aircraft were also ten 2nd hand Avia C-2Bs, primarily for advanced training, but also with light attack/CAs and reconnaissance roles in mind. Consequently, these revamped machines were outfitted with two hardpoints under the outer wings for light loads of up to 50 kg (110 lb) each, and in order to better cope with the local high temperatures, the original two-blade propeller was replaced by a 3-bladed variable pitch metal propeller and the oil cooler was replaced by a more effective alternative with a bigger surface, standing out characteristically from the trainers’ chin.
Israel's new fighter-arm immediately went into action on May 29, 1948, only six days after Israel's declaration of independence and five days after the commencement of hostilities by Egypt, assisting efforts to halt the Egyptian advance from Gaza northwards. Creativity and resourcefulness were the foundations of early Israeli military success in the air, rather than technology (which, at the inception of the IAF, was generally inferior to that used by Israel's adversaries).
Six of the Avia C-2B trainers, based at Ekron together with the S-199 fighters from 101 Tajeset (Israel’s first operational fighter squadron), soon became actively involved in the conflict. They attacked supply routes and strafed enemy positions, initial operations were concentrated between Isdud and the Ad Halom bridge, south of Tel Aviv.
The majority, 15 out of the first 18 pilots in 101 Squadron, were foreign volunteers (both Jewish and non-Jewish), mainly World War II veterans who wanted to collaborate with Israel's struggle for independence, with the rest of the military-grade pilots being Israeli WWII veterans. Furthermore, pilots from Sherut Avir, the air force of the Haganah and the forerunner of the Israeli Air Force, founded in late 1947, were mainly locals who flew roundabout 25 light civilian aircraft for supply and reconnaissance duties, but they also carried out makeshift ground attack missions with hand-thrown light bombs and even hand fired light machine guns.
Since the S-199 proved unreliable and performed poorly in combat, (no more than five were typically airworthy at any one time!), many of the fighters’ duties had to be handled by the Spitfires or other, less-combatant types like the C-2s, which frequently flew CAS missions against Egyptian positions with only light aerial defense. At least one C-2s was modified in the field to carry two RP-3 unguided missiles of British origin with HE warheads and their respective launch rails under the wings – their effectiveness was doubtful, though.
Three Israeli C-2s were lost in action throughout the first weeks of the Palestine War, and two more aircraft were considerably damaged on the ground by Egyptian gun fire. Only a single machine survived long enough to serve until on 18th of July 1948, when the second truce of the conflict went into effect after intense diplomatic efforts by the UN, and four of the ordered C-2 trainers did not make it to Israel in time to be involved in the conflict.
Eventually, more aircraft were procured, including Boeing B-17s, Bristol Beaufighters, de Havilland Mosquitoes and P-51D Mustangs. Not much later, the Israeli Air Force played an important part in Operation Kadesh, Israel's part in the 1956 Suez Crisis, dropping paratroopers at the Mitla Pass. By then the Avia C-2 trainers had been completely replaced by more modern and versatile T-6 Harvard trainers, which themselves remained in active service until 1974.
Length: 9.1 m (29 ft 10 in)
Wingspan: 11 m (36 ft 1 in)
Height: 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in)
Wing area: 17.1 m2 (184 sq ft)
Empty weight: 1,295 kg (2,855 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 1,700 kg (3,748 lb)
1× Argus As 410A-1 inverted V-12 air-cooled piston engine, 347 kW (465 hp)
Maximum speed: 330 km/h (205 mph; 178 kn) at sea level
Cruise speed: 295 km/h (183 mph; 159 kn)
Range: 990 km (615 mi; 535 nmi)
Service ceiling: 7,100 m (23,300 ft)
Rate of climb: 5.083 m/s (1,000.6 ft/min)
1× 7.92 mm (0.312 in) MG 17 machine gun in the fuselage
2x 50 kg (110 lb) underwing racks for bombs or single unguided missiles
The kit and its assembly:
This is my entry to the 2017 “One Week” Group Build at whatifmodelers.com; this model was inspired by a post a couple of weeks ago from fellow forum member The Wooksta concerning the fictional use of the Ar 96 and other ex-German types from Czech production after WWII in Israel. I kept the idea in the back of my mind, and the upcoming GB was a good occasion to take the concept to the (model) hardware stage.
Since the building time frame was limited to just seven days, the vintage Heller kit (from 1977) saw only little modification – the most noteworthy being a new three blade propeller and an enlarged, scratched oil cooler under the engine. I also added a pair of underwing hardpoints (scratched, too) and a pair of 50 kg bombs (probably left over from an Airfix Fw 189) in order to emphasize the machine’s offensive capabilities in Israel service, and its CAS role during the War of Independence.
Inside of the cockpit and in the landing gear wells I added some structures with styrene profiles, and the clear canopy was cut into four pieces for later display.
The kit went together with only minimal problems, I only faced self-induced trouble when the cockpit floor somehow ended up a little deeper than it was supposed to be – the wings and their respective ventral fuselage connection would not fit anymore. My fault, though, and some trimming solved the problem with ease.
For its age, fit and detail is very good (like many other original Heller kits, they are highly underrated, IMHO), the raised surface details are very delicate, too. A small beauty!
Painting and markings:
Since the ex Czech aircraft would just have been delivered and immediately thrown into armed frontline service, I gave it a basic scheme close to Czech post WWII trainer aircraft, plus typical Israeli markings and an additional makeshift desert camouflage.
I found some reference that most Czech Avia C-2s carried NMF, with some parts sometimes painted with RLM 02. Some had black cowlings, too, and some even carried a uniform RLM 02 livery.
Early IAF trainers carried – AFAIK – yellow ID markings, e.g. wing bands or cowlings. I used this as a basis and gave the aircraft basically a uniform RLM 02 (Humbrol 240) upper surface, aluminum undersides (Revell 99) and yellow bands on wings (created with decal material), a yellow fin rudder and cowling flanks (painted). The cowling’s underside and an anti-glare panel up to the cockpit became black.
The interior became RLM 02, too, but I used Revell 45 (Helloliv) which is a slightly more saturated tone, and the color was further tweaked through black ink and some dry-brushing with light grey.
After a light black ink wash and some post-shading the decals with national markings, the tactical code and further ID markings like the red-and-white stripes on the fin (colors associated with 101 Tajaset: the S-199 fighters carried diagonally striped rudders) were added.
Decals were puzzled together from several sources, including David Shields from a High Decal Line MiG-17(!) sheet. The tactical code “B-02” is a guess; AFAIK the early IAF trainers had a “Beth/B-“ prefix to their code, while fighters had a “Daleth/D-“ letter code. This practice was later changed to a four digit numeric code, at least on the trainers.
Anyway, the green/silver livery with yellow markings would have been the original look of the aircraft upon delivery, but I wanted to add a twist and present the aircraft as an improvised light CAS aircraft.
Consequently, the upper surfaces as well as the yellow ID markings there were crudely painted over with sand (Revell 16, and some Humbrol 237), leaving out the markings.
Being a combat aircraft now, I added a relatively thin white-and-blue fuselage band. This marking was originally carried by contemporary S-199s, in order to make them more distinguishable from Egyptian Spitfires. This, as well as the fin stripes, were created with generic decal sheet and stripes (TL Modellbau).
As a final step, some weathering was done through a light sand paper treatment (blending the overpainted sand blotches with the RLM grey underneath, and emphasizing the raised surface details) and light dry brushing with RAF Hemp (Humbrol 168), primarily on leading edges. Exhaust soot was simulated with grinded graphite, but only very lightly. Finally, the kit was sealed with matt acrylic varnish, while the aluminum lower surfaces received a semi-matt finish for a light shine.
A simple build, the painting process was the more challenging and time-consuming part – but it was intended as a 1-week-build, anyway.
The build has also (once more) confirmed my impression that old kits are not necessarily rubbish, and that the only good(?) model kits come from Japan. Even though the Heller Ar 96 moulds date back to 1977 (mine came in the 1979 boxing), it’s a beautiful kit with good fit and surface details – anything you could ask for. Nice lil’ plane, also in fictional markings!