Hi-Tech


1/48 Scale L.F.G Roland D.II “Haifisch” (“Shark”)


Review by Brad Cancian


Introduction

The single seat Roland D.II fighter was a development of the Roland D.I, which in turn was a development of the highly successful Roland C.II two seater. The aircraft was of unusual design when compared to its contemporary fighters in that it featured a pinched centre section to the fuselage to which the wings attached, thereby negating the need for carbine struts. Like its two seat stable mate, the fuselage was of interesting construction for its time – namely thin formers and stringers wrapped in a skin of plywood/fabric laminate, eliminating the need for internal bracing. The D.II prototype was tested in October 1916 and introduced into front line service in late February 1917. The aircraft were manufactured by the parent company, L.F.G Roland, as well as under contract by Pfalz, who later used the wrapped fabric/ply fuselage on their later more famous designs. The D.II was powered by a 160hp Mercedes DIII engine; later versions were re-designated as the D.IIa and were powered by the Argus 180hp As.III engine. The aircraft looked sleek and was powerful for its day, however it was not easy to fly. All round visibility was good, although the humped fuselage proved a major hindrance to forward view. Pilots reported poor rudder and aileron response, and difficulty in executing quick weaving turns. The D.II also had a nasty tendency to suddenly enter a spin in tight turns. At higher speeds, aerodynamic interference between top and bottom wings had a detrementous effect on flight characteristics. Serious problems with the Argus As.III engine also plagued the aircraft’s service life in its D.IIa form, and the aircraft was generally difficult to maintain due to the restricted and awkward access to engines and guns within the fuselage. All of these effects combined to ensure a short front line service life, the type having all but disappeared from service on the Western front by June 1917, and the Eastern front by October 1917. The type served the remainder of the war in training schools up until the armistice. Post war, at least one example served with the Russian Air Force.

The kit

The Hi-Tech kit of the Roland D.II was released in 2000 and is currently the only injection moulded kit of this aircraft in this scale. The kit is a multi-media kit, with a mix of injection moulded plastic, photoetched metal, white metal and resin parts.

Box art, sprue, decals, etched brass and instructions

There is one injection moulded sprue of hard grey plastic, with some flash and heavy attachment points typical of Hi-Tech injection moulded kits. Trailing edges of the flying surfaces are thick, and the strut location points are vague or non-existent. Resin parts include a nice Mercedes engine as well as the pilot’s seat. White metal parts include two machine guns, some of the engine parts, the exhaust, and the propeller. Thankfully, Hi-Tech have not decided to mould the struts in white metal as on some of their other kits. Unfortunately, the white metal parts are not cleanly moulded (especially apparent on the spindly exhaust part), and the propeller has an annoying pouring stub attachment which will be tedious to clean up. The etched parts are very nice, and include some nicely done radiators and a myriad of other fiddly bits. Decals provide options for one Roland built D.II which served in Jasta 32 on the Western front. Annoyingly, the typical “fat” crosses seen on Roland built machines are not provided – instead the more normal proportioned crosses seen on Pfalz built D.IIs are included. A single sheet of instructions is provided but the sheet is vague, especially on the locations of the smaller parts. There are no rigging instructions provided, so the modeller will have to rely on their references.

 

Construction

Interior – Cockpit and Engine

Construction started with the interior components. The D.II had a large cockpit opening, however the kit details are sparse, consisting only of a floor, instrument panel and seat, so it pays to put some extra details in there. The raised location marks for the cockpit components on the fuselage parts were sanded down, and some areas smoothed out with putty. The first modification pertained to the cockpit floor. The Hi-Tech instructions show the control column stuck onto a flat floor piece, however the Windsock datafile #47 shows the control column protruding through the floor panel, meaning there must have been some form of cutout in the floor. The datafile also showed a much shorter cockpit floor than that provided in the kit. Using this information, I modified the kit part (see Figure 1).

 

Figure 1: Modifications to Kit Cockpit Floor – Dark Area Shows Area Removed from Kit Part

The next step was to build up the cockpit internal structure. The construction of the D.II’s fuselage was interesting in that it consisted of stringers and oval shaped formers, without any internal wire bracing, beneath a skin of laminated plywood and fabric, which gave the fuselage a lot of strength and stiffness. I scratchbuilt the stringers and formers from plastic strip in accordance with the datafile, utilising the kit instrument panel and engine mounting parts as the central components. Figure 2 below shows the modifications.

Figure 2: Modified Interior Structure – Added Components are in White Plastic

 At this stage, the internal structure was painted using my own “red wood” paint mixed from various acrylics. Once this base coat was dry, I brushed on some thinned Burnt Sienna oil paint to impart a wood grain effect, followed by a light “glaze” mixed from acrylic yellow and clear gloss. This was all sealed with a coat of acrylic clear flat to protect the finish.

The pilot’s seat was modified from the kit item by adding cushions from Tamyia putty. Seat belts were added from the kit’s etched fret. The control column structure was scratchbuilt from stretched sprue, and the handgrip was taken from an old Eduard Albatros as the kit etched item was not “3D”. The rudder bar and throttle mechanism are the kit parts. Remaining details were scratchbuilt using stretched sprue and fuse wire. The instruments were made from both clear acetate gauges and decals, with white glue being used to represent the glass. Rigging from the flight controls was made from invisible sewing thread painted black.

Only the rear of the Spandau machine guns can be seen once installed, so all I added to the kit parts were some butt-plates and the cocking handles. I scratch built the ammunition container from scrap plastic. I also scratchbuilt the oil tank and filler pipe which sits under the cockpit floor beneath the instrument panel.

Construction then moved to the engine. Little can be seen of the engine once installed, essentially only the tops of the forward two cylinders protrude out of the fuselage itself, so only some basic improvements were needed. The kit’s resin engine is very nice and was used with a few minor additions, my main reference being “ Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War One”. I added the rocker arm springs on top of each cylinder from fuse wire, as well as some external plumbing from fuse wire and stretched sprue. Figure 3 below shows the unpainted engine and the additions made.

Figure 3: Modified Kit Engine (Anything not Resin or White Metal was Added)

Once all of these internal components were manufactured and painted, it was time to add them all to the internal framework. Careful fitting ensured it all fit into the fuselage halves. Figure 4 overleaf shows the completed interior.

Figure 4: Internal Details

 

Major Construction

 At this point I decided I wanted to build a Pfalz built machine. This choice was driven by decal availability, as I did not have any decals to represent the typically “fat” national markings seen on Roland built machines. The only structural difference between the Pfalz aircraft and the L.F.G aircraft is the absence of the tail skid fairing on most aircraft. Pfalz built machines also differed slightly in the application of the standard factory camouflage scheme (detailed later).

Whilst comparing the kit fuselage halves to the Datafile, I found that they scaled almost perfectly, aside from the rudder, which was too shallow in chord as can be seen in Figure 5 below. Also apparent was that the fixed component of the vertical fin itself was too wide in chord, as can also be seen in Figure 5 below (the forward end of the kit rudder sticks out beyond the leading edge of the fin on the datafile drawing). I cut the rudder from the kit fuselage, and fabricated a new one from sheet plastic sanded to shape, and strip plastic to represent the stringers.

Figure 5: Kit Rudder Shown Against the Datafile (top), and Corrected Scratchbuilt Rudder (lower)

When determining what colour to paint the internals of the fuselage, I referred to Page 33 of the Datafile. This page states when referring to the fuselage colour of one specific Pfalz built aircraft “…the type’s original name of ‘Silverfish’ and the Pfalz company’s predilection for silbergrau finishes…”, suggesting that the silver doped fabric was used on Pfalz built fuselages. I used this as an indication of the internal colour of the Pfalz fuselage, given that the fuselage was a plywood/fabric laminate and assuming that fabric would be used on the outsides of the plywood to protect it from moisture. I thus painted the inside of the fuselage dull silver. I glued in the internal structure and then glued the fuselage halves together. The fuselage pieces fit fairly well after some sanding, however the opening on the nose for the engine was a tricky area as the opening in the fuselage halves did not match and required some filler to smooth this area out. Also, one fuselage half was slightly fatter than the other, leaving a step along the join line, however this was not difficult to clean up. Given the difficulty I have heard of with regards to warped Hi-Tech fuselages, I was fairly happy with this area of the kit.

As I wanted to model a Pfalz built machine without the tail skid fairing, I cut the tail skid fairing off with a sharp blade, and packed the area with scrap plastic thoroughly doused in plastic cement. After letting this try for a few days, I sanded the area flush with the fuselage sides, and drilled a hole for the tail skid.

The fuselage parts for some reason have a rough exterior surface, which needs sanding smooth. This is especially tricky around the opening in the nose for the engine. Many of the panel lines on the fuselage needed filling and relocating as their locations were not correct when compared to the datafile. The circular access panels and control cable run holes on the rear fuselage were located too far forward, and the pilot’s access steps were located too far to the rear. These areas were filled with superglue, sanded smooth and re-scribed in their correct locations. I also scribed some additional panel lines around the landing gear attachment points which were shown on the datafile drawings. The datafile drawings curiously do not show the four access panels for the machine guns, two on each side of the fuselage, located directly under the top wing. These panels are obvious in many of the photographs within the datafile itself! I fabricated these panels from scrap plastic and added them in their correct locations. The cockpit coaming detail was soft on the kit, and as such I fabricated new coaming from Tamyia putty, rolled into a thin “sausage” and looped around the cockpit opening. This proved more difficult than initially anticipated, and it took me many tries and a couple of hours to get something that was half decent (by which time I was too frustrated to try again!).

The lower wings have quite fine rib detail, however like the fuselage the surface is quite rough and needs sanding to smooth this out. The location for the struts is also very vague, and the location points required re-drilling. The lower wings also required some thinning at the trailing edges. The lower wing attachment to the fuselage was quite bad - the chord of the kit lower wings were wider than the chord of the fillets they had to fit onto, and the aerofoil section was not the same between wings and fuselage fillets. Thus much filling, sanding and smoothing was required to get a decent fit. To complicate matters, the rear main landing gear struts had to pass through an opening in the lower wing/wing fillet and attach onto the fuselage. Once this area was done, the wing attachment line was re-scribed.

The upper wing had heavy flash on the sprue, and needed very careful cutting as the trailing edge virtually disappeared into a sea of flash along the whole length of the port wing (I’m guessing some sort of mould mis-match, this may be limited only to my copy of the kit). Like the lower wing, the upper wing needed thinning at its trailing edges, as well as a general sanding to smooth out the rough texture. Annoyingly, there were absolutely no strut location holes on the upper wings, these had to be drilled taking measurements from the datafile (or in my case drilled, filled, and re-drilled a couple of times!). The only modification to this area was to cut the square openings for the aileron pushrod mechanisms, and cutting the ailerons to allow them to be offset. Hinges for the ailerons were made from metal foil.

The kit’s tailplane was used without any modification other than dropping the elevators and again fabricating hinges from metal foil. That said, one elevator had a big sink hole in its surface which required filling, again probably a result of the low pressure injection moulding process. I decided to not even bother with the kit’s white metal propeller as the clean up required was way beyond my level of patience. I used an old Eduard albatross prop, took 5mm of each end and sanded it to shape as per the datafile drawings. The kit’s main landing gear was constructed as per the kit instructions, the only modification being to cut off the locating tabs. Figure 6 shows the general state of the model prior to the addition of the etched grilles to the nose and priming for painting.

Figure 6: The Kit Before Painting (Note the Added Panels and Removed Tail Skid Fairing Seen on Pfalz Built Aircraft

Painting

Like most biplane models, painting has to be undertaken before the wings and undercarriage are attached, and it was no different with this kit. As mentioned earlier, the choice of markings were limited by decal availability, limiting me to building a Pfalz built machine. Most aircraft of the early 1917 period did not exhibit colourful markings or garish personal markings (with some exceptions of course), and many photos in the datafile show very plainly marked factory standard aircraft. I chose to model an aircraft on operational service, specifically an aircraft flown on the Eastern front by an unidentified unit which had an interesting “zigzag” personal marking on the rear fuselage. A colour side profile of this aircraft is given on the back of the datafile, which I used as a basis for painting.

Colour references for the Roland are quite sparse, so I went with what I felt looked right. The main difference between Roland and Pfalz built finishes was that the upper surface camouflage extended below the horizontal stabiliser on the Pfalz built aircraft, but not on the Roland built aircraft. Also, Pfalz built aircraft had the serial number painted on the fuselage which was not the case on Roland built machines. I painted the rear fuselage area white and cut some masks for the zigzag marking from Tamyia tape. I wasn’t too worried about keeping them symmetrical on both sides as the markings were most likely hand painted onto the real aircraft. I then pre-shaded the airframe with black. The underside colour is described in the datafile as a light blue, as such I painted the underside Gunze RLM 65 lichtblau acrylic. For the topside colours, the datafile refers to a red/brown and green camouflage pattern, with a reference to a French wartime colour reference to a captured example of “vert et marron” (green and maroon). As such, I went with Tamyia XF-10 Flat Brown and XF-13 J.A. Green acrylics sprayed on free hand, as many of the datafile pictures show a soft demarcation between colours. The brown has a good degree of red in it, which may possibly be interpreted as a very brown maroon. These colours also seemed to match quite well with the colour profile in the datafile. Struts (once cleaned up) and wheels were also painted in XF-10 and the spinner was sprayed white. The airframe was then given a wash using black Windsor and Newton oils.

Remainder of Construction, Decals and Rigging

Once painting was completed, I pre-drilled all of the holes for rigging using a number 80 drill bit. I then attached the struts to the top wing, and once the glue was almost dry, I glued the top wing to the fuselage and the bottom of the struts to the bottom wing which was easy as there was still some play in the struts. Undercarriage was then attached to the fuselage with no real dramas. Tubes for the aileron controls running from the fuselage to the wings was made from stretched sprue, and the contraption on the centre section of the upper wing was scratchbuilt from scrap plastic and fuse wire.

There are no rigging instructions, so I used the datafile as the rigging reference. The aircraft had minimal rigging (another reason why I chose this kit); the real aircraft did not have external push-pull cables on the elevators and ailerons which made the job a lot easier. The aircraft was rigged using “Ez-line” elastic thread, which bonds quickly to superglue and is very stretchy, thus allowing a lot of flexibility during construction and also allowed for fat fingers hitting the “wires” without causing catastrophic structural failure.

Now onto the decals. Kit decals are very thin and have a lot of carrier film which needs trimming. Kit decals were used for the fuselage and fin crosses without any problems, however the larger cross decals for the upper and lower wings cracked as soon as I tried to move them off the backing. Not having any spares, I cursed and carefully re-assembled the crosses on the model, liberally coating them in Microsol, to which they reacted without any qualms. These decals were then touched up with paint. I borrowed some other minor decals from the spares box. I then coated the airframe in Gunze clear flat, which gave a nice satin sheen to the airframe.

The propeller was painted in the same way as the “wood” interior, and attached onto the airframe. The exhaust part required much clean up and bending before it would fit happily onto the engine. Other minor final details were added, including a gauge from the spares box to the centre section in front of the cockpit. A gun sight from the spares box was also mounted onto a horizontal bar attached to the wing on the starboard side of the cockpit.

Conclusion

Whilst certainly no where near the quality of the recent Eduard and Roden releases, the kit overall is quite nice. Given that this aircraft is unlikely to be released by the major manufacturers in this scale, all the kit needs is some minor detail corrections and additions and careful fitting, which are well within the skills of the average modeler. This is also an excellent first biplane kit (as it was for me for quite some time), as the rigging is not complex and there is no requirement to align carbine struts. After around two months work, I had a nice completed Roland D.II to start off my 1/48 WW1 collection.

References

  • Grosz, P.M, Windsock Datafile 47 LFG Roland D.II, Albatros Productions Ltd.
  • Jane’s All The World’s Fighting Aircraft of World War 1, Studio Editions Ltd.

The Completed Model

 


 

Accessories Reviews Aircraft Kit Reviews Conversion Reviews Decal Reviews Figure Reviews Publications Reviews Vehicle Reviews
This site is owned by David Harvey

All material is Copyright © 2003-2016 and may only be reproduced for personal use.
Please contact the Editor for permission to use any material on this site for any purpose other than private use.

Contact: editor@aussiemodeller.com.au