Cold War Museum, Lithuania. Nuclear Missile Silo Complex. Музей холодной войны в Жемайтии

Entrance to the Cold War Museum

In 2015 I travelled with my good Lithuanian friend Saulius to his native country. During my trip I had the unique opportunity to visit one of the most interesting and unusual places that I have ever encountered, the top secret Plokštinė underground missile base of the Soviet Union which now hosts the Cold War Museum. For someone with a lifelong fascination with Russian and Soviet military affairs, it was simply too good an opportunity to miss!

I hope my photos will convey something of the eerie atmosphere of the place and its thought-provoking effect.

Naturally enough, being a former secret missile base, it is not situated on the crossroads of tourist routes but far from prying human eyes a few kilometres from the main road in the sparsely populated Plokštinė forest near Plateliai lake, Samogitia district.

Each R-12 missile (NATO code-named SS-4 Sandal) based here had a megaton class thermonuclear warhead with the standard charge of 2.3 megatons. It could also be used to fire explosives or chemical weapons.

 The R-12 rocket provided the Soviet Union with the capability to attack targets at medium ranges and constituted the bulk of the Soviet offensive missile threat to Western Europe. The four missiles alone here would probably have had enough destructive power to obliterate the whole British population with enough to spare. Just as well we were oblivious at the time.

Incidentally, it was the deployment of the R-12 missiles in Cuba which caused the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Soviet military style concrete approach to the complex
No, it’s not a UFO!The base from a distance. But the really interesting part is what is under one of those white cupolas!
Concrete dome of one of the four missile silos. It was moved on rails before launch.

History of the base

The site started in the early 1960s with the appearance of military construction workers. Work was conducted secretly, quickly and without the use of heavy equipment but already by 1962 a secret military object appeared at the construction site surrounded by several rows of barbed wire under voltage.

In the late 1970s, the military suddenly disappeared, leaving behind four missile silos and an underground command post. Locals were drawn to the abandoned military base to scavenge for metal and other materials and for thirty years the complex remained neglected until it was taken over by the directorate of the Samogitia or Žemaitija National Park which opened the Cold War Museum.

In the mid-1950s, both Superpowers began developing medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), which over the next thirty years would form the core of the nuclear forces of both adversarial blocs.

The first Soviet missile of this type was the R-5M missile manufactured by the Space Bureau Korolev which entered service in 1956. At the same time, the Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) Design bureau of Yangel was developing the R-12 missile, which came into service a little later, in 1959, but in all respects it was superior to the Korolev missile.

The R-12 became the most numerous ballistic missile in service of the Soviet Union. In total, about 2,300 R-12s of various modifications were produced, and up to 600 missiles simultaneously stood at ready alert.

Initially, it was planned to launch R-12 missiles from ground launchers, but soon the degree of protection of such installations and the long time it took to prepare the missiles for launch were considered unsatisfactory.

Experts saw the solution in the creation of special silo launchers hidden underground. In 1960, the development of a silo launch complex for R-12 missiles, dubbed 8P763 Dvina, began.

The first such complex was a secret facility in the forests of northern Lithuania. On January 31, 1963, the first division of R12-U ballistic missiles took up combat duty here.

The complex consisted of four silo launchers and an underground command post. Each silo had a depth of 30 metres and a diameter of about 5 metres. A steel launch pad and a steel ”glass” with a diameter of 3 metres were installed in it, into which a missile was placed. From above, the silo was covered with a multi-ton concrete dome, which was shifted to the side along rails just before the missile was launched.

The base was built and maintained in complete secrecy which, however, did not prevent the Americans from discovering it in the mid-1960s using satellite photography.

By the end of the 1970s, the stationary launchers of the MRBMs were replaced by the Pioneer RSD-10 mobile complex. Shortly afterwards, in 1978, the base in Plokštinė was closed and abandoned. Over the next decades, looters took whatever they could but the complex of structures remained in fairly good condition which allowed for the opening of the Cold War Museum.

Unfortunately, almost nothing remained of the original equipment of the complex due to the ‘thrifty’ locals. Apparently, the only original exhibit is a twenty-ton electric generator, which it was simply impossible to remove from the underground bunker!

Entrance to the underground complex. The sign in Russian says, ‘Wipe your feet!’, which I thought rather comical for such a doom laden place!
Unfortunately, my photo was blurred so I took this from a Russian website. The first hall of the exposition is devoted to missile technology in general. This is an anti-aircraft missile from the Cuban defence system but has nothing to do with the base.
Listening on audio to the tour guide. Behind me is one of the several mannequins on duty looking rather bored or pensive not sure which!
Peering into an eerily lit silo about 30 metres in depth
Film of missile warhead being lowered into silo.The R-12 is a single-stage rocket with a separable single reentry vehicle.
Model of a silo
Soviet propaganda posters
Types of personal equipment to protect against radiation and biological agents. Early examples of PPE you might say. Sure could do with it now!
Following the same theme, assorted gas masks, some of which were to be used in schools
Planning to concentrate and evacuate the population in event of nuclear war

Film of turning key for missile launch. There is a genuine launch key in the exhibition.
Rather tellingly, the exhibition ends with a film showing effects of a thermo- nuclear blast on a city.
The 20-ton electric generator, the only artefact left by the locals simply because it was literally too heavy to lift! Where is a JCB forklift when you need one!?

The satellite image on show at the Museum on the basis of which the site was discovered by the Americans. The high resolution photo was a great feat for the time.

I suppose the object lesson to take away from this place is that in a nuclear war the whole populations of the warring powers would be hostages.

Apparently, the second such place on the territory of the former USSR is located in Pervomaisk in Ukraine which has not been vandalised and has faithfully retained the equipment and launch sites to a high degree of accuracy.

The INF Treaty which came into effect in 1988 eliminated and banned US and former Soviet Union (FSU) ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.

To be continued…?

Red Arrows at Exeter Airport

Here are a few clips of the Red Arrows at Exeter Airport I took in 2009. Hard to believe now we used to have a fully functioning airport and aircraft both civil and military used to land daily!

The Red Arrows use the airport here as their base when conducting displays during summer tours in the South-West of England at such places as Dawlish, Torquay, Sidmouth, etc

Memories of happier times let’s hope they return one day.

Doing their stuff!
The Arrows at RIAT Fairford when I was there in 2009
Folland Gnat trainer. Small swept-wing aircraft the Red Arrows used before the Hawk. This one was at RNAS Yeovilton.
A Hawk in beautiful black livery also at RNAS Yeovilton
Hawk trainers were a common sight flying from RAF Valley on Anglesey home of No 4 Flying Training School to Exeter Airport.

The Tank Museum. Bovington, Dorset, UK. World’s finest collection of armoured vehicles.

The Tank Story

I simply have to mention the Tank Museum as it is not far from me in Dorset and I have visited it several times. It is a must for anyone interested in military vehicles like myself.

Twice yearly now they have a Tank fest in which they roll out the restored Tiger 131. I went along to the one in 2017 but, very sadly, have lost the footage. This is the next best thing, actually it is better as the chap filming could get a lot closer!

The awesome Tiger
A parade of tanks starting with the Easy Eight Sherman used in the film ‘Fury’ and there is also a Valentine.
Looks rather formidable, doesn’t it?
The sheer width of the tracks is incredible, but they would have had to be that wide to support all that weight. Still, didn’t help them much when they got stuck in the mud in Ukraine as my Father could testify!
The rear of a tank was almost always the most vulnerable part and the Tiger was no exception.
Soviet KV-1 in winter camo
‘For Leningrad. Leningrad women to the front!’
Yours truly. Just to prove I was there!
Brad Pitt on Fury, well ok it’s a dummy!
T-34 85
Aw they named it after me!

Mighty Thunderbolt. Republic P47-D Thunderbolt ‘Razorback’. Tamiya 1:48

Lt. Frank Klibbe’s ‘Little Chief’ P-47D Thunderbolt, one of the most rugged fighters ever built.

This is my tribute to the mighty American P-47 Thunderbolt which was able to escort high-flying B-17 Flying Fortresses into Germany and proved a match for the Luftwaffe’s FW 190s at 15,000 ft. The P-47 looked similar to the FW-190 from a distance which is why they had distinctive nose (and tail) bands to help Allied aircrew identify them.

Manufactured by the Republic aviation company, the Thunderbolt, or ‘Jug’ to its pilots, was the biggest and most heavily armed single-seat fighter of World War 2.

The massive power and weight of the P-47 design was made possible by the famous Pratt and Whitney 18-cylinder radial R-2800 Double Wasp engine.

Trying to capture the massive frame in close-up is not easy! Not as glamorous or graceful looking as the sleek P-51 Mustang, the portly Thunderbolt was still one of the greatest fighters the United States ever produced and was used by some of their top aces such as Francis ‘Gabby’ Gabreski, the son of Polish immigrants to the USA.

This was a straightforward build out of the box and I don’t have any progress photos for this one. The only tricky part was the Indian Chief’s head with the white band decal. Somehow I managed to ruin it while trying to snuggle it around the cowling and nearly gave myself a heart attack in the process! A quick order to Hannants, my go to online model shop, for an aftermarket replacement set retrieved the situation and I managed second time round which settled the heart flutters.

Decals can be the downfall of a model and I nearly proved the point this time!

There are lots of exotic and colourful marking schemes for American World War 2 fighters which is one of the great joys of modelling them. The nose art was quite often of a young lady in various states of undress which can be an added bonus depending on your inclinations!

Primary armament was the eight .50 calibre machine guns, four of which you can just see protruding out of the port wing.

Along with Spitfires and Lockheed P-38 Lightnings the P-47 initially formed the backbone of the USAAF Eighth Air Force’s escort fighter force, the ‘little friends’ as the American bomber crews called them, but on the longest missions these had to had to turn back practically at the German border, roughly between Cologne and Emden. The P-47 was a thirsty bird and its high rate of fuel consumption meant that early versions were restricted in range.

By late 1943, equipped with drop tanks, the P-47 was able to accompany the B-17s and B-24s to Berlin and back.

The belly of the beast! Showing rockets and drop tank. The drop tank or auxiliary fuel container was a simple American invention which greatly extended fighter-escort range and enabled American and British heavy bombers to fly into the heart of the Third Reich while protected by accompanying fighters using the device.

P-47s also undertook independent fighter sweeps and ground attack missions. In the fighter-bomber ground-attack role, the P-47 could carry five-inch rockets or a bomb load of 2,500 pounds.

The P-47 was by far the heaviest fighter plane, fully loaded its gross weight in the later models reached 21,000 pounds! The Douglas C-47 Cargo plane weighed 26,000 pounds.

Another view from the front showing the massive four-blade propeller.
Starboard view. I usually add the pilot figure if one is included with the kit and posed with the canopy open if possible. I think it adds more interest and besides saves having to make fiddly seat belts which are rarely included! Fighter pilots tended to be younger and more aggressive in temperament than bomber pilots.
That’s better! The ‘Jug’ in all her glory.
The ‘Jug’ or ‘Supercharged Milk Bottle’ needed a long run way for take off and landings hence this outdoor shot! Note the 5 ‘kill’ German Balkan crosses by the cockpit.

The P-47D Razorback also served with the RAF and designated ‘Thunderbolt Mark 1’ while the bubble top P-47D-25s which they received were designated ‘Thunderbolt Mark IIs’. These had the upper rear fuselage flattened and a tear drop canopy placed over the cockpit for improved rearward vision, a feature included on all versions of the P-47 produced after the D-25. This revision reduced the maximum speed of the aircraft somewhat but improved the balance of the design as a fighter aircraft.

Box cover of a 1:72 scale bubble top P-47D in my possession which I hope to make one day!

Soviet Tupolev T-B3 heavy bomber 1/72 scale. Советский бомбардировщик ТБ-3

Alas, my green beauty has long since departed to modeller’s heaven. The pen gives an idea of the size of the model in 1:72 scale.

I built this model of the TB-3 many years ago but it is sadly no longer in my possession. It went into the modelling graveyard in the sky, i.e. my loft, and ended up damaged and then passed away forever. All I have left are these photos two of which I took in my backyard. I had to lie on the ground to get the whole thing in focus a feat I wouldn’t dare these days!

Looking like a giant bird of prey ready for lift off!

I think the main reason I let her go is that I was never entirely satisfied with the finished kit wing, which was a nightmare to assemble.

However, I felt it deserved an honourable mention as it is such an interesting and unusual subject and also an important part of aviation history. After all, it was the world’s first cantilever wing four-engine heavy bomber.

It also ties in with my little I-16 fighter as you will see below.

It bristles with machine guns but very disappointingly there are no crew figures which would really have enhanced the model and added interest.
I have enhanced this photo which shows off the corrugated texture of the wing to better effect.

In the early days of my modelling career, I had a tendency to be carried away by size and this aircraft is a good example of it! The fact that the subject was Soviet and the kit manufactured in Ukraine might also just have pulled at the heartstrings a tad! A case of the heart ruling the head as usual.

Nowadays, I have learned that size is not everything and to make sure I have the requisite display space!

They say that when it came to aircraft design, Stalin was always impressed by two things, speed and size, and the TB-3 certainly fit the bill in regard to the latter.

The kit was manufactured by ICM of Ukraine and as I recall was an absolute pig to build!

It came in a rather flimsy box which didn’t help! I think the Ukrainians must have been conserving cardboard at the time.

To tackle this bizarre Tupolev Titan, looks like a boat with wings stuck on, you almost needed a degree in engineering. The carcass of the beast is chock full of bulkheads, spars and formers. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to fit, the plastic was horrendous, parts were warped, location devices missing and the instructions vague and confusing!

The most frustrating part of the build was trying to get the two wing halves to close on top of the internal spars. In the end there must have been a 5 mm gap at least between them which I was only able to overcome using clamps, packets of super-glue and brute strength!

The wing surfaces were heavily corrugated and made for an interesting feature but also made it virtually impossible to sand and file!

And now for some history of this brute.

“The 1930s was a period of rapid development of aviation in the USSR. Air parades, films about hero pilots, the opening of air schools throughout the country, the establishment of new records for altitude, speed and flight range – aviation had become a real cult for the young Land of Soviets. The heavy bomber TB-3 (or as it was also called ANT-6) is a real symbol of that era. Not a single air parade could do without this giant and there are many records on the TB-3 account, this plane landed on drifting ice floes and participated in the war in Spain”. (From MilitaryArms. RU)

Despite its ungainly looks, when Tupolev’s heavy four-engined bomber ANT-6, later designated TB-3, first appeared it was considered the pinnacle of aviation design- very hard to believe now! Many of the technical solutions employed during its construction would determine the development of heavy aviation for decades to come.

The prototype ANT-6 made its first test flight in December 1930.

The total number of TB-3s manufactured was 818 with a number of modifications taking place during the mass production period.

Its overload version could carry up to 5 tons of bombs with the flight range exceeding 3,000 km. The defensive armament of the first models was 5 DA machine guns mounted at different points. The crew consisted of from 6 to 11 men depending on the version.

Note the really weird looking bicycle-like undercarriage! The engines and propellers also don’t look powerful enough for the size of the air frame.
As you can see from this photo, the crew were left completely exposed to the elements in their open cockpits which was quite natural for the time. Still, it must have got rather cold travelling at 100 mph at 15,000 ft! Apparently the crews would smear animal fat over their exposed flesh. Lovely! I am sure vodka would have helped, too.

The TB-3 became the basis of the Soviet bomber fleet during the 1930s with two powerful aviation groups organised around it based in the European part of the USSR and the other in the Far East. In the largest military exercises in the Kiev and Belorussian Military districts, the TB-3s were used in the roles of bombers and transports.

I found the following on a Russian website which I simply had to quote:

“The TB-3 took part for the first time in military operations in the summer and autumn of 1937. They acted against the “internal enemy” – the Basmachi in the Pamirs. To support the operations of border guards and units of the Red Army, 30 R-5 and three TB-3 were then involved. The latter transported people and goods to hard-to-reach areas”. (

Now I never knew that! Sorry but obscure facts like that really grab me. The militant Bashmachi movement was a protracted uprising by Muslim peoples against Russian and Soviet rule in the 1920s and 1930s in Central Asia. You can stop groaning now (or yawning).

It could even drop off paratroopers who would literally slide off the wing. Rather them than me!

Could carry light tanks such as the amphibious T-38. The nose of the aircraft under the machine-gun turret was glazed. Looks like a patio window but it must have been rather a nice view!

By 1939, the TB-3 was obsolete but it saw action in the Winter War against the Finns and a few took part in fighting against the Japanese at Lake Khasan and Khalkin Gol. It was used extensively during the Great Patriotic War for transporting troops and frequently as a night bomber due to its vulnerability, i.e slow speed and weak defences.

Talk about versatile! The TB-3 acting as the mother ship to an I-16, like something you would expect out of an early science fiction novel or film!

Believe it or not, the bomber could also act as a kind of aircraft carrier or mother ship for between two and five fighters. This was the so-called Zveno (‘Chain’) or parasite plane project developed in the USSR in the 1930s. In the definitive SPB version, under the wings of the bomber, two I-16 fighters could be fixed.

 In 1941, two TB-3 carrier fighters made several raids on the Romanian oil fields at Ploesti. They not only destroyed the oil pipeline, but also hit a strategically important bridge.

 I believe this particular kit is no longer in production although you can still find it on e-bay and specialist model sites at ridiculous prices. It would be really lovely for another manufacturer to take up the challenge again of releasing a model of the TB-3. I really can’t see Airfix accepting but perhaps Zvezda of Russia!? You never know, I might then be persuaded to have another go but only if there are no wing spars!

WARNING! The following long footage is ONLY for dedicated Soviet aircraft fanatics. But the background music is nice.

Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero Fighter. Tamiya 1 32 scale.

The kit even comes with a Japanese inscription on a metallic plaque seen here in the foreground. This aircraft was part of 653rd Fighter Group (Ohita Prefecture 1944)

Another outstanding model by Tamiya. The second one I have made of their 1/32 range. I would suggest anyone contemplating making one of their 1/32 scale models should have quite a few kits under their belt first and also a good quality airbrush to do them justice. They are not particularly difficult kits to make you just need to take your time, read the instructions very carefully and make sure you follow the assembly sequence. These kits aren’t meant to be rushed! And you really don’t want to b*lls them up as they are very expensive!

The magnificent box top. Inside it is crammed full of goodies including canopy masks. Everything is beautifully packaged and there is even a folding carton for storing or transporting the model. In my opinion, these kits are like the Rolls-Royce of the model world they just exude luxury!
The beautiful cowling. Tried not to overdo the weathering. I just added a few scratches and some exhaust staining. Just visible on the wing above the u/c is a tiny indicator rod made from photo-etch. This device provided the pilot with a visible sign whether the u/c was raised or lowered. Amazing detail!

The legendary Zero is surely one of the most beautiful aircraft of all time. It just looks right from every angle and as the old engineering adage goes, if something looks right, it generally is right!

But the Reisen ( Zero fighter) was to the Japanese more than just a superbly designed aircraft. Like the Spitfire it was a symbol of the Japanese nation and their invincibility in the Pacific war at least in the early stages of the conflict.

The new Zero design incorporated this teardrop-shaped canopy which gave excellent all-around vision. The standing pilot came with the kit and was a nice bonus!

With the instruction booklet come these b/w photos for reference while making the model.
The drop tank which gave the Zero great range. Missions of 1,400 miles were commonplace a feat unheard of by aircraft of other nations at the time. Note the metallic blue of the wheel bays a distinctive feature of Japanese aircraft.
The sleek lines of the Zero. This aircraft was designed to attack and in that role it was akin to the German Me-109. All the emphasis was on performance and speed at the expense of protection devices like self-sealing fuel tanks and armour plate. This made it extremely vulnerable to the later generation of American fighters such as the Hellcat.

Although the Zero had already been flying in combat in China some eighteen months prior to Pearl Harbour, it came as a complete surprise to the Americans and British who at the time greatly underestimated the Japanese.

It has been said that Japan’s gamble of starting the Pacific war was based on the premise that the Zero could defeat any fighter the Allies put against them and thus gain air superiority as the prelude to victory.

Jiro Horikoshi. Mitsubishi’s chief design engineer and the genius behind the Zero.

Jiro Horikoshi’s brief for the new carrier-based aircraft was not only to to improve on existing designs but to incorporate all the qualities of a fighter aircraft in one design:

  1. speed
  2. range
  3. climbing power
  4. weaponry
  5. manoeuvrability
  6. endurance

A pretty tall order!

To possess all these qualities would make it simply the best fighter in the world.

In order to achieve this near impossible task it was decided the frame had to be super lightweight and aerodynamic with a powerful 1,000 hp engine.

At Pearl Harbor, Zeros provided air cover and escorted the bombers and strafed airfields.

The Zero dominated the skies in the Philippines, the Indian Ocean and elsewhere.

From early 1940, when the Zero entered service, until late 1942, the Zero enjoyed undisputed mastery of the air.

The Zero was constantly improved and modified during the war and about the same time as the debut of the Model 22, the Americans deployed their latest high speed, heavily armed fighters, the P-38 Lightning and F4U Corsair. But the best known rival of the Zero was the aircraft specially designed to destroy it, the F6F Grumman Hellcat.

The Hellcat came about after a Zero was captured intact after it landed in the Aleutian islands and the Americans were able to learn all its design secrets and improve upon them.

The model 52 was designed to cope with the new American fighters but due to lack of raw materials and production facilities in wartime Japan, modifications concentrated on the aerodynamics.

The folding wing tips were removed and given a more rounded shape.

The Zero Model 52 made its maiden flight in August 1943.

The career of the Zero spanned five years from its debut in China in 1940, fighting over the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal in autumn 1943, the Mariana Islands, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and finally the Japanese homeland.

Towards the end of the war, the Japanese were severely hampered by lack of fuel and trained pilots and in combat against the technically superior American fighters the Zeros suffered considerable losses.

The beautiful sakae 21 engine. One could add extras like ignition harnesses but with all the details hidden, I am not sure it is worth all the extra effort.
A miniature screwdriver is provided for the tiny screws which help support the undercarriage.
Somewhere in the tropics. Actually my backyard!
The busy cockpit
Useful but rare reference

Soviet I-16 fighter. Academy 1/48. Советский истребитель И-16.

The little I-16 on a grassy field somewhere in Western Ukraine in 1941, at least I like to think so!

The short, stubby I-16 occupies a special place in my affections as my Father recalls seeing them at the start of the German invasion of the USSR in June 22, 1941. He said they were referred to simply as ‘istrebitelyi‘, from the Russian word ‘istrebitel‘, which means ‘fighter’. The Soviet pilots nickname of “Ishak” or “Ishachok” (“Donkey” or “Little Donkey”) apparently derived from the designation I-16 which in Russian sounds like ‘ee‘ and ‘shestnadtsat‘ (’16’).

This is what my Father said about these planes in 1941 in his memoir (p.86 3rd ed.):

“Before the war, the Soviets had masses of aircraft and we used to watch the Soviet Istrebiteli or ‘fighters’, as we simply called them in Russian, flying in huge formations of thirty or forty planes. But these stubby little fighters with their open cockpits looked completely obsolete in comparison to the sleek German Messerschmitts and now the Red Air Force had disappeared from the skies, most of its planes having been annihilated on the ground.”

I am not exactly sure but I think this is the Academy kit of the I-16 type 24. It is a very simple, straightforward build out of the box.

It is a shame a lot of the engine detail is not very visible through the shutter openings on the cowl face.

First flown in 1933, the legendary I-16 was one of the first mass produced monoplanes with retractable undercarriage in the world.

Along with the phenomenally successful I-15, it helped secure Polikarpov a place of lasting fame in the annals of Soviet aviation history. It possessed high speed, great agility, high survivability and was easy to maintain at airfields, very often nothing more than a grassy strip on the steppes. It was in mass production from 1934 to 1941 and overall 9,450 I-16s had been built, a colossal number for that era.

The I-16 saw its combat debut in the Spanish Civil war where it was called the Rata (‘Rat’) by the Nationalists and Germans or more affectionately as Mosca (‘Fly’) by the Republicans. It took part in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol against the Japanese (who nicknamed it ‘abu’ or ‘gadfly’), the Winter War and in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Air regiments armed with I-16s also took part in the campaigns of the RKKA or ‘The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (РККА– Рабоче-крестьянская Красная армия) into western Ukraine and western Belarus in September, 1939.

In 1941, perhaps 60% of the Soviet fighter inventory consisted of of I-16s of various types. By the time of the the German invasion, the I-16 was obsolete and even with the maximum speed of 326 mph of the best types it was still 50 mph slower than a Bf 109E and only as fast as a Ju 88 bomber.

However, one I-16 did manage to carry out the first aerial ramming of an enemy plane!

Most of the Red Air force was destroyed on the ground in the first days of the invasion. Paradoxically, the destruction of so many I-16s and other obsolete types paved the way for the Soviets to introduce more advanced aircraft although the I-16 was still produced as a stop-gap fighter.

The I-16 had four 7.62mm machine guns (two synchronized in fuselage and two unsynchronized in wings)
The I-16 had a relatively short landing and take-off distance, which is as well or it would fly off the end of my modelling case!
Under its wings six rocket projectiles, type RS-82. These rocket weapons were successfully employed for the first time against the Japanese at the Battle of Khalkin Gol in Mongolia in 1939.
From the book ‘Encyclopedia of 20th Century Air Warfare ed. Chris Bishop. The caption reads: During a break between sorties, Soviet pilots have a nerve-steadying cigarette and play dominoes. The Polikarpov I-16 is on an airfield in the region of the Khalkhin Gol river in Barga province in July, 1941’.
Also from above book referring to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol or Nomonhan incident

German Tank Destroyer Marder III M “Normandy Front”. Tamiya 1/35 scale.

Somewhere in the Normandy bocage summer 1944
Those leaves could be a nuisance!
Hiding in the hedgerows from Allied aircraft

This is another great kit from Tamiya and includes 5 figures, although one of whom, the driver in the front, is just half a torso! I like these self-propelled guns because you get all the interior detail as well so you get more bangs for your bucks!

The magical Tamiya box art. Marder means ‘Marten’.

The Germans employed a huge variety of assault and anti-tank destroyers during the Second World War and they were not averse to sourcing foreign made hardware. In this case, the Marder III was a tank destroyer based on the Czechoslovak Panzer 38 (t) chassis with an open top fighting compartment and employing a converted Soviet 7.62 cm Pak 36(r). The reliance on captured guns was considered unsatisfactory and s the Marder III H appeared which used the domestically produced 7.5 cm Pak 4.

At last a dedicated self-propelled gun (SPG) was deemed necessary and produced by BMM and Alkett. This was named the Marder III M. This had a very different layout to the previous Marders. The engine in the middle allowed for more space in the rear fighting compartment which had 10 mm thickness armour plate but still left the crew rather exposed.

Marder III Ms were used on both Eastern and Western fronts mainly in a defensive role.

The 7.5 cm gun showing the fine detail.
A nice touch was the inclusion of this photo-etch grille for the rear cylindrical exhaust. It had to be first bent around a sprue to get the shape right and then tied tight using some fine wire also supplied with the kit. Those Japs think of everything! A little bit tricky and if you don’t get it right it’s liable to spring across your carpet!
Fighting compartment not too heavily weathered as I think gunners would have tried to keep their fighting space relatively clean and clutter free.
One of the crew looking a bit ghoulish. I am not the world’s greatest figure painter!
Note the shells and the canvas cover masts. The two pieces sticking up above the rear hatch platform were part of a mechanism to stop the breech when it came back.
I went to town with the ‘branches’ but these vehicles were often heavily disguised (see photo below)
It’s that man again! The French farmer with the rake appeared in my Tiger tank diorama and now he is trying for another cameo role here.
Fresh out of the BMM factory
A good photo of the breech. To the left of the racks for the 75 mm rounds is the radio which is detailed in the kit although I left off the wiring
In a small Russian town summer, 1944. Note how the wheels and tracks are bogged in mud and the canvas cover over the fighting compartment
Camouflaged with branches, Poland, summer 1944

Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 fighter 1/48 scale

The sleek MiG-3 was designed as a high-altitude interceptor. The slogan on the fuselage says ‘For the Party of the Bolsheviks’. This was one of many Soviet types completely unknown in the West in June, 1941.

I cannot recall the manufacturer of this model but hey, it’s a beautiful looking aircraft and that’s all that matters! It’s sleek lines remind me of a thorough bred race horse. I have set it in a typical snow scene as it would have appeared in the spring of 1942. The red and white colours contrast very well.

Mig-3 February 1942.The plane had great speed and could achieve 398 mph (640 km/h) which exceeded that of any fighter in any Western air force at the time and was faster than any Luftwaffe fighter. It was notoriously tricky to fly but it was nevertheless brought into service as its high speed gave it some hope of intercepting the Messerschmitt Bf 109s that were enjoying air superiority over the Eastern Front.
The white winter camouflage shows off the sleek lines well but the MiG-3 suffered from a number of defects above all its poor performance at low altitude where it could not compete with the German Messerschmitt 109s. That is why it was assigned mainly to interior defence of the major cities like Moscow and Leningrad where this did not matter so much.

The typical Russian blue camouflage underneath. Normally the fuselage would have been painted dark green and dark brown.

Although this aircraft was developed by Mikoyan and Gurevich, who were unknown aircraft engineers at the time, it was actually the brain child of N. Polikarpov who for some reason was taken off the project:

” In April 1940, the I-200 high altitude fighter designed by the Mikoyan/Gurevitch EDB made its maiden flight, in which it developed a high speed (up to 650 km/h at 7,000m). In terms of speed at altitudes of over 5,000m the I-200 left all its contemporary rivals far behind.

Series (i.e. mass) production of the new fighter began in January 1941. The first 100 production aircraft made were known as the MiG-1s. A later modification was designated the MiG-3. A total of 3,272 of these fighters were produced until in late December 1942 they were phased out of production because the plants making the AM-35A engines for the MiGs urgently had to switch to the production of the Am-38 engines for the Il-2 attack aircraft (i.e. Stormovik).

The MiG-3 was of little use as a front-line fighter, because at low altitudes it was outperformed by other fighters, and German fighters did not wage air combat at high altitudes. But the MiGs played an important role in the anti-aircraft defence system and, specifically, in defending Moscow against German air raids. Of the many enemy aircraft he shot out of the sky, famous Soviet ace pilot A.I. Pokryshin downed 10 while flying a MiG3.

There is a notion of repair-ability of an aircraft. In this respect the MiG-3 was an outstanding machine, for it remained in service long after production had been discontinued”.

From Russian Aircraft edited by Professor A.G. Bratukhin. Moscow ‘Mashinostroenie’ 1995.

The Mig-3 had several serious drawbacks. The canopy would not open during flight making it impossible for the pilot to bail out in an emergency, the cockpit was poorly ventilated, and worst of all it was difficult to control due to the rear alignment of the plane causing it to go into a tailspin easily from which it was difficult to pull out. This added to the fatigue of the pilot. Paradoxically, the Soviets ended up with far more MiG-3s than pilots who could fly these difficult machines.

Serving in the defence of Moscow under General Voronov’s command, winter-camouflaged MiG-3 fighters parked ready for action. Two of the aircraft in the row retain the dark-green/dark-brown summer camouflage.

The footage on link below has a brief view of the above MiG-3 ‘For the Party of the Bolsheviks’:

German Assault Tank IV Brummbär Late Production. Tamiya 1/35

216th Assault Tank Battalion, Eastern Front. Late 1944-early 1945
Kit packaging

Another superlative kit from Tamiya. An infantry support tank based on the Panzer Mk. IV chassis with 15 cm gun, the Brummbärs (‘growling bear’) were assigned to their own dedicated assault tank battalions and used at Kursk, Anzio and Normandy. They were also used to help crush the Warsaw Uprising in the summer of 1944. Brummbär was the name given by Allied intelligence and not by the Germans themselves. Soviet documents of the time refer to it as ‘The Bear’ while German soldiers simply nicknamed it the ‘StuPa’, a contraction of ‘Sturmpanzer’ the official designation of the assault tank.

The movable gun has slight traverse linked with a sight on top of fighting compartment (just visible), plus elevation and depression.
One of the side Schürzen or side protective skirts has been removed to show the running gear detail. The Zimmerit came as a dedicated coating sticker sheet acquired separately.
Lying in wait for its prey
The DIY damaged wall was a bit of a rush job! These assault guns were designed for close infantry support especially in towns and built up areas. It shows how it might have been used in ambush. The Fuhrer looks on approvingly!
Rear of vehicle showing spare road wheels. Behind the Commander’s hatch is the mount for a machine gun. To the right of the hatch is the movable gun sight. I am glad Tamiya is adding more figures to their latest releases. I think they bring the models to life and add more realism.
Typical of Tamiya’s attention to details is the inclusion of a glossy leaflet which includes some photos of a real restored Brummbär showing the zimmerit coating.