The Petlyakov Pe-2 (nicknamed Peshka – “Pawn”) began life in 1939 as a high altitude fighter project, designated VI-100. It was designed under very unusual circumstances, as the design team which included both Vladimir Petlyakov and A.N. Tupolev had been swept up in one of Stalin’s paranoidal purges, and both were imprisoned as “threats to the state.” However, they managed to begin design work during 1939, producing a high altitude fighter prototype by the end of that year. Later, when the Russians discovered that Germany didn’t have any high altitude bombers, the fighter project was canceled.
In 1940, when the Russians invaded Finland and their much publicized Tupolev SB bombers took a terrific pounding from Finnish fighter pilots, the Soviet High Command realized that they needed a new high speed light bomber. So, in order to save time, Petlyakov resurrected the VI-100 design, removing the superchargers and redesigning the plane as a high speed dive bomber. The result was the Pe-2 prototype, which was immediately accepted for production. After the usual teething troubles, the Pe-2 turned into an effective warplane, and it became the VVS’ standard light bomber for the duration of the war, with over 11,000 being produced.
The airplane had some drawbacks. First, it was, for its day, a “hot” airplane, and Soviet training standards were pretty poor at that time, meaning that it was too much airplane for the average Russian pilot. It apparently had vicious stall characteristics, resulting in pilots making their approaches at too high a speed, which further resulted in bounced landings, gear failure, and loss of control in many cases. Although intended as a dive bomber, this method of attack was not often used since the pilots were too inexperienced for this type of attack, and it was mostly used as a horizontal bomber throughout the war. In addition, the aircraft carried only three crew members including a pilot, a navigator/gunner, and a rear gunner who was responsible for three gun positions – two in the waist and one in a ventral gun position. For the waist guns, he had one gun which he was supposed to stick out whichever side the target was on, and he had his head stuck out in the open in an open cockpit on top of the fuselage while the airplane was going 300 mph. Predictably, many Pe-2’s were lost to enemy fighters. But it was numerically the most important light bomber in the VVS inventory, although later it was replaced by the Tupolev Tu-2.
The plane went through a series of evolutionary changes throughout the war, with improved armament and armor protection, although performance suffered because of the changes and also because there were shortages of skilled labor in the factories. The early Pe-2 Series 1 aircraft had swivel-mounted 7.62mm light machine guns, while later variants had a 12.7mm machine gun in the dorsal position. On the Pe-2 Series 110, a power turret was added. At series 115, the metal rear fuselage and tail unit was replaced with a wooden structure, causing a slight change in the rear fuselage outline. In addition, the side windows in the nose position were deleted. The Series 205 incorporated several minor changes, including a large turret vane replacing two smaller ones on the rear turret, and some minor changes due to an engine upgrade. The Series 359 had individual exhaust stacks and a revised navigator’s access hatch for the rear gunner. No Pe-2’s were exported during the war, although a number of captured examples found their way to Finland, where they were used as reconnaissance planes and bombers against their original manufacturers. In addition, a few were test flown in Luftwaffe markings. Postwar, the type was provided to the air forces of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and China. In addition, a fighter variant, the Pe-3, was produced in small numbers. Several experimental Pe-2’s were also flown, including one with M-82 radial engines.
There is some material available on the Pe-2. I used the Squadron In Action No. 181 on the Pe-2 as my main reference. The later series Profile No. 216 is also helpful, although it doesn’t go into the specific variants like the Squadron publication does. The art on the kit box bottom gives a couple of nice color schemes, but there is no indication as to what version they are or what the documentation might be. I used the snow-camouflaged “Red 16”. Neither aircraft for which decals are provided is illustrated in either publication.
Although several kits of the Pe-2 were issued in Eastern Europe, this is only the third kit to become available in the West. Many years ago, Airfix issued a kit of the Pe-2 Series 205, which had raised panel lines but which also was fairly accurate for its time. Italeri issued a kit in 1995 which was excellent in most respects. Airfix doesn’t date their kit issues, but it had to have been issued about 1970, as my box is a very old series 2. The Hobby Boss issue has some good surface detail, but the kit does have its problems. All three kits are of the Series 205 version. Other kits issued include Bilek (Airfix), Mavi, Modelcraft/Canada, MPM, VES, Zvezda (Italeri), and Zlinek. Some may be reissues of other kits. There is no indication in the kit of which variant this Pe-2 represents, but some research indicates that it is a Series 205.
This kit is not packaged like any other Hobby Boss kit I’ve seen, as it is packed in plastic bags inside a regular box instead of the usual vacuform packaging. The decals are in a sealed envelope with a cover taped on, similar to other HB packaging. The outline seems to be accurate, although it is a “quick assembly” kit with some details lacking. Missing are the radio mast and pitot tube, tailwheel doors, interior for the turret and bombardier’s position, dive brakes, side guns, DF loop, instrument panel, and ventral gun. The canopy is not accurate, with two large windows on the side where three would be appropriate. The bombardier’s windows face against a flat surface, which leaves something to be desired.
Assembly is rapid and easy, although the fuselage seams need some filler. The cockpit seat is located in the center, whereas it should be on the left side. A control stick is included, but a wheel is in the actual airplane – the spares box can take care of that problem. I replaced the rear turret gun with another, as the one in the kit looks almost comical. I also added a ventral machine gun barrel, as none is included in the kit. In fact, the kit almost ignores the ventral position entirely. Check photos and drawings for the actual outline. I found a set of dive brakes from an unknown kit which, when trimmed, look pretty convincing. All Pe-2’s had dive brakes unless they were removed in service, and the kit has none. In addition, the prop and spinner assemblies, while adequate, need considerable trimming to get them smoothed out. The engine nacelles are quite well engineered to slide onto their mounts, although the instructions don’t mention that the front protrusions need to be trimmed off the engine mounts.
Painting and Finishing
Once the main airframe is assembled and the canopies are attached and masked, painting can begin. The interior, landing gear, and wheel wells should be light grey, while the props should be black. I masked off the light blue undersides and then painted the upper portion white. I then dirtied it up a bit with some dark green, dark brown, and some silver paint wear marks.
A coat of Glosscote prepared the surface, and the decals went on without a hitch, although I did trim them right to the color line. At this point, I attached the landing gear, wheels, tailwheel, and propellers. I then added the extra guns, pitot tube, tailwheel and undercarriage doors, DF loop, and radio antenna.
This is a kit for beginners, and as such accomplishes its mission. It has slightly better exterior detail than the Airfix kit, but it is not as good as the Italeri kit. But if you want a quickbuild Pe-2, this can result in a good model. Recommended for inexperienced or impatient modelers.
Thanks to MMD-Squadron and Hobby Boss, and IPMS USA, for the opportunity to review this kit. It was a fun build, especially the research required to identify the specific variant.