In 1923 the Communist Party in Italy was declared illegal and the Italian aircraft designer, Roberto Bartini, moved to the Soviet Union. He worked for the aviation detachment of the Red Army for some years but his creative talent saw him in charge of his own design group by 1930. His first design, a single engine monoplane, was successful and his next design, a twin-engined long range commercial transport, called the STAL-7, flew for the first time in 1937. In 1939 serious consideration was given to the possibility of using it in a round-the-world flight and, as a preliminary to this project, the prototype made a flight of 3149 miles in 12 hours and 33 minutes. However, the outbreak of war prevented the planned world spanning flight and the STAL-7 was reconfigured to become a long range bomber designated the DB-240. In the meantime leadership of the design bureau passed to Vladimir Yermolayev, who had worked with Bartini since 1931. (The reason for the change was never made clear but may simply have been Bartini’s birthplace outside Russia.)
The prototype of this long range bomber was flown for the first time in June 1940 and a second prototype followed in September. Production commenced at Voronezh and 128 aircraft, designated Yer-2, had been produced by the time the German invasion forced the evacuation of the factory in July 1941. In early August 1941 a number of Yer-2s took part in several long range raids against Berlin, in the company of Il-4s and Pe-8s, but they had little impact on the course of the war. Due to the desperate condition of Russian defences in the early months of the war most Yer-2s were flown in tactical roles for which they were unsuited, and they did not perform well or survive long.
Despite the failure of the strategic air raids into Germany, Stalin agreed to allow some development of a strategic bombing capability and so Yer-2 development continued. However, the demand for tactical aircraft meant this bomber had almost no priority and so development continued very slowly. The most significant problem was engines as all available engines were needed for fighters and other tactical aircraft.
The desire to increase the Yer-2’s range led to development of a version powered by two diesel engines and this led to other significant changes. They included enlarging the cockpit to accommodate a second pilot, increased wing area, strengthened undercarriage, increased bomb bay capacity and improved defensive armament. The first diesel engined production version of the Yer-2 was rolled out in February but only a few aircraft could be delivered initially because of limited supply of the diesel engines. Between 1944 and 1946 a total of 391 Yer-2s were produced but, due to Russian military philosophy, most were used on short range attacks on targets behind the front line so this bomber was never able to demonstrate its potential.
What a dull world this would be if the only bombers were Lancasters, B-17s and He-111s (and the other dozen or so that kit makers lavish their efforts on). One of the great delights of the current spate of limited run kits that manufacturers make available to us is that the whole wide world of aviation history is being opened up and interesting, innovative and potentially important aircraft like the Yer-2 are available for us to make. But why, Oh Lord, did Amodel have to be the one to make a kit of this bomber?
There are probably worse kit makers around, though I’m struggling to think of one at the moment. It’s not that their kits are impossible to make, they are just well nigh impossible to make well. In small print on the front page of the instruction sheet it says, ‘The model is executed on technology short run and is intended only for experienced modellers’. This should be printed in large, pulsating red print to make sure nobody buys this kit under the impression that it is designed to do anything but drive modellers insane. The kit parts seem to be specially designed so they don’t quite fit and on many occasions any similarity between kit parts and the instruction sheets seem merely coincidental. There are some aspects of this that make you think AModel undertook quite detailed research to get some aspects of the look of the aircraft right, and there are other parts that can only be sheer invention.
Let me dwell on this for a moment. The kit offers parts for a detailed bomb bay with bombs, racks and a fuel tank, or the option of three larger external bombs. It also offers three different defensive armament options. The cockpit is also pretty good with detailed seats, control columns, rudder pedals and an instrument panel, and when you fit it into the fuselage halves, it looks very nice. However, when it comes to adding the cockpit canopy it suddenly becomes apparent that whoever designed the cockpit didn’t know that the canopy is quite tall so only pilots with necks like giraffes could have seen out of the windows from where the kit seats are. Like most modellers making this kit I went to the trouble of putting together the cockpit and painting it nicely to bring out the details. But when I discovered how ridiculous the cockpit looked with the canopy in place the only solution was good ol’ Plan B to hide this mighty gaff. Anyone entering a model made from this kit in a completion deserves a medal if the only thing they do is get the cockpit in the right place. And if there is that problem with the cockpit, how much trust can we put in the accuracy of other parts of the kit.
Apart from that, this is one of the better Amodel kits. I worked at it slowly over the months so that it took the best part of a year from cutting the first parts off the sprue to the final assembly. In that way I didn’t get too annoyed with any individual aspect of the process, and when I came to a part that seemed too difficult to get right I just put the whole thing aside for a few weeks until it didn’t look too bad again.
I decided to use black decals painted the appropriate colour to do the transparencies, masking would have taken forever and driven me mad again. It was fiddly work but, at the end, the model looks quite reasonable and a bit different from your usual bomber.