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In-Box Review
Bf-109 E3
Messerschmitt BF-109 E3
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by: Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]

Originally published on:


The Bf-109 needs no introduction. One of the most famous fighters ever, it flew combat operations from the first day of the Second World War to the last. The -E3 introduced the 20mm MG FF cannon, with one fitted in each wing and a few were also equipped with one firing through the propeller hub.

First Impressions

Moulded in Tamiya's signature medium grey hard smooth plastic, this is another gem. It needs no putty and the mouldings are first rate. There is absolutely no flash, and the panel lines are nicely engraved without either disappearing or being too obtrusive. It's a simple kit, having only 2 sprues of parts and a single small clear sprue for the canopy and gun sight. The kit has been well engineered to keep ejector pin marks out of sight although there are a couple of fairly large ones in the cockpit that may be visible. They should be easy to sand away. The plastic parts are the same for the E3 and E4, so the tropical filter and drop tank will find their way into the spares box.


The fuselage is two halves from nose to tail. There is a rudimentary representation of the DB.601Aa engine, but it's really meant as a mount for the cowling machine guns and the exhausts. It's not nearly detailed enough for the cowling to be left off. The cockpit is fairly well detailed right out of the box. The only thing really necessary to dress it up is a set of seatbelts. The instrument panel has nice raised details, and decal instrument faces are offered. One of the characteristic trim wheels is moulded as part of the fuselage side while the other is a separate part. The Bf-109 had a fairly small cockpit, which means that Tamiya could mould a lot of detail to the insides of the fuselage halves while still making the cockpit look busy. 3 different propeller hubs are offered, although the majority of E3s used the hub with the cannon opening. The propeller is fitted with a poly cap which will enable it to be pressed into place on the propeller shaft without glue. The canopy is in 3 parts, allowing it to be posed open. There is an optional armour glass pane although none of the kit's 3 marking options are depicted as being equipped with it.


The wings are in 3 pieces; one lower wing half from wingtip to wingtip with one piece for upper right and left halves. The flaps are separate, and designed to be installed in the lowered position. There is an option for raised flaps if the mounting pegs are shaved off. The leading edge slats are designed to be mounted in the open position. Tamiya instruct you to cut off the mounting tabs and mount them closed if the flaps are raised. This is incorrect. The Bf-109's slats were spring loaded and always open on the ground. The underwing radiators have separate faces and housings. They will benefit from some careful painting. The pitot tube and aileron mass balances should be left off until last minute so they aren't knocked off during handling.


The tailplanes are one piece mouldings with separate support struts. Parked Bf-109s were often seen with their elevators in the neutral position, so they do not need to be cut free and lowered although this would give your model a little animation. The tailplane mountng tabs will not allow you to put them on upside down, which is a real bonus for the modeller in a rush. The rudder is a separate part, although it is designed to be mounted in the neutral position only. It would take a little work to offset it.

Landing gear

The landing gear struts and wheels are finely moulded and nicely detailed. The struts are one piece with their mounting pins pre-set to give the characteristic Messerschmitt stance. The wheels have separate outer hub faces which will make painting a little easier.


I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like a Bf-109

Decals and Markings

After the outbreak of the war, the standard Luftwaffe fighter camouflage of RLM70/71/65 was found to be too dark for operations in Western Europe so the blue was carried up the fuselage sides and the dark green replaced by RLM 02 grey. The decal sheet provides markings for 3 different E3s in this scheme. The box top option is the E3 flown by Major Adolf Galland while he was Gruppen Kommandeur of III JG.26 during August 1940. The second option is for white 3 of II JG.27 while stationed in Norway during October 1940 and the third is a heavily mottled aircraft of II JG.54 while stationed in France during the Autumn of 1940. The decals are the usual Tamiya thickness. Some people have difficulty with these, but I find they respond well to Solvaset and they're hardly likely to tear or roll up while being positioned. The printing is nicely crisp and in perfect register. Tamiya gives you a 1/48 scale camouflage template which will be useful for placing the masking. The splinter camouflage had hard edges so dont allow much overspray. The mottling on the JG.54 aircraft is not clearly specified but it appears to be done in RLM 71 and is very soft edged. The camouflage colours are called out in Tamiya paints, most of which are supposed to be mixed. Given the available range of pre-mixed RLM paints, I doubt that most modellers will bother with mixing. Aftermarket schemes abound for those who want to do something a little different from the kit options.


There are shedloads of aftermarket options available for BF-109s. The only ones I would really recommend for this kit are Ultracast's wonderful wheels, seat, exhausts and propeller. The kit parts are very nice, but Ultracast replacements are a leap beyond nice. They'll really add to this wonderful kit. For those modellers who delight in etched brass, Eduard offers 4 different sets to dress up the exterior and cockpit.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Very nice mouldings and sufficient detail to be a winner right out of the box
Lows: Decals are too thick for some modellers. Needs seatbelts.
Verdict: This will be a relaxing and drama-free build. If you only have room for one BF-109, make it this one.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: 1/48 scale aircraft series No. 50
  Suggested Retail: C$34.99
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 19, 2012

About Is a secret (Jessie_C)

Copyright 2021 text by Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


Hello, You mentioned that the plastic is the same for de E3 than the E4... Well, I thing you are wright, whit the only diference of the clear parts... Is that true...? For me the E4 has a Scuare aluminium canoupy... Some E3 were retrofited whit this, while some erly E4 has the older... Is this correct...? But you have only one type... Thanks Bye
JAN 19, 2012 - 11:20 AM
Yes, the canopy is the only difference between the two kits. This kit has the early canopy with the curved top panes. If you have an aftermarket canopy you could easily convert this kit to an E-4. I haven't got any references which state authoritatively whether the E-4 was ever equipped with the earlier canopy but I doubt it; the change was fairly definitive.
JAN 19, 2012 - 12:13 PM
O.K. Jessie Thanks for the Info... Diego
JAN 20, 2012 - 11:36 AM

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