Messerschmitt Bf109 E-7 Trop in North Africa
"Black 3" of 2./JG27
by Bjørn Jacobsen
The special marking for JG/27
operating in Africa
The colors used by the Luftwaffe were defined by the Reichsluftfahrt Ministerium (RLM) which established a standard for color shades, their production and application. Each color was given a specific number. Today, there is however no exact color charts of the RLM colors, and therefore the colors differ slightly from the different paint manufacturers. No surprise, there are a never-ending discussion in the model community about the RLM colors.
Luftwaffe Fighter Units
A Geschwader was the largest operating units in Luftwaffe (comparable to US Wing, GB Group and USSR Division). Fully equipped,
a Fighter Geschwader (=Jagdgeschwader=JG) consists of 150-200 aircrafts.
The Geschwader was divided into 3-4 Gruppen (groups). Each Gruppe had normally 30-50 aircrafts.
Each Gruppe consists of 3-4 Staffel (squadrons), each with 9-12 aircrafts.
A Staffel was divided into Schwärme (singular: Schwarm), or flights, each consisting of four to six aircraft.
A fighter Schwarm was divided into two or three Rotten (singular: Rotte) which was a pair of aircraft. The Rotte was the basic fighting unit, consisting of a leader and a wingman
The different groups and squadrons in
a Geschwader could often be deployed in totally different conflict areas.
Squadron nr 4 of Group nr II (2)
of Jagdgeschwader nr 27
(the Group is always designated by roman numerals)
Often the Group is left out and the description will then be: 4./JG27
Type: Single-seat fighter
Power Plant: One Daimler-Benz DB601A 12 cylinder engine, rated at 1.175hp for take-off and 1.020hp at 4.000m (12.000ft)
Armament: Two 20mm MG FF canons in wings and two 7.9mm machine guns in fuselage.
Performance: Maximum speed at sea level 292 mph (470km/t). Maximum at 13.00ft (4.300m) 348mph (560kmt)
Weight: Empty 4.100lb (1.860kg) loaded 5.523lb (2510kg)
Dimensions: Span 32ft 4in (9,85m), length 28ft 4in (8,63m), height 8ft 2in (2,5m)
The Messerschmitt Bf109 formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe throughout the entire duration of WWII. In fact the Bf109 holds the distinction of being the most-produced fighter in history. Nearly 34,000 examples were built up till April 1945. An impressive range of variants was developed during the war, with the E series being the first major redesign of this highly successful aircraft that wrought havoc on Allied and Russian opponents. The features that distinguished the E ("Emil") included a more powerful Daimler-Benz DB 601 engine (1.100Hp) and two 20mm MG FF cannons (one in each wing). The Emils was used in the attack on Poland, in the Battle of France and in the battle of Britain.
The E-7 version saw combat at the end of August 1940, and it distinguished itself as being the first type capable of carrying a 300-liter drop tank, mounted under the fuselage centerline. This basically doubled its range to 1,325km.
Bf109 E-7 Trop
A tropicalized version of the E-7 was developed for use in the Mediterranean Theatre (MTO), and especially in North Africa. This “Trop”-version was capable of operating in desert or extremely dusty conditions and was easily distinguished by its long air filter in front of the supercharger intake. The Tropical Emils became one of the phenomena of the air-war in North Africa. It opponents was mostly Spitfires, Hurricanes and Curtis P-40 Warhawks flown by British, Australians and South African Pilots and the Emils did very well against these very capable aircrafts.
One other important duty for the Bf109 was escorting the Ju87 Stukas attacking the British ground forces.
Almost all German fighters in North Africa were painted in a yellow/brown color, often with patches with dark green patches, imitating the desert colors.
The “Black 3” of 2./JG27
Not all Bf109 in North Africa was painted light brown, one of them was the ”Black 3” of 2./JG27.
She started her career in Luftwaffe as part of 2./I./JG3 in Europe.
JG 3 was one of the Luftwaffe's fighter units that took part in Battle of France and later flew intensively
in Battle of Britain. Late 1940, the Geschwader was re-equipped with the new Bf109F (Friedrich) and transferred back to Germany in preparation for operation Barbarossa.
Some of the “old” JG3 Emils was fitted for tropical operations and transferred to North Africa
The b/w photo (to the right), taken in France in end of 1940 is most probably the “Black 3” aircraft.
It clearly shows the rather unusual “zebra”-stripe camouflage, the yellow cowling and the red “Tatzelwurm”-emblem of 2./JG3 This camo was rather unusual, I have never seen this “Zebra”-camouflage on any other Bf109
In Africa she was delivered to 2./I./JG27 in Ail-el-Gazala in Libya.
Most of the aircrafts was repainted in RLM79 (Sand-Yellow) desert camouflage, but some of the aircrafts kept their European Camouflage. Maybe they just did not bother with the painting, or may be, in this case, the ground crew thought the “Zebra”-stripes was so cool, they let it stay.
Anyway, they kept most of the unique camo and just changed what was “necessary”: Except for the underside, they painted the all-yellow cowling dark green (RLM71) and put the JG27 Africa emblem on both sides. They re-painted the spinner with the Staffel colors (red and white) and they overpainted the old code on the fuselage sides with grey (RLM2) and instead painted a black 3 with a thin red outline. For some reason the yellow rudder was not overpainted.The result was a splinter camouflage of RLM71 (Dark Green) and RLM2 (Grey Green) on the upper sides and RLM 65 (Pale Blue) on the underside.
The fuselage sides were light blue with RLM 71 (Dark Green) stripes.
The rare color photo (to the right) of this aircraft with its ground crew relaxing and playing card. It shows clearly the unusual camouflage for an aircraft operating in the Libyan Desert.
I have not been able to find the pilot in Europe (JG3), but I believe that the "Black 3" was flown by Oberfeldwebel Hermann Förster (JG27) in North Africa. He had total 13 victories but not only in the “Black 3” because she had a total of 6 victories painted on the tail
The Making of the "Black 3"
I have chosen the 1:32 model from Eduard.
I have only good experience with the Eduard ProfiPack kit. The kit itself is molded very nicely and there are nice and crisp panel lines and rivet details on the exterior surfaces and the manual is very instructive. There are also PE-parts, both interior and exterior included in the kit.
As in most kits, it all starts
with the cockpit.
Cockpit detail is excellent and
the plastic and Photo Etch
parts makes a very realistic
The interior is painted in
RLM02 (Light Grey)
The kit comes with a fully
detailed Daimler Benz 601A
engine and I have to decide
early in the build if I want to
install the engine or not.
I am not going to display the
aircraft with the engine
cowlings open, so I decided
against the engine (you can’t
have the engine installed and
the cowlings closed)
The fit of the airframe parts is
very good and it only takes
some light sanding to fix any
cracks and irregularities
All the control surfaces parts
are molded separately so it
can be placed in any position you like, this helps bringing
more “life” to the model.
The different parts of the wings fit great.
After the wings are glued together, it fit nicely in the
airframe. There is only a small gap in the rear against the
fuselage, but a little filler took easily care of it.
The rest of the build is very straight forward. Even the
300-litre drop tank fits without any problems.
The cockpit windows is soaked in Johnsons Future and
let to dry. Then the masks in the kit are applied to the
windows and the front and the back of the windows are
glued in place. The midsection will be placed in an open
position and is therefore not glued in place. It fits so well
that it is just placed in a closed position which makes the
painting more easily. The whole canopy will stay in this
position during the painting process and the masks will
not be removed till the all the painting is finished
The wheel wells and all other “openings” that will not be
painted in the camouflage colors are painted is its
respective color and covered with Silly Putty.
The model is now ready for priming.
I chose the Mig Surface Primer (not because this the best,
but because it was what I had on my workbench)
After the Primer has dried, I used some Alcad Aluminum
and airbrushed the front of the fuselage and wings.
Just in case I needed to wear the paint down (chipping)
so the aluminum airframe comes visible
The model has a yellow under cowling
and rudder. The yellow is always a difficult
color and often needs a white surface to
be properly displayed. I therefore painted
these parts white.
The pre-shading was done by a marker
pen instead of black paint. This is a little
bit due to laziness, but also because it is
easier to follow the panel lines with a pen
han with an airbrush
The yellow paint on the cowling and the
rudder are applied.
After the yellow has dried, I covered the
rudder with masking tape which will stay
on till all camouflage painting is done.
Then I airbrushed the light blue (RLM65)
on the fuselage sides and under the
wings and aircraft belly
Next comes the gray green (RLM02) which
I painted on the parts of upper wings and
on some parts of the fuselage.
The RLM02 and the dark green (RLM71)
are part of the so called splinter camouflage
on the upper surfaces. I use the lighter color
first because it is always easier to cover
a light paint with a darker.
The darker one is the dark green and is
painted by help of masking tape on the
wings and by freehand on the fuselage.
I also tried to make the stripes on the
fuselage sides with the airbrush, and was
only partly satisfied until I discovered I had
made the stripes the wrong way below
the cockpit. Then I was not satisfied at all!
It was only one solution:
Repaint the pale blue and make new
stripes the right way!
I have now finished the camouflage
painting and I therefore removed the masks
on the cockpit windows. I had to admit I
was rather excited to see if the masks
come off without damaging the paint on
the window frames. But everything went
very well. As you can see, the window
midsection can just be removed and later
glued in an open position.
Then it is time for all the painting of bits
and pieces: The white tail band, the back
wheel, the exhaust pipes, the RLM02 color
which was used to cover the old European
code on the fuselage sides, the spinner,
the main wheels and so on and so on.
And at last: The decals, which really bring
life to a model. Before the decals,
I used the Future on the whole model to
prevent silvering. I always use Micro-set
and Micro-Sol before and after the decals
are put in place.
Then come the weathering.
This Bf109 have seen operations both in
Europe and in North Africa, and you can
be sure it sets its marks on the aircraft.
Some degree of wear and tear is therefor
The obvious parts are the exhaust
emissions along the lower part of
the fuselage, the
wear on the wings
after the ground
crew stepping all
over it with their
boots, the dust and
stains caused by
sand and stones,
the spills of oil and
peel-off painting on
some parts of the
front, the powder
burns from the
canons, and so on.
Most of the weathering was done by different washes (much thinned paint) and dry brushing.
The problem with weathering is to know when to stop. It is very easy to put on too much of everything. I just hope I stopped in time.
Then comes the under carriage and main wheels, the midsection of the cockpit and the radio antennae.
And the model is ready the North African operation, I just have to make a ground crew
and a landing place in the desert for her.
I would like to recreate the situation in the 1941-picture of "Black 3" in
the Libyan Desert, where the ground crew are relaxing and playing
card beside the aircraft (see picture to the right)
I need a piece of the Libyan Desert to make this diorama look right and
a piece of hardboard can easily become what I am looking for.
First I used filler, some sand and some pebbles I found in my back yard
and covered the hardboard.
The tricky part was really the painting. I looked at color photos at the
Libyan Desert and particularly the Ail-el-Gazala area and it was amazing
how orange the desert was on almost all the pictures.
It was not all sand, but also a lot of stones on the desert floor, and small
bushes were growing in between the stones.
That means I had to make some bushes as well.
What I used was the old electric wire trick: Cut a bit of a lamp cord,
twin the thin metal wires into “bushes”,
spray the result with a dark color,
then spray the “bushes” with hairspray
and dip them in some green stuff to
make leafs (I use Scenic grass)
Then I drilled small holes in the base and
glued the bushes in place.
With a good will, it looked like
In the 1941 picture, the crew is playing cards beside fuel barrels and ammo boxes. The barrels are obviously not brand new and I need to make them rather worn, but not very rusty, because the desert is a very dry place. By chipping and dry-brushing the last layer of paint, they turn out rather well used and worn.
Then we have to get the ground crew together.
I am trying to make the ground crew as shown in the picture from 1941.
But ground crew in 1:32 who are relaxing and playing cards in the sun is not
easy to come by.
I had to scrap figures together from different kits and partly scrach build them
to fit the picture.
But, in the end I pulled them together and it seems they have a good timeI
alongside the “Black 3”
Hope you like it!
"Black 3" alongside "Yellow 14" belonging to the famous Hans Joachim Marseille, Staffelkapitäin of 3rd Squadron
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September 2014 - June 2016