Type: Antonov A-7 Assault Glider
Make: Vac Wings
Notes: A vac form kit, no decals issued.
The A-7 was an assault glider that was for a time obscure to Western observers and historians. It was an important Soviet glider and as such deserves its place in history. The A-7 was announced in December 1940 in a design competition for an assault glider. Also known as the RF-8 in the Red Front series of gliders for the Soviet Air Force, it was designed by Oleg K. Antonov and after it was declared the winner of a design for military transport gliders it became the prototype for the subsequent A-7. The A-7 was to be the first Soviet transport glider to achieve production status. The assembly plant was in Kaunas (before the German occupation) and flying tests were conducted in Moscow in late summer 1941. Production commenced elsewhere and some 400 such gliders were eventually built making it the largest number of any Soviet wartime transport glider.
The A-7 was a remarkable clean design, all-wood construction with partial fabric covering on wing areas and tail-planes. The core of the structure was the fuselage, which was almost of the pod and boom type with an enclosed cockpit and accommodation for a maximum of 9 troops in virtually windowless compartment. There were two pairs of double doors; one was forward on the port side and the other aft on starboard side. The tailskid landing gear included manually operated retractable main units, stowed in wells in the lower fuselage sides.
The standard tug was the Tupolev SB-2, Ilyushin DB3 or the Il-4. The maximum towing speed was a high 300Km/h. The A-7 saw limited service behind German lines in WWII and was used primarily to supply or land partisans or sabotage groups. Itís best known action was the supply flights to the Kalinin front. From March 6th to 20th 1943 some 96 missions were flown to the partisan area-with no losses recorded.
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The A-7 is a vac-form kit molded on a single sheet of white styrene and a small clear part for the canopy. Issued by Vac Wings 72 of Michigan, USA, the kit was supplied under a 1/72-scale label however upon checking the dimensions of wings and overall length these were found to conform to a scale of 1/78 and so is the drawing printed on the kit instructions. The assembly instructions in fact come on a 2 page A4 size that has the 3-view drawing plans, there is detail of the manually operated main undercarriage, instrument panel, a section drawing showing the crew and passenger compartment, an exploded view of the items to make up the kit and also a brief history, color data and easy to follow construction notes. There are no undercarriage legs; neither parts for the antenna mast and rudder balance weight. No decal sheet for the kit is supplied but Scale Master sheet SM-34 is suggested for the red stars Soviet national markings.
The kit contains around 19-vacform parts and one clear part for the cockpit canopy in case one desires to use it, and this has clear frame detail on it. The kit fuselage and wing parts also have fine surface detail. Construction follows the now standard adopted for vacform kits. Each part is first lightly scored around on the single sheet using X-acto blade, which is then snapped from the sheet. Fuselage and wing parts are sanded perfectly flat so that the edges mate. A 400 wet and dry sand paper tape mounted (double sided) to a piece plate glass for a smooth surface. Pieces are trial fit together before affixing with liquid glue. Parts are checked with plans issued. With the exception of the rudder and tail-planes all the other items matched with the drawings. The rudder needed an extension of 3mm at the rear which was a gradual addition making a bigger rudder area. This is best done by tracing the rudder on a 0.4mm plastic card that is then inserted between the kit fuselage parts at the rudder area and fair with filler at the stepped rear. 7 round windows and 2 semi circular ones were drilled and shaped to conform with the drawings given, these were at side of fuselage, under the fuselage, and one on the roof. The forward crew area was built up from the kit parts and a floor area for the passenger section was made from plastic card that was then inserted inside the fuselage compartment. A bulkhead separated the two compartments. 4 double bench seats at sides and two single bench seats at center of fuselage were added inside the passenger area while a pilot seat, rudder pedals, control stick and instrument panel added to the front compartment. Close study of the landing gear detail indicated the position of the retractable undercarriage bay and its function. This required opening two rectangular panels under the fuselage and adding a central dividing wall, which secured the undercarriage legs. The drawing I made shows in simplified detail of how I built it from kit wheels, plastic card, spring/thread and other detail from stretch sprue. The wing parts also had the flaps separated, which were then assembled, in partially lowered position. The tail planes were extended by 3mm in order to match them with drawing and ensuring that the elevator parting was 90 degrees to the axis of the fuselage when attached to it. Aerial mast and rudder ballast were made from metal pins cut to size and fixed with super glue. As for the canopy, I decided to put away the one issued and as the window apertures were small I carefully cut and shaped these with a sharp-pointed Exacto blade and needle files so that Kristal Kleer could make the glazing. A front eyehole for tying the tug cable was made from a small piece of bent wire.
Color and Markings.
The operational camouflage was olive green and dark earth camouflage to all upper surfaces and pale blue underside. The camouflage had feathered edges. For night operations the undersurfaces were matt black and were without wing insignia. A yellow code number that was outlined in black appeared on the forward fuselage sides. Red stars outlined in white added to four positions. The pale blue underside of wings carried solid red stars. The entire interior was light gray while seats and straps were brown and dirty white respectively. The kit was finally given an overall coat of semi gloss varnish.
Pairing the A-7 with a tow plane SB-2 bomber (from old Frog kit) made the perfect set (allowing slight difference in scale). The A-7 deserved its place in history and therefore any kit collection of WWII Soviet aircraft should have it represented. Considering the important part played by the military glider on all fronts during the war one should also note that the variety that existed was quite vast in their shapes and sizes and this kit should therefore also appeal to all glider enthusiasts.
Carmel J Attard
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