Po-2, also nicknamed ‘Kukuruznik’ and less known under its NATO designation ‘Maule’, was designed in the 1920’s and went into production in 1928. It is one of the most produced aircraft in the history with exact number unknown, but believed to be somewhere between 20.000 and 30.000 airframes. It’s initial purpose was for training new pilots, but the impending Second World War transformed the trainer into a light bomber, reconnaissance, liaison and psychological warfare aircraft. Initially designated as U-2, it was renamed into Po-2 after its designer, Nikolai Polikarpov, died in 1944. U/Po-2VS was a designation for militarized aircraft, which was armed with a rear facing machine gun for self protection and 4 bomb pylons that could carry 50kg or 100kg bombs. Its combat use has not ended with the fall of the German Reich though. During the Korean War, N. Koreans used Po-2s in similar fashion as the Soviets did during the WW2 and with some great successes. Po-2 is also the only biplane credited with a jet kill – USAF F-94 Starfire intercepted low and slow flying Po-2 and while trying to engage, the pilot of the jet fighter slowed below the stall speed and crashed.
The Po-2 became most known by a group of women. In October 1941, Stalin issued an order to establish three women aviation regiments – a fighter, bomber and night bomber one. 588th NBAP, night bomber regiment, was the only to be an all woman regiment, including the ground crews. Consisting of young volunteers, 588th started their operations in the spring of 1942 and continued until the war was over. As of recognition to their success, they were later in 1943 renamed to 46th ‘Taman’ Guards Night Bomber regiment. They flew precision bombing as well as harassment sorties, denying German soldiers the well needed sleep. The standard procedure during those attacks was to switch of the engine, glide over the enemy positions, drop bombs and then retreat. These stealth attacks earned them a German nickname ‘Nachthexen’ – the Night Witches. 588th/46th was one of the most highly decorated aviation regiments of the WW2!
Commander: Yevodkiya Bershanskaya
Combat Missions: more than 24.000
Dates of service: 27 May 1942 – 15 October 1945
Theaters of operation: Donetsk, Mozdok, Terek Valley, Kuban, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk, Kerch, Sevastopol, Minsk, Warsaw, Berlin
Female pilots: 61
Female navigators: 63
Female staff and political officers: 24
Female ground crew: 99
Heroes of the Soviet Union: 24
ICM released this kit in 2012. Although there has been KP and its copies on the market since at least 1975, a modern tooling Po-2 in 1:72 was long overdue. Plastic is molded really nicely with beautiful surface details, leaving KP kit literally 40 years behind. The fit of the kit is generally good, though one has to be careful with many tiny parts. Special care has to be taken with the vertical stabilizer assembly as it is molded extremely thin and the result is very weak attachment to the tail. The known mistake of this kit is its propeller – it is turned the wrong way – Quickboost offers a simple and cheap replacement. Rigging was done with Uschi Van Der Rosten 0.02mm elastic rigging thread – but looking at the reference photos, some bigger diameter might be better. Anyhow, this model was built for my lovely wife. She got interested in Night Witches upon hearing the song Night Witches by a Swedish metal band Sabaton, which you can hear in the below link.
And here she is, proud owner of the Night Witches’ Po-2 model!