1:48 Meng Models
The Aggressively styled two-engined Me-410 Hornisse started life as the Me-210, designed as a replacement for the Bf-110, and was instigated before WWII started, although its protracted gestation is hardly surprising when you consider the problems that presented themselves before it could be turned into an even remotely successful heavy fighter/bomber. The 210 suffered from some unpleasant handling characteristics, and garnered such a poor reputation that when design for the substantial changes needed to fix these problems (initially designated the 210D) was underway, the decision was made to rename it the 410.
The 410 utilised an improved DB603A engine, lengthened fuselage to improve the centre of gravity, and amended wing planform to give the wing a constant sweep-back at the front to bring the aerodynamic centre further forward. Coupled with leading-edge slats that had been removed from the initial 210 design, the result was an aircraft that was significantly more pleasant to fly, had a respectable top speed and could carry a substantial war-load.
On entering service in 1943, the initial success as a night bomber over the UK was most definitely not a portent of things to come. The 410 was a day late and a dollar short, so to speak, and no sooner had it reached the front-line and started attacking the bomber streams, than the Allies darkened the skies with fast, manoeuvrable single-engined fighters such as the Spitfire and Mustang, which could easily out-fly the 410. Pitched into battle alone, they were easy prey to the Allied fighters, and the balance was only slightly shifted by the introduction of Br.109 and Fw.190 escorts. The heavy losses eventually resulted in the removal of the 410 from front-line service to duties closer to home, and some limited use as a high-level reconnaissance aircraft.
Due to its relatively short career, the marks did not progress beyond the B model, although high altitude C and D models were planned. The 410 was quite innovative in its weapons carriage though, and had a nose-mounted weapons bay, which could house a palette of munitions, either bombs, cannon, cameras or the 50mm Bordkanone that was used to attack the daylight bomber raids. Due to the upgraded engines, a pair of bomb shackles had to be added to the inner wing undersides, as the 410 could carry more weight than its bomb bay could contain. The twin remote controlled "barbettes" on each side of the mid fuselage were also of note. They were controlled by the rear gunner using a traditional pistol-grip, and could traverse up and down, but also could flip out sideways to fire at an enemy behind and to one side. Movement and aiming was all done by controls attached to the pistol grip, and must have surprised more than one potential assailant.
After the war, numerous of these interesting aircraft were taken as war prizes by the Allies, but sadly only two full airframes exist today, one in RAF Cosford in a fully-restored state, which until the 1980s was capable of ground-running, the other awaiting preservation in the UK at the National Air & Space Museum.
Since this kit was announced accidentally a few months before the end of 2012, this reviewer has been waiting as patiently as possible to replace the ageing Monogram/Revell kit that has been getting harder and harder to find as years go on. Due to the demand our review sample was late in arriving, as the factory literally needed every one for their distributors. A sign of a much needed new tooling if ever there was one.
The kit arrived in one of Meng's standard compact top-opening boxes, with a handsome painting of a Bordkanone equipped 410 on the front, and sharing their standard classy satin sheen to the lid. Inside, in individually sealed bags eight sprues of mid-grey styrene, two of clear parts, and a small fret of Photo-Etch (PE) brass parts. A resealable bag contains the large decal sheet, which has a sheet of moisture resistant paper protecting the decals further. The final item is the usual "taller-than-A5" instruction manual, which is stapled into a booklet format - so much better than the fold-out instructions favoured by some manufacturers.
As the box art portrays, this is the Bordkanone /U4 variant, and to me that's the most attractive aircraft, and a good first choice. The inclusion of the cannon parts on a separate sprue? Well, you draw your own conclusion. it upsets some people when reviewers hint at other variants. For some reasonâ€¦
Looking at the sprues, the detail is very good. Surface detail is very nicely engraved, although some of the more pedantic would probably say that the panel lines are a little too well defined. I can't see this being an issue, and after primer, top-coats, decals and varnishes they should look just right. The cockpit is well detailed with PE seatbelts, both engines are provided in case you want to depict one or more without their cowlings, the flaps, radiator cowlings and ailerons can all be posed at will, as can the tail-feathers. The slats on the leading edge however are moulded into the wings, and would need some work to mobilise, but given the options for personalisation already provided, that's a minor thing.
Construction is fairly standard for an aircraft of this layout, although it begins with the front cockpit floor inverted for the installation of the four nose guns. The 20mm MG151/20 cannon are located in the centre, flanked by the skinnier barrels of the MG17 machine guns. Turning over the floor, the pilot's seat, pedals, control column and instrument panels are installed, along with a half-height bulkhead behind the pilot's seat. The instrument panels are covered with raised and engraved detail, with instructions for painting the individual components of the panels. The gunner's position is a bathtub built up from the floor and bulkhead, plus side and rear panels, which locates in a cockpit deck with a lozenge shaped cut-out. At either side are some internal frames for the canopy, a headrest panel for the pilot, and some small details to the aft. As with the pilot's seat, the gunner gets a set of belts, foot-pegs and a head-rest, and a small assembly that makes up the remote barbette controls is added during the final closing up of the fuselage.
The barbettes are simple in construction, housing one MG131 each, which with careful application of glue can be left to both rotate in the fuselage and flip out, just like the real thing. Whilst the purists might scoff at such a "gimmick", it's a nice touch that broadens the appeal a little, although this kit is hardly a toy. The barbettes are installed on the fuselage halves using a pair of rings that have hole in them matching the pegs on the inside of the barbette cowlings. These bump up against a pair of raised sections inside the fuselage ring to give an accurate range of movement for these innovative gun mounts.
Before you can close up the fuselage halves, the cockpit sidewalls will need to have a few small parts added to the moulded in detail, and then painted in RLM66, black-grey. The tail wheel is also installed before closing the fuselage, and has a nice radial tread moulded into the wheel, plus a separate yoke part to give a more realistic looking wheel.
The underside of the fuselage is absent to aft of the cockpit because of the nose-mounted bomb bay and a fuselage insert that sits just behind it. To prevent the modeller having to deal with a highly flexible assembly, Meng have cleverly added a pair of fuselage braces that sit one between the two cockpit sections and the other just behind - either side of the slot for the wing tabs. The cockpits, tail-wheel and the barbette controls are trapped between the fuselage halves, and the glazed panel in the nose completes the job. Care will be needed at the front, as the glazing is the only contact between the two fuselage halves at the nose, so ensure you glue it securely.
The large 50mm Bordkanone was developed from the main armament of the Panzer III, and has a long perforated flash-hider, which is supplied as a single part with a slide-moulded hollow barrel to at least a third of the length of the flash-hider. The braver modeller could ream this out to full depth to give a more realistic look to the whole thing. The breech of the gun is made up from four parts, and surrounded by a stand-off cowling at each side. It sits on a tray/palette that doubles as the underside panel for the bomb bay, which would better be described as a weapons bay given its multiple uses. This is installed in the fuselage along with the underside insert and should make the structure more sturdy. Take care with installing these parts, as although the bomb-bay doors are a little agricultural in terms of fit on the real thing, the aft insert should sit pretty much flush with the rest of the underside.
The empennage consists of a vertical fin that is moulded into the fuselage halves, plus a nicely detailed rudder with styrene trim actuator and PE hinge detail parts. The elevators are posable, and attach to the fuselage sides with the usual tab and slot mechanism.
Attention then turns to the cockpit glazing, which was a bit of a bugbear of the only other mainstream kit of the 410 in this scale. I was pleased to see that Meng have elected to build the canopy in multiple parts, both to obtain the correct shapes, and to give the modeller the option of opening the access panels. They have also moulded in the interior framing that was missing from the Monogram kit, which is presented in relief with a painting guide inline with the build. The main central and rear section of the canopy is built from a pair of "blown" sides, plus two centre sections, which must be glued together to form the correct shape. Two more openable panels are included for the pilot and gunner's areas, and the windscreen is a separate part, with a hole in the front for the tubular gun sight. A small PE bracket helps to support the part, and as with the rest of the canopy, I would recommend using GS-Hypo cement for both a strong joint and certainty that you won't fog your canopy during construction. As it is a watch-crystal cement, it is also very srong once fully set, and superior to PVA. A small aerial sits atop the canopy, but is best left off until main painting is complete.
Both DB603A engines are supplied with the kit, and detail here should be adequate for most modellers, comprising of 21 parts, plus the exhaust stacks, which have closed exhausts, sadly. The last parts to be added are the engine mounts, the supercharger, reduction housing for the prop and prop-shaft, before they are later slotted into the wings. If you're planning on leaving the engines covered up, you can skip the painting and weathering and slap all the major parts together, sealing them forever inside the cowling panels.
The undersides of the wing structures are moulded with a full-length cowling which has a step-down at the front to accommodate the exhaust stacks, but must first have the chin-mounted oil cooler radiators installed , which are provided fore and aft by styrene backed PE parts and two curved inserts that prevent the see-thru look. A large bulkhead is installed behind the engine, which is un-detailed on the forward face, mainly because nothing will be seen of it when the engine is in place. On its rear face is plenty of detail as well as the floor of the main gear bay. This is detailed with another partial bulkhead and painted RLM02 in line with all bays, including the bomb bay and tail gear bay. The engines must be in place before the wing halves are joined, and attach to the lower cowling, with the optional upper cowling added, carefully sliding the exhaust stacks through the slots in the side. The alignment of the cowlings is important, as the seam between the two parts is on the very top of the cowling, and a poor job here will be plain to all. A pair of damper plates cover the exhausts, and the three-bladed prop is built up from a one-piece blades/boss part, rear spinner-plate, retention cap and finally the spinner front, all of which would be best left off until after main painting.
The control surfaces are all separate from the wings, with the afore-mentioned exception of the moulded in slats on the leading edge. The ailerons are single parts with a pair of small mass-balances and a tiny PE trim tab added, and the main flap section is made up from two parts sandwiched together. The flap section aft of the radiators is a separate part, which is painted RLM02 because it resides inside the airframe for the majority of the time. The radiators have front and rear faces supplied with vane details moulded in, and the option of posing them open or closed. When posed open, the cowling is made up from separate sides and bottom panel, with the rear section suitably dropped. Closed is a much simpler option, and is just one single part for each radiator. In order to get a better finish to the cowlings, Meng have moulded the rear of each cowling underside separately, and these simply slot into a recess on the wing, with a little detail inside that will be almost totally invisible. Both wings are a mirror image of eachother, so could be built up together, although they are handled individually in the instructions for clarity. The wings are then added to the fuselage by slotting the tabs into the side of the fuselage - props at the front of course!
The main gear legs are built up before the instructions deal with the wings, but as they can be left off until later, that appears to be the best option. Each leg has a separate oleo-scissor, and the oleo struts themselves are gaitered with corrugated rubber, so you don't need to worry about achieving that nice shiny metal finish. A retraction Y-frame is glued to the rear of the legs using a butt-joint, which looks a little fragile, so take care during handling. The main wheels are moulded in halves with their hubs integral, and the tyres have the same radial tread as the tail-wheel. A flat can easily be sanded into the bottom to give a little tyre-sag to them and add a bit of realism.
Two decal options are supplied with the kit, and it is good to see that Meng have been a little adventurous with the second option, which incudes the five-pointed star of the Soviet Union. From the box you can build one of the following:
- 6./ZG Germany 1944 - RLM74/75 soft-edged splinter scheme with mottling on the fuselage sides and tail, over RLM76. Two grey patches where a fuselage code has been obliterated, and a white fuselage identification stripe.
- W.Nr.130379 Tested by the NII VVS Research Institute between 1945 and 1946. - RLM74/75 soft-edge splinter scheme with a wavy mid-line demarcation on the fuselage, RLM02 and RLM74 mottle on the tail, over RLM76. Balkenkreuz overpainted with the Red Star, and the edges of a white outline Swastika visible under the tail star.
The decals are printed by Cartograf, with excellent colour density, register and detail. All of the included stencils are legible, providing you have good enough eyes.
You may have guessed by now that as well as liking the Hornisse immensely, I am very pleased with this release. Meng have taken a lot of care with engineering the kit well, have included a lot of detail out of the box, as well as adding value with the inclusion of the small PE fret. Building the kit shouldn't tax anyone with a few kits under their belt, but building the canopy neatly will require patience, and is probably best placed on the fuselage to set-up, so that it conforms to the shape and sits well.
It would be churlish to wish that they'd included a set of masks with the kit, but given the painting of the inside of the canopy that is required, it would have been a particularly useful tool. Eduard will come to the rescue in the next month or two, I'm sure.
I will be building this kit very shortly, and will get a better feel for the accuracy of the shape as I go along, but I am very pleased that we now have a thoroughly 21st century tooling of this lesser known aircraftâ€¦ One that resides only around 80 miles from my door.
Very highly recommended.