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Me.163B Komet - Meng 1:32


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Messerschmitt Me.163B Komet
1:32 Meng Models


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The Komet was a diminutive rocket-propelled point defence fighter that was designed to power up into the bomber stream and cut the incoming heavies to pieces with cannon fire. In reality its short duration, volatile fuel and high speed differential between it and the lumbering bombers made that a little optimistic, and although it was an incredibly advanced little aircraft, it wasnt the wonder-weapon that Hitler was so fond of, and did little to turn the tide of devastation that the bombers left behind.

It began as a glider, evolved through prop propulsion and went on to use a rocket engine designed by the Walther company. It was given the number 163 to hide its true identity and after a short while its development was continued at the top-secret Peenemünde establishment where various speed records were secretly broken by the little aircraft. To conserve resources, a lot of the skin was made of wood, which also helped to save weight, and along with the absence of landing gear in favour of a retractable skid, resulted in a high power to weight ratio. Take-off was accomplished by using a jettisonable two-wheeled dolly, which caused some damage to test aircraft due its wicked rebound characteristics that caused it to hit the aircraft under some circumstances. The rocket motor had a short burn time before it ran out of fuel, which meant that the Komet couldnt linger in the bomber formation, and that landing was always without power. It was very manoeuvrable both under power and whilst gliding, but the Allied pilots soon came to understand that it would run out of fuel and would either pounce when the fuel ran out, as it landed, or just after, which necessitated the setting up of flak perimeters around their bases to discourage this technique.

Removing the soft suspension cured the damage caused by bouncing dolly, but the pilot could still give his back a nasty jar on landing if the skid malfunctioned, which was done without power, so a go-around wasnt an option. The A was more-or-less a working prototype, and as it wasnt designed for mass production, was always going to have a short lifespan. It was replaced by the B model that incorporated changes from lessons learned with the A, and simplifications that made construction both cheaper and quicker. This is the model that were all familiar with, and the subject of this kit.

With under ten minutes of powered flight, numerous problems, dangers of flying the Komet, and fuel shortages, it wasnt able to be mass-produced quickly enough to stem the influx of heavy bombers, and the 163S two-seater trainer had only progressed to prototype by wars end, while the C and D models remained paper projects. In May 1945, JG400, the sole operational users of the 163 disbanded and its pilots went to other units. A few surviving airframes were captured by the Allied at the end of the war, and famous test pilot Captain Eric Brown flew a B model under power with the aid of some captive German ground crew. He described it as like flying a runaway train, but was pleasantly surprised by its handling.

The Kit
This one popped up on Mengs list of future releases with no forewarning, and a few months later the review sample has arrived and it is available from the Far East, and soon to be with us in the UK with any luck. My review copy arrived in an attractive white sleeve that has a cut-out matching the aircraft on the front. Under the sleeve is a standard Meng satin-finished box that is a bit narrower and appears longer than their usual. The box art is to their usual high standard, and shows an unpowered aircraft swooping danger-close to the front of a B-17. Paintings of the decal options are reproduced on the sides of the box, with the captured British option showing the rear fuselage removed to expose the rocket motor. Inside the box are five sprues in dark grey styrene, one in black, a clear sprue, a bag of flexible wheels and polycaps, two frets of Photo-Etch (PE) brass, a decal sheet and a landscape oriented instruction booklet with integral painting guide.

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Meng have quickly garnered a reputation for quality products, and they are also no strangers to unusual subjects, which I find endearing, and its clear by their success that others do too. Simple things like an additional low-tack wrap to prevent scratches to the clear parts, individual bagging of sprues, and nicely done printing of box and instructions all make our task of building their kits more pleasant, while PE in the box and the likes of instrument dials all add value. The kit? Oh yes it looks great on first impression. Lots of detail, including a pretty much full interior to the fuselage, sensible use of slide-moulds to provide detail where it wouldn't normally be possible, which of course includes hollow barrels to the weapons. Surface detail is exemplary, with delicate panel lines and rivet detail where appropriate and smooth styrene where it should be, especially the wing surfaces, which were mostly wooden. Something tells me that the old Hasegawa kit is going to be dumped in the deep stash as a consequence.

The Komet has a rather visible cockpit due to the large side opening canopy and side windows, and this is where the construction begins. The rather utilitarian seat is built up from two parts, with the back and sides of the backrest riveted for additional detail. A set of seatbelts are included on the larger PE fret, and the assembly fits onto the aft bulkhead with a headrest and two clear panels for rear vision to each side of the seat. The cockpit tub is moulded as a single part with the large T-stoff tanks showing their strengthening straps and some basic instrumentation on the starboard tank. The sidewalls curve in sharply to the sill, and these parts attach to the tops of the side "consoles" and have additional details such as the oxygen controls and trim wheels added before they are added. The instrument panel has a choice of either a single piece of styrene with raised instrument dials, or a styrene backing part with four PE panels, and a set of individual instrument decals for each dial. Which will give the best result will probably depend on your painting skills, but the PE wins by a head due to having a flat dial area rather than raised details. The cockpit is then finished off by bringing the tub, sidewalls, rear bulkhead (with seat) and instrument panel together, secured by slots and tabs to ensure a good alignment.

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The kit depicts a HWK109-509A rocket motor, which gave the pilot the ability to throttle the engine back to extend powered flight times, but the added complexity gave rise to reliability problems. No such concerns in a 1:32 reproduction though, and everything is represented in the strange looking "crate" where the hypergolic fuels were mixed in the turbopump and spontaneously ignite to produce a jet of superheated carbon dioxide, steam and nitrogen. The part count in the turbopump area is high, and detail is good as a result. The rear of the crate is a large mounting plate with a six-fingered web of strengtheners to hold the exhaust tube in place, and this is also similarly well detailed. The exhaust itself is split vertically with a circular part to give a hollow lip. A circular ring sits around the engine, attaching to the back of the rear support structure, also mounting the strut that leads back from the exhaust to prevent thrust induced oscillation of the exhaust. The C-stoff tank sits on a floor panel and a pair of bulkheads just in front of the rocket motor, which is glued to the rear bulkhead on four stand-off mounts.

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Showing its glider roots, the large skid on the Komet sits on the underside covering a large portion of the fuselage. It comes complete with a rendition of the jettisonable launch dolly with two large wheels mounted transverse to the skid. The hubs are in two halves with a polycap trapped between them, onto which the flexible tyre is shoehorned. A couple of stencil decals are applied to the hub, and the wheels can be pressed onto the two-part axle. The retraction/suspension assembly that holds the skid in place is built up as another section, with the three attachment points to the skid mounted in a three part bay with a cylinder in the perforated roof panel. All of the skid parts are in black styrene, probably for differentiation from the rest of the kit maybe? In order to depict the skid in the retracted position, simply omit the suspension bay and glue the skid directly to the fuselage.

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The fuselage halves are split between forward and aft for access to the rocket motor, and the forward half has large cut-outs at the wing root, which makes for a flexible part when nipped off the sprues. This won't last long however, as a pair of inserts fit to the inside and provide the inner wall to the cannon bays, plus a pair of wing attachment points to give a good joint that replicates the real thing, and will be seen if you leave open the cannon bay access panels. It encloses the cockpit/C-stoff tank/rocket motor assembly, which have the ammo boxes and feeders for the wing root cannons straddling the tanks. A couple of small sections of the fuselage are added to the open sections, and at this point it starts to look a little bit more like an aircraft. Adding the nose cone with its little comedy prop that actually powers the auxiliary electrical system gives you a choice of two types of spinner with a small axle that allows it to remain mobile if you are careful with the glue. In preparation for the addition of the cockpit, the thick bullet-proof panel on the coaming is built up from a frame and two clear surfaces along with gunsight and two stabilising struts. A scrap diagram shows how the parts should look from the side. The canopy is made from a clear part with a grey styrene frame and a small PE latch on the inside. It can be posed open or closed although I suspect that a retaining wire should limit the opening angle, but that's an easy fix if so. A pair of panels on the top of the fuselage cover the ammo boxes for the cannon and the rocket motor's turbopump assembly, with separate latches in PE so that they can be folded for either open or closed positions.

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The rear fuselage is separate from the front, as mentioned earlier, and it holds the retractable tail wheel, with four possible layouts. There are two basic types with and without fairings, but they can both be depicted down or retracted by using different leg parts. The wheel is the common aspect, and consists of a single piece hub with detail on both sides, around which a tiny flexible tyre is pulled on with some very nice circumferential tread detail, marred only by two mould lines running perpendicular on opposing faces. A bit of scrubbing with a sanding stick should see those off however. Your chosen tail wheel is trapped within the two halves of the rear fuselage, and because it is potentially open to viewing, it has some nice ribbing detail moulded in, and cleverly Meng have added a pair of insert panels in the top and bottom that hide the top and bottom seams, and hide their own by butting them up against the ribbing. The rudder is also trapped between the fuselage halves, having some nice fabric sag moulded in between the ribs, and if you're careful with the glue again, it can be left operable. A pair of linking parts sit between the forward and aft fuselages, occupying the trailing edge wing-root and allowing you to leave the fuselage loose to remove at will, using a friction fit to do so. If you choose to leave them apart in your display cabinet, a trestle is included to prop up the exhaust, and a box-trestle is include for the rear fuselage, making for an attractive display.

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The gun bays are built into the wings, and you have an option of installing two MK108 30mm cannons for the production aircraft, or the earlier MG151/20 20mm units that were present on the 30 B-0 variant airframes, one of which is the bright red mount of Wolfgang Spate. As mentioned earlier, the barrels for both choices are hollow, and the detail of the breeches and barrels is good enough for all but the most pedantic. The apertures in the leading edge of the root are inserts that are shaped for each type of armament, with decal option call-outs to assist you in choosing, which is also the case for the pitot probe. When the wing halves are closed around the appropriate choice of cannon, the leading edge slats are added, the cannon bay doors added (or not), and you can choose whether to pose the air brakes open or closed. Leaving them closed just requires you to glue the PE brakes flat in the recess on the lower wing, while the open option includes a pair of actuators that fix to the inner face of the brake panels in recessed spots. The finished brake is then inserted into the slot in the shallow bay, which should hopefully set the correct angle when deployed. The wings are a straight butt-fit with the fuselage, with a very large contact area between them that should result in a good joint. Meng are pretty consistent with good fit, but if you worry about the tidiness of the joint between the wing and fuselage, you would do well to check pictures of the real thing, the joints of which are appalling!

Markings
Meng routinely use Cartograf for their decals, so they are of peerless quality, and some popular choices have been included in the box, although I'm sure someone won't like them! From the sheet you can build one of the following:
  • 2./JG400 Brandis, early 1945 RLM82/83 green over RLM76
  • Me.163B V-41 piloted by Major Wolfgang Spate, 13th May 1944 all over red with coding PK+QL
  • RAF Me.163B VF241 piloted by Eric Brown, 7th July 1945 RLM81 wings and tail fin, RLM76 upper fuselage and rudder with RLM82 mottle over a trainer yellow underside

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Many folks have expressed a desire to model the famous red Komet, and because of his legendary status in British aviation, Winkle Brown's mount for that dangerous powered flight is an obvious and doubtless popular choice. The other choice seems mundane by comparison, but it is an in-service machine without the pomp and circumstance of the other options, and is a nice counter-point. I understand that there wasn't much in the way of hard-and-fast rules for painting these rocket powered aircraft, and there is a lot of scope for post-war captured machines that were tested by many countries, and there will probably be a flurry of activity before too long in that direction.

Of course the decals are in good register with excellent colour density and sharpness, while the carrier film has a soft satin sheen. Some of the roundels and codes are broken down to accommodate the air brakes, and the swastika is present in paired halves to avoid breaching the rules around such an evocative symbol.

Conclusion
It's a testament to the golden age of modelling that we are undoubtedly in that such quality kits are coming through the door so regularly, and this is especially true of Meng's releases. It is an excellent kit, with detail everywhere, and should appeal to anyone that would like a large scale Komet on their shelves. Having built the old Hasegawa kit, this is light years ahead in terms of detail, and really does relegate it to the back of the stash. I'll be building this one in Mr Brown's scheme with all the doors and bays open to see, I think.

Extremely highly recommended.

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Review sample courtesy of
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That looks utterly superb! Lets hope more WW2 German stuff comes in this scale too! Brilliant review Mike as usual, decent photos really do make it worth while too.

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That does look superb. Your great review justifies my ordering one from Luckymodel, which is winging its way to me as I type. :D

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technically it was a Pterosaur

"Dinosaur" has a rather specific meaning from a taxonomical and morphological point.

I've been listening to WAY too many science podcasts :P

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I tend to think that 1/32 is the perfect scale for an aircraft like the Komet. Nice enough for lots of detail, but not OTT when it comes to dimensions, so won't take up too much shelf space.

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit buying plastic. :rolleyes:

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Funny how you don't mention the whinge on another certain modelling site about the fact that the canopy was a two piece affair with the clear canopy having to be added to a frame. I think that whinge was simply there to have something negative to say about the kit.

Mine is inbound too, looks like a real nice kit, and the imporvements over the Me-410 in regards sprue attachments are evident, none look to be heavy and brutish.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Mine arrived a few weeks ago, and all I can say is ohhhh yeah!!!

It is beautiful. I can't wait to start on it, but I have to finish the Hobbyboss 1:48 F/A-18 I have on the bench right now first. my modelling buddy is keeping an eye on me so that I do finish it first :)

Thanks

dave

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Funny how you don't mention the whinge on another certain modelling site about the fact that the canopy was a two piece affair with the clear canopy having to be added to a frame. I think that whinge was simply there to have something negative to say about the kit.

Mine is inbound too, looks like a real nice kit, and the imporvements over the Me-410 in regards sprue attachments are evident, none look to be heavy and brutish.

With a line of GS-Hypo cement it's a piece of cake to add canopies to styrene frames. You can use PVA or Gator's Grip, or anything that's non-solvent based and have no problems, so it's not really an issue as far as I'm concerned. :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

With a line of GS-Hypo cement it's a piece of cake to add canopies to styrene frames. You can use PVA or Gator's Grip, or anything that's non-solvent based and have no problems, so it's not really an issue as far as I'm concerned. :)

Yep, agree wholeheartedly, easy fix, actually in this scale I would prefer the seperate frame.

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  • 10 months later...

I also have a new favourite word--Turbopump :speak_cool:

You wouldn't say that if you'd ever been out drinking with Enzo Matrix... :hypnotised:

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  • 1 year later...

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