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The Henschel Hs.129 - Airframe Album #17


Mike
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The Henschel Hs.129 - Airframe Album 17

A Detailed Guide to The Luftwaffe’s Panzerjäger ISBN: 9781912932139

Valiant Wings Publishing

 

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The RLM set out a requirement for a ground attack aircraft in the late 30s, based upon their experiences in Spain as the Condor Legion.  Only four companies were approached, and of those only Henschel and Focke Wulf’s designs were considered appropriate for continuation.  The latter’s design was based upon the Fw.189 airframe, removing the crew gondola and replacing it with a simple single-seat cockpit with heavy armour to protect the pilot from the incoming rounds from his prey.  Both designs were to use the same underpowered engine, but once they tried to fly the Henschel Hs.129 they realised that it was a very real problem, when one airframe basically flew into the ground despite the best efforts of the pilot.  The Fw.189 derivative was side-lined but not cancelled yet, and the Hs.129 received a pair of more competent Gnome-Rhone radial engines that provided an extra couple of hundred horse power each, and were manufactured in France in clockwise and anti-clockwise pairs to remove the torque-induced issues that plagued other twin-engined aircraft.

 

The pilot sat in a tough steel cab that was initially highly claustrophobic, but was enlarged a little with a new canopy that allowed more of the instrumentation to be inside the cockpit and within view of the pilot, which is pretty important, on balance.  To protect the pilot from incoming rounds, the windscreen panel was a hefty 75mm thick and could deflect or absorb most rounds that they expected to be fired at them during an attack.  It was initially fitted with a pair of 20mm MG151s, and a pair of 7.92mm MG17s or 13mm MG131s, to be joined by a 30mm Mk.101 cannon in a pod beneath the fuselage, but this soon became ineffective against the more modern, heavily armoured T-34s, so was replaced by a 7.5cm Pak40 after dabbling with a 5cm and a 37mm Bordkanone.

 

 

The Book

The seventeenth volume of the popular and interesting Airframe Album series by Richard A Franks details this angular ground attacker, its versions, dead-ends and some of the projected variants that didn’t reach service.  It spans 130 pages and is perfect bound in an A4(ish) portrait format.  If you are familiar with the series you will know what to expect, with the book broken down into sections, as follows:

 

i. Introduction

A brief narrative history of the development and operational use of the Hs.129 by the Luftwaffe, as well as those used by other Axis nations

1. Technical Description

Detailed coverage of construction and equipment

2. Evolution – Prototype, Production and Projected Variants

3D isometrics illustrating differences between variants

3. Camouflage & Markings

Colour side profiles, notes and photographs

4. Models

Builds of the 1:48nd scale Hasegawa, 1:32 Zoukei Mura by Steve A Evans, and a 1:72 Revell kit by Libor Jekl

Appendices

I Hs.129 Kit List

II Hs.129 Accessories, Decals & Masks List

III Bibliography

1:72 scale plans

 

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As usual with Valiant's books, the pictures are both high quality and some are unusual, with lots of "behind the scenes" shots of production, testing and in-service airframes as well as the desolate captured aircraft that were over-run and clambered over by the Allies.  I always find the 3D Isometrics very interesting to quickly discern the differences between variants, especially as I have the memory of a goldfish.  My favourites are the Bordkanone equipped aircraft that were introduced when the 30mm shells started pinging ineffectively off their foes.  The semi-automatic vertical rocket launcher variant was an ingenious design, which I’m guessing wasn’t very successful as it’s the first time I’m hearing of it. 

 

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There are a host of drawings, official photos and diagrams to whet your appetite for detailing too, and the author has gone to great lengths to include many, many of them to help educate and entertain.  There are a few colour photos of preserved engines on stands in museums, and even a contemporary colour shot of a captured airframe that was transported back to America, repainted (sadly for the colour aficionados) and given a HUGE tail code that even my mum could read without glasses.  There are a few pictures of a British captive aircraft too, looking incongruous with roundels on the wings and fuselage.

 

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Conclusion

Valiant Wings publish a good book about interesting subjects, and this is one that piqued mine right away, as I’m a big fan of the Hs.129, and I know that I say that quite a bit, but I mean it.  I built the old Airfix kit as a kid, and thought that the big gun under the nose was awesome – until I snapped off the barrel of course.  If you're a modeller, aviation buff or even just interested in engineering, this will make an interesting read, which you'll come back to again when you need it for references.

 

Very highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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