Wednesday 11 August 2010

Heinkel He 177 Greif - Heinkel's strategic bomber - Classic book review

I was half-expecting authors Creek and Smith to rehabilitate the He 177 in their Classic Publications tome devoted to the He 177 - according to the author of the Warpaint monograph the He 177 was 'designed with a touch of genius' and 'ruined' by political interference. Needless to say Smith & Creek have other ideas - the type actually is as bad as the mythology would have us believe. In fact they describe it at one point in their text as "completely useless " - so much for German aeronautical engineering prowess, especially when compared -as the authors do over the first twenty pages of their Classic Publications text - with concurrent heavy bomber developments in the US & UK. The prototype He 177 first flew in late 1939 (three of the first five machines crashing & burning) and the type wasn't cleared for operations until mid-1943. Less than a year later the He 177's operational career was effectively over; from page 39 the book is one long litany of failure. Engine fires, diving & stalling trials, the poorly designed & weak wing, all killed many skilled crews as the Luftwaffe struggled to bring the He 177 into service. Over one thousand were built; less than 200 flew combat sorties. As for political interference... Göring appears to be one of the saner, more rational voices in the whole sorry business, but rather like AH & the Me 262 the scientists and engineers weren't listening to him. The increasing frustration among the higher ranks of the Luftwaffe with the delays and failures soon led him to demand a conventional four-engine type to replace this "ramshackle old tin can". The various plans to replace the coupled engines with four single engines, and/or create a new aircraft based on it such as the He 277 or the high-altitude He 274 are also covered.

The brief late war service of the He 177 is of considerable interest, in particular the reminiscences from a KG 100 missile technician - operations with guided anti-ship weapons such as the Fritz-X and Hs 293 are described in some detail. While Ulf Balke is credited with some photos, some pilot accounts from his KG 100 book would have been useful here - his father flew the He 177 with KG 100. In the west the type flew sorties in the 'mini-Blitz' against London (Steinbock) and attacked shipping off the D-Day beaches, while on the Eastern Front some strategic bombing raids were flown along with suicidal low-level sorties against Soviet tank formations. By now the design had "matured" into the He 177A-5 sub-type, strengthened and re-engined, potentially a capable bomber if well trained crews and (importantly) maintenance support had been available. But they rarely were. The British and Americans each flew a captured He 177 at the end of the war and there is a chapter of pilot impressions (Capt. Eric Brown and Col. Harold E. Watson) - 'a real clunker of an airplane'. There is also a lengthy set of appendices & more importantly for the modellers a nice reproduction of the type handbook with lots of clear images.
To sum up, well produced, copiously illustrated and very readable. Comparisons with the Griehl book published by Airlife are probably inevitable... in some areas Griehl has more detail (French service) but Smith & Creek tell the story of the He 177 in a much clearer & a more 'entertaining' way. Unfortunately many of the photographs are the same in both books but reproduction is better in the Classic volume. The Classic colour artworks are an additional feature of course and are well done, but the book has to be turned up the other way to view them. I'd also liked to have seen more pics from those expensive French archives such as the one below which does not appear in the book - the He 177 saw most of its service in France - but then I guess you can't have everything.

He 177 A-5 probably of KG 100 (via Lorant)

He 177 A-1 VB+UN photographed on the compass swing platform at Rechlin during 1942 from an aircraft taxiing alongside

A selection of Bundesarchiv/Wiki Commons images that are free for re-use on the web

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-676-7972A-14, Flugzeug Heinkel He 177

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-676-7970A-23, Flugzeug Heinkel He 177

Monday 9 August 2010

Junkers Ju388 in 1/48th scale

Excellent build of the Heritage Aviation Junkers Ju388 conversion set by Arnold Cremers who kindly sent through these pictures. The Ju388 was the last of the line and the apex of Junkers Ju 88 development. Developed primarily as a high- altitude heavy fighter to counter the Mosquito and the B-29, with bomber and reconaissance variants also planned, the Luftwaffe placed high hopes in the Ju388 and by the summer of 1944 it was one of the five main types cited in Delivery Plan 226 to fill all planned roles for the Luftwaffe during 1945. However aside from a pressurised cockpit and remotely controlled defensive armament the Ju388 offered no real adavantages over the later versions of the Ju88G series and fell victim to the hopeless economic and military situation in that latter months of the war and the prioritisation accorded the Ta 152 programme. That said at least 75 of the type were built but most were used only as test beds for the somewhat temperamental BMW 801 TJ powerplants.
Arnold's model was built using the Revell/Dragon Ju 88 C6 with the Heritage set.
Arnold reports that the resin parts of the Heritage Aviation set are very good, the only setback encountered was the vacu-formed cockpit canopy which proved to be too big for the resin front cockpit part. To solve this problem Arnold glued the canopy to the front with some wood glue and after a day to dry he put some 2 part epoxy glue around it to create a strong bond followed by some putty and sanding. Super work Arnold !

Ju388 L-1 WNr. 340 083 seen in September 1944 at Merseburg and coded RT+ KC. This was the first Ju388 to leave the factory equipped with ram air intakes. In the background is WNr. 340084. EADS photo from Christoph Vernaleken and Martin Handig's superb Schiffer Junkers Ju 388 history which reconstructs for the first time the complete story of the Ju388 and is highly recommended by this blog!

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Airfix Bf110 C in-box first-look review 1/72 and Me 110 reference walkaround for Eduard 72nd series - latest update December 2016

From the amount of google searches arriving here for this kit I thought I'd post a few quick comments. Mine arrived this morning and after a quick gander at the sprues I can report - it's a far cry from Airfix's previous Me 110 ! A lot of kit in a crowded red box and great VFM at £7.99. There is reasonable interior detail including cannon ammo drums, a separate under fuselage bomb rack, two types of bomb, two types of drop tank. Radiator inserts fit to the wings then the separate radiator covers go over these as in the recent 48th scale Emil. The nose MGs and exhausts have been designed to assemble in alignment. The undercarriage is also impressive with wheel well detail and lots of separate parts and can be inserted at the correct forward-slanting angle to achieve an accurate 'stance' not possible on any other 72nd scale Bf110 kit.

The engraved detail is a bit on the deep side, especially the fuselage frames, but will probably look better under a few coats of paint. Once again extra attention is needed in removing parts from the sprues.

One piece canopy - no open options. Decals for a ZG 76 Haifischmaul (sharkmouth) and an Eastern Front SKG 210 Wespe are colourful but very matt. Colour scheme instructions are printed in monochrome rather than colour.

Interesting to compare it to the Fujimi offering. Wing shape etc much the same but the Fujimi fuselage is very slim! Fin/rudder is also a different shape - the Airfix looking more accurate when compared with photos.
The Fujimi kit has the lower fuselage 'towel-rail' antenna integrally moulded - no sign of it in the Airfix kit but an easy 'fix'..

A look at the Airfix cockpit and canopy - which appear to be the weak spots in this otherwise great new kit. The Airfix canopy is a thick one piece affair (on the right right below), so probably not much point in detailing that cavernous cockpit - Fujimi multi-part canopy alongside for comparison. As usual click on the images for a closer look..

More comment and images and the build on my modelling blog . My finished build (using Kagero decals) below and 'M8+EP' from the kit OOB by Rowan Gough

Some Bf110 cockpit reference from Bundesarchiv/Wikicommons. (free for use on web-sites). ZG 26 Bf 110 C/D being refuelled.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-404-0521-19A, Flugzeug Messerschmitt Me 110, Betanken

External ID feature of the 'E' variant was the cockpit heater air intake on the nose (see above) on this ZG 76 machine. Messerschmitt works calender photo from Stipdonk/Meyer below. Click on the image for a larger view. Compare this with the very dark reproduction in the Vasco/Estanislau book (which is otherwise a beautiful volume John!)

ZG 26 machine under-going maintenance in a Belgian hangar, late May 1940

Stipdonk/Meyer Zerstörer photo book series