Me 163B

The Me 163B Komet was for all intents and purposes a complete redesign of the 163A which was a proof of concept aircraft. It retained the basic configuration, that of a swept wing tailless airframe powered by a rocket motor. Messerschmitt was given a contract for 70 preproduction aircraft plus six prototypes. Construction began in December of 1941 with the first example being rolled out in April of 1942. Unfortunately problems with the rocket motor delayed delivery of production units. The second prototype was delivered to Peenemunde where it was joined during the summer month by further prototypes. An extensive flight test program was conducted with the unpowered aircraft even including gunnery trials. More than two-thirds of the 70 preproduction aircraft had been delivered before the first flight cleared rocket motor arrived at Peenemunde in July of 1943. The first powered flight was made in August. Messerschmitt was responsible for the preproduction aircraft only and those not allocated "V" numbers received the designation Me 163Ba-1 and were assigned to service evaluation tasks. The first production Me 163B-1a was accepted by the Luftwaffe in May of 1944. Even at this late date the rocket motors were still experiencing problems and the touchy rocket fuels were prone to exploding if the aircraft suffered a hard landing. By this time bombing, lack of rocket fuels and trained pilots severely limited the use of the fighter and although some success were had in the end it would prove far more dangerous to those who flew it than those it flew against.

The Kit

The Hasegawa kit comes it a top open tray type box with their usual nice looking artwork on the top cover. Inside the box one finds a large bag with all the parts inside. The parts are molded in a light gray color and are presented on two sprues. This is a kit from 1973 although my kit was a later release from 1987 and as a result has raised panel lines and rivet detail. Both the lines are the rivets are quite fine, smaller than those found on many 1/48 scale kits from the same time frame. I know this puts some folks off but having grown up with raised panel lines I don't find them objectionable. The kit is accurate shape wise and if the surface detail puts you off there is another choice in this scale now that Meng has released their kit. Since much of the aircraft was wooden in construction there are not that many panel lines and those so inclined could rescribe them. In spite of it's age there is only a hint of flash here and there. I found no surface defects on any of the airframe parts except for scuffing from other parts in the bag during transit.
The control surfaces are all molded in the neutral position. All but the flaps, which weren't fabric covered, have a texture on them that is a bit much for the scale but a good heavy coat of primer or a bit of sanding should fix that. Each fuselage half is molded in two parts so that the tail may be removed to display the engine. This is done on panel lines. Some of the smaller parts have a fairly heavy mold parting line to remove. The tail wheel is molded integral with the strut which makes painting tough at times. Two are supplied in the kit, one with a fairing and one without. The dolly wheels are molded in halves and are not weighted. The cockpit is fairly sparse on detail being a tub with a seat, stick, rudder pedals and a few add on details but then the prototype wasn't all that complex either. The seat has molded on lap belts and harness but to me they look a bit wimpy. The engine has a fair amount of detail but could use more if you decide to leave it open. A jack stand is supplied to support the rear of the engine should you decide to leave the rear of the fuselage off. The fixed wing slats are open at the top and bottom. OK, lets look at the plastic.




The clear parts are are thin and reasonably clear but would benefit from a dip in Future. The frame lines are a little light.

The decals look a bit thick and have a semi gloss finish. They are in register and include the swastikas, markings are supplied for 4 aircraft including the B-0 version in red.


After Market Goodies
I decided to go with an after market cockpit, this one from CMK (5015)in resin. The parts are nicely molded with no pin holes or other defects found, the tub has a lot of material to remove from the bottom. The seat has a nicely molded pad in the bottom. The set also has color photo etch fret from Eduard for the instrument panel, lap belts and harness and a second fret for side panels, rudder pedals and trim wheels.





The instructions are a large sheet folded in thirds to create six panels. Included are history, the assembly in 13 steps and a parts map. There are drawings and prototype photos interspersed with the instructions which is a nice touch. The kit predates the use of assembly icons. It does have a parts list keyed to the parts map giving the names of the parts. There was a separate sheet in my kit with a corrected parts map. The painting and marking instructions were provided on a separate glossy A4 size sheet printed in color. One side having profiles and the other a line drawing and color chart with Gunze numbers. RLM colors are called out in English the generic colors are in Japanese. There is also a black and white photo of the actual engine.

Conclusions
While dated the kit is still accurate in outline and detail and unless the raised surface detail is a deal killer for you it will build into a nice looking kit and can be found for much less money than the Meng kit which is not without some fit issues.

Links to kit build or reviews

A review / build can be found here.

References

"War Planes of the Third Reich" by William Green

Back to the 1/32 German Aircraft Page

The Build
Like most aircraft the build begins with the cockpit. This kit being rather old was a little sparce on cockpit details so I decided to use the CMK set reviewed above. When I test fit the main pit piece in the fuselage I found that the fit was actually a little loose side to side and decided to add some .010" thick styrene to each side to provide a firm mounting point for the PE side panels. The placement of the tub was a little vague so I assembled the kit part with the rear bulkhead to determine placement. The first three photos below show the completed pit. All parts were included except the oxygen hose which was fabricated from some fine solder and a piece of copper wire. Unfortunately when I test fit the final assembly in the fuselage I found that the side panels interferred with the instrument panel. In the end I shortened the two side panels so they ended just short of the instrument panel. Nothing was lost as the portion forward of the panel would not be seen. It did require me to reposition the oxygen hose.







The next three photos show what can be seen of the pit once the fuselage has been assembled. It's a very small space.







Primer applied. Mr. Surfacer 1000



Finish colors. White Ensign Models RLM 80 and RLM 81 over Model Master RLM 76.



All finished.













The marking were all Hasegawa supplied but the markings used were not shown on their markings sheet. Markings represent an aircraft flown operationally by 2 Staffel Jagdgeschwader 400 at Brandis in the winter of 1944-45. The kit met my expectations as far as ease of assembly and fit. Some of the detail such as the over done fabric effect on the control surfaces were not up to current standards but not that hard to fix with some filler and sanding. The after market cockpit was a big improvement as was not an issue fit wise.
Updated 1/29/16