AMTech 1/48 Henschel Hs 123
Model, Text and Photos by: Floyd S. Werner, Jr.
A product of a 1934 aircraft bid for a dive-bomber, the little biplane Henschel Hs-123 preceded the famous Ju-87 Stuka in the dive-bombing role for the Luftwaffe. A direct result of Ernst Udet's love of the dive bomber and the Curtiss fighter plane, the Hs-123 served as a transitional aircraft in the Luftwaffe's earliest days. First bloodied during the Spanish Civil War by the Condor Legion, the Hs-123 served as a dive-bomber well into the Second World War. Adolph Galland flew this airplane during his formative flying years with the Condor Legion. The Hs-123 was relatively obsolete by the start of World War II. With the advent of the Stuka, the Hs-123 was relegated to second line and training units. Production on the Hs-123 ended in 1940 but it soldiered on until late 1944 when it was finally retired from active units. The Hs-123 served in Spain, Poland, Belgium, France, the Balkans and in Russia. Always overshadowed by the roaring Stukas the Hs-123 nevertheless played an important part of the Luftwaffe.
The Markings for my Model
The first thing you will notice about the kit is the gaudy graffiti on the sides and around the aircraft. The story behind the markings appears to center on a young Lieutenant assigned to 3./Fliegergruppe 50 in 1938 as the Group Adjutant, Lt. Kurt Hamann. It appears that Lt. Hamann never had any or very little formal flight training and was taking this Hs-123 for training flights. His unit was giving him lessons in their off time. You may have noticed that the Hs-123 is a single seat airplane so Lt. Hamann always flew solo. Whether loved by his comrades or tolerated by his superiors is not quite clear, but it is quite obvious that he was flying. Lt. Hamann did attain his wings and was killed in combat over France in 1940 while flying a Ju-87B. For those of you that don't speak German here are the translations to the markings.
|Der letzte Schlatchter?||-||The last Butcher?|
|Gott erhalte uns den Adjutant||-||God hold us the Soldiers|
|Aller Anfang ist schwer||-||All Beginnings are difficult|
|Kleine Fische||-||Small Fish|
If you are like me you have been holding onto your Esci Hs-123 kit for years. While it is a nice kit it could never match up to today's standards, besides it is not a very attractive aircraft. I mean it is a biplane, my first biplane might I add. When AMTech decided to "upgrade" this kit it just made sense to me. The only thing really missing from this kit was the cockpit. The kit is made up of the same sprues as the Esci kit just different colored plastic. The plastic is a little soft, but if you have seen the P-40 kits it is the same plastic, easy to work with. AMTech includes a resin cockpit mastered by Black Box and unspatted gear struts. My review example did not include instructions or decals so I can't comment on them. I used the Esci instructions, which shows an unspatted Russian front Henschel on the instructions. The kit also includes a cockpit windscreen that is thick, but usable.
I wanted to build this kit as much out of the box as possible. So with that said, construction begins as usual in the cockpit. The all resin cockpit is an easy addition that requires no modifications to the kit. Just remove the parts from the pour blocks and your ready to assemble. I painted my cockpit Model Master Acrylic RLM 02. The details were picked out with RLM 66 and some Alclad II Aluminum. A wash of burnt umber and a dry brush of silver and white made the whole cockpit come alive. The seatbelts were painted Polly-S Dirty White and Model Master Acrylic Leather. Before I knew what was happening it was time to put the fuselage together. There was no big deal here, except for the upper cowling, which had big gaps. Remember this is not a new kit, this kit was made in the early 1980s. The gaps were easily taken care of with some 3M Blue Acrylic Body Filler. Use either a little bit of sanding stick or a cotton swab dipped into fingernail polish remover (acetone) and your done. I had never tried it before but I must say it is now my favorite filler next to superglue and accelerator. Thank you, Rafe Morrisey. I then attached these strange things called cabane struts. Lord knows what they are for. The tail wheel fit was ok but I built up around the attachment with epoxy putty to smooth it into the fuselage. I did drill out the gun barrels in the upper cowling. The guns may be a bit on the big side but they look good.
Next came the engine. The engine comes in a solid one piece for the cylinders. You're probably saying, My God what were they thinking? Relax the engine is encased in the forward cowling and the mold lines are invisible to the naked eye. The cylinders were painted Alclad Stainless Steel over a gray primer. The nose cone comes next. This could have been enhanced by cutting off the pushrods and replacing them with tubing as they are slightly too short. Again you can't really notice it with the cowling installed. Now comes the hardest part of this whole kit. The cowling has cooling bulges around the circumference of the cowling. I found that if you flat sand the entire cowling the bumps are not a big deal. I only added a little bit of putty to one or two of the bumps. I think this was one of the reasons I never built the kit in the first place, that and that second wing.
The tail planes are place on the fuselage and the struts are a little too long. Better too long than too short. Some swipes with a sanding stick and done. The tail and later the wings are a little thick in my opinion, especially the trailing edges but it adds to the robust nature of the Hs-123.
The wings are easily assembled and represented no major problems other than being thick. The lower wing to fuselage attachment indicated big gaps at the front and back of the join. The sides of the fuselage weren't nearly as bad. Again out with the 3M Acrylic Blue and I was done in no time. Now was a good time to add the interplane struts. A little filler was needed but nothing drastic.
My prop had a sink mark at the hub but again this was not difficult to cleanup with some filler.
AMTech gives you the unspatted struts but I could not use them with my particular subject but I did test fit them and they worked like a champ. The kit was rapidly coming together. With the wheels and struts completed, they were fit into the wings and a little filler and they were done. A little bit of work on the external fuel tank and I was off to the paint booth
Painting and using the Black Magic masks
The Hs-123 comes in three basic schemes. Overall RLM 02 for very early machines, RLM 61, 62, 63, 65 (tri-color) scheme, and RLM 70,71,65. Within these colors are many varieties, especially the tri-color scheme. The three upper surface colors could be moved around in any number of combinations that were "negative" of each other. Be careful if you use these colors and check your references. JBOT, who produced the decals I used, indicated one scheme that I think is wrong. My model, my opinion. After looking at the pictures of the real machine I decided to paint my model as you see. My major reference for the scheme is found in the Model Art special, Camouflage & Marking of the Luftwaffe Aircraft Vol 2. With that decided I pre-shaded the model with RLM 66 and fixed anything not quite right. After spraying the bottom and part of the top with RLM 65, it was time to attack the top.
If you are going to attack something as complicated as this paint scheme is you will want help. Meteor Production has that help. They produce a Black Magic mask for this kit in the tri-color scheme, thank God or I would still be masking. The Black Magic set is designed for the paint scheme that JBOT depicts which is the "normal" paint scheme, but with careful planning and connecting the panels on the Black Magic sheet you can do my paint scheme. No real big problems after that. Just spray the colors and add masks until you are done. You may have to touch up but it is infinitely easier now that the basic outline is done. I used Model Master Acrylic RLM02 for my RLM 63. There will be some discussion on the shade of RLM 63 but in "Luftwaffe Colors" (see references) it explains how there came to be TWO RLM 63s, one very light gray and the other very similar to RLM 02, except used on external surfaces. I decided to use Polly-S for the 61 and 62 because in my eye they were closer to the chips in "Luftwaffe Colors". The Model Masters were close but I liked the Polly-S. Your choice really.
A quick coat of Tamiya Clear and it was time for the decals.
The JBOT Decals
The decals come on two sheets of decal paper with a "blurry" instruction sheet that is marginally helpful. The decals were made on an ALPS printer so each sheet is one piece of decal. This is no big problem. You just have to trim close to the printing, which is fragile. The JBOT decal sheet provides you most of the markings. It may have been me but when I looked at the photos I see a leading edge white stripe on the lower wing that JBOT does not provide. The decals react well with setting solution and are adequately opaque.
It was apparent with the decals set up as they were that the distances were as they would appear on the model. This is good because of the instruction sheet. I tended to leave whole sections of decals together so that they would be the right distances from one another. This caused some silvering problems because of the vast areas of clear decal paper. This was definitely my fault.
I did have a few markings that were slightly out of register but nothing overly noticeable. I did find other problems though. They included that the upper wing stripes were too small and did not fit completely around the wing. This appears again on the interplane struts. Another observation was the upper and lower wing crosses appear to be mis-marked. The top one should go on the bottom and vice versa. Both appeared too small. I eventually decided on some Aeromaster markings. The wheel-spat markings were too small and I ended up having to mask and repaint them.
The one thing that gave me fits was the cowling bulge decals. I thought that MicroSol would be able to make it happen, I was wrong. The decals looked terrible all shriveled up and never would settle down. I eventually had to remove them. This proved to be a big problem. The MicroSol had made the decals bite into the paint and they refused to be removed. When I did remove them I removed the underlying paint. Of course it was acrylic and it just chunked off. Never to be smoothed out again. I ended up chipping off the remaining paint on the whole cowling with a toothpick and sandpaper. It came off nice but in the process I ended up destroying the fuselage markings. Remember I said they were fragile. I tried to hand paint them back on but that failed miserably. I took off my attempt at graffiti and ordered another set of decals from Meteor. I eventually painted the whole cowling Flat White and then using Tamiya masking tape (love this stuff, if you haven't you have no idea how good it is) I masked the bulges and resprayed the camo pattern. Finally I had a cowling that I liked.
One good thing about this fiasco on the fuselage was that I noticed that my camouflage line was too high on the fuselage so I had an opportunity to repaint it properly and the cabane struts which I had painted the wrong color were corrected. So there was some good from it. I used a trick to make sure my camouflage line was straight on the fuselage. I used Silly Putty rolled into a long worm and laid it down over the fuselage where I wanted the demarcation line to be. Then I sprayed the undersurface color at slightly more than 90-degree angle to the putty and I had a nice straight and slightly feathered edge exactly where I wanted it.
Now that the decals were on I sprayed a coat of Tamiya Clear over the entire kit and then some Model Master Acrylic Flat. I noticed some silvering on the clear panels so I cut them slightly and used MicroSol on them. The ones that didn't sit down were then painted over. Can you tell where? Me neither.
Now it was time to finish bring everything together. One thing nice about the instruction sheet is that it shows you how to add the support wires and the antenna so in keeping with the out of the box. I added mine from styrene.
Attaching the top wing required a clamp in the middle but everything fit rather well. I did have to add some filler to the cabane struts at the top but it wasn't too difficult. The windscreen was added and filled in with white glue. I touched up the paint and called the kit done.
The Black Magic masks were indispensable, even though I had to adjust them for my particular paint scheme. Meteor even addresses this in their instructions. Use the masks they save lots of time, especially on this tri-color scheme.
As for the JBOT decals, if you want to model this machine you have very little choice than these decals. The difficulty I had was largely self-induced, but the decals were slightly undersized, except on the personal markings. It appeared that the decals were first made for a smaller kit and then just enlarged to the appropriate scale. They do make quite a colorful machine. Use caution on the paint scheme as I said I think the one JBOT represents is incorrect.
The kit is an old kit. Once you come to terms with that no problem. I really enjoyed it. It kind of brought back a little of my childhood memories. The new resin interior was beautiful. I would love it if AMTech brought out the resin interior and the unspatted struts as a separate upgrade to my old Esci kit. A word of caution there are only going to be 5000 made so get yours early and avoid the markup on the secondary market. Overall, a very enjoyable and quick build. I may even attack more biplanes now that I've gotten over my fear of the upper wing. Bring on the He-51 or Ar-68!
Thanks to AMTech for the review copy.
Flugzeug Dokumentation- Von der Fliegerschule zum Einsatzverband; Michael Mayer and Paul Stipdonk; Flugzeug Publications; 1991; ISBN 3-927132-05-5
Camouflage & Marking of the Luftwaffe Aircraft Vol 2; Model Art special No 356.
Luftwaffe Colors 1935-1945; Michael Ullman; Hikoki Publications, 2002; ISBN190210934-1
Luftfahrt Volume 1; E.S. Mittler & Sohn GmbH publishers; ISBN 3 87547 178 4
Hs-123; Wydawnictwo Militaria; 1995;