AMTech's 1/48 Focke-Wulf Ta 183 Huckebein
Model, Text and Photos by: Steven "Modeldad" Eisenman
It was early
1946, the war was still dragging on. The Americans and British had been badly
defeated in Belgium
and the Western Front was beginning to resemble the static warfare of the previous war in 1917. The attempts to
replace the anti-Communist governments of Germany's East European allies had failed, and Hungary, Bulgaria
and Rumania threw all they had at the advancing Soviets and were able to stop them in the East. The truce between
Finland and the Soviet Union fell apart and the Finns began the effort to recapture the Karelian peninsula, push
beyond the '39 borders into Viena and launched bombing raids on Leningrad. The Italian fascists had finally
found their backbone and stopped the American and British advance up the leg of the Italian boot.
Major Klaus Faber had been waiting
for days for the arrival of the new jet fighters. Finally he could leave behind
his well worn, or worn out was more like it, Ta 152. Originally assigned to a Fw 190 D-9, he was actually on his
fourth aircraft since being posted to Jaggverband 44 in April 1945, when he held the rank of Hauptmann. All his
aircraft were painted in the red underside with white stripes for which the Papagei Staffel was so famous. Also,
each of his aircraft bore the number 13 in red on the side and each bore the black and white quartered crest
circled in red under the cockpit with is personal inscription, "Rein mußer und wenn sie beide weinen".
Protection of the airfields continued to be a high priority. The new American high altitude bombers and their fighter escort that got through the first line of interceptor defense could not be allowed to have free reign over the airfields. If they did, there would be no place to which the interceptors could return. The new jets would allow the protectors to reach the higher altitudes faster and, with the auxiliary tanks, stay up longer. The front line interceptor pilots got the new Ta 183 a few weeks before Faber's unit did. After familiarizing himself on one of the two aircraft assigned for training, he was ready for his own Ta 183. The new jets arrived and received the full Papagei Staffel markings, and Faber had his lucky 13 put in red on the nose and the other marking below his cockpit.
What struck him most about these
new jets was that they were short, fat and ugly and he could not believe that
they were from the people who designed the sleek and graceful Ta 152. The tail, looked like an after thought, as if
someone had stuck it on the back end at the last minute to get this into production a little too quickly. Hopefully,
with its' four Mk 108 30 mm cannons, its ability to carry up to four X-4 air-to-air guided missiles and the He S
011 turbojet stuffed inside, this new jet would live up to its nickname, Huckebein, the trouble making raven of the
cartoons. The wings were very thin, swept back at 40 degrees to the centerline, and made of wood. He
wondered if they would splinter under the stress of combat at high speeds. He climbed inside the cockpit, and once
again marveled at the fantastic field of vision he had under that big, clear dome of a canopy. With this aircraft, he
thought to himself, the Allies will surely seek a truce as we sweep their aircraft from the skies.
Upon opening my early production sample of AMtech's Ta 183 I could understand the excitement that Faber must have felt upon seeing the new jets for the first time. AMtech is a new model company with no prior production experience, but there attached to the sprues was some of the finest molded medium gray plastic I have ever seen. I picked up the pieces, the engraving, not too shallow and not too deep....it looked just right, if not down right beautiful. There was not a bit of flash and the few ejector pin marks that existed were on the face of a part that one would rarely see upon completion of the kit, such as on the inside face of the gear doors. I gently flexed some of the major components to establish the nature of the material...not soft like an ICM kit, but not brittle either. My goodness, AMtech seemed to have gotten the chemistry right.
My sample came with neither instruction nor decal marking. I was on my own to figure out what I had to do. One of the first things I noticed was that the kit had two different exhausts. One is to represent the back end of the Jumo 004B turbojet used on the early prototypes. It has the bullet shaped insert similar to that of the Me 262. The other is for the He S 011 turbojet.
The next thing I noticed, and which
resulted in a bit of a frown, was the nose. Cleanly molded, but instead of being
open, with the expectation that you
could look in and make out the front of a turbojet, there was just a solid,
deep, concave molding.
More about this later. The wheel wells are inserts which fit into the fuselage
sides and are
molded to represent the sides of the turbojet visible in the wheel bays.
The cockpit is a one piece tub with
a separate instrument panel, ejection seat and stick. The instrument panel
even has the correct style of gyroscopic gun sight. While the detail may be adequate for most modelers, this is a
place where after market products will make a significant difference. Especially under that large, clear and cleanly molded one piece canopy/windshield.
The landing gear struts are nicely
molded and do not appear the least bit chunky. The detail on the gear door
retraction arms is very fine. The
wheels are in one piece with nicely molded tread design and flattened on one
for that "weighted look". Although there are ejector pin marks on the sides, they are easily eliminated.
Finally the options. The kit comes with four X-4 guided missiles molded in two pieces and the attachment pylons, which are molded separately. You will need to decide how many pylons you wish to use, because you will need to open up the pre-marked holes on the inside of the wings. There is an auxiliary fuel tank which is molded in two pieces and a belly bay insert which would be used if you use the belly tank. If you do not, then there is a cover plate which you would use instead. The designers certainly knew that modelers are not necessarily always perfect. The mounting brackets for the belly tank are quite fine, and probably easily broken, if great care is not taken. But in the event you do break one or both, the kit has two more for a total of four brackets. Now that is what I call thoughtful and considerate.
Assembly began at an odd point, the wheel well inserts. I painted the molded on engine with Burnt Iron from the Model Master Metalizer Lacquer range and did washes and dry brushing with other metal colors from this range to bring out the detail. I then painted the inside of the nose gear well and doors and the inside of the main gear doors with Alclad II Dark Aluminum (no primer just a light misting) and set them aside.
I then painted the cockpit tub, seat and instrument panel with Tamiya German Gray. I picked out the instruments by using a dry brushing of silver and some red and yellow on the representative switches and painted the top of the control stick black. I then put the four cockpit pieces together.
Next, I glued the main wheel well inserts into the sides of the fuselage running Tenax liquid cement (my cement of choice) around the edge. A perfect fit. With the main wheel wells attached the fuselage is ready to be put together, but first I glued the nose gear well to one side and the cockpit tub to the same side with a little liquid cement around where the cockpit deck sits on the ridge molded on the fuselage. I then mated the two halves together and ran liquid cement around the seam...another perfect fit. Virtually seamless. Through the open front, you can now fully seat and glue the nose gear well and then just push and glue the other side of the cockpit deck into place.
My next step was deciding on the options I wanted. I wanted all four of the rocket, but I did not want the belly tank. To me it looked awkward stuck in the belly bay. It is my model, it never existed in real life, so my option decisions are final and unquestionable. I opened all the holes in the wings for the pylons and put the wing halves together. Once again the alignment was fantastic and the trailing edge seemed reasonably thin. I set the wings aside to dry.
Since I was not using the belly tank, I put in the cover plate rather than the open bay. I also decided to use the He S 011 engine. Once again the exhaust housing fit well with only a touch of Squadron white putty at the upper join. Not bad for a test run kit! Then came the nose. Before attaching the nose, I super glued some lead fishing weight inside the fuselage just to be on the safe side. I cannot give the amount. At his point I tend to "eyeball" the situation, and I am usually right. (Won't discuss the few times I'm wrong) I found that the nose in my kit was not a perfect match to the fuselage and so a little white putty and sanding was required. But, I never had to take out the putty again.
Looking at the closed-in-nose, I thought that perhaps on the next one I would open it up, create a tunnel and set the front end of a turbojet inside the fuselage.
After the wings had set, I slipped
the main wings into place. A perfect fit, they were glued into place. This kit
made me smile at every step. And I smiled here.
At this point I left off the horizontal
tail plane for reasons to be explained below. But there was a tiny ejector pin
mark on the top and in the center that needed a quick pass with some sand paper to eliminate. No big deal.
Actually decision time came when the kit arrived at my door. From the moment I got this kit, without decals, I knew that the biggest problem I would face would be deciding on the markings for it. There were no limits, it was a hypothetical Luft '46 subject. No black and white pictures to interpret. No experts out there who would say I used the wrong shade of green or gray, this was the creative fun part. Since it was fun, the answer had to be something colorful, What could be better than the Papagei Staffel aircraft with their red and white undersides. Also, because the wings were wood, they had to be painted. I was free to select a top side camouflage pattern. As to the topside of the fuselage..to paint or not to paint...that was the question. I had picked up some Alclad II at the U.S. Nats in Chicago and had not used it before I got the kit. What could be better than to use it on the fuselage? The fuselage from above was a relatively small visible area compared to the large sweeping wings. So, fuselage in natural metal and wings in bright and dark greens. This would also be consistent with the idea that the aircraft was put together from subassemblies form various locations.
The painting begins. I first painted
the inside of the nose flat black and when dry masked it off. I then masked
the cockpit and rear deck and the wheel wells. As I was told at the Nats by the Alclad rep, you should prime with
Tamiya acrylic. Given the paint scheme I was going to do, I primed the entire aircraft with Tamiya flat white.
Next I sprayed the exhaust tail unit Model Master Burnt Iron; when dry, it was masked.
I then put the main wheel well doors
in place and held them there with a piece of rolled tape on the inside, and
the same with the nose gear doors. I took 1/16 inch wide 3M automotive masking tape and masked the white lines
under the wings, down the underside of the fuselage and the underside of the tail. The spacing was approximately
that used on the 190D-9s. I did not space them exactly, as they were field applied during the war. Then I masked off the nose for the white portion. After masking the stripes the underside was sprayed with Aero Master Acrylic RLM 23 red (and yes, it is a shame this paint is OOP). I also spray painted the unattached wing pylons red. Of course there was the usual bleeding and imperfect lines and every other evil thing, and there was a lot of correcting.
After the red had dried thoroughly,
I remove the gear doors and masked the red areas. Then I sprayed my
camouflage greens on the upper wing and tail surface. Then I masked the wings and sprayed the remaining
fuselage with Alclad Aluminum. This stuff dries amazingly fast and hard. Using Post-It stickers and freehand I
sprayed other Alclad colors, dark aluminum, duraluminum and white aluminum on various panels and surfaces.
After everything seemed reasonably fine, I removed all the masking. And proceeded to the final steps.
While the various paints were drying, I was busy on the X-4 rockets and canopy. The rockets were put together. The bodies were painted Alclad Aluminum; once again I did not use a primer as the light misting gave good coverage and did not harm the plastic. The body was masked and the nose painted gloss black. On the actual X-4 missiles, the wings were made of plywood. I hand painted the wings a natural wood color and then dry brushed a darker brown to give the effect of grain.
I cut the canopy apart from the wind shield, masked it and sprayed it with Alclad white aluminum. The windshield fit perfectly so I could just attach it with white glue when I was ready.
The wings and underside were given
a spray of Future and decals from my spares were applied. The marking for
the black and white crest and personal markings on the fuselage came from the old Experten decal set for Red 13.
Seeing how hard and smooth the Alclad was, I applied decals directly to it without using Future. No problem at all.
The landing gear was painted and
assembled. I then attached the horizontal tail surface to the tail; another
fit. The model then received a light coating of a mixture of Aero Master semi-gloss and flat acrylic finish. The gear
doors and wing pylons were not attached until after they received the final coat. When I first put on the main gear
doors, I felt that they were open too far, so I shortened the retraction arms a tiny bit and reattached the door. The
missiles were then attached to the pylons. The windshield was glued in place and a radio direction antenna (not
supplied in the kit ) was attached to the fuselage. Finally the boarding ladder was attached. I was still smiling! !
My main interest is WW-2 aircraft, and I have built plastic, resin and vac-form kits from every manufacture out there who makes aircraft that I am interested in, and I can say this is one of the best produced models that has come along. Forgetting my involved painting, this model can be fully assembled and painted, in a simpler scheme, on a Saturday afternoon - start to finish. This is the type of kit you want to put in the hands of an inexperienced modeler to get him hooked on modeling. It is also the perfect kit to cure Advanced Modeler's Syndrome. It is just a joy to build, and let your imagination run wild on schemes. Do it in Finnish or Hungarian marking (with red, white and green striped tail). Put a red star on it and let it be the first Mig jet, captured by the Soviets and copied rivet for rivet. I am already planning my next one..perhaps some surgery on the nose and create a radar equipped night fighter with auxiliary tanks on two of the wing pylons.
Oh yes the nose. Once the inside
is painted flat black, it does not look bad at all. From a short distance you
even tell it is solid.
This kit is a must have for all aircraft modelers, regardless of your historical interests.
I would like to thank Alan Griffith,
President of AMtech Models for the sample kit, and wish him all the best in
his new undertaking.
Copyright Steven Eisenman 2001
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