Focke-Wulf Ta154A-0 by Hasegawa

1/72 scale
Kit No. 51216
Cost: $22.00
Decals: One version
Comments: Plywood night fighter; excellent exterior detail includes engraved panel lines

History

The story of the Focke-Wulf Ta154’s development is a fascinating mix of infighting in the German Air Ministry, the press of a wartime emergency, and innovative design technology forced on Germany’s aviation industry by a growing shortage of strategic metals.  As the onslaught of the RAF’s night bombing campaign of Germany progressed, it was evident by 1942 that a more modern nightfigher was needed to augment the mainstay aircraft being sent up to destroy British bombers, the Messerschmitt Bf110, the Junkers Ju88, and their derivatives. Due in large measure to the ongoing campaign in Russia, strategic materials for new aircraft development were in short supply, so in August 1942 RLM, the German Air Ministry, asked Kurt Tank, designer of the superb Focke-Wulf Fw190, to come up with a wooden design. Tank soon developed a prototype Ta154, an all-plywood design. Ironically, the new plane was greeted with skepticism by a faction within the Air Ministry which favored Heinkel’s He219 as the Luftwaffe’s new nightfighter, due in part to its range and the visibility it provided the pilot, which were superior to that of the Ta154, but also due to doubts about the airworthiness and combat readiness of a fighter made of wood.

The traditionalists in the Air Ministry suffered a shock following the appearance in German skies of the RAF’s DeHavilland Mosquito, a mostly plywood fighter which soon wreaked havoc with its great speed and firepower. In response, Field Marshal Erhard Milch, in charge of Luftwaffe aircraft production, asked for a response to the Mosquito, breathing new life into the Ta154 and simultaneously triggering infighting within the Air Ministry between the He219 advocates and those of Kurt Tank’s newly vindicated design.

Given the Ta 154’s tricycle landing gear, the instructions call out the need for weights to be inserted in the forward end of both engine nacelles; there is limited space for weights in the nose.

The prototype Ta154, fitted with Junkers Jumo 211F engines, first flew on July 11, 1943, and was soon publicized over German radio as the Luftwaffe’s answer to the British Mosquito. Thereafter dubbed “Moskito” to prove the point, the Ta154 performed well in trials against the He219 and the new Ju388, but unlike its competitors it was not fully outfitted with guns and radar. Once its four 20mm cannon and sophisticated FuG212 Lichtenstein radar array were installed, the increased drag and weight slowed the Ta154’s top speed from 430 to 385 mph — significantly slower than the 403-420 mph range of the RAF’s “Wooden Wonder.” The focus on outperforming the Mosquito was based on the fact that it was DeHavilland’s plane, in nightfighter configuration, that hunted Germany’s nightfighters. Junkers responded with a series of more powerful engines, the 211N, 211R, and finally the 213, but the development of these new powerplants prevented the Ta154 from entering large-scale production until June of 1944, when at last over 150 of the new nightfighters rolled off the Focke-Wulf assembly lines.

In July 1944, just weeks after the Ta154’s long-awaited front-line deployment, there were a series of fatal accidents in which the aircraft literally came apart in mid-air. Investigation revealed that Dynamit AG, the glue used to attach the Ta154’s tail section, was having a corrosive effect on the wood, rotting the airframe and causing structural failure in flight. A different and superior adhesive, Goldmand Tego-film, had been used on pre-production models of the Ta154, but was no longer available due to repeated Allied bombing of the Goldmand factories. With no ability to secure additional quantities of the Goldmand Tego-film, Tank could neither continue production nor repair the existing Ta154 fleet of nightfighters. Production halted in August, and the Air Ministry cancelled the Ta154 program in September 1944.

Specifications

Crew: 2
Wingspan: 52 feet, 6 inches
Length: 41 feet, 3 inches
Height: 12 feet, 1/2 inch
Powerplant: Junkers Jumo 211F, 211N, 211R and 213 engines
Maximum speed (with Jumo 211N engines): 382 mph at 19,000 feet
Climbing time to 26,240 feet (8,000 meters): 16 minutes
Service ceiling: 31,200 feet
Maximum range with two 66-gallon drop tanks: 1,195 miles
Armament: 4 x 20mm cannon, or 2 x 30mm cannon with 2 x 20mm cannon

The Kit

Hasegawa’s Ta154A-0 is molded in grey and contains 87 injection molded parts with engraved panel lines and zero flash. The cockpit includes two in-line seats for the pilot and radar operator, a control column for the pilot, and decals for the instrument panels. This is a highly detailed kit in terms of exterior appearance and should build into an excellent model. Since the Ta154 has a tricycle landing gear and rests with a slight nose-up angle when parked on the ground, the instructions thoughtfully alert the modeler to the need to insert weights in the forwardmost section of both engine nacelles – there appears to limited space for weights in the nose. There is a simple paint guide for a camouflage scheme of overall RLM Light Blue with patches of RLM Light Grey, and markings for an unidentified Ta154A-0, call letters TQ + XE.

Conclusion

Although it has a basic cockpit, Hasegawa’s Ta154 is a detailed example of an interesting and innovative fighter that was never produced in meaningful quantities for the same reasons its development was ordered by Germany’s Air Ministry in the first place: the Russian Campaign took first priority for nearly all available strategic metals, and the Allied bombing campaign continuously hampered German industry’s war production. Highly recommended.

References

  • Hasegawa Ta154A-0 instructions
  • Jane’s Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Random House, London, 2001
  • Wikipedia.org.
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