Heinkel He 111B “Pedro” by Roden

1/72 scale
Kit No. 005
Cost: $25.00
Decals: Three versions – One Luftwaffe, two from KG 88 (the Condor Legion)
Comments: Lightly engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail; detailed cockpit, landing gear and bomb bay assemblies; separately mounted rudder and elevators; ventral machine gun tub; optional position landing gear

History

The Heinkel He 111 was initially designed to meet a Lufthansa specification for a civil transport aircraft. The fact that it is known to the world as a bomber is due solely to the business sense of Ernst Heinkel, who understood that the relatively few aircraft Lufthansa would ultimately order would never cover the project’s development costs. Heinkel began that development close on the heels of his success with the Heinkel He 70, a high speed mail and transport aircraft built to rival the American Lockheed Orion series. The He 70 had a top speed of 377 kph (234 mph), some 30 mph faster than the Orion.

The concept of militarizing his aircraft for business purposes was not a problem for Heinkel; simultaneously with the development of the He 111, his factory was producing the He 70F, a reconnaissance version which would see service with the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War from 1937 on. From the outset, Heinkel had his design team of Walter and Siegfried Gunter create an aircraft that could fulfill the role of a bomber for the Luftwaffe. At the time, the Luftwaffe were flying the Dornier Do 23 and a bomber version of the lumbering Junkers Ju 52, capable at best of 270 kph (167 mph). Contemporary Luftwaffe fighters such as Arado’s Ar 68 could reach only 330 kph (205 mph), explaining why the He 70 had been so quickly embraced as a reconnaissance platform.

Although having roughly the same lines as the He 70, certainly the same wing configuration, the new plane featured twin engines, the same powerplant as the He 70. That powerplant was the only high performance aero engine available in Germany at the time: the BMW VI, capable of 650 hp. When the prototype first rolled out of the hangar at the Heinkel facility at Rostock-Marienehe, it was clear that this “airliner” had been designed with military applications in mind — it featured a number of cabin windows, but the machine gun mount in the plexiglas nose was plainly visible. Unlike the He 70 which was of mixed construction, the He 111 was an all-metal aircraft, Heinkel’s first. The prototype flew for the first time on February 24, 1935, piloted by Gerhard Nitschke, who afterward praised its handling qualities. He particularly singled out the plane’s excellent landing characteristics, which would later endear it to Luftwaffe pilots.

Beating out competition from the Junkers Ju 86, the Heinkel He 111 won the Lufthansa contract and entered production. The B series first appeared in 1936, and the B-1 soon saw action in Spain with Bombergruppe KG 88, the Condor Legion. The B-2 featured more powerful engines and went into large scale production by the end of 1937. These early He 111’s with conventional cockpit windscreens were at the time among the most modern bombers in the world. The aeronautical achievement they represented provided Nazi Germany with propaganda fodder, as when one of the first photographs of the type published outside Germany appeared (in a re-touched photo that had the machine guns removed) in the English magazine Aeroplane in 1937.

The He 111B acquitted itself well in Spain, providing many Luftwaffe pilots and aircrew valuable combat experience and allowing them to hone the tactics which would later be put to use to such devastating effect during the Blitzkrieg of 1939-1940.

The Kit

The Heinkel He 111B “Pedro” by Roden is injection molded in grey and consists of 200 parts, including parts for four bombs which, despite the fact that there is a complete bomb bay assembly, are to be disregarded, according to the instructions. Two things immediately obvious are that the exterior detail on the airframe is a bit soft, and the engraved panel lines weak enough to be obliterated by light sanding. In addition, there are imperfections in the molding in the form of blemishes, spots, and small humps that will have to be sanded down.

The cockpit is highly detailed with extensive raised interior sidewall relief representing both instruments and the internal fuselage structure. Likewise for the detailed bulkheads separating the bombardier’s position from the cockpit, and the cockpit from the bomb bay. The bomb bay itself is quite detailed, an assembly comprising 15 parts which faithfully recreate the individual bays which held the bombs in a vertical position.

For this reason, it is odd that although two bombs are included in the kit, they are not referenced in the assembly instructions, which clearly indicate they are to be disregarded. In addition, a central part forming the belly area between the wings will cover the bomb bay area, and there is no provision for depicting the bomb bay doors open. In any event, the bombs look as though they may be 227 kg in size, and too large for the confines of the bomb bay. It may be that they are intended for a later version of the He 111 that possibly mounted bombs on ventral wing pallettes.

Each main landing gear assembly consists of 12 parts including the wheels, which are nicely detailed with radial tread. Each assembly forms sufficient parts for boxed in wheel wells with good internal detail once completed and cemented into the lower half of each wing. The landing gear doors are a single part and must be cut in half to form four door halves in order to depict the plane with the gear down — this leaves the option open to the modeler to depict the Heinkel in flight. Each engine nacelle consists of 18 parts, providing a choice of radiators, and a dozen individual exhaust pipes for each nacelle, six on each side. This does not include the propeller assemblies, which are another five parts each — and entail a choice of spinners, although only one version is appropriate to the “B” version of the He 111.

There are detailed MG 15 machine guns for the glazed nose, rear dorsal position, and the fairly detailed assembly for the ventral machine gun tub. The glazing for the nose consists of three parts, with a fourth for the cockpit windshield, and despite the soft detail elsewhere, the framing for these parts is crisply done and will facilitate masking efforts prior to painting. There is a choice for the clear nose cap part through which one of the MG 15’s is to be cemented, with either a single cross bar forming the framing across the center of this dome-shaped part, or an “X” which provided greater structural strength, but somewhat reduced visibility.

Decals

Markings are by Roden and are provided for one of three versions:
1) A single Luftwaffe version of the He 111B-2 with a splinter camouflage scheme of matte dark green, matte light grey and chocolate brown, over hellblau (light blue) under surfaces, including large black registration letters D – ARAU. (Note: During the initial period following the Heinkel’s introduction into service (1935-36), Hitler had not yet gone public with the fact that Germany was rearming in violation of the Versailles Treaty of 1919. Upon the removal of the machine guns, the civil form of registration allowed for a paper-thin masquerade that the He 111 was an airliner, or at worst, a military transport — anything but a bomber). Markings for this version include the large red tail flash featuring the swastika on a white circular background. The paint scheme was commonly seen on Luftwaffe aircraft in the mid to late 1930’s.

2) Either of two aircraft flown by KG 88, the Condor Legion in Spain during the 1936-1939 Civil War, with a paint scheme of overall light grey, with matte white wingtips and rudder.

Conclusion

This is a fascinating kit of an early version of the famed He 111 bomber.

 

Reference

Heinkel He 111 Over All Fronts by Franz Kober; Copyright 1991 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. West Chester, Pennsylvania.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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