Kit No. SH 72192
Decals: One version
Comments: Re-release of Condor/MPM kit, with modifications; engraved panel lines; resin inserts for wheel wells; photo etch details (instrument panel, rudder pedals, fence for tail fin), film insert for instruments; includes parts to build the He 178 V1 or V2
A lesser known fact of World War II is that Germany led the world in the development of jet aircraft years before the appearance of Messerschmitt’s Me 262. The Heinkel He 178, the world’s very first jet, took flight from Marienehe, Germany on August 27, 1939 — over 18 months before the first flight of the British Gloster E.28/39 (also known as the Pioneer) on May 15, 1941, and nearly three full years before the first jet-powered flight of Messerschmitt’s Me 262 on July 18, 1942 ( the Me 262 had flown prior to that, but with a piston-engined, propeller driven powerplant). The world might have taken more notice, but Heinkel’s triumph was developed in secrecy as a private venture.
Had Ernst Heinkel tried immediately going public, his accomplishment would likely have been overshadowed by the start of World War II just four days after his brainchild took to the air — and in any event his later He 280 was initially met with official indifference by the Nazi leadership, the RLM (German Air Ministry), and the conservative mindset of the Luftwaffe under Hermann Goering.
The deciding factor was that just as Heinkel succeeded in a ground-breaking technological achievement, the entire German nation was gearing up for war; the RLM and the Luftwaffe had little interest in jets when what were needed were increasing numbers of conventional combat aircraft to support the war effort.
On November 1, 1939, the He 178 was demonstrated to RLM officials, including Erhard Milch and Ernst Udet, during the continuation trials. The He 178 made about 12 flights during this demonstration, with Captain Erich Warsitz at the controls. Unfortunately, the conservative approach to aircraft design favored by Milch and Udet, and echoed by Goering, doomed the project. No official interest in the concept ever materialized, and it would be another two years before the German leadership would awaken to the potential of jet aircraft. Subsequently, the He 178 was fitted with a more powerful HeS 6 engine, a retractable undercarriage, and a longer wingspan with a less eliptical wing.
This became the He 178 V2, which is the subject of this kit. This second prototype reportedly never made a powered flight, perhaps due partly to the lack of interest on the part of the brass at the RLM, and the fact that by then Heinkel was pushing ahead with the He 280. The He 178 V1 was sent to the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin where it was destroyed along with the He 176 in an Allied bombing raid in 1943. The He 178 V2 was destroyed in a separate Allied air raid while in storage at Rostock, Germany in 1945. Only two were built, but had this technology demonstrator been met with more enthusiasm at the outset, the Luftwaffe might have had jet fighters over European skies as early as 1941.
For additional history on the He 178, click here.
This kit is a re-release of the MPM/Condor kit of the He 178 V1 under the Special Hobby label, with the key differences being that Special Hobby’s version includes additional parts for the modified, more symmetrical wing of the He 178 V2, and that it features resin inserts for the wheel wells. The cockpit consists of seat, control yoke, instrument panel with separate photo-etched face, and rudder pedals that include photo-etched parts. This last assembly is so small that it may require magnification of some kind to complete it.
There is a defect that cannot be seen once the kit is complete, but the internal dimensions of the cockpit are not quite to scale. The instrument panel is so large that if a pilot figure were included, its legs could not access the rudder pedals which are just forward of it. But other than the fiddly rudder pedal assembly involving plastic and very small PE parts, the cockpit assembly is very straightforward and should present no problems.
Early on, a decision must be made about the landing gear. If you wish to build this kit with the gear up, no alterations are necessary, since the He 178’s main landing gear were housed in the fuselage, and the kit comes with the fuselage halves molded with the landing gear doors closed. To build the kit with the gear down, resin inserts for the wheel wells are provided, and it will be necessary to cut out the gear doors in the fuselage. Separate plastic parts for the gear doors in the open position are provided. The same is true for the tail wheel. To open up the doors on the fuselage halves, I drilled a series of holes in the panels representing the closed gear doors, began removing most of the material with an Xacto blade, and finished off by sanding the edges smooth. The resin inserts were then cemented in place with cyanoacrylate.
The point where the wings attach to the fuselage in a shoulder-mounted position must be sanded down quite a bit in order for the wings to fit snugly at the proper angle. The He 178’s wings were not on a horizontal plane in relation to the fuselage, but angled upward slightly. It appears at first glance that the additional material on each fuselage half at the site of the wing join is there to provide support for the wing once it’s cemented on, but that’s not the case – it must be sanded until it is flush with the rest of the airframe, and only then does the three-part wing assembly fit snugly and securely over the fuselage. Once the wing is cemented on, putty may be required along the dorsal surface to conceal the join seams fore and aft.
A word on the intake positioned in the nose: its opening is too small based on reference photos. It is best to broaden it with a small Dremel tool fitted with a cone-shaped sanding tool rotating at low speed. I initially made the mistake of taking an Xacto blade to the two halves of the intake to widen the opening, and the result was very asymmetrical. Not owning a Dremel, I resorted to a homemade version: the pointed end of an all-metal ball point pen with fine sanding paper wrapped tightly around the tip and wedged into the intake once the fuselage halves were cemented together. A few turns, and this produced a smooth, entirely symmetrical opening. Putty and minor sanding took care of the few remaining defects.
Other than the cockpit components, the only real flaw on this kit is the lack of locator pins for the elevators. Select the glue used to cement them on with great care, as they had a tendency to break off during construction with both cyanoacrylate and Revell Contacta cement, both of which generally work quite well. I found that for these parts, the adhesive that worked best was Testors Liquid Cement.
The He 178 is airbrushed in overall RLM 02, a Vallejo acrylic. For the bare metal sections of the airframe I used a combination of airbrushed Model Master Aluminum, a non-buffing metallizer lacquer, and Humbrol Metal Cote enamel, applied with a paint brush. For the control surfaces, which were fabric-covered, the instructions called for a lighter shade of RLM 02. For this I mixed RLM 02 with another Vallejo acrylic, Sky (similar to pale duck egg green), at a ratio of 2:3. I then brush-painted this mixture onto the control surfaces
This was an interesting build of a serious historical subject and an amazing technological achievement that, luckily for the Allies, initially went all but ignored in Nazi Germaany. To build it with the gear down, alteration to the fuselage for the main gear and tail wheel will be necessary. Significant sanding of the cockpit and intake area are also needed, and the canopy fit is not exactly spot on, so the kit does not quite fall together out of the box. Careful with the “Heinkel” decals, the kit’s only markings, because once they come in contact with the kit, they are hard to move. Still, it is hands down the best kit of this subject available in 1/72 scale.