Messerschmitt Me 163S-1″Habicht” by Dragon
Kit No. 5526
Decals: One version, Luftwaffe 1945 — by Cartograph
Comments: Engraved panel lines, flush rivet detail, highly detailed cockpit and skid assemblies, photo-etch details, optional position canopies, pilot and student-pilot figures included
Messerschmitt’s Me 163 Komet rocket fighter was a tail-less mid-wing aircraft of mixed construction (a monocoque aluminum fuselage with plywood wings) with jettisonable main landing gear. It was the brainchild of Dr. Alexander Lippisch, whose name it would bear but for the politics of Nazi Germany; Willy Messerschmitt had virtually nothing to do with the Komet’s development, but he happened to own the factory that put it into production. The Komet’s highly caustic and volatile fuels, T-stoff and C-stoff, had to be carried in separate tanks (the fuselage tanks held T-stoff, a blend of hydrogen peroxide, oxine, and water; the wing tanks held C-stoff, a mixture of 57% methanol, 30% hydrazine hydrate, and 13% water) and were only brought into contact with one another in the combustion chamber of the rocket motor. Leaks, premature mixing, sloppy refueling procedures and sometimes rough landings often had explosive, fatal results.
The Me 163 struck fear in the hearts of Allied bomber crews due to its (for that time) incredible speed. It was really only vulnerable when its fuel was expended and it was in glider mode, returning to earth in what was always a controlled crash. On October 2, 1941, test pilot Heini Dittmar broke a world speed record, achieving 620 mph while flying a prototype Me 163A — an achievement Germany decided to keep secret due to the war. It was common for the Me 163B to consistently achieve speeds approaching 600 mph under combat conditions. The Komet was so fast that its closing speed with Allied bombers was sometimes a problem for its pilots — they had mere seconds to bring the Me 163’s pair of 30mm Mk 108 cannon to bear. Another challenge was that the Komet expelled its fuel so quickly that its endurance in combat was no more than five minutes. While pilots learned to compensate for the rapid approach speeds by flying above the bombers until their fuel was expended, and then gliding down to attack, this strategy allowed for only a single pass at the bombers. These factors limited its effectiveness to the point that according to Luftwaffe records, the Me 163 downed only 12 Allied bombers during the war.
The Messerschmitt Me 163S “Habicht” or “Hawk,” was a two-seater trainer version of the Me 163. In reality it was an advanced glider, the result of a modified Me 163B which had its powerplant and fuselage-mounted fuel tank removed, and a second cockpit installed in a raised position above and behind the first one, intended for the flight instructor. The remaining wing-mounted fuel tanks and a new tank installed behind the second cockpit were filled with water to simulate the weight of a fully fueled Me 163. The Me 163S provided the last stage of training for pilots destined to fly the rocket fighter, after they had completed their flight training in sail planes, and before they flew a rocket-powered Me 163 in combat.
Dragon’s Messerschmitt Me 163S-1 is injection molded in grey and consists of 82 injection molded plastic parts, including 5 clear parts for the canopies, gunsight, and an armored windshield, this latter part being a true-to-the-original detail that is often missing from Me 163 kits. Unfortunately, the parts for the canopy are somewhat frosted in appearance, as if there were condensation building up on them. An application of clear gloss lacquer may cure this, otherwise it may be necessary to build the kit with the canopies open.
Complementing the plastic parts are two photo-etch frets. One fret is for the seatbelts and the few external details, including the small propeller mounted on the nose tip which drove a generator providing electrical power during flight. The second fret contains parts for the skid assembly. the cockpit features raised details on the tub, rear bulkheads, seats, instrument panels, as well as individually mounted controls such as the control yokes, rudder pedals, hand cranks for the canopies, and augmentations for the instrument panels. Finally there is the thick, clear plastic armored windshield, to be mounted within the cockpit.
The skid assembly is a detailed combination of plastic and photo-etch parts, onto which the detailed but jettisonable main landing gear is cemented. The wings feature excellent surface detail, particularly for the control surfaces, and separately mounted leading edge slats. There are photo-etch parts for the canopies, representing handles mounted on the interior at the bottom of the canopy frames. Lastly, there are two detailed figures for the instructor and student-pilot, along with a boarding ladder.
One notable omission from an otherwise highly detailed kit is that there is no attempt to represent the rocket engine. The tail assembly, which will trigger the need for seam-hiding, includes a simple blanked-off rocket exhaust pipe, and that’s it. The instructions are clear and well-illustrated and include a paint guide calling out Gunze Sangyo and Mr. Color paints.
The kit markings are by Cartograf and appear to offer the high quality modelers have come to expect, with no issues as far as color bleed or poor registration. They include a series of stencils and have a good semi-gloss sheen. Although there were actual Me 163 units in operation before the war, the instruction sheet offers no guidance as to whether this training version of the Komet was assigned even to a training squadron. There is so much variety as provided as to the range of white numbers and the type of German crosses displayed (thick white borders, thin white borders, with or without black outline, black without white borders, and white borders only), that there will be plenty of surplus markings left over for your spares box.
This is an interesting and very detailed kit of the trainer version of Messerschmitt’s fascinating rocket fighter. Highly recommended.
- Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet by Mano Ziegler; Copyright 1990 by Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, Pennsylvania.
- Messerschmitt Me 163 “Komet” Vol. II by M. Emmerling and J. Dressel; Copyright 1992 by Schiffer Publishing, West Chester, Pennsylvania.