Kit No. 5013
Decals: Two version- both Luftwaffe
Comments: Engraved panel lines, photo etch detail for cockpit and antenna, complete jet engine and intake trunking; four detailed air-to-air Ruhrstall missiles
The Messerschmitt Me P.1101 was a swept-wing, single-seat, single-engine jet-powered fighter aircraft under development for the German Luftwaffe in the closing years of World War II. It was the first design to feature variable-sweep wings, which could be positioned manually before flight while the aircraft was on the ground. The first P.1101 prototype was nearing completion when American ground forces arrived to secure the Messerschmitt facility in the Spring of 1945. The captured P.1101 was transported to the United States to undergo an evaluation that helped develop the next generation of jet-powered aircraft, beginning with the Bell X-5.
Had the P.1101 been completed in time, one can only imagine what impact it would have had against the Allied propeller-driven aircraft of the period. But initial official indifference, Allied bombing damaging Germany’s production capacity and infrastructure, and the Reich Air Ministry’s (RLM) tolerance of a money-wasting multitude of experimental military aviation projects combined to contribute to the state of Germany’s jet aircraft development at the close of the war.
While the major combatants of World War II were, in some form or another, pursuing turbojet technology, it was the Germans and the British that were at the forefront of this new frontier. The Germans had advanced the farthest, fielding the Messerschmitt Me 262 into production before war’s end with a top speed 100 mph in excess of the fastest Allied fighters.
With Allied forces advancing toward Germany in the East as well as the West, the Reich Air Ministry issued Proposal 226/II on July 15th, 1944 which became known as “Emergency Fighter Competition.” The specification called for 2nd generation jet-powered fighters to help in the defense of the Third Reich. These fighter proposals (with specifications continuously being altered) would have to meet a top speed of 621 miles per hour at altitude, reach altitudes of nearly 46,000 feet, and had to feature a pressurized cockpit, sufficient armor protection for the pilot, and armament of at least 4 x MK 108 30mm cannon. The powerplant was to be a single Heinkel-Hirth He S 011 series turbojet engine with a 264-gallon internal fuel capacity, supplying a flight time of at least 30 minutes.
The First Me P.1101
Work to fulfill the RLM requirement (and therefore obtain the potentially lucrative production contract thereafter) within the Messerschmitt firm began on July 24th, 1944. Messerschmitt engineer Hans Hornung began penciling out a design under the designation of “P.1101” as a stout, single-engine jet fighter with a “Vee” style tail arrangement, a fully-retractable tricycle landing gear, swept-back wings and split side-mounted circular air intakes. The cockpit was held to the extreme forward of the tear-drop fuselage and was to offer up good visibility from out of the three-piece canopy. The wing leading edges were set at two different sweep angles (40- inboard and 26-degree outboard) while the trailing edge featured a consistent sweep with flap installations. Wings were mid-mounted along the sides of the oval fuselage which tapered at the rear. The rear held the “Vee” tail angled planes. All tail surfaces were constructed of wood. The fuselage was stout and deep to allow for adequate spacing for the intake ductwork, the engine compartment, radio equipment, the cockpit pressurization system and internal fuel stores. The fuselage was constructed out of duralumin.
The engine would have exhausted out at the base of the empennage, fitted at about three-quarters of the way back along the ventral surface of the fuselage. Design of the P.1101 was such that a Junkers Jumo 004B jet engine would be used in the initial prototype but a relatively painless alteration to the more powerful Heinkel He S 011 turbojet was planned for a later date. The plywood-covered wings were shoulder-mounted assemblies on either side of the oblong fuselage and were lifted directly from the Messerschmitt Me 262 design.
Armament was to be a pair of 30mm MK 108 series cannons fitted to each forward fuselage side. Provision was made for the carrying of a single bomb held under the fuselage center, with the bomb being placed in a semi-recessed enclosure. In typical Messerschmitt fashion, the three-piece bubble canopy opened hinged to the starboard side of the aircraft.
The Second Me P.1101
A second P.1101 design emerged on paper on August 30th, 1944. This particular approach was more dart-like in appearance and made use of a sharp nose-cone assembly just ahead of the two-piece canopy system. The cockpit was situated further aft but still relatively forward in the design overall. The design was otherwise similar to the first prototype except that the wings were swept and were similar to those found on the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet-powered fighter-bomber. A tricycle undercarriage was once again the call of the day, though the shallower fuselage meant that the nose leg had to be rotated some 90-degrees to store itself flat in the forward bay. Proposed armament was to center around a pair of 30mm MK 108 series cannon OR – and this being perhaps somewhat optimistic – a pair of 55mm MK 112 cannons. Provisions were once again made for a single bomb to be carried under the fuselage.
The Final P.1101 Version
To help speed the project along, it was suggested that a flyable prototype be constructed alongside the ongoing data collection and evaluation testing. As such, work began on piecing together a new P.1101 design approach in late 1944, incorporating the culminated data for the project up to this point and utilizing whatever components were available from other existing aircraft. The new aircraft, designed by Willy Messerschmitt himself, would implement a unique ability to have its wing sweep adjusted manually while on the ground during pre-flight. This arrangement would allow for testing of the wing assembly at both 35- and 45-degree sweep as needed – something of a forerunner to the variable wing-sweep combat aircraft to follow decades later. Work was undertaken at the Messerschmitt facility at Oberammergau based in the mountains of Southern Germany. The target date for a first flight was penciled in for sometime in June of 1945.
While the Messerschmitt program moved along as best it could, inevitable delays caused by the relentless Allied bombing campaign soon began to take its toll on the facility at Oberammergau. This was more due to shortages of materials required for the P.1101 that were produced at other facilities damaged by bombing, than to any Allied targeting of the Oberammergau facility itself. While Allied ground forces had advanced close enough that the Messerschmitt team began making future plans for the fate of their P.1101, there is no evidence that the Allies knew about the facility, located in the Bavarian mountains. Work mostly progressed without interruption, but was hampered by materials shortages.
As American ground forces moved in, Messerschmitt employees gathered up documents related to the P.1101 development. This included amassed data as well as schematic drawings. The information was transferred to microfilm and hidden throughout the surrounding villages in the area while the P.1101 was tucked away in a neighboring tunnel. The area soon fell to an American ground force on April 29th, 1945 and led to the discovery and subsequent capture of the P.1101 airframe. The prototype was not yet flyable though some 80% of the aircraft had indeed been finished by this time. After some days of foraging by the Americans and obtaining other company documents at the facility, Messerschmitt employees soon gave up the existence of the microfilm data to the Americans. However, French ground forces had already moved into the surrounding area and uncovered the valuable data, inevitably sending them back to France for further evaluation. American researchers later arrived at Oberammergau to study the existing P.1101 V1 prototype up close.
The French later refused to share the P.1101 data they had captured. When the P.1101 airframe was finally transported to the United States in 1948, Bell Aircraft took the P.1101 under their microscopes and still garnered quite a bit from the Messerschmitt experiment. The original P.1101 was mated with an American Allison J35 turbojet engine and had mock cannon armament fitted to her. Some ground testing of the system occurred and even more data collection ensued. This ultimately led to the Bell X-5 research aircraft which flew for the first time in 1951.
Variable wing-sweep eventually became the basis for future combat aircraft designs that included the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, Rockwell B1 Lancer, Mikoyan MiG-23/MiG-27 “Flogger”, Tupolev Tu-22 “Backfire” and the Panavia Tornado. All proved successful in one form or another, proving the validity of variable wing sweep design and then some.
Specifications – Messerschmitt Me P.1101 V1
Length: 29.46 ft (8.98 m)
Width: 26.44 ft (8.06 m)
Height: 11.48ft (3.50 m)
Weight (Empty): 5,719 lb (2,594 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 9,921 lb (4,500 kg)
Powerplant: 1 x Jumo 004B turbojet engine.
Maximum Speed: 609 mph (980 kmh; 529 kts)
Maximum Range: 932 miles (1,500 km)
Projected Service Ceiling: 39,370 ft (12,000 m; 7.5 miles)
Proposed Armament: Two or four 30mm MK 108 cannonsfitted to fuselage sides
Optional Armament: 4 x X-4 Ruhrstahl wire-guided air-to-air missiles
Dragon’s Messerschmitt P.1101 is injection molded in light grey and consists of 62 parts including a single piece canopy. In addition, there is a small photo-etch fret for the main and side instrument panels as well as a loop radio aerial to be mounted on the P.1101’s spine. Looking over the assembly instructions, they appear to be a model of simplicity itself. The dimunitive airframe (for this was an “emergency” fighter) features engraved panel lines. flush rivet detail, and engraved and raised detail representing gun port openings for the main armament, two Mk 108 30 mm cannon. The kit is marked by the kind of crisp detail modelers always appreciate, but rarely see in Luft ’46 aircraft.
The cockpit is simple yet detailed, with a surprisingly detailed seat for this scale, control yoke, and photo-etch parts for the main and side instrument panels. However, the plastic part for the main instrument panel features painstakingly raised detail, so the photo-etch replacement for this may not be necessary. The intake trunking and turbojet engine comprise a single assembly consisting of five parts which include a detailed intake fan. The tail forms a separate assembly which will require seam hiding skill, and the kit’s armament is rounded out by four highly detailed Ruhrstahl air-to-air missiles — weapons contemplated for the P.1101 but which were still under development at the end of WWII.
An excellent mold of a Luft ’46 fighter, although some aficionados will want to see this bird in 1/48 scale. Highly recommended.