Kit No. 5013
Decals: Two versions – Luftwaffe 1945
Comments: Engraved panel lines, includes jet engine, photo-etch details for cockpit and radio aerial, Ruhrstall X-4 air-to-air missiles
The Messerschmitt P.1101 was a ground-breaking research aircraft and an unsuccessful entry in the German Air Ministry’s (RLM’s) 1944 Emergency Fighter Competition, but was still under construction when World War II came to an end. While Willy Messerschmitt launched a concerted effort to complete his Projekt 1101 in July 1944 when the RLM issued a Request for Proposals for a single engine turbojet fighter that could outperform the Me 262, his firm, under the guidance of chief designer Woldemar Voigt had been working on the design on and off since July 1942.
Their initial goal had been to develop a swept-wing research aircraft, whose wings could be re-positioned at an angle of about 30 to 40 degrees, with a view toward being the first to achieve supersonic flight. Previous research indicated that swept wings could help overcome the compressibility problems, manifested by intense buffetting that aircraft encountered at transonic speeds. The plan as of 1942 had been to fly the aircraft, whose wings would have to be re-positioned by ground crew prior to each flight, to see how it performed at different parts of the flight envelope.
The RLM specifications called for an aircraft with an endurance of 90 minutes at 32,800 feet, capable of carrying 370 gallons of fuel, and powered by a single Heinkel HeS 011A turbojet producing 2,866 pounds of thrust. Heinkel had promised delivery of this new, second generation turbojet by January 1945. The powerplant was a crucial component; a key finding of the Me 262’s flight test program was that a single engine aircraft such as the P.1101 would require a good deal more thrust than the Me 262 engine, the Junkers Jumo 004, could provide. This discovery had shelved the P.1101 for a time in the Fall of 1942, since at that time neither the HeS 011A, or any other second generation turbojet of comparable power, was anywhere near ready for testing.
The RLM wanted a fighter that could go into production by January 1945, to attack Allied bomber formations, which by mid-1944 were over Germany day and night, attacking infrastructure, factories, and city after city. Messerschmitt AG submitted the P.1101 design to the RLM, in competition with Blohm und Voss’ P.215, Focke-Wulf’s P.183, Heinkel’s P.1078A, and Junkers EF128. The RLM made no award but encouraged several companies, including Messerschimitt, to build a prototype, each with only a partial subsidy from the Reich.
Voigt had multiple difficulties developing a design that would perform according to specifications. The installation of the planned three Mk 108 30mm cannon in the nose around the intake, with ammunition boxes and chutes for spent shell casings, proved problematic, given the tight dimensions in the nose; the main landing gear, designed to retract rearward and up into the fuselage, posed serious engineering problems in trying to develop workable gear doors for such a complex, relatively untried gear arrangement (resolved, on the drawing board at least, by the addition of “butterfly” doors just forward of the engine exhaust); the wing, turbojet engine, and landing gear loading were grouped in such a way that multiple strong points had to be built into the fuselage frame; and finally every modification added to the plane’s overall weight, compromising performance. It was anticipated the due to various modifications, top speed at sea level would be 549 mph, less than that of the Me 262 and far less than that called for by the RLM specifications.
The RLM in Berlin were aware of Messerschmitt’s difficulties with the P.1101, and grew ever more skeptical that they could be conquered. Ultimately, they awarded the Emergency Fighter contract to Focke Wulf for its Ta 183 Huckebein. But since considerable work had already been done on the P.1101, the RLM agreed to continue funding it as a Mach 1 research project, albeit at reduced levels. Ultimately, the HeS 011A turbojet was not ready by January or even May of 1945, and the P.1101 was nearing completion but still had no powerplant when American troops overran the Messerschmitt aviation research facility near Oberrammergau in mid-April 1945.
Although the prototype P.1101 never flew, it led to a highly useful American research aircraft, the Bell X-5. It also strongly influenced subsequent jet fighter design on both sides of the Iron Curtain, notably the MiG-15 and the North American F-86 Sabre. Finally, it was the first attempt at a variable wing combat aircraft, and was a pathfinder for aircraft such as the General Dynamics F-111, Grumman F-14 Tomcat, Panavia Tornado and the North American Rockwell B-1 bomber.
Construction begins not with the cockpit, but with the jet engine and two bulkheads that form a rudimentary engine compartment, although all parts are well detailed with raised relief. At this stage, two parts forming support struts for the landing gear are to be cemented to the bulkhead that will be situated over the engine. While it would be better to assemble these parts much later with the main landing gear, the part of the bulkhead to which they must be cemented will not be accessible or even visible once the fuselage halves are cemented together — and that occurs well before you get to the landing gear.
This is a challenge because the struts must connect with the landing gear legs. While you have the option to assemble the landing gear and cement them on as soon as the fuselage is closed up (the gear connect to the fuselage rather than the wings), the subsequent painting, masking, and associated handling called for will involve a substantial risk of breaking the main gear. The only solution is to cement the struts on so that they are angled as far forward as they will go and still fit securely into the slots in the bulkhead.
When you do get to the cockpit in Step 2, there is no cockpit floor or tub, merely two fuselage halves that include the cockpit floor and rear bulkhead. This is a bit awkward since the main instrument panel and rudder pedals must rest on one half of the cockpit floor when cemented in, and still maintain proper alignment. The instructions provide a side view diagram to help with this. The pilot’s seat, although it lacks seat straps, is nicely detailed. I did not add the seat or control yoke until much later, as I knew the cockpit would be crammed full of tissue to protect it from the airbrushing of the exterior later.
The cockpit includes photo-etched parts for the main and two side instrument panels, which add above average detail in a kit of this size, once painted, dry-brushed and cemented in place. A rather delicate control yoke and a miniscule gunsight round out the cockpit detail. There is a compartment immediately aft of the cockpit for the insertion of a weight of some kind (not provided), to prevent this little jet resting on its tail. The space provided is not sufficient unless you have highly malleable lead which can be squeezed into it. I opened up the compartment by removing its bottom (it is invisible once the fuselage is sealed up) which allowed me to get in a few extra ball bearings, sealed in with cyanoacrylate. Even this was not enough. The P.1101 did not rest properly on its tricycle landing gear — and then just barely — until in the latter stages of construction I cemented two more ball bearings to either side of the forwardmost part of bulkhead situated over the engine, just below and forward of the other weights.
Care must be taken when sealing up the fuselage. Aside from checking on the cockpit parts to ensure they stay aligned, the engine and its bulkheads are locked into place at this time also, and their alignment too must be checked. While the engineering of the engine — with its locator pins on either side that fit into slots within the fuselage interior — suggests that its alignment is foolproof, appearance can be deceiving.
The fuselage consists of four parts, with two more halves for the rear fuselage, onto which the tail surfaces are cemented, and fortunately locator pins help with proper alignment. Some filler and sanding will be required to eliminate the join seam where the rear fuselage attaches, but not much.
The main challenge with painting was the successive maskings required. I assembled all the main components of the airframe before beginning to paint. While there were no mishaps, it may be easier to paint the wings, tail surfaces and fuselage separately before cementing them all together, especially if you choose the hybrid paint scheme depicted on the box art, part splinter camouflage and part natural metal finish.
The P.1101 is airbrushed in a partial splinter camouflage pattern on the wings and tail surfaces using a beautiful Polly Scale acrylic, No. 505308 – RLM 67 Dark Olive Green, together with a Tamiya acrylic, XF-27 Black Green.
Unfortunately, Polly Scale’s RLM 67 is now out-of-production; I purchased the one bottle I have many years ago.
For those interested in a good substitute, Vallejo makes an acrylic that appears to be a close match: Golden Olive Green, No. 70857.
The fuselage is airbrushed in a Model Master metallic lacquer, Magnesium, a Buffing Metallizer. Once airbrushed on and buffed, the model can be handled and the paint touched without the worry of rubbing it off or leaving fingerprints. But, it can be scratched, and small amounts of paint did lift off in the various
maskings that followed, requiring touch-up involving another session with the airbrush, since Model Master’s metallizer colors can only be applied in this way, or for smaller areas, I used a fine paint brush to apply Tamiya Aluminum (enamel) mixed with a little Model Master Flat Black (also an enamel). This resulted in portions of the fuselage looking a bit rough, compared to the smooth, almost reflective Magnesium finish in most other areas, but the rough patches are likely consistent with the production standards in Germany by 1945. The model is after all depicted as it would have gone into production as an “emergency fighter.” The nose of the P.1101 is airbrushed in Kaiserrot (Kaiser Red), an acrylic by Akan. The rear fuselage bands are Model Master Insignia Red and Blue, respectively, the red an enamel and the blue an acrylic. The entire airframe was weathered using MIG Dark Wash to treat the engraved panel lines and flush rivet detail.
Since this kit was inspired by a lone prototype that was only about 80 percent complete when American forces overran the Messerschmitt facility at Oberrammgau, Germany, just weeks before World War II ended, the markings are speculative and do not reflect any particular Luftwaffe unit. The kit markings are very good and adhere well with a little decal solvent, having no noticeable carrier film. The national markings for the wings caused a bit of trouble in that there was some silvering that I could not completely eliminate.
While this kit has some minor fit problems, it is an excellent Luft ’46 offering and an important piece of aviation history that paved the way to other successful variable wing aircraft. Its only real flaw is that the area set aside within its fuselage for the insertion of weights to prevent it sitting on its tail is insufficient. Highly recommended.
- Messerschmitt P.1101: X-Planes of the Third Reich Series by David Myhra; Copyright 1999 by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd; Atglen, Pennsylvania.