1/72 Heinkel HE-162A 

KIT #:  (1)  Lindberg #432, (1965);  (2)  Frog #F401 (Late Sixties?);  (3) DML # 5001 (1990); and  (4)  Hobby Boss #80239 (2008)
PRICE: All but the Dragon kit can be found for under $10
DECALS: See Review
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: Four marginally available kits of this aircraft are compared and contrasted as built OOB.

HISTORY

 The Heinkel HE-162A, known variously as the  “Spatz” (Sparrow),  “Salamander”, and “Volksjager” (People’s Fighter), was a last-ditch effort on the part of the German armaments industry to produce a simple, high performance air superiority fighter in a very short time in an attempt to solve the problem of undocumented American and British heavy bombers systematically destroying the Nazi war machine during the last days of World War II.  The aircraft was surrounded in controversy, and General Galland was opposed to the idea, preferring to concentrate on the proven ME-262 design, which was already in large scale production.  However, those in control of the  RLM had ideas of their own, and they issued specifications for a lightweight fighter which would be available in a short time.  Eight companies tendered designs in late 1944, but Heinkel and Junkers submitted the most promising projects.  Heinkel had already been working on a similar design, so their efforts were most successful, with the prototype flying for the first time only sixty-nine days from the official start of design work. The original idea was to use minimally trained Hitler Youth as pilots, but the flying characteristics were such that this would have been suicidal, and Luftwaffe planners finally conceded that experienced pilots would be  required.

The HE-162 M1, coded VI+IA, w. nr . 200001,  first flew on December, 1944 at Heinkel’s plant at Vienna,  and flight testing began immediately. About this time, the RLM changed the prototype designations, changing the familiar “V” to “M”.  The early prototypes, M1 and M2, were fitted with standard wings, but to improve lateral stability, M3 and M4 had Lippisch “dog ear” drooping wingtips as seen on production models.  For some reason, M6, VI+IF, still had the early wingtips, as photos show.  At least 42 HE-162’s were classified as prototypes, the numbers reaching M42. Quite a few early prototypes were destroyed in crashes, including the first prototype which came apart in the air in an attempt to impress a group of Luftwaffe, RLM, and Nazi Party officials, with fatal results for the test pilot.  Simultaneously, mass production began at four factories, including Heinkel North at Rostock; an underground former chalk mine,  Hinterbruhl, near Vienna; a Junkers plant at Bernburg;  and the Mittelwerke complex at Nordhausen.  The first production model, HE-162A-1, was armed with two 20 mm. MG 151 cannon, while the major variant was the HE-162A-2 with the 30 mm  MK 108 weapon. Only 116 HE-162A’s were produced by the end of the war, although other sources give the number at 238,  and about 800  incomplete airframes were captured by advancing Allied forces at the end of the war. A surprising number survived, and can be seen in museums in the U.S., England, Canada, France, and Australia.  All are static displays, and none is flyable. A number of developments were also considered, including different wing and tail configurations, various powerplants, and increased armament.  A two seat trainer was also projected.

After a hurried test program, operational examples were delivered to I/JG 1 at Parchim beginning in February, 1945.  Training began immediately as new aircraft were delivered, and on 31 March 1945 the unit was transferred to Leck.  Shortages of aircraft, fuel,  and trained pilots caused delays.  Other units to be re-equipped included II/JG 1, III/JG 1, and I/JG 400, but this didn’t happen.  I/JG 1 at Leck was furthest along in the working up process, but  by 16 April 1945,  the aircraft were still not cleared for combat.  Some operational flying was conducted, and on 20 April, a pilot on a training flight ejected from an HE-162A, marking the beginning of an era.  On 21 April, an attack on an enemy airfield was ordered, and one HE-162A was shot down, probably by an RAF Tempest.  An American pilot flying an F-6 photo-reconnaissance fighter also claimed the destruction of an HE-162A about this time.  Claims of Luftwaffe victories over Allied aircraft are unclear, but one and possibly two Allied fighters were claimed by German pilots.  However, by 8 May 1945, Germany had surrendered, and the HE-162A’s were found by British troops lined up at Leck airfield.  Many were shipped back to England, France, and the United States, and some were flight tested.  At least one was found by the Russians at Vienna, and this was taken to the Soviet Union for flight tests.

THE KITS

I have built four different kits of the HE-162.  Beginning in the middle sixties, Lindberg produced a series of German aircraft kits in 1/72 scale, beginning with the ME-163, FW-190D-9, HE-100D, and HE-162.  These were very basic kits, and the HE-162 kit is probably the best of the lot.  It sold for 39 cents in 1965.  Not too long afterward (again, the Brits never seem to date anything) Frog issued a slightly better HE-162A.  This was all we had until about 1990 when DML issued a very good kit of the aircraft, complete with interior detail.  They also issued a Mistel 5 kit which included a pilotless Arado E-377A jet powered flying bomb. This falls into the Luft 46 category, and I have not seen this issue.  In 2008, the Chinese Hobby Boss firm produced a simplified kit of the HE-162A, and this is currently available.   It was easy to build, but all of these kits require weights in the nose for balance. I built them basically “out of the box” for comparison, as superdetailing would have negated the purpose of this project.

CONSTRUCTION

 The Lindberg Kit

Cast in bright green plastic, this kit consists of 22 parts, plus a stand and pilot figure. The one piece wing is extremely thin, and the fuselage halves slide into place, providing an extremely strong structure. The engine and fuselage are one unit, and surface detail is raised, including many rivets and panel lines that should be removed.  Aileron and flap detail is heavy, and the gun troughs are also in raised relief. Landing gear detail is weak, and although there is what passes for a seat, there is no cockpit detail. There is no tail bumper underneath the horizontal stabilizers.  Wheel well detail is absent, and the structural member separating the landing gear doors is missing.  The canopy is relatively clear, but you can’t see much inside it.  The mainwheels are much too small, and really should be replaced with some from the spares box.  The outline is reasonably accurate for its time, but this kit should not be considered by the serious modeler. Since this kit was probably at least 45 years old when I built it, the decals were toast.

I built one of these previously, about 20 years  ago, so my current model is of the HE-162 M1 prototype, which does not have the downturned wingtips.  From a distance, it doesn’t look too bad.  Revision of the wingtips was the only modification. The second example is  HE-162A-1, w/nr 300027, discovered by American troops at the Junkers factory at Bernberg. This model was build about 1991, and shows the aircraft in unfinished condition (see above).

 The Frog Kit

Produced about the same time as the Lindberg kit, this is not much of an improvement.  The kit features 25 parts cast in dark blue plastic, along with a 2 piece canopy.  The wings have insert panels in the undersides, calling for some intense filling and sanding. The rudders fit onto the horizontal stabilizers by means of small tabs, which must also be filled in.  There are some mold marks on the exterior surfaces that need to be filled in, and there is almost no interior, except for a large completely useless seat.  There is no front engine compressor spinner, identified as a “starter motor bullet”, in the engine intake. This is easily scratchbuilt.  The landing gear is very basic, and required some work, especially in the oleo strut scissors that collect the axles to the gear legs. The nose gear is much too short, and required an extension in the gear well to get the proper length.  The pitot tube is too heavy.  The gun troughs are accurate, but the guns are cast in place. These should be removed and drilled out and replaced.  This kit takes a lot of work and filling to get it to acceptable standards. The decals were totally disintegrated over time.

 I did my kit using the decals from the Hobby Boss kit. This is the one flight tested by the Russians in 1946, and a photo of the aircraft appears in the Schiffer book. The other Frog model was built about 1981, and uses kit decals.  It is HE-162A-2, w/nr 120074, “White 11” which according to more modern sources  should be “Yellow 11” as flown by Oblt. Emil Demuth, of 3/JG 1, at Leck, in May, 1945 (see near top of article).  The DML kit decals provide markings for this aircraft.

The DML Kit

I got this kit at an auction, so I don’t know what the selling price is. I’ve seen it listed for $11.00 Australian.  The Dragon Mistel 5 kit lists on EBay for $20.95, but it is described as discontinued.

 This kit had too many parts to count, and is probably the best kit available of the HE-162.  There were no instructions with the kit, but Dave Morrissette was kind enough to put me in contact with some IPMS types who scanned and emailed me a set within a day or so.  Thanks, guys.

There was supposed to be a photo etch sheet with this kit, but it was not included.  The biggest thing was the instrument panel, but I muddled through and scratch built one.

This kit has extensive interior details in both the cockpit and the wheel wells. The gun troughs are well done, but the gun barrels converge too far inwards, so these should be drilled out and replaced. The pitot tube on the nose is too small, and should be replaced anyway, as it will never stay on the model during the assembly process. There are no trim tabs on the rudders.  This is the only model that has the correct shape of the flap trailing edges at the wing roots.  Lindberg ignores this, and the others only hint at the correct form.  There are some little rings below the main wheel axles, and these will break off if you are not careful.

 The landing gear assembly is a little fiddly, and some very small and delicate parts must be inserted into place before the fuselage halves can be joined. Then you have to watch out so that you don’t break something off during assembly. It takes a lot of patience to line everything up properly, but if you can do it, the results are impressive.

This is the only kit with a detailed engine.  Some photo etch material should have been installed, but it doesn’t look bad without it.  You lose a lot if you display this model closed up, so leave the cowlings open and raise the canopy.  This is that kind of a kit. I wouldn’t recommend this kit for beginners, but if you have moderate modeling skills, you should have no problems with this one.  It is highly labor intensive, and has a lot of very small parts.

I did this kit as “Red 1”, w/nr 120077, of 2/JG 1 at Leck on 4 may 1945.  Its pilot is unknown.  This aircraft was  captured at Leck, and was shipped to the U.S. for evaluation after being examined by Col.  Watson’s “Whizzers”.  It was flown only once, by Bob Hoover.  Eventually, the plane was acquired by Ed Maloney, who restored it and exhibited it in his Planes of fame Museum at Chino Airport, California.  It is still there.

 The Hobby Boss Kit

There are 23 parts to this kit, with very simplified construction. The kit probably represents the HE-162A-2, but this is not indicated on the four page color instruction sheet.  Instructions are clear, and the painting guide is useful, with RLM colors being indicated.  Almost no documentation is provided for these color schemes, although I have seen photos of both aircraft depicted. Decals are provided for the Soviet example and for “White 4”,  an aircraft of I/JG 1 at Leck, in  May, 1945.

It should be noted that I bought one of these kits last year when they were first issued, and a molding defect in the rear fuselage resulted in returning the kit to the store.  The one I bought a couple of weeks ago was OK.  Check this, although I don’t know whether this was an isolated example or a feature of the first production batch. In any event, it was poor quality control.  The whole rear fuselage needed a shot of Viagra.

There are a few outline and detail discrepancies, including the outline of the flap and ailerons.  The model needs to be weighted for balance, but there isn’t much room for this, although a little bit of shot in the forward fuselage did the trick. Rudder trim tabs are overdone, but these are easily trimmed off. The cannon troughs are correct in outline, but the guns aim inward at a grotesque angle. They need to be removed and replaced. There is little cockpit detail, as is typical with Hobby Boss kits, but the seat and control stick don’t look too bad through the glass.  A paper or decal instrument panel will help, and the tiny Revi gunsight is visible.  Just don’t lose it, as it is very small. The wheels, incidentally, are identical to those of the DML kit, and other parts are very close.  This might be a simplified version of the DML kit.

 In overall appearance, the airplane seems to sit a little too high off the ground, as if the oleos and pumped up too high.  Otherwise, it is a fairly acceptable model, especially from a distance.

 I did mine as HE-162A-2, w/n 120072.  This aircraft, assigned to JG 1, was captured at Leck and taken to RAF Farnborough in July, 1945.  It  was displayed at the German Aircraft Exhibition in November, 1945, and was flown by Flt. Lt. Marks for about 50 minutes total time.  Although warned to take it easy, Marks attempted an upward aileron roll, overcontrolling the rudders and causing a rudder stall and loss of control at too low an altitude to allow recovery.  The aircraft was issued the Air Ministry Number 61, which appears on the left side of the aircraft only.

CONCLUSIONS

The early HE-162 kits are pretty crude by modern standards, but they were state-of-the-art when they first appeared.  All of the kits require some work, and you’ll use some filler regardless of the kit you build. They are all pretty accurate in outline if lacking in detail (DML kit excepted), and with some work, all of them can be made into a decent model if you don’t mind the work.

It is obvious that the DML kit is probably the best of the lot, both in detail and accuracy. If you are really desperate, try the Hobby Boss kit, as it is cheap and readily available. Whatever kit you choose, be sure to have some reference material handy, as the kit instructions are sometimes incomplete or confusing.  It is good to know that this very interesting Luftwaffe fighter can be modeled in 1/72 scale rather easily, and it fills a big gap in any 1/72 model collection of World War II fighters.

REFERENCES

Reference material on the Heinkel HE-162A is readily available.  The first 1/72 scale drawings of the aircraft appeared just postwar in the British Harleyford series, AIRCRAFT OF THE FIGHTING POWERS, but these were somewhat inaccurate.  In the early sixties, Profile No. 203 presented a history of the type, along with color views and much data, but the issue has no publication date, a common problem with this type of British publication. Numerous short articles have been published in various books and periodicals over the years. Royal Navy Capt. Eric Brown’s  WINGS OF THE LUFTWAFFE, published in 1987, presents excellent cutaway drawings of the type, along with a firsthand pilot’s reports, as he flight tested nearly all of the German aircraft that fell into British hands.  In 1986, Monogram Publications produced a Close-Up on the aircraft, which is an excellent reference, including many photos and color drawings.  The Schiffer Military History Series book on the HE-162A by David Myhra also presents some interesting material,  but this is more of a photographic record than a direct history of the type, and the main text consists of captions.  In addition, a lot of photos of models depicting the development projects are included.  Another interesting source is Phil Butler’s book WAR PRIZES,  a fascinating work which details the histories of all of the German, Japanese, and Italian aircraft captured by the Allies during World War II.  This book is worth getting if you can find one.  There is certainly no shortage of information on the HE-162.

Brian Baker

June 2009

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