Hasegawa 1/48 Hs-129B-1 'North Africa'

KIT #: 09344
PRICE: AUD$50.00
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Brad Gaff
NOTES: Etched Belts used

HISTORY

A grandfather of the A-10 Warthog, the Henschel 129 was born out of the Luftwaffe’s experience in close support ground attack missions during the Spanish Civil War. The use of the lightly armed and armoured Henschel 123 and Heinkel 112 was effective, yet they proved susceptible to ground fire. Consequently, when the RLM issued a tender for a new ground attack aircraft, emphasis was put on armour protection for the pilot and engines. Two worthy candidates emerged, the heavily modified Focke Wulf 189 and the new design of the Henschel 129, with the Henschel winning out by way of being smaller and cheaper to produce. The Argus 410 engines used in the prototypes was underpowered for the aircraft, but this was solved with the fall of France. Captured Gnome-Rohne 14M engines were substituted for the Argus power plants and production aircraft started to roll off the lines by December 1941. Several variants of the Hs 129 were produced, yet little differed between them. From the B-1 to B-2 models, the major differences were the deletion of the radio mast, alternations to the fuel system, the 30mm Mk 101/103 gun pod could be slung under the fuselage, direction finding radio antenna loop was added along with shorter exhaust stacks. However, as both were produced at the same time, the line between the two versions was often blurred. The B-3 was an up gunned B-2, with either the BK 3.7cm or 7.5cm anti tank gun installed. Only 25 of these machines were produced.

0ver 200 Henschel 129’s would serve with the Rumanian Air Force from 1943. Heavy fighting during late 1942 around Stalingrad had taken its toll on the Rumanians.  Most of the attrition came from ground fire, accidents or being forced to abandon unserviceable aircraft in retreat. 79 aircraft were lost by the GAL (the Rumanian ‘Air Combat Grouping’ for their forces during the Invasion of Russia) from October 1942 to February 1943, when the last unit left the front line with only 4 serviceable aircraft. A modernisation of the Bomber forces was carried out with pilots converting to the newly acquired Henschels from May 1943. The new squadron, Grupal 8 asalt would get its baptism of fire on 15th August 1943 when they struck Kotovka. Flying up to 16 missions a day, the pilots of Grupal 8 were engaged for 8 months against the Russians until they were withdrawn from combat. Grupal 8 would see heavy action in the defence of their homeland in the Spring of 1944 against the rapidly advancing Russian Armies. Casualties were heavy, due to the loss of air superiority to VVS and USAAF single engine fighters. When Rumania announced on August 23rd it would be withdrawing from the war, most of the remaining Henschels were confiscated by Luftwaffe units. Surviving aircraft fought on till the end. Apart from a cockpit section, none of the 865 machines produced survive today.

THE KIT

 Moulded in the usual Hasegawa light grey plastic, this kit looks suburb in the box as it is flash and defect free. Two different nose cones are included but it would have been nice if Hasegawa included the fuselage mounted bomb rack along with the 30mm gun pod. You do get both long and short exhaust stacks though. Another nice touch is bulged main tires.

CONSTRUCTION

I started with the cockpit, which has acceptable detail in it. However, I decided to add some seatbelts to dress things up a little. To accomplish this, you need to drill out the holes in the back armour plate as the belts ran through this and attached to the rear bulkhead somewhere below. A few minutes with a scriber worked well here. Note also that the seat is a tight fit to the tub, so you can’t just attached etched seatbelts to the side, they need to the trimmed so the seat fits properly. I painted the whole lot Gunze RLM 66 and picked out the details in black, dry brushing with white. While this was drying, I glued the wings together which presented no problems.

I decided to leave out the seat and armour plate as it would make masking easier. Test fitting the fuselage to the wings, I found there to be a gap where the upper wings meet the fuselage. I really hate filling and sanding, not to mention rescribing. Wedging a piece of plastic between the lower fuselage parts made the wing to fuselage gap disappear. From here on in, construction was a breeze, with no problems encountered until I struck the landing light (more on that later). Be sure to take your time with the forward fuselage construction. Careful work will ensure no clean up is need here.  The 30mm gun, bombs, props, canopy, step ladder, exhaust, gun sight, landing light, landing gear and doors were left off the airframe as it progressed to the paint shop.

COLORS & MARKINGS

I’ve wanted to build this Henschel for quite a while, ever since dad bought the Squadron Signal book on the Rumanian Air Force about 11 years ago but I was simply not good enough to produce the camouflage. Experimenting with Gunze paint earlier this year, I worked out I could paint it with success using a small brush and drawing a bead of paint over the surface, rather than trying to brush it on.

I laid down the Gunze RLM 02 for the undercarriage bays and masked them off. The basic colours of Gunze RLM 70 and 71 were painted over RLM 65 blue under surfaces. Masking was done with Tamiya tape for a nice hard edge to the splinted camouflage and blutak for the curved demarcation line between upper and lower colours. Once dry, I masked up and painted the yellow (over a white base) and the fin flash on the tail. I hit the airframe with Humbrol gloss and applied the decals. The national insignia came from a Superscale 109’s sheet of decals and the yellow ‘214’ was scrounged from the spares box. Decals were applied at this stage because the white splotches were applied closely around the markings, but not over them. I started the white splotches on the horizontal stabilisers, as if I screwed this up it would be easy to repaint. By dragging a bead of paint I eliminated brush strokes and in hindsight I probably should have done this in winter to avoid the paint drying out, but it worked well. I did find that the Gunze white needed two applications to get the right density. Once I was confident enough, I would start at a random part of the airframe, paint a few splotches and move to another part to avoid getting into a pattern. It took me 3 days to complete the white washing, but I was quite happy with the effect.

 Finally, everything was attached apart from the canopy and another light gloss coat was put over the top. Weathering was achieved with a panel line wash consisting of black chalk power mixed with water and dishwashing liquid. I streaked this in the direction of the airflow to create a grimy looking aircraft. The landing light mounted under the wing has a nice little dent in the back which was filled with red paint which gives a nice effect, however the leading edge landing light didn’t fit at all. Not sure what happened here but I wish I’d test fitted it before the kit was almost finished. Frustrated and unable to make the part fit, I just filled the area with automotive body filler and touched up the paint work. A Humbrol matt coat, some exhaust staining over this with black chalk and the gluing of the canopy and gun sight completed the kit.

CONCLUSIONS

The Hasegawa Henschels are by far the best on the market, superior in all aspects to the old Esci kit. If care is taken in construction, they are suitable for every skill level. There are several boxings of the kit around with different armament and decal options. If you aren’t too keen on Hasegawa prices, Revell has boxed the standard B-2 version and it can usually be found cheaper than the Hasegawa boxing. 

REFERENCES

“Rumanian Air Force, The Prime Decade 1938-1947”, Denes Bernad, Squadron Signal Publications, Texas, 1999.

 Brad Gaff

July 2011

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