PM 1/72 Ta-183 'Huckebein'






One aircraft


Drew Nix


Hawkeye Design 1/72 scale Generic Cockpit set used, decals from various sources 


Hauptmann Hermann Muenster was hot. As he lay on his cot in his personal tent "somewhere" in Western Libya, he was hot. The noonday temperatures often rose to 45 degrees Celsius and above. As if to add to his misery, the ever-present flies droned outside of his mosquito netting. As he lay there he couldn't help but think about the extraordinary events that found him and his squadron in Libya at all. 

After the Allies had driven them out of North Africa in 1943, the war had pretty well gone downhill for the Germans. The Allies had even invaded France in June of 1944 and the Germans had begun retreating back toward the Fatherland. However, in July of that year, several German officers had succeeded in assassinating Hitler, Himmler, Goebbles, and Goering. With a vacuum of power at the top of the Nazi Party, a brief power struggled had ensued. The surprise winner of that struggle was Albert Speer, the new Fuhrer. Speer, with the full backing of the Reichstag, had immediately had his representatives meet with Stalin's representatives in Sweden. The Russians were pretty well exhausted and the crafty Stalin had agreed to Speer's proposal for a cease-fire, particularly since it allowed the Soviet Union to keep all of Eastern Europe in its iron grip.

With the Soviet Union out of the way, millions of men were freed from the Russian Front to attempt to push the Normandy Invasion forces back into the sea. This had succeeded in October of 1945. Speer had next moved to increase production, streamlining and modernizing all of the armed forces. As in the United States, women became more important in the factories, freeing more men for military service. The one thing the Reich still needed was oil. This meant the Middle East, with its rich oil-producing facilities already in place.

Soon after the eviction of the Allies from Europe for the second time, Speer had put pressure on Generalissimo Franco to invade Gibraltar, close the Straits to all Allied shipping, and allow German "volunteers" to render assistance to the Spanish military in doing this. 

In early 1946 the reinvigorated Afrika Korps had crossed the Straits of Gibraltar into French Morocco, sweeping the Americans and British before them. Just as Rommel had done earlier in the war, the Allies were pushed back into Egypt, this time within six months. As their supply lines shortened and the German supply lines lengthened, the Allied resistance had stiffened at the Libyan/Egyptian border.

Muenster had joined the Luftwaffe right after Speer became Fuhrer. After going through flight training, he had been posted to a Messerschmitt 262 unit where he learned to fly and fight the latest jets. He had been excited to hear rumors of newer, faster, better designs being produced in the factories of Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Arado, and Dornier. In fact, it seemed as if every manufacturer had a new design for the Reich. Also attracting more and better men to the Luftwaffe was the fact that General Adolph Galland had replaced Goering as the head of service and Speer listened when Galland spoke.

While Germany had been retaking most of North Africa, Muenster had quickly risen through the ranks to Hauptmann. He had eventually been assigned to the new JG27, now based in the Western Desert. The only saving grace for Muenster was the fact that he would be leading a schwarm of the new Focke-Wulf Ta-183A "Huckebein" fighters. The stubby, high-tailed fighters now sat outside his quarters in their revetments on a newly constructed concrete airstrip. The fighters' sand and green over light blue camouflage, based on earlier Italian experiences, hid them well from the prying eyes of the Allied reconnaissance planes. He and his mates called it "The Flea" both for its appearance and for its ability to seemingly leap off the ground. Muenster was only truly happy when in the cool air flying this agile beast.

Suddenly the alarm klaxon sounded. Pushing aside his netting and leaping from his cot, Muenster slipped on his sneakers, laced them up, and ran to his fighter. He quickly glanced at the "Flea". The hot efflux from its exhaust streamed like a maddened ghost from the tailpipe. The white number "3", prominent on its nose, marked this as his personal mount. The white nose, wing tips, and tail band identified it as Luftwaffe and hopefully kept the trigger-happy flak boys from shooting him down while approaching the field for a landing. His chief mechanic, Schultz, was waiting for him, Muenster's parachute pack in his outstretched hands. Muenster grabbed the pack and, with Schultz' ("Ah, good old Schultz," he thought) help struggled into it and fastened the straps. He bounded onto the left wing and into the cockpit where Schultz quickly helped him strap in. With a quick nod of appreciation to Schultz, he closed the sliding canopy and slowly advanced the throttle. By now he was used to the whisper quiet running of the jet engine although outside the cockpit he knew the ground crew was being subjected to the banshee scream of jet engines spooling up.

He released the brakes and, after a short take-off run, the "Flea", living up to its name, leaped into the air. His headset crackled, "Jabos, with a top cover of fighters at 2000 meters bearing 080, moving fast!" The older, slower 262's of the squadron would handle the bomb-laden British fighter-bombers. He and his mates' responsibility would be to keep the top cover from jumping the Messerschmitts before they could get to the bombers. Muenster grinned behind his oxygen mask. The Tommies would have a little surprise waiting for them today! 

Soon he and his flight of four were at 2000 meters jockeying to get into position with the sun behind them. Suddenly he saw them, five... six... no, eight specks getting quickly larger as they sped in from the West. As the specks approached, he recognized them...Vampires, their twin-boom configuration unmistakable! Muenster reached forward and pulled the lever that armed his guns, four 20mm cannon. 

Muenster waited as the Vampires approached obviously oblivious to the Focke-Wulfs waiting above them "Perhaps they are looking below to see if their charges are being attacked yet," Muenster thought. He pushed the stick over and the little jet gained speed quickly, going through the 1000km per hour indicator almost immediately. Muenster picked out his target, a Vampire toward the back of the British cover force. "Why don't they react? Can't they see that we are bearing down on them?" he wondered. Quickly the Vampire grew in his Revi gunsight. Now! He pulled the trigger on the control column and the little fighter shuddered. Hits! The Vampire staggered in the air as the stream of 20mm cannon shells found their mark. Sparkles lit up the Vampire's center section as Muenster's shells tore into its engine. First smoke, then fire, followed by a blinding explosion marked Muenster's first kill of the day.

No time to savor the victory. The element of surprise was over. The British had become fully aware of their predicament and had broken wildly all over the clear blue African sky jockeying for position and altitude. Three of their comrades were now smoking wrecks on the desert floor below. Muenster counted two white parachutes in the brief instant before he picked out his next target. He saw a Vampire on the tail of one of his squadron mates. He quickly pulled the Focke-Wulf into a tight turn to get on the Vampire's tail. He could see that his comrade was in a bad way. As the German twisted and turned to get away from his pursuer, the Tommy hung on, firing short bursts. Muenster had forgotten how maneuverable the Vampire was!

The Vampire-driver was so intent on his victim that he didn't see Muenster closing in, a fatal mistake. The distance between them quickly narrowed. A quick burst from his cannon and the tables were turned. The British pilot broke hard right, but Muenster followed easily. One more burst and the Vampire was finished. Trailing a long stream of flame behind it, the De Havilland took its fatal plunge. Suddenly the canopy flew off and the luckless pilot bailed out. Another few seconds and the canopy opened. Number two!

Suddenly the sky was empty. No Vampires or Focke-Wulfs could be seen. Only smudges of smoke whisping away on the wind revealed that an air battle had taken place and that brave men had died. Muenster got his bearings. He looked to the west and saw the British retreating. He could make out the forms of Vampires (so they hadn't gotten them all!) and Meteors, the Jabos, forming up and quickly growing smaller as they sped away. Muenster glanced at his fuel gauge. Not enough left to chase the British and return to base. Maybe another day.

Muenster called the tower. O.K. to land? Yes, come on home, the runway was cratered in a few places but otherwise usable. The British raid had failed. Muenster approached the airstrip, retarded the throttle, and lowered his flaps and tricycle landing gear. The Flea touched down with a brief puff of smoke from the main gear as they gently kissed the concrete. The nose wheel touched down a second later. Muenster taxied to his parking revetment, threw back the canopy, and cut the engine. He was suddenly very tired. The heat hit him like a sledgehammer as he wearily climbed from the cockpit. Ever faithful Schultz was there to help him out of his parachute and offer him a cold beer. When Schultz looked at him questioningly, Muenster held up two fingers. Schultz looked as pleased as if he had shot down the British himself. Slowly Muenster headed toward the debriefing shack. He knew by looking around that some of the lads had not made it back today. He only hoped that the Army would find them alive and well in the desert. "Damn this heat and damn this never-ending war!" he thought.....


Developed late in World War II, the Focke-Wulf Ta-183 was one of the few "paper projects" that had a future after the war. The Soviets captured several mockups and later developed the design into the famous MiG-15. Comparing the two aircraft will leave no doubt as to the MiG's lineage. After the war, Focke-Wulf's chief designer, Kurt Tank, was hired by President Juan Peron of Argentina, a known Nazi admirer and sympathizer, to come to Argentina to design aircraft for the Argentine Air Force. Tank thought that the Ta-183 design would work well for his new masters. Unfortunately for the Argentines, Tank had not really designed the Ta-183, his chief engineer, Hans Multhopp, had and he was now in America. Tank mistrusted the mid-wing design of Multhopp and consequently moved the wing up to the shoulder position. Called the Pulqui II, moving the wing had completely disrupted the flying characteristics of the Ta-183. The Pulqui II was very unstable, tending to pitch-up suddenly. Disliked by Argentine pilots, it only lasted in service, in small numbers for a couple of years.


PM Model's Ta-183 is the only kit of this fighter in 1/72 scale. Its 20 or so parts are molded in a medium gray plastic. The kit features engraved panel lines and a one-piece canopy. The panel lines are a little over done but this does not detract too much from the finished model. There is little detailing in the cockpit and absolutely none in the wheel wells. The wings are one-piece affairs as is the T-tail. On my example the vertical tail portion of the left fuselage was warped. Several soakings in hot water followed by gentle bending back into shape with the hands solved that problem.


Due to the small number of parts, this was a fairly quick build. The cockpit was too sparse for my liking particularly since it would be so visible even with the canopy in the closed position. I had found Hawkeye Designs 1/72 Generic WWII Cockpit Set at the local hobby shop and decided to give it a try in an attempt to spruce up the poor cockpit area. The set is in tan resin, with all parts encased in a thin resin wafer. You get floors, instrument panels, rudder pedals, seats, and left and right side consoles in the set. After cutting out the desired parts, they were test fit to the fuselage and trimmed before painting and installation. All interior parts were painted Aeromaster RLM 66 Black-Gray. A wash of Ivory Black artist's oil color was thinned to the consistency of water with Turpeniod odorless paint thinner and then applied to all interior parts. Then these parts were drybrushed with lighter shades of gray using Aeromaster Acrylics. Wait until the wash has had a chance to dry at least 24 hours before beginning drybrushing. After the fuselage was glued together, trapping the cockpit assembly and the exhaust cone, the space over the cockpit was masked with masking tape. Prior to assembly the exhaust cone had been painted Testors Metallizer Exhaust. The nose intake, the wings, and the tailplane were glued to the fuselage. A little filler was required to hide seams and to fill some sink holes on the fuselage and wings. The gear wells were painted Aeromaster RLM 02 Gray at this time as were the gear struts and the insides of the gear doors. After this had dried, the gear doors were tacked in place with white glue. The intake trunk was next painted Aluminum and, when dry, stuffed with facial tissue to guard against overspray.


I had decided early on to paint the Ta-183 in North African Desert camouflage. I also wanted the aircraft to display a camouflage scheme much like that used by the Italians on their Macchi 202s early in the war. I had already painted a Hasegawa 1/48 scale Macchi in the scheme I was considering, one sometimes known as a "smoke ring". The problem was matching German RLM colors to those used by the Italians. Riding to the rescue was The Official Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935-1945. On page 111 of this valuable reference source, one finds a comparison between Italian Sky Gray, Italian Sand Yellow, Italian Mottle Green and their German RLM counterparts, 78/79/80, respectively. Armed with this information, I first painted the nose, wingtips, and a swatch of the vertical tail Flat White. When dry these areas were masked with masking tape. Next, Aeromaster RLM 78 was sprayed on the bottom and up the sides of the aircraft. I wanted the topside camouflage pattern to wrap around the leading edges of the wings and tailplane, so the blue was masked off level with the wings on the fuselage and the leading edges of the undersides of the wings and tailplanes were left exposed. Next Aeromaster RLM 79 was sprayed on all exposed surfaces. While this dried the one-piece canopy was dipped in Future floor wax and allowed to dry. This causes the canopy to become crystal clear and protects it from fogging if you choose to use super glue to attach your canopy (not recommended). Next the canopy was masked with Scotch tape, then airbrushed with the interior color, RLM 66. The canopy was next sprayed RLM 79. After everything was dry, the RLM 80 was applied in a smoke ring style camouflage pattern. Remember to carry the camouflage to the bottom leading edges! Next everything was unmasked except the white parts. Yep, needed touching up. Thus began the tedious, but necessary process, of going back and forth with the three colors until everything looked right. Next the white areas were unmasked and any further touch-up done. The gear doors were pried loose, cleaned up, and their paint touched up as needed.

The model was then sprayed with three light coats of Future Acrylic Floor Wax in preparation for the decals. Since I wanted to do an Afrika Korps aircraft, I needed those markings. I didn't have any handy but Scott Van Aken gave me some. Thanks, Scott! The other decals came mainly from an old Aeromaster decal sheets for Messerschmitt 262s. Little setting solution was needed, even on the older decals. The decals were next wiped down with a damp cloth to remove any residue. Next another coat of Future was sprayed to seal the decals. This was followed by Testors Dullcote thinned 50/50 with Testors Metallizer Thinner. The intake and cockpit were unmasked, the canopy was added, and the Ta-183 was ready.


This is an excellent kit of an important aircraft. It is relatively easy to build. I congratulate PM Models for their bold choice of this aircraft to do in this scale. Recommended.


Merrick, Kenneth A. and Thomas H. Hitchcock, The Official Monogram Painting Guide to German Aircraft 1935-1945. Monogram Aviation Publications. 1980.

Myhra, David, Focke-Wulf Ta 183. Schiffer Military History. 1999.


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