KIT REVIEWED: HEINKEL He-112B-0.
Manufacturer: Classic Airframes
Price: MSRP $29.95
Media: Limited-run injection-molded plastic with resin detal parts.
Decals: One aircraft of JG-132 during Munich Crisis, one aircraft of Spanish Air Force, circa 1943.
Accuracy: Fits the dimensions in "Warplanes of the Third Reich"
Quality: A step backward for limited-run kits.
Reviewed By: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver (The Aeronut)
Ernst Heinkel was supposed to win the RLM's 1934 Fighter Competition with his He-112A, an aircraft that clearly demonstrated the aestheticism of the Gunter brothers who designed it. Overweight and underpowered, it was decisively beaten by the upstart from Messerschmitt that went on to become the legendary Bf-109 series.
Heinkel was not one to admit failure, and persevered. The Gunters went through a thorough weight reduction program and a total aerodynamic cleanup, and came up with the He-112B, an airplane whose sole connection to its predecessor was an elliptical wing and a design bureau. The performance change was the difference between night and day. On only 635 h.p. from a Jumo 210, the airplane had the performance of the early Hurricane, which had 1,030 h.p. to draw on, with the armament of the Bf-109E: 2 7.62mm machine guns and two 20mm MG-FF cannon. It wasn't enough. The Bf-109 had won the day, and Udet told Heinkel to pursue foreign orders.
Heinkel did so, and got an order from the Imperial Japanese Navy, who needed a land-based interceptor. By the time the aircraft were in production in the Summer of 1938, the Luftwaffe needed every fighter it could lay hands on for the Munich crisis, and 12 of these aircraft served with IV/JG-132 (whose pilots were very impressed) in the Fall of 1938. Crisis over, they were returned to Heinkel, but the Japanese had cancelled the contract. The 30 aircraft produced were offered to the Spanish Nationalist Air Force, which took them. In January 1939, the Squadron commander of Grupo 5 shot down a Republican I-16 in his brand-new He-112B-0. In 1943, another He-112B-0 shot down a USAAF P-38F over Spanish Morocco. The airplane finally left Spanish service in 1952.
I was looking forward to this kit when Classic Airframes first announced it. I have to say that I am very disappointed. When C-A released the marvellous I-153, I thought they had hit their stride. Then they came out with the disappointing (to say the least) He-51, the could-be-better MiG-3, and the SBC-4 which gave new meaning to the word warped. I frankly don't understand why this is, because C-A is working with Eduard, and their kits go from better to better. If Eduard could do a Tempest V as well as they did, what was the problem with the He-112B-0? Aren't companies supposed to achieve a standard of excellence and then maintain it?
For starters, the wheel wells are completely open, something I haven't seen in a new kit since the 60s. Having to box the gear wells is unacceptable in 1997. The horizontal stablizer is thick and blunt at leading and trailing edge, with nothing approaching an aerodynamic surface, and no way to solve it unless you know how to successfully cut the parts in half and sand from the inside out. The landing gear legs are too short and have to be lengthened to fit anywhere close to the gear doors and provide a "sit" that looks anything like what one can see in a photograph. Overall fit leaves something to be desired, even for a limited-run kit.
On to the decals, which are of excellent production quality: the JG-132 decals are good, and the marking and camouflage pattern given is accurate according to photos. For Luftwaffe fanatics, here's the last German fighter that didn't fire its guns in anger in World War II. The other option is, allegedly, aircraft 5-56 of Grupo 5, Spanish Air Force, 1943. I say allegedly because on page 315 of Green's "Warplanes of the Third Reich," there is a photo of this aircraft at the end of the runway after suffering a gear-up landing, and the camouflage pattern is very obviously a "splinter-type" of the pre-war German 3-color scheme, which is nothing like the pattern shown in the kit instructions. Quite frankly, even assuming they're right, they're boring.
I was able to solve the marking problem with the photo immediately above the above-referenced, which shows an He-112B-0 of Grupo 5, during the Civil War. The kit numbers worked fine (with the 6 reversed into a 9) and I was able to use a black circle with yoke from Aeromaster's Early 109s sheet, and the white cross on a black circle from an old decal sheet that came with Hasegawa's original Bf-109E-3 (further proof that you should never, ever, throw anything away you don't use in making a kit). I used Gunze-Sanyo paints to do a RLM 63/65 scheme, and came up with an He-112B-0 that may actually have seen combat.
On the good side, this kit has very nice surface detail, which is nicely muted once it's been painted. Classic Airframes provides two vacuformed canopies, which will either give those who are hand-eye-coordination challenged a second chance, or provide the possibility of opening the canopy to more clearly show the very-adequate cast resin cockpit area.
There are a lot of people who say that one should be happy to have any kit that turns into a recognizable model of the more arcane aircraft like the He-112B-0, and they have a point. However, merely because a manufacturer is offering the ONLY kit available doesn't mean they can throw any bone they wish to. I know Classic Airframes can do better, because I have TWO I-153s sitting on my model shelves. It is a beauty, completely up to contemporary standards. I also have the very nice Tempest V from Eduard, so I know they can do other than World War I aircraft successfully. HiPM didn't have any problem creating a state-of-the art He-100 at 2/3 the price of this kit. Therefore, from the evidence, there is no excuse for the SBC-4 and this He-112B-0, especially at the price that is asked.
Given all that, it is the only 1/48 kit of this airplane, and it looks nice when finished, if you are willing to put in the effort.
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