|Richard A Franks|
|Valiant Wings Publishing|
|£16.95 MSRP at www.valiant-wings.co.uk|
112 pages, A4 Format, softcover,
Airframe Album #10
It is a delight to see another in the Airframe Album series from Valiant Wings. This release is an aircraft about which I thought I knew quite a bit, but as is so often the case, that proved not to be the case. The Me-163 is, in hindsight, one of those aircraft projects that, while fascinating to read about, was one that the Germans should simply have not pursued. Like several other military programs, it simply took away resources that could have been better used someplace else and in the end, proved to be quite ineffective. However, the research by Lippisch and the folks who built the engine did go on to have considerable influence on post war projects of the victors.
In common with many rather fanciful aviation projects, this one started as a purely experimental aircraft, the DFS-194. This aircraft was initially a glider as a proper engine was not yet available, but at least gliding tests proved the efficiency of the airframe that, while not a pure wing, did away with the horizontal stabilizers. Once an engine was available, the aircraft showed that it was fast and easily took away the rocket plane speed record from the He-176. It was decided that the aircraft should be turned into a point defense fighter and the project was turned over to Messerschmitt. Now Messerschmitt was a bit of an ass and did not get along with Lippisch so what was to become the Me-163 project was never really put on the fast track. In fact, the project nearly went away after the suicide of enthusiastic Udet and the installation of Milch as the head of the RLM. Fortunately the 163 project escaped the axe and low level work continued. There is more to the development story, but I'll leave it to you to read for yourself.
In line with others in the series, the author tells the complete story of the type, including its combat history and the Japanese development of the aircraft. There is also a great section that covers all the prototypes and uses drawings to show the differences. All known info on these planes is provided (and there were 40 prototype/pre-production 163s), making this section a boon to modelers. Thanks to the survival of shop manuals and a number of extant machines, we are provided with a great close-up section. This includes the still unrestored plane held by the Smithsonian collection. Also included are a bevy of full color profiles and lot of period photos, some of which I've never seen.
A staple of the series is a modeler's section that includes builds of the aircraft in the three major scales. This includes a nice DFS-194 build where the modeler went through extensive work to make a silk purse out the proverbial sow's ear. A complete listing of kits, decals, accessories and books is also provided.
This makes for a most complete source book for the modeler and one that enthusiasts of the type will find useful as well. I'll probably sound like a broken record, but I highly recommend this volume as well as all others in this series. It is a joy to read a well done book and the folks at Valiant Wings have produced nothing but well done books.
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