Italeri 1/48 Hs-123

KIT #: 2632
PRICE: €20
DECALS: Five options
REVIEWER: Spiros Pendedekas
NOTES: Reboxed ESCI kit


Soon after Hitler's rise to power, Henschel started designing aircraft. One of the first was the Hs 123, aimed to meet the 1933 dive bomber requirements for the reborn Luftwaffe. The prototype performed its maiden flight on 1 April 1935. It featured a wide, "smooth" engine cowling, with all subsequent Hs 123 wearing the distinctive tightly fitting cowling that included 18 fairings covering the engine valves.

Its biplane wings were of a "sesquiplane" configuration, whereby the lower wings were significantly smaller than the top wings. The design did away with bracing wires and, although the plane looked slightly outdated with its single faired interplane struts and cantilever main landing gear legs, it did feature an all-metal construction, clean lines and demonstrated superior maneuverability.

Since it was intended to replace the Heinkel He 50 reconnaissance and dive bomber biplane, as well as to act as a "stop-gap" measure until the Junkers Ju 87 became available, its production was limited and, apart from the improved Hs 123B, no upgrades were considered. The type was flown by the Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War, where it proved to be a success, and in the early to midpoint of World War II, where it still proved to be very useful.

In service on the Eastern Front, it gradually underwent field modifications, including removal of the main wheel spats, fitting of additional armor and extra equipment, as well as mounting extra machine guns and even cannons in under-wing housings. Its rugged, fixed undercarriage and the invulnerable air cooled engine were much appreciated, the open cockpit during the severe Russian winter not that much!

As the already small number of operational planes dwindled, aircraft had been salvaged from training schools and even derelict dumps all over Germany to replace losses. By 1945, the remaining serviceable machines were reassigned to secondary duties such as supply dropping and glider towing.

The greatest tribute to the type’s usefulness came in January 1943 when Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen, then commander-in-chief of Luftflotte 4, asked whether production of the Hs 123 could be restarted, since it performed well in a theater where mud, snow, rain and ice took a heavy toll on the serviceability of more advanced aircraft. However, the Henschel factory had already dismantled all tools and jigs in 1940.

Seeing service during a period where exact role of army supporting aircraft was still formulated, the Hs 123 was perhaps the first dedicated attack aircraft design intended to fulfill the close air support role in the niche between the tactical bomber and the dive bomber. The type clearly showed that a slow but rugged and reliable aircraft could be effective in ground attack. Despite its antiquated appearance, it proved useful in every battlefield in which it fought.

Sadly, no Hs 123s are known to have survived.


This is the well-known 1977 Esci mold of this important plane. The same kit with unchanged molds and only different decals has been reissued another 11 times ever since, recently by Italeri and  in the past by Tamiya, Amtech and Revell, with the AMtech reboxing beefed up with some nice resin casts. Though outdated and, since 2017, superseded by the supreme GasPatch offering, it still is a solid, if not par on the simplistic side, kit.

My specific copy  was the Italeri 2004 edition and a more extensive preview can be found 
here. The kit had been residing in my stash (Shelf of Doom) for a good 15 years, only to be dragged out and built upon a fellow modeler’s idea to drag his (even older) copy out and go for a more or less simultaneous build!


I started by putting together the cockpit tub, which consisted of a floor with molded on rudder pedals, a flat instrument panel, reasonably detailed sidewalls, a plain rear bulkhead, a stick (of which its column is, wrongly, straight - it should exhibit a not too pronounced but still noticeable “S”-shape profile) and a simplistic and somehow crude seat. Basic cockpit color was Hu31 (for the RLM02), with black levers, stick grip and molded on “boxes”. The instrument decal was applied onto the instrument panel, which afterwards continued to look simplistic (truth be told, it was not extremely busy looking in reality anyway). I could not resist and added with a fine brush a few red and yellow “switches” all-around.

The seat was thinned down by judicious sanding and received some means of rear supporting framing from pieces of stretched sprue, so the aft seat area would not look too void through the open cockpit. Seat belts were added from masking tape. The stick column was brutally bent by hand to a more or less “S” shape to match the real looks and a tiny piece of stretched sprue was attached at the stick bottom, going backwards, to represent the elevators’ actuating rod. The quite prominent oxygen device that was located at the starboard cockpit wall was scratch built from styrene pieces: it had its bottle painted blue, with silver perforated cover.

The cockpit was subsequently trapped between the fuselage halves, followed by attachment of the front gun cover (the guns are molded on - would be better if they were separately provided). The gun barrels had their openings carefully drilled out. The headrest fairing was also attached (a heads-up here: some early versions did not feature this fairing and headrest, so attention must be paid to the specific version built). The side entry hatches were secured in closed position, not only to preserve the fuselage lines, but also to deem the spartan cockpit less visible.

The 2-piece lower wing was assembled and attached, whereas the also 2-piece top wing was assembled and left aside. The single piece horizontal stabilizers were installed, as well. I then attached the two massive interplane struts, followed by the six smaller struts, molded as two triplets, which secure the top wing’s middle section to the fuselage. Before glue curing, I flipped the model over, letting all struts rest onto the top wing and spend some “quality” time aligning them at the correct angles, hoping they would touch the underside of the top wing at exactly where they were supposed to. A problem immediately emerged, as the outer big struts were longer than they should, preventing the mid section struts from touching the wing. This was not an unknown problem to me as I had read our Editor’s 
review of his Amtech kit (which, as said above, used the same plastic molds), an excellent build , where this issue had been pointed out, so I was kind of prepared! The solution was to simply file down both struts equally, implementing a trial and error process and keep on filing till all struts touched their attachment points.

The quite good looking engine was assembled. Many (probably most) examples featured a tube that started from the top cylinder, going downwards and “disappearing” between the cylinders at the left hand side, so I decided to replicate it with a piece of stretched sprue, accordingly routed. The engine was painted black, then heavily dry brushed with silver, with the crankcase painted medium gray. Upon drying, the complete engine was trapped between the two cowling halves (front/rear). The cowling halves joint line crossed right in the middle of all 18 valve fairings, meaning a good amount of time was spent in filling and sanding (and leaving me wondering why the cowling was not molded as an upper and a lower half, instead of a fore and aft, making the modeler’s life way easier). The lower air inlet was finally attached. Cowling innards were RLM02.

The distinctive drop tank was next assembled. Though correct in general shape, its central attachment points were oversimplified and its braces too rectangular and off-scale. After cutting the bracing wires off, I filled and sanded the drop tank smooth, then attached new thinner wires made of stretched sprue. Stretched sprue was also used to beef up the tank’s central attachment area.

The wheel spats were next assembled and attached. The wheels were not trapped in between, but were left off to be attached at ending phases. The four bomb pylons were thinned down for more “scale” looks and were attached under the wing. Having decided not to hang any bombs, I “pinned “ the pylons attachment points with my micro drill, to add some interest to the otherwise plain pylons looks.

I chose to detach the elevators from the horizontal stabilizers and pose them “drooped”, in order to breathe some extra life. For this, I patiently ran the back side of my #11 knife through the well defined hinge lines and carefully detached the elevators, with all emerging rough edges cleaned afterwards.

The whole model was then filled and sanded smooth, with some extra work required around the mid-struts attachment points. Upon feeling that the looks were passable, the engine and cockpit were blanked with a combination of wet tissue and masking tape and, after temporarily mounting the engine in position, the model headed to the paint shop!  


I chose to represent a 5/Sch.G1 example, seemingly Commanding Officer’s machine, as it stood in Russia during 1941. The machine wore the standard Dunkelgrün over Hellblau camo. For this, I first gave all topsides and the complete spats a coat of Hu30 Dark Green, then masked it off and gave all undersides (including all struts) a coat of Hu65 Light Blue. Upon drying, I gave the whole model a coat of Future and proceeded to decaling.

The Zanchetti Buccinasco decals, once again, proved their quality, behaving very well, no comments whatsoever. Since no Swastikas were supplied, I used suitably sized and styled ones from my spares. A coat of Future sealed all decals.

Since I had (typically) managed to have all middle supporting struts snapped-off during various phases of the build, I reattached them at this point. I next predrilled 8 mini holes at the corresponding areas in preparation for the rigging, followed by affixation of the distinctive aileron actuating rod between the struts (and offset to the left). The main wing was then carefully attached.

Hs 123s typically featured rod activated trim tabs: at the starboard side of rudder (not depicted at the kit) and at both elevators' top sides (depicted as simplified molded notches, wrongly at the undersides). Since I had the symmetrical elevators separated beforehand, an easy fixing would be to just reverse the elevators and glue another similar notch from a styrene piece onto the rudder. However, for more realistic looks, I sanded the elevator notches off and made rods and pins using stretched sprue, the same being done for the rudder: indeed, the looks improved! The elevators were then attached “drooped”, with an equally matching “push forward” stick position. The distinctive tail plane supporting struts were attached in position (they needed some trimming) and were hand painted upper camo color.

The delicate exhausts had their end tubes drilled out for extra realism. After being painted Testors burned metal, they were attached in position, followed by the completed engine and drop tank. The one piece prop was painted RLM70 black green, had its hub area heavily dry brushed with silver and attached in position. The quite simple rigging was then applied, basically four pieces of stretched sprue inserted and secured to the pre-drilled holes.

The front wheels were tad filed for weighted looks. Since their tread pattern was too heavy, the whole pattern was sanded down using 220 grit “killer” sandpaper. They then received black rims and dark gray tires. In order to be “uneventfully” mounted into the already painted spats, a small triangular piece from their (once installed) invisible area was cut off, its cut line reaching the wheel center: this way the “remaining” wheels were easily installed and aligned!

The kit-provided rear wheel featured a single steering rod in front of its main leg, whereas in reality, a dual rod arrangement existed. Therefore the rod was cut-off and was replaced with two pieces of stretched sprue. The equally kit-provided leather headrest cover was a small circular piece that did not look the part, compared with pic evidence: it was replaced with an accordingly shaped styrene piece and painted “brown leather”. Finally, the foot pegs were thinned down for more “scale” looks and were attached in position.

Onto weathering, a light black wash was applied at all hinge lines, followed by dark brown and black dry pastels applied at areas where engine staining, mud or dirt could accumulate. The prop blades’ leading edges were lightly silver-dry brushed at the tips. A coat of satin finish gave the bird its final sheen.

The thick windscreen had its frames hand painted and was attached in position. Per reference pics, a PE leftover aiming ring was attached in front of the canopy, and a tiny bead (from stretched sprue) aft of it, both painted black.

The starboard interplane strut mounted pitot had its already snapped-off tip replaced by a piece of stretched sprue, painted gunmetal. The rear mounted venturi had its wide opening reduced by filing and was attached opposite from the instructions recommendation, with its long part facing backwards, as this was its posture at reference pics. The top wing antenna mast was attached and a piece of fine stretched sprue was run from the fin to the mast. A second smaller piece was run from the fin towards a hole aft of the headrest fairing. The wingtip lights were represented by blobs of red and green clear paint, before calling the Hs 123 done!


Your other option for a quarter scale Hs 123 is the superlative GasPatch offering. GasPatch came in 2017 with a wonderful new tool kit of the type and has reissued it another two times, practically covering all versions of the iconic plane. These kits look superbly researched and extremely detailed, relying on styrene and PE. Though not looking to be among the simplest of builds, I am aware that they build straightforwardly and can be tackled by any modeler with even small experience in biplanes. They are sensibly priced for what they offer and are the definitive way to go if you want the best 1/48 Hs 123.

The Esci/Italeri is a classic, old school, yet solid kit of the distinctively looking biplane. General shape looks good, while detailing ranges from average (cockpit) to good (fabric representation). Smaller parts themselves could be more delicately molded, but what you get is to be expected from the 1977 kit origins. Fit, while at places challenging (the central struts attachment points to the fuselage spring into mind), is generally manageable, making his kit a good choice for first biplane model, where, even out of the box, a fine result can emerge.

Some really nice resin and PE aftermarket do exist, which will enhance and/or improve key areas of the kit. Of course adding their cost to the cost of the base kit might result in reaching, or even succeeding the GasPatch kit price, which is something to be taken into consideration. On the other hand, if you already have the base kit or find one at a good price, it might not be a bad idea to invest on some of the aftermarket.

The kit is regularly reboxed  by Italeri with nice decals and at fair prices for what the kit has to offer. I had a great time building it and I can recommend it with the above considerations taken into account, It would be nice to see more of this not too difficult kit built, resulting in great representations of this iconic machine.

Spiros Pendedekas

6 September 2022

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