Dragon 1/48 Me-262-1a/U3






See review


Scott Van Aken


Kit is currently Out of Production


As most people know, the Me-262 was the first truly operational jet fighter. Being a new type of aircraft, it required a different approach to flying than did the piston engined fighters of the time. For instance, there was no torque from the engines. The throttle response was also very poor. The engines has to slowly be brought up to speed and equally slowly throttled back. To do otherwise would cause the engines to flame out. It also had a very fast landing speed and required a long take off run. All this combined to cause a large number of aircraft to be lost in accidents. It also didn't help that it had a relatively weak nose gear. Over 1/3 of all accidents were caused by landing gear problems. 

Nevertheless, that did not stop the Germans from producing a rather large number of them. It is only the lack of fuel that kept most of them on the ground instead of being up decimating Allied bombers. The quickness of the aircraft led it to be developed for many other uses. One of those was a high speed reconnaissance aircraft. In the last months of the war, these aircraft were able to get pictures that non-turbojet powered aircraft were unable to obtain. The fast speed of the jets enabled them to speed into the target area, get the pictures and be gone.

A dedicated recce bird, the Me-262A-5 was under development, but never actually flew. What was done, was that an interim aircraft was developed from a standard Me-262A-1. This was the Me-262A-1/U3. For this aircraft, the gun bay was gutted and two cameras mounted in their place. Since the cameras were wider than the guns that they replaced, twin streamlined fairing were built for the gun bay area. In some aircraft, a single 30mm Mk108 cannon was mounted in the centerline of the nose with a rather long protruding blast shield. Not all aircraft carried this weapon. I have only been able to find photos of four recce 262s. Two of them had the weapon and two of them did not. 

The recce nose was easily interchangeable with the regular gun nose. The 262 at Chino was a recce bird, but the curators swapped noses with the plane at NASM. When the NASM bird was restored, the recce nose was modified back to gun nose that the plane originally had.



The Dragon/DML/Trimaster Me-262 kits have a reputation. They are probably the most accurate 262s on the market. They are also probably the most difficult to build. While I have not built one myself to verify this, there are enough folks out there who have, and they all tell a similar tale (that is, when they actually finish the kit). Just a look at the mass of parts on the sprues is enough to offer credence to the amount of work that is needed. 

When I opened the box, I was first really impressed with the packaging. It seems as if every sprue had its own bag. This keeps the parts scratch free. Detailing on the parts themselves is superb. The kit is flash free and also free of most ejector pin marks. Unlike the initial Trimaster boxing, the Dragon version has no metal parts, however, it has kept the rubber tires. Just how those will last is unknown. For those not wishing to tempt fate, you can get quality aftermarket resin wheels as a replacement.

Since this kit is basically a fighter version with added bits for the recce aircraft, you can build a fighter, should you wish. In fact, that is one of the downfalls of the kit. If you read through the instructions, you will see that there are no cameras for the nose. The instructions would have you fit the 4 cannon instead. In fact, the recce 262 was either unarmed or had just one cannon. Unfortunately, you'll have to do some work on the nose by putting plates over the cannon ports, making a new port if you want to do the armed recce 262, and (unless you can find some cameras) glue the camera bay closed. You will also need the rudder without the large formation light, and have to forego the armored windscreen as most recce birds didn't have it. I guess that what I'm saying is that Dragon gives you a good basis for an accurate /U3 version, but it is up to you to have done your research to determine what your particular plane looked like.

The instructions are very good and typical of modern Japanese kits. All paints are referenced to Gunze and Italeri paints, with RLM colors given where necessary, though there are some requirements to mix colors. For instance, instead of just saying RLM 66 for the interior, they give a mix. This is because Gunze and Italeri had no premixed RLM 66. Decals are really for the fighter version with a sheet of white outline numbers that are intended for the recce version. There is really very little known about the recce birds other than a very nice set of color images in the reference. It seems that most were a maze of green squiggles, though one of the photos I found shows a very dark painted one that was obviously in normal late war colors, probably 81/83 over 76. The decals themselves are a bit thick, but should work quite well. No swastikas are given. The kit does not provide markings placement for the fighter version, only for the recce bird. I haven't a clue as to where they got their color info as the multiple-squiggle green schemes I have seen are much more densely done.

Overall, it looks like a super model, however, judging by the comments of others, is one that requires much fitting and fussing. I'd recommend it for the advanced intermediate modeler who can handle the fit problems that are sure to arise from a kit of this complexity.  


Me-262, volumes 1 & 3, by J.Richard Smith & Eddie J. Creek, Classic Publications 1999 & 2000

Review kit courtesy of me and my wallet!

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