Sunday, March 20, 2011

1/72 Messerschmitt Me163 B-1a Komet by Easy Model

The most imaginative interceptor of WWII was the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet rocket aircraft which started to equip a special fighter unit, Jagdeschwader (JG) 400, in mid-1944 near Leipzig. This extraordinary aircraft had a top speed of 596 mph (960 km/h) and an armament of two 30-mm cannon; however, it suffered from some crucial drawbacks. Its endurance of only 8 minutes under full-power, was dogged by handling hazards with its extremely sensitive rocket fuels, and many pilots lost their lives in shattering explosions on the ground following fuel leakage.

Although 300 Komets were produced and no Allied fighter could match them in speed, they only destroyed 9 enemy aircraft, while losing 14 of its own aircraft in combat. The Me-163 still kept its fame of being a remarkable aircraft in spite of suffering from overwhelming chaos and privation in late-war Germany.

Easy Model's 1/72 range come at a rather affordable price and their Me-163 is one of their best efforts so far. Despite being a plastic model, its still the only company who attempted a ready-made scale model for this aircraft. From the 4 markings to choose from, I opted for "White 13" of the 2nd Geschwaderzeichen, based in Lipsk-Brandis airfield, January 1945. The badge displays a rocket-powered flea and the words "Wie ein Floh,aber Oho! (Only a flea, but Oh-Oh!). Apart from the Swastika they missed the "T" stencil on the fuselage indicating the refuelling point for the T-Stoff liquid fuel. Also the C-Stoff point stencil has an "O" rather than a "C". Cockpit and other small detail parts seem to be ok and considering the 5 Euros spent, its a nice addition to my Luftwaffe collection.

Last year I had the chance to photograph Me 163B-1a, Werknummer 191659 at East Fortune Airfield in Scotland and its only one of five Komets on display in Europe. First impression was how small the airframe looks, slightly longer that a standard car, very tiny cockpit and . The pilot must have felt one thing with this machine when rocket-boosted in the sky, but at the same time, the skid must have been a real challenge when landing. When looking at this seventy-year old design, it really doesn't inspire stability or safety, but it sure does have the look of a striking weapon, well beyond its time.

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