Heller 1/72 Me-163B

Kit Number: 237 

Price: $4.00

Decals: two versions, one of them the red v41

Reviewer: Scott Van Aken

Date of Review: 7 August 1997

The Me-163 Komet was the world's only operational rocket-powered fighter.  Its fame is way out of proportion with its success as it is estimated that no more than 16 Allied aircraft fell to the guns of the Me-163.  One reason for such a poor record is that Me-163s were rarely able to make more than one pass at a bomber formation before it was time to land.  With an engine endurance of around 6 minutes, the victims had to be very close to the Komet's base in order for the little fighter to reach them.  The subject of this kit is a hotly contested debate amongst Luftwaffe experts, several stating that this scheme was a one flight deal.  Who can tell?

The Heller kit is molded in light grey with finely raised panel lines.  As I may have mentioned before, during the mid 1980s Heller was, in my opinion, the unqualified leader in 1/72 aircraft kits, releasing a large number of interesting and exotic subjects to a generally high degree of accuracy. Th is kit not only includes the 163, but also the vehicle used to lift up and carry off the fighter once the mission was complete.  I did not build this vehicle so cannot comment on its accuracy or ease of build.

Since the lifting vehicle has almost as much plastic as the 163, what is left?  What you get is a well detailed kit of the 163.  First the interior is well apportioned for the time with seat, stick, instrument panel, headrest and thick armored glass.  The 163's interior is naturally quite spartan so in that respect, the kit reaches a high level of detail! These items were painted RLM 02 (although I now know that most Luftwaffe interiors were painted RLM 66) and installed in the fuselage half, after which the small windows were installed and the halves were joined. The tailwheel is part of each half.  After being sanded and some putty applied, the wings were assembled and joined to the fuselage.  The fit was quite good there as well although I did use small amounts of putty to smooth the wing roots.

The canopy was then attached, transparencies masked, and the smaller pieces; pitot, antenna and nose RAT propeller installed.  The landing skid and take-off wheels were assembled and painted black.  Since I was doing the v41 version from the kit, the airframe was painted Testor's red.  Since it was gloss paint, there was no need for the usual Future coat.  I used kit decals which worked very well but are extremely matte.  A coat of semi-matte was then applied although in retrospect, I should have used gloss as many Luftwaffe aircraft were given a good wax coating to coax a few more mph of speed.  Once that was done, the gun ports and intake port were drilled out, masking removed, the landing skid with wheels was attached and final details painted.

The overall result is quite good and the red really stands out amongst the usual Luftwaffe colors.  Highly recommended and superior to any other 1/72 kit on the market at this time.

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