Messerschmitt Me 163B
by Caz Dalton
Of all the aircraft that served during World War II, the Me-163 Komet might be claimed to be the most radical and futuristic. The concept of a short-endurance local defense interceptor powered by a rocket engine was certainly valid and might have proved more of a thorn in the Allies' side had the Allied onslaught from two fronts not intervened.
Captain Wolfgang Späte was called in from the Russian front and assigned as Typenbegleiter (Type Leader) for the Me 163 in January 1944. The first Staffel, 20/JG 1, appeared on paper as being stationed at Zwischenahn, although neither crews nor aircraft existed. By February 20/JG 1 was redesignated I/JG 400 by Captain Späte and placed under the command of Oblt. Robert Olejnik. In March, I/JG 400 was sent to Wittmundhafen with 12 pilots, yet no aircraft were available to the Staffel. By late March the first aircraft were delivered and in April the second Staffel, II/JG 400, was formed on paper and assigned to Hptm. Otto Böhner. The first engagement with Allied aircraft occurred on May 13 1944 when Captain Späte took off in pursuit of two P-47s. The pursuit proved futile, as his Komet flamed out twice and he returned for a safe landing. Unfortunately in the midst of these combat trials the Nazi leadership transferred Captain Späte back to his old unit, JG 54, to lead the IV Gruppe. Oberst (Colonel) Gordon Gollob was assigned as Type Leader, but his vision concerning the use of the Komet was employed incorrectly.
Captain Späte had worked hard to disperse the Komets to airfields at Venlo, Deelen, Bad Zwishenahn, Wittmunhafen, Nordholz, and Husum to intercept Allied bombers on their way to targets in Germany. However, Oberst Gollob's vision had all the Komets moved east of Berlin to Brandis, near Leipzig. This was a blow to all personnel that had trained under Captain Späte and it meant that by massing all the planes to one field, they had to take off two or three at a time at 20 second intervals. This resulted in tremendous landing and serving problems, since most would be returning in groups as they took off. This is what led to the 'Scheuschlepper' (Shy Tug), which was utilized both to retrieve landed aircraft and also take them to the take off point, as the Komet could not taxi.
There were many engagements with what the Allies called the 'powered egg' and the Allies always referred it to as a jet- propelled aircraft. There are some noted victories by Komet pilots, both over B-17s and P-51s. But it's largest problem lie in its very quintessence, speed. The pilots had never trained at attacking an aircraft at speed approaching Mach 1 and the two 30-mm MK 108 cannon were slow firing weapons. Once a Komet came within range of a bomber formation approaching at 220 - 250 mph, this left an actual closing speed of 340 mph when coming in from the rear. To open fire within 650 - 800 yards was a waste of ammunition, closure from 650 yards to 0 yards was accomplished in about four seconds, and the last 200 yards (about 1.5 seconds) had better be used for climb out over the enemy formation. This meant that a pilot had only 2.5 seconds in which to aim and fire! It is a wonder that any hits were accomplished.
The little airplane's vulnerability lay in its power plant, the Walter HWK 509A-2 bi-propellant rocket engine and its two highly volatile fuels, C-Stoff (hydrazine/methanol) and T-Stoff (concentrated hydrogen peroxide). If there were any fuel remaining when the Komet landed, any harsh jolt could mix the two propellants and a fire or explosion could and did occur. P-51 pilots found out the little plane's other soft belly. Due to its short endurance, 'Mustang' pilots merely borrowed a little time and when the Komets ran out of fuel and had to glide to a landing, they were sitting ducks. Six Me-163s met their fate in such instances. Also, by stationing all the Komets at one airfield, escort fighters had a field day strafing Komets. As the Allied onslaught moved further east, the base at Brandis fell into range of fighter-bombers and lastly on April 20, 1945, the U. S. Army's 9th Armored Division rumbled into Fliegerhorst/Brandis. By this time Captain Späte was again in control, but it was too late. He had already dispersed II/JG 400 to Husum, but they too surrendered to elements of the Royal Air Force Regiment on May 8, 1945.
In all 364 Me-163 Komets (including two Me-163S two-seat trainers) were constructed; yet there were never more than twenty operable at any one moment. By November 1944, there were over 100 Me-163Bs stationed at Brandis, but all were grounded due to lack of trained pilots and fuel. Less than 25% of all Komets produced ever saw combat. Many captured examples appear today in museums around the world.
The model 'Yellow 26' represented by the kit decals, was based on a Me-163B Komet, that was originally at the Canadian War Museum and has since been moved to the National Aviation Museum of Canada's restoration facilities. The War Museum had the markings shown as a Komet of I/JG 400, but it has since been discovered by the National Aviation Museum, that the aircraft belonged to II/JG 400. This is reasonable, as the British captured most Komets from this Staffel, while most Komets captured by America were from I/JG 400.
If I may slip in a plug, for anyone building a Me-163 Komet in any scale, I highly recommend that you go to Rob de Bie's website at http://www.kolibri.lr.tudelft.nl/people/students/fun/rob/model163.htm
"DAS KRAFTEI" means "MIGHTY EGG".
This is Academy's 1/72 scale Me 163B. What a beauty!
The kit contains cockpit tubs, seats, control sticks and instrument panels for either a Me-163B or the two-seat trainer prototype Me-163S. If there are any qualms, it would be the lack of properly represented rudder pedals and the lack of seat belt decals. This is all nit-picky and can easily be resolved with the cheap purchase of an Eduard 'Zoom' photoetch fret, which contains everything you'll need for either the B or S version.
I added a bulkhead at the rear of the small rear windows and used my saved photo of a Me-262 seat belt decal scan to print a copy on plain white paper. After the ink had dried I coated both sides of the paper with Micro SuperFilm and let this dry another hour. I cut out the seat belts using a new #11 X-Acto blade and coat a little watered down Elmer's to the rear of the belts, then apply the belts as one would a decal. Stay with it for about 5 minutes and slowly form the contours with a blunt tip toothpick. The SuperFilm helps keep the decal intact and prevent fraying when cutting and applying, try this technique and I think you'll like it. It's much more dimensional than a decal, yet it's as easy to apply. And you don't have to pay for or paint a photoetch piece!
I also had to add two small pieces of fine wire to simulate those little attachment braces to the armored glass piece; no Komet looks complete without them. I should mention that the instructions would have one install either of the cockpit tubs in the lower fuselage half. I found that by doing so, the armored headrest sit far too low. This was easily solved by filing the front of the tub just a bit so that it would clear the instrument panel and installing the tub in the upper fuselage half. Those building this kit will quickly see what I am speaking of, but the problem is very easily corrected, so I have no qualms here. Just be forewarned.
I painted the interior RLM 66 and gave the landing skid bay at coat of RLM 66 also. Instrument decals were done using Waldren punched disks of white trim film, followed by Reheat Models Instrument Gauge Decals. Various side panel and instrument buttons were painted white, yellow, and red. A few warning lights were painted silver and given a drop of clear red. I really wanted to use a True details German rudder pedal, because the stumps in the cockpit bay are far too little. I didn't, however, and I still wish I had. I am seriously thinking of painting them and attaching them to the stubs as I write, so don't be surprised if you see them there at some later date. Anyhow, I outlined the rudder stubs with a 0.005-in tech pen and black ink and painted the straps leather. The headrest was also painted leather. After glossing the interior, I gave it a tech pen treatment in the depressions and used the tech pen to also make pin point switches on the side consoles. The canopy-opening lever was painted white and the grip lastly painted red. I use a curved piece of fine wire for the main canopy-closing handle.
Easy as eating pie.
The model was masked and primed overall in RLM 76. Once cleaned and reprimed, I masked the lower surfaces and vertical tail and gave the upper surfaces two coats of RLM 81brown-violet. The kit instructions were blown up to scale and the areas to remain RLM 81 brown-violet were cut out and taped to the model. I also carefully cut the mottle pattern on the vertical tail mask with a #11 blade, after applying a little SuperFilm to the mask to keep the cuts from fraying. The model was then given two coats of RLM 82 dark green. Masking was removed and a few dust specks sanded away before giving the model two coats of clear gloss for decal prep.
Decals from the kit were used and they were very good in color opaqueness and registration. Swastikas were not included, so I had to hit the aftermarket stash for these. The fuselage nose tip was also done in decal and paint. I outlined the nose with a small strip of yellow trim film and once dry, I painted in the tip. The black outline is a small strip of black trim film. The generator propeller was painted steel and polished lightly with SNJ powder.
I would like to personally thank Academy Models and IPMS/USA for giving me the opportunity to build this marvelous little kit. I highly recommend it for modelers of all ages.
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