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Messerschmitt Me 163B

by Pierre-Edouard Coiffard
 

Messerschmitt Me 163B

 


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Introduction

 

I am a French modeller and I came back to the hobby two years ago - very gradually. I specialize in 1/48 aircraft and I have recently started some 1/35 military models. In common with a lot of modellers I have 3 or 4 models in progress (the first to be finished not being necessarily the first to be started). This Me-163 Komet is the first one I'm close to completing since my reintroduction to modelling!

This is the 1/48 Revell model (ex Dragon).

It's a good base but not a model to the Tamigawa standards. I have noted a lot of flash, poor detail, poor fit and panel engraving is a little crude (was it already the case with the original Dragon kit ?). I'm not really picky about accuracy. I give preference to a general appearance, weathering and painting than to a quest for the ultimate accuracy.

 

 

Construction

 

I used some of the Part photo etch set and a lot of scratchbuilt items (copper wires, plastic rods and strips...), essentially for the cockpit. Taking advantage of my new involvement in military models, I used PE parts to detail the cockpit from Aber PE sets destined for Panzers! Aber sets have a multitude of small parts that you rarely use entirely, the remaining parts can increase your spares box. This is another advantage of sharing different modelling disciplines as aircrafts and AFV apart from the obvious weathering and painting techniques. I've found, as an example, AFV modellers much ahead as far as developping weathering and painting techniques are concerned. I've been able to learn a lot from them to improve my techniques in building aircraft models.

 


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


I had difficulties with the clear kit part featuring the observation windows behind the canopy and seat and the structure provided by the Parts set surrounding those windows. First because there was a gap between the kit part and the fuselage. Some putty came to the rescue. Secondly I had to bend and glue a metal part on the clear part. For this I used precauciously CA, not too much no to alter the transparency, but enough to make the metal part take the exact form of the plastic part. The joint was nevertheless not perfect and I had to use some Mr Surfacer to obtain a proper junction.

I then had to sand and finally use a good quantity of Tamiya compound to give back transparency to those windows. Next time I won't use those PE parts, unless somebody gives me some good tricks.

I wondered whether I should open the ejection port for spent cannon cartridges (rectangular opening on the underside of the wing root). In the end I decided just to paint it black.

The wings roots needed some good sanding as the nose, the tail section, the hole for the rocket motor and the tail wheel bay also, but nothing serious. The landing flaps on the Parts PE set was a good idea. It is easy to cut the underside wings, to scratchbuild the interior with plastic strips and at the end it makes the model a little more dynamic. For a next Me-163 project I'll try to cut elevons, trim flaps and rudder to position them more dynamically.

 

 

Another good idea is the slats at the leading edge of the wing. Even though the kit proposes them separate probably for a moulding commodity and not for anything else as they were fixed on the real aircraft, I would love to see our preferred manufacturers be inspired by that idea when moulding leading edge slats of modern aircrafts...

I chose to show the tail wheel with the fairings removed.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

Painting was delicate with the mottling on the fuselage made from different green and brown colors and with fading the bicolor painting scheme of the wings by creating different shades for the green and brown.

A lot has been said about the fading technique of panels for single color paint scheme (l applied those advices on the underlying of the aircraft) but until I face the problem I didn't realize how fading a bicolor paint scheme was challenging. There's a lot of possible ways to fade bicolor paint schemes, I choose the more obvious one to me given my project which was to paint the bicolor scheme in a normal way and then to take faded tones for the two previous colors by adding some white. The issue is that the logic of airflow and panel structure is different from the logic for camouflage colors demarcation: the airflow blows the same way whatever single or multi-color camouflage. I had to respect the panels structure, the logic of how and where the airflow is supposed to erode the paint, and keep a certain coherence in the faded shades of the camouflage colors, especially where they coexist in the same worn area. In other words, in an area destined to be faded and where both colors joint, the faded appearance must look close for each color, the two colors must seem to blend due to fading. As an example on each wing or panel, I defined the sub-area that should be faded. I then applied the two toned down color camouflage using the same masks used to apply the initial paint scheme. I didn't exactly fade the center of panels but the higher and front portions of wing panels where the airflow is supposed to be the stronger.

 

 

After I finished, I thought that next time, instead of using white paint to fade each color I would use a light grey or sand color that would better blend the two toned down camouflage colors. Another technique would have been to airbrush a different color as buff or light tan to give this faded appearance. It is used in AFV modelling to give a dusty appearance to lower hulls of tanks. The drawback is to control the quantity to airbrush to keep a faded look and not a dusty look.

This method was purely experimental, as on each of my model I try a new technique to improve. It doesn't pretend to be any better than other techniques that, by the way, I'd be curious to hear about.

I also first used on that occasion Kleer acrylic varnish. One single word: great ... until I used decal solvent on it which I think dissolved it leaving around some decals unwanted rings. Next time I'll let the Kleer coat dry a little more and I'll be prudent not to use too much solvent for decal application !!! Another good thing with Kleer is that it even fixed this little mess as when I airbrushed further coats after decals were applied, it gave back to the surface a very smooth finish and you could not even tell that something had happen. I even decided to finish the model not with my usual flat clear but with a mix of Kleer and flat clear to give it a satin appearance which I think suits perfectly jet aircrafts. Decals are from the kit.

 

 

Conclusion



The model is still not finished. I have to paint the bulletproof glass, then glue the canopy, landing flaps and different little antennas.

At that time I'd like to thank the Revell support team in Germany, as the bulletproof glass in my box was unusable, I've sent them an e-mail and received promptly a new part by mail. I'll send you additional pictures of the finished model in due time.

In the end it was a nice little bird to build with so much character. May be this project took me more time than expected given what I mentionned earlier about details and fit, but being a small plane there was not a lot to be built.

 



I plan to build other Me-163, one replicating the aircraft captured by the British with this mix of German and British camouflage and markings, another one with all bays open may be with the help of the Aires detail set (any comments on it ?). And finally I'd like to built the "Shusui" J8M1 Interceptor, the Japanese version of the Me-163, anyone told me that this kit was a jewel ... (any other comments on that kit, may be even a perfect base for a german Me-163 ??). Any other ideas guys?

 

 

Bibliography

 

I can heartily recommend the Aero Detail volume 10. These monographs are as usual of great help. Plus in this volume you get two monographs for the price of one, as you also get precious information on the He-162 too (that I plan to built soon).

I would also like to thank several websites and their webmasters for providing unvaluable information about the Me-163.

 

 

Additional Images

 

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Model, Images and Article Copyright 2002 by Pierre-Edouard Coiffard
Page Created 12 December 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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