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Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a

by Brett Green

 

Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a
III./KG(J) 54, 1945

 


Tamiya's 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a is available online from Squadron.com

 

Introduction

 

Several years ago I bought Experten's booklet and decal sheet for a Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a, "Yellow 3" of III./KG(J) 54. The heavily weathered finish and colourful range of markings of this aircraft have always appealed to me. However, every time that I opened the box of Dragon's 1/48 scale Me 262, I experienced unpleasant flashbacks to building one of these kits in the early 1990s.

The release of Tamiya's 1/48 scale Me 262A-2a seemed to be a good opportunity to finally make use of these decals. However, I would have to make one modification to the kit to depict the Me 262A-1a variant. Tamiya's first Stormbird is supplied with just two 30mm MK108 cannon in the nose. "Yellow 3" featured the four-gun nose of the fighter variant.

 

 

Tamiya's 1/48 scale Me 262A-2a comprises 116 parts in grey styrene, 8 parts in clear styrene and one white metal piece for the forward landing gear bay that doubles as a hefty noseweight. A full in-box review of the kit may be seen by following this link.

Building the kit reaffirms Tamiya's reputation for superb detail, intelligent engineering and simple construction.

 

 

Construction

 

Aside from modifying the nose, I decided to build this kit almost straight from the box.


 

Interior and Fuselage

Before commencing construction, I painted the inside of the fuselage, the internal bulkheads, lower surfaces of the cockpit tub and detail parts with a coat of Tamiya AS-12, Bare Metal Silver, straight from the spray can. This was followed by a wash of thinned Raw Umber oil paint. The oil wash really brings out the structural features of the interior surfaces that will be on display through the open wheel well even after the fuselage is joined.

 

 

However, the silver paint and subsequent wash also highlighted a number of ejector pin circles that would be visible inside the wheel well. I will fill these on my next Tamiya Me 262!

The cockpit is simple but convincing. I only used kit parts, including the decal for the instrument panel. The decal dials and coloured bezels looked good on the blank instrument faces. The decal harness was not used because I planned to install the pilot.

The interior of the forward fuselage was the next sub-assembly. Tamiya's assembly sequence requires the nose gear, including the forward gear door, to be installed at this time.

I was not totally comfortable with this sequence as I was worried that I would break the gear leg at some later stage of construction. However, the engineering of the kit does not offer any easy alternative so I decided to follow the instructions.

I painted the gear bay silver, the gear leg RLM 02 Grey and the forward door Aeromaster RLM 76 Light Blue before joining these parts. Note that it is not necessary to glue the nosegear assembly to the metal noseweight.

As it turned out, the gear leg was very sturdy and suffered no damage despite my usual ham-fisted handling. I did manage to break off the delicate gear door actuator though!

The cannon access hatch was destined to be glued shut so I did not install the cannon or the shell ejection chutes.

After the small details were glued to the fuselage interior sidewalls, the cockpit and nose gear sub-assemblies were secured to one fuselage half before trapping them with the other half. Interestingly, Tamiya have used locating tabs for the fuselage instead of pins and holes. I assume that this minimises the risk of sink marks on the outside of locating holes. It also permits some welcome adjustment when joining the fuselage halves.

The fit of the fuselage was perfect - no seams or gaps whatsoever. However, for some reason the cannon bay floor rode fractionally high on one side, resulting in a small step. In turn, this meant that the forward bulkhead in the cannon bay was also marginally too high, interfering with the fit of the closed cannon bay cover. I addressed this problem by trimming the top of the forward cannon bay bulkhead. This would not have been an issue if I opened the gun bay.


 

The Four-Gun Me 262A-1a Nose

Tamiya's kit only supplies the two-gun nose for the Me 262A-2a but my subject aircraft was a four-gun Me 262A-1a.

Modellers wishing to build this version can now purchase a resin four-gun nose panel from either Eagle Editions or Cutting Edge, but my impatience did not permit me this option. I therefore needed to add two cannon troughs to the kit's upper nose.

Fortunately, Tamiya outline the position of the upper guns with raised oval fairings.

First I cut two oval holes in the kit nose. I marked the cutting position by drilling tiny holes with a pin vise at each end of the new troughs. I drilled larger holes in the centre of the fairing. These holes corresponded to the full width of the troughs. For good measure, I drilled another two holes for each trough too.

Now that the nose resembled a sieve, I used a sharp hobby knife to cut out the plastic between the holes. Both rough oval holes were cleaned up with sandpaper and knife. I thinned the plastic under the holes with coarse 180 grade sandpaper.

Next, I cut two length of Contrail .060" (internal diameter) plastic tube for the troughs. I sliced each tube diagonally into a wedge, then offered the tube to the underside of the holes in the nose. The plastic of the troughs was trimmed and sanded until they matched the oval profile of the holes. A short length of brass was added to the rear of each trough to represent gun barrels. In retrospect, these gun barrels were neither accurate nor necessary - I should have simply blanked off the end of the troughs. The completed troughs were glued underneath the holes and a thick coat of Mr Surfacer was applied inside the troughs to blend the tubes with the oval holes.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Holes were drilled to mark the outline of the oval to be cut from the upper nose.

A sharp hobby knife was used to cut out the spaces between the holes.

Contrail .060 plastic tube was sliced to match the profile of the hole in the kit nose.

The plastic of the nose was thinned and the tubes were trimmed to fit. Brass tube was used to represent gun barrels.

The view from underneath the modified nose.


 

Wings, Engine Nacelles and Tailplanes

The wings and engine nacelles for the Jumo 004 proved to be completely trouble free.

I took a little time to paint the details of the intake, including the gold turbine blades. A wash of thinned black oil paint deepened the appearance of these blades.

The main nacelle halves are equipped with styrene spacers. Don't cut these off even though they do look like scrap!

I followed this sequence when assembling the wings and nacelles:

  1. Glued upper and lower wing parts

  2. Glued engine nacelle halves

  3. Added jet intakes

  4. Glued partially assembled nacelles to lower wings

  5. Assemble and add jet exhaust to rear of nacelle, taking care to align the top with the trailing edge of the upper wing.

The fit of my wing and engine assemblies was perfect.

I offered the wing to the assembled fuselage to test fit these major components. The fit was so good that I decided to leave the wing in place and simply run a bead of Testor's Liquid Glue around the join lines to bond the fuselage and wings.

 

 

The horizontal tail parts are joined using dovetail tabs. This ensures correct alignment. I also liked the inclusion of separate, delicate trim tab actuators. Take a few minutes to figure out their alignment before gluing the parts - they are a tiny bit tricky, but they look great in-place.

The rudder is separate. It attaches securely to the fuselage with the aid of a long, thin tab.


 

Finishing Touches

The windscreen is cleverly moulded with a section of the forward upper fuselage deck. The vertical and horizontal joins both fall on natural panel lines. Furthermore, the internal armoured glass is a separate part that is glued to a locating pin under the front deck section. For a reason I do not remember (probably because it was very late at night), I did not paint the prominent frame around the armoured glass. This error was impossible to correct once the armoured glass was secured behind the windscreen, so don't forget to paint this part before assembly.

A small step was revealed on one side of the windscreen when it was glued to the fuselage. This will be easily eliminated with a few swipes of a sanding stick or a little putty.

The shell ejector panels were glued to the lower fuselage. The top join of these panels do not represent a panel line on the real aircraft, so I brushed on a thin coat of Mr Surfacer in this area. Light sanding later eliminated the join line altogether.

 

 

The navigation lights are very impressive. The clear parts have tiny holes to represent the globes of the navigation lights. I used a fine piece of brass wire to fill these tiny holes with spots of green, red and white. The reflecting surfaces of the lights were then painted silver before gluing the parts to the wings and the rudder. 

The remaining parts including the main undercarriage, the wheels, pitot tube and FuG 16ZY aerial were painted at this stage, but they were not actually fitted to the kit until after the whole model was painted.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

"Yellow 3" was finished in overall RLM 83 Dark Green on the upper surfaces, but photographs of this aircraft indicate that the paintwork was uneven, heavily weathered and thinly applied. Dark puttied panel lines clearly show through the top colour. Pre-shading the panel lines would therefore be especially important for this paintjob.

I commenced by masking the canopy and stuffing tissue into the wheel wells and nacelle openings. The tip of the nose was sprayed yellow, then carefully masked with thin strips of Tamiya masking tape. Next, the entire nose was painted overall dark grey to highlight any gaps or alignment problems. Panel lines were then sprayed black.

 

 

Lower surfaces and the tail were painted with Aeromaster Acrylic RLM 76 Light Blue. The first coat for the upper surface was Aeromaster Acrylic RLM 83 Dark Green. I applied the colour in a patchy, mottled finish. This dark colour was followed by an irregular application of RLM 82 Bright Green. The lighter colour was intended to represent a faded and thin shade of the Dark Green. This effect was focused on the areas between the panel lines. I spent some time re-spraying with the two greens and the light blue until I was satisfied with the effect.

Photographs of "Yellow 3" also show significant areas of dark overspray. These are older bomber-style markings that were covered with fresh paint when the aircraft was assigned its fighter role. I mixed RLM 83 Dark Green and RLM 70 Black Green in equal quantities to obtain a noticeably darker shade. This was sprayed in the positions of the old diagonal fuselage stripe and of the bomber code letters. I also enhanced some of the panel lines with this darker colour, in line with photos in the Experten Decals booklet.

The airframe was prepared for decals with a coat of Testor Metalizer Sealer. This is a fast-drying, hard, glossy sealant that can be used over acrylic, enamel or lacquer paints.

"Yellow 3" featured a hard-edged dapple pattern on the tail. Cutting Edge produce this complex marking in decal form on a set designed for the Trimaster family of Me 262s. Fortunately, the markings also fit perfectly on the tail of the Tamiya kit. The large decals snuggled perfectly into panel lines after an application of MicroSet and MicroSol. When the decals had set, I thought that the colour looked too blue, so I oversprayed the pattern with a slightly darkened mix of RLM 83 Dark Green. Despite the daunting nature of the complex pattern, the task was not too challenging using heavily thinned paint. I was very pleased with the result, and the decals certainly made the job much easier.

The remaining markings were sourced from the Experten decal sheet. A thin black border was also added to the yellow tip of the nose. I adapted one of the decals from the kit decal sheet for this border.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The aircraft has received its basic paintjob.

The Cutting Edge decal for the tail featured an accurate pattern and sat down well, but the colour seemed too blue.

Markings were added from Experten's decal sheet.

The model after flat coat, weathering and the tail band repainted blue and white!


 

A thin wash of black oil paint was slopped over the entire surface of the model, then wiped off after a few minutes. This left a subtle highlighting of the panel lines. Enamel Silver paint was applied with a fine brush to depict "chipping" damage to the paintwork on the fuselage and the port upper wing. A coat of Aeromaster Flat Clear sealed the completed paint job.

At least I thought the paint job was completed!

After seeing my nearly-finished model, Jerry Crandall reminded me that recent data revealed that the chequered band on the tail of this Me 262 was actually Blue and White, not Green and White as originally supplied on the decal sheet. After much soul-searching, I decided to face the music and respray the Green chequers in RLM 24 Blue. I was pleased that this task was easier than I had expected. I simply masked off the white squares using Tamiya masking tape and painted over the green sections of the decals.

The main landing gear and minor details were now added. Even following the instructions, I found that correctly locating the thin main undercarriage actuators through the interior of the wing root was tricky.

A fine hole was drilled in the rear section of the canopy to anchor the antenna wire. Smoke-coloured invisible mending thread was used for the antenna, and small blobs of white glue represented the isolators.

 

 

Sd.Kfz. 2 Kleines Kettenkraftrad

 

Construction

I was delighted to hear that Tamiya was releasing their Me 262 with a Kettenkraftrad. I had actually bought the 1/48 scale KMC Kettenkraftrad in 1996 (for around USD$30 by itself!), but I never built it mainly due to its scary looking resin and brass tracks. The Tamiya version was adequately detailed and far easier to build.

I started building my Kettenkraftrad at 10:20pm one night, and finished building the kit at 11:25pm on the same night!

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

The Kettenkraftrad ready for paint.

Rear view of the Kettenkraftrad.

The Kettenkraftrad with its black undercoat. The figures look stark and toylike with their base colours alone.


 

The speed of construction is a credit to Tamiya's brilliant engineering. The drive sprocket, idler wheel and centre road wheels are moulded in the centre of the tracks as a clever, single part for each side. Two additional roadwheels are added to the left and right sides to complete a simple but convincing set of running gear. In a similar feat of clever moulding, the front wheel is integrated with the mudguard, number plate and Notek light. However, the simplicity of the 29 parts does not effect the good level of detail on this little model.

 

 

My main priorities when building this model were clear. I wanted to make sure that the roadwheels were properly aligned and not extending beyond the width of the tracks, and that the tracks and front wheel all touched the ground at the same time. I managed to achieve these objectives with no trouble thanks to the positive fit of the major parts. Assembly of the fine details around the front fork and handlebars requires a more delicate touch, but even these parts aligned perfectly.


 

Painting and Weathering

I painted the entire Kettenkraftrad black before applying a coat of German Armour Dark Yellow. The tracks and the main tyre were avoided while spraying this second colour, leaving these elements in basic black.

I then applied a watery wash of Acrylic Flat Black paint to the narrow tyres on each roadwheel. This thin mix instantly ran around the entire rim. Before this wash dried, I touched the top of each rim with a spot of slightly less-thinned black paint. This also ran around the rim, creating a simple but effective black "tyre" for each roadwheel.

Details were now picked out in different colours - black for the driver's seat, brown for the rear seat and buff for the furled cover.

A final wash of thinned Raw Umber oil paint was applied overall. After a few hours, I wiped off the excess  with my fingertip. This colour was an effective highlight for both the metal and fabric surfaces.

I guessed that these little vehicles would have been kept in reasonably clean condition, so further weathering was limited to an overspray of Buff on the running gear and the lower body to represent a light coating of dust.

 

 

Figures

 

The figures included in this kit have nicely detailed facial expressions. Fabric folds and texture are equally good. The poses of the pilot and the Kettenkraftrad rider also suggest communication between the two. The inclusion of the figures can add a real story to the Me 262 and the Kettenkraftrad.

I also decided to add a third figure. This was a standing fighter pilot who was part of a set released by Jaguar a few years ago. The resin figure was beautifully mastered by Mike Good.

 

 

I assembled the figures then painted the flesh areas by brush. I also brush painted demarcation lines between uniform pants and jacket; flesh and collar etc. This was followed by an application of the main colours by airbrush.

The overalls of the "blackbird" ground crew member was initially painted dark grey, followed by a generous wash of black oil paint. I felt that this captured a scale feel for the black uniform. I gave the pilots a brown leather jacket and blue-grey uniform trousers and cap. A wash was also applied to their uniforms to highlight shadows. The Luftwaffe eagle emblems on the jackets and caps were picked out in white paint using a fine brush.

Next, I painted the foreheads, ears, noses, chins and jowls of all three figures with a paler flesh colour. The faces then received a mixed wash of red-brown and raw sienna.

Finally, the figures were coated with Aeromaster Flat Clear.

 

 

Conclusion

 

In my opinion, this is the best Messerschmitt Me 262 kit ever released.

 

 

Tamiya's new 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Me 262 is well detailed, cleverly engineered and has plenty of useful options. The inclusion of the Kettenkraftrad, the figures and the intake covers all enhance the display options for this very attractive kit.

Even better, the kit was a lot of fun to build. The entire project, including the Kettenkraftrad and the figures, was completed in five sessions over a period of two weeks.

I will definitely be building several more of Tamiya's 1/48 scale Stormbirds!

 

 

Additional Images

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Model, Images and Article Copyright 2002 by Brett Green
Page Created 29 April 2002
Last updated 04 June 2007

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