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The Luftwaffe’s Jets, Rockets and Secret Projects in World War II

It is a sad fact that war accelerates the development of technology as the combatants strive to gain superiority. Thus it was that aviation grew from novelty to essential tool in World War I and from biplanes to ballistic missiles in World War II.

With propeller driven development approaching its limits, designers sought alternative ways to provide their aircraft with greater speed. Reaction power in the form of rockets had been around since the ancient Chinese and continued to be developed, though it was difficult to control and hazardous to its operators. The gas turbine, the jet, was seen as a more reliable way to dispense with the propeller and the Germans threw vast scientific resources at developing almost any advanced projects that their engineers came up with if they had the slightest potential to turn the Allied tide.

The technology of the day meant that the guided missile as we know it was many years in the future. The rocket engine however is particularly suited to a short-range point defence weapon, and both the Me163 and the Bachem Ba239 were essentially bomber interception missiles that used a human pilot in place of the yet-to- be-developed computer for terminal guidance and targeting.

From the modeller’s perspective, study of these fascinating machines offers a great deal of interest. Quite apart from those that reached the hardware stage and that were actually deployed operationally, many more were in development, ranging from actual prototypes, through full scale mock ups, to paper Projekts‚ many of which might have been developed and put in service had the war not come to an end when it did.

1/144 scale has recently seen a veritable surge of interest in Luftwaffe subjects in general, and the more exotic in particular. One of the advantages of the scale is the ability to pursue themes and multiple variants without the need to win the lottery or add an extension to the house. Spurred by the wave of tempting subjects becoming available I embarked upon what has proved to be a fascinating furkle through the history of German technology during the closing stages of World War II.

Elegant Harbinger - The Me 262

Undoubtedly the most successful of the conventional aircraft was the Me262. Highly praised by its pilots and respected by its opponents it combined jet engines and swept wings to produce a superb machine. Fortunately for the allies much of its potential was at first dissipated by Hitler’s insistence that it should be a bomber. When correctly employed however it was a formidable weapon.

This most elegant of jets has been kitted countless times in many scales, but rarely as well as the Eduard offerings. A number of boxings have appeared, mostly two kit combos and of course the aftermarket has helped with more yet to come. The kits are superbly moulded with neat incised detail and accurate outline. Single and two seat variants are covered and there is a small etch for the antennae and D/F loop, plus in the case of the two seater the radar antennae. The kit includes optional weapon pylons and drop tanks or bombs to go on them.

More recently Trumpeter released two boxings of their Me262, which comes with an optional open gun bay and Kettenkrad towing tractor. Whilst the detail is not as refined as the Eduard kits, they do eventually make acceptable replicas. Like the Eduard models, racks with bombs or fuel tanks are included with Trumpeter going a step further by also providing under wing R4M rockets and their mounting trays.

Turning to the aftermarket, Retrokit have looked at the Schwalbe in some depth with exposed engines for both Trumpeter and Eduard offerings as well as single or twin seat replacement cockpits in resin and a growing number of conversions that include the 1a/U4 cannon armed version, the la/U3 recce bird and the proposed LORIN ramjet conversion. More, I am told, are to follow. Brengun do amazing replacement vacform canopies and upgrade sets for both types that included brass, resin and etch detail if you want to go even further.

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