Me 163A Komet (Prototype)


Model review

Flashback 1/48

Box cover and painting guide

Kit
The kit is moulded in medium hard and medium grey plastic and it has a resin cocpit with pilot seat, photoetched parts and an injection moulded canopy. The photo-etched sheet has parts for detailing the cocpit and actuator rods for ailerons and rudder. A pitot tube made of metal is also included. The kit has good decal sheet and instrument panel which is provided as a film. The kit has 19 injection moulded parts including the cocpit hood. This may be some kind of record and it's very hard to make an 1/48 aircraft model with fewer parts than that, this might be good therapy model also! The kit has finely engraved surface detail which could have been more deeper like in Tamiya kits. Now part of the panel lines will dissapear when sanding and they have to be rescribed.

Breakdown of the parts differs from ordinary kits. Major parts are divided horizontaly on two components. Upper part includes wings top side and mid fuselage and the lower part includes wings bottom side and the lower fuselage. By adding fin and rudder component to this assembly the kit has only four major parts which may be some kind of world record! According to my references shape of the model and the dimensions shows this model to measure up to scale very well. The only real fault of the shape seems to be the trim tab of the rudder which Me 163A didn't have. Kits trim tab represents most likely the Me 163B's trim tab. If you file the trim tab away the rear part of the rudder is left too thick and if you file the rudder thinner you loose the fabric covering of the rudder. It's up to yours, I decided to leave the rudder as is.

Construction
I built my model out of the box. Due to small number of parts building of the kit is easy and very straight forwarding. As usual I started building from cocpit. The photo-etched sheet contains parts to make rudder pedals and it has also trim wheel to the right sidewall of the cocpit and some levers to control the plane and seat-belts. Front plate of the instrument panel is a photo-etched part which has holes for gauges. Film with the gauges is to be glued behind it. Before this it has to be trimmed out of its background with scissors and paint white on backside. Next the film with the gauges is to be glued behind the photo-etched instrument panel which has been painted black before, the gauges settles to the holes of the panel. Lastly this package is to be glued to the backside of the panel which is a plastic part. After the seat, instrument panel, rudder pedals and other parts has been painted and glued to the cocpit tub it is time to glue the cocpit tub into the upper half of the fuselage where it fits perfectly. Lastly it is time to glue the photo-etched grip to front side of the cocpit which makes the cocpit ready.

Next stage is gluing upper and lower parts together. I used Revell's bottle glue and squeezers to hold the parts together. I let the parts dry overnight before gluing tailsector on it's place. In this stage I noticed the poor fit of the tail unit which was about one mm too narrow and too low when compadered to the rear part of the fuselage. To remove the step I had to file so much that surface detailings dissapeared in some places almost totally. (A better way may be making the rear part broader with a small pieces of styrene sheet). I sanded the seams on the nose so much too that part of the surface detailing dissapeared. Next phase was naturally to rescribe the panel lines which had dissapeared. I scribed the missing panels to rear fuselage and drilled rivets to them according to photographs. I scribed the panel lines to this model with my new "Panel Scriber" which I has shortly purchased. It turned out to be worth of its price and speeded up my work a lot. To the nose of the model you have to drill two holes which are missing there. Purpose of the upper one maybe towing connector and purpose of the lower one I can't even gues. The kit offers a tail skid as plastic part which is much too thick. I made a new one out of brass wire and styrene sheet according to box art. Before gluing together upper and lower parts of the wings I filed the leaving edges of the wings thinner.


Painting and decals
Varying from painting guide and according to photographs and my references I painted the cocpit and its equipments as follow. The main color of the cocpit is RLM 02 Gray, instrument panel is black, control stick is 02 Gray with a black handle and with a brown leather covering at a base. Pilots padded headrest is brown, trimwheel's circle is black and the spokes are aluminium. Control levers are 02 Gray with a drop of white glue at the tips and they are painted blue, red and yellow. Seat-belts are painted yellowish grey, outer edges of the hip belts are darker shadow and buckles are aluminium. Departing of the painting scheme I painted the wheel hubs black, this is clearly visible in some of the photographs of the plane.

The color of the first prototype V1 is a much discussed subject on different forums. According to the kits painting guide the V1 was painted with RLM 02 Gray. It's also been said that the V1 was painted with RLM76 Light Bluegray. And to make you more confused some says that the V1 may have been yellow! I believe that the painting guide is right and used RLM02 to paint my model, as a matter of fact it was the official color of prototype aircrafts in Germany. All the other thoughts of the right color are just based on black and white photographs from where it is very difficult to define the right color as is well known. I kept weathering as minimum as possible because the V1 prototype was well maintained and it was also waxed to boost the performance to maximum. I used ExtraColor's RLM02 enamel which was tinted with white (20%). When the paint had dried two days I waxed the whole model with normal car wax.

The kit offers decals for three planes. The most famous of them was V1 prototype KE+SW being the first plane to reach over 1000 km/h speed in level flight. V6 CD+IO was equipped with 24 R4M rockets under its wings and V3 CD+IL was used to training pilots before they shifted to Me 163B plane. Kits painting guide shows the "V1" marking on the fin of the V1 KE+SW. According to the photographs KE+SW didn't have "V1" markings on it's fin. It's better check these "V" markings from photos if they existed or not on a plane you are modelling. The decals are thin and very good quality and they settled down well with MicroSol and MicroSet. After the decals had dried two days I waxed them with the same car wax than the whole model before.

Summary
Although there were some minor shortcomings, especially the poor fit of the tail unit which caused some extra work, the kit can be considered mainly very good. Particularly the resin cocpit was exremely fine, it is very finely casted and it fits perfectly inside the fuselage. Also the photo-etched sheet is fine, particularly the instrument panel and the seat belts. Actuator rods for the control surfaces are photo-etched parts and they look too two-dimensional. On the left side of the fin I formed a blister out of putty to make a photo-etched part look more realistic. The decals are very good and thin. If you are interested in German prototype aircrafts during WW2 this model is definitely worth of acquiring.


History
Dr Alexander Lippisch was a German pioneer of aerodynamics who worked at DFS (German Institute for Sailplane Flight) in the thirties and had tested tail-less planes as early as the twenties. The Reich Aviation Ministry (RLM) was interested in Lippisch's plans and believed that a tail-less plane would be ideal for the new rocket engine that Helmut Walter had designed. A tail-less plane could be built smaller and lighter than conventional planes with tail although they required to the wing to be "bent back" in order to be stable. Although Lippisch had not invented the design with rocket power in mind, a tail-less aircraft could be built with much larger internal volume and still have the same drag as a smaller conventional design.

In 1938 Dr Lippisch designed a tail-less DFS 40 which had a piston engine and pussher propeller. Next was completed DFS 194 which was a tail-less glider and a predecessor of Me 163. In January 1939 Lippisch and his team was transferred to Messerchmitt by RLM to continue the development of the DFS 194 and to adapt Helmut Walter's new I-203 rocket motor to the plane. The flight tests went well and the DFS 194 reached a speed of 550 km/h and received priority status from the RLM. Messerschmitt was ordered to build six prototype aircrafts designated as Me 163A. The purpose of the project was to build a superior point-defense interceptor whith exellent climbing characteristics and superior speed compared to propeller fighters. The range would not have been a problem because take off would not happen until enemy bombers were almost over the protected targets. The range was to be 100 km and the base network was to be so frequent that it would cover main bomber routes and all important targets in Germany. Secrecy was such that the number, 163, was actually that of an earlier project to produce a small two-passenger light plane, as it was thought that intelligence services would conclude any reference to the number would be for that earlier design.


Me 163A

The first prototype was first tested as glider while Me 110 was used as towing plane. The flying characteristics were considered fairly good. At this point of the program the new Walter RII-203b rocket engine was nowhere near ready. In the summer of 1941 two prototypes equipped with the new Walter HWK RII-203b engine was taken to Peenemunde for test flights. On the 2nd of October 1941 the first prototype V1, famous glider- and testpilot Heini Dittmar at the controls, was towed to 4000 metres where he released towing rope and started engine. In a few seconds the plane accelerated to the speed of 1003,67 km/h (M 0,84) which was a new world speed record when Dittmar suddenly lost the control due to compressibility, speed of airflow has exceeded speed of sound at some points of the plane! Dittmar succeeded to recover the plane when the speed decreased and made a succesful landing. New wing was designed to solve the problem.

At this stage of the project the biggest problem was the rocket fuel which formed up from two toxic components (T-Stoff 80% and Z-Stoff 20%). Wrong mix of the fuel in combustion chamber could explode the engine as happened occasionally. Later Z-Stoff catalyst was replased by C-Stoff. Pilots and ground personal who handled the poisonous fuels had to use specially designed protection suits. Because the plane had to be as light as possible it didn't have retracting undercarriage, it was replaced with a dolly which was to be drop down after the plane was airborne. The plane landed on a small skid, which was supported by spring, running down the centerline of the plane. Landings were always made as a glider because the fuel sufficed only for take off and for some other manoeuvres. You had to be a good pilot to land safely the fast and well gliding plane at a speed of 210 km/h to on rough grass airfield on a small skid. Later the absence of normal retracting landing gear which could had allowed normal operations from coated runways was much criticized. This may be the reason of Lippisch's sailplane background. Sailplanes and gliders normaly started and landed on a skid under the plane so it was quite normal that the designer of those planes developed also the rocket powered fighter to the same sketch. Six prototype Me 163A's were built followed by ten pre-production planes designated Me 163A-0. The planes were manufactured by Wolf Hirt and they were used as glider trainers.

Me 163B

It took much time and work before the first serial production Me 163B Komet flew, as a matter of fact it was almost totally a re-designed plane. Six prototypes and 70 serial production aircrafts was ordered but engine troubles and the fuel consumption which was almost twice big that was calculated caused delays to the types introduction. Due to the fuel consumption the powered flight time was only about eight minutes. It was just enough for take-off, climbing to the operational altitude and to make one or two attacks. When the fuel had ran out the plane became a glider which had to glide back to its base and land without engine power. This phase became the destiny to many Komet pilots when patrolling Mustangs attacked against Komets that were gliding back to their bases. Production of the planes was decentralized to many subcontractors under Klemm Technik GmbH. This inflicted productional problems because some of the subcontractors couldn't make components within the given tolerances. The delivering of the serial production Me 163B-1a planes started in May 1944.

For the first time Me 163B-1a Komets climbed to a battle on the 28th of July 1944 when five planes from I/JG400 attacked without results against 596 american B-17 bombers near Merseburg. The biggest problem was the speed difference between the enemy bombers and Komets, it was about 500 km/h . Due to the high approaching speed effective firing time of Komet pilots was only about three seconds with the slowly firing MK 108 cannons. First success was gained on the 16th of October 1944 when five Komets climbed against 1096 american bombers and succeeded in shooting down four B-17 flying fortresses while loosing two Komets. Although the number of planes increased over 300 never there were more than 16 enemy planes shot down by Komets. Too short aiming and firing time remained the biggest problem till the end. One answer to solve the problem was installing five vertically mounted firing tubes in each wingroot, each containing a 50 mm shell. The system fired in a salvo and was activated by the shadow of the target passing over a light cell when Komet was flying in high speed under the bomber formation. The system was installed in twelve planes and during tests one B-17 was shot down just before the collapse of the Third Reich. The production of Me 163B-1a ended in February 1945 but developing of the type continued.


Me 163S

The 163S was an unpowered trainer version of the 163B. A second cockpit was added for an instructor in the space normally taken up by one of the fuel tanks.

Me 163C

The Me 163C was designed to overcome the range limitations of the earlier model. It featured a new, stretched fuselage and a new Walter engine that had two combustion chambers, one for take-off and climb, and a less powerful "cruise" chamber. Only three Me 163Cs was built, and only one was flight tested probably only as a glider.

Me 163D

The Me 163D was larger again than its predecessor the 163C. It was built by inserting new sections into an Me 163B fuselage, stretching it to accommodate larger fuel tanks. It also featured a tricycle undercarriage, pressurized cocpit and bubble canopy. It had an engine with two combustion chambers and its operational time was 12 min, almost twice that of the B-model. Only one was built, and its development was continued as the Me 263 (redesignated Junkers Ju 248 when Junkers took over the project). Soviet forces took over the factory just when the production was to begin and the project was transferred to Russia under the Mikoyan-Gurevich.

Mitsubishi Ki-200 (J8M1)

Japan got the license for Me 163B. One plane and the plannings were sent to Japan by ship but the plane destroyed when the ship sank. Only the plannings saved. According them the Japanise built a prototype which crashed on its maiden flight in July 1945 when engine failed. Only a few planes were built before the war ended.


Summa summarum

In the military history Me 163 Komet never reclaimed the expectations that were put on it. Planes were destroyed much more in landing accidents and in explosions due to the dangerous fuels than in fightings. Komets achieved only 16 kills. Nevertheless the plane was astonishing in flight. After take-off from a dolly it would be traveling over 300 km/h at the end of the runway, at which point it would pull up into an 70 - 80 degree climb at 700 km/h all the way to the enemy bombers altitude. It could go even higher if need be, reaching 12,000 m in an unheard-of three minutes. Once there it would level off and quickly accelerate to speeds around 880 km/h or faster, which no Allied plane could hope to match. The Me 163 Komet do not be remembered by its military achievements but because it was so much ahead of its time! It was about 400 km/h faster than Allied fighters of the time and its climbing speed was faster than the diving speed of its opponents! It started completely new decade in aviation history being the first and the last rocket powered fighter in service in the history.

Photos from different stages
Hold the mouse cursor over thumbnail for a while before clicking !

Technical data of Me 163A Komet (prototype)

Engine Walter HWK RII-203b rocket engine, thrust 750 kg
Dimensions Span 8,85 m; lenght 5,60 m
Weights Empty weight 1905 kg (Me 163B-1); max. takeoff 4310 kg (Me 163B-1)
Performance Max. speed 1003,67 km/h (M 0.84)
Ceiling 12100 m / 3,5 min (Me 163B-1)
Powered flight time 7,5 min (Me 163B-1)
Armament Me 163A V1 unarmed, Me 163B-1 2 x 30 mm MK 108 cannon
Production 6 Me 163A-prototype, 10 Me 163A-0 pre-serial and 320 Me 163B-1 serial planes

Reference

  • Me 163 Komet, Rob de Bie's home page
  • Me 163, TheFreeDictionary com
  • Warplanes of the Luftwaffe, David Donald
  • Axis Aircraft of World War II, David Mondey
  • Internet

  • Main page