In the wacky world of “What-If” and “Luft ’46”, there are some things that are “legit” and some that are just utter fantasy. By “legit” I mean that the aircraft in question were actually designed and wind tunnel models, prototypes or mock ups were built. Examples of this include the FW Flitzer, B&V P.211 and the FW Ta-183 Huckebein.
I love both the ‘legit’ and fantastic Luft ’46 creations equally, but there is a certain mystique that goes along with something that almost became real. The Huckebein is one such aircraft. Chosen to be Germany’s next fighter in the Jagernotprogram of 1944, the Huckebein should have been beginning flight testing in the summer of 1945. Clearly, this didn’t happen. However, one look at the fighter’s lines will instantly reveal that its aerodynamic progeny, the mighty Sabre and MiG-15, did take some important lessons from this ‘almost was’.
Because the Huckebein was so close to being a real fighter, and because there was every intent to develop it for service (as opposed to some of the more fanciful and less-likely-to-see-production concepts in the ‘napkinwaffe’ arsenal) it has always held a very great fascination for me. A swept wing, single-engined fighter armed with both guns and air-to-air guided missiles fighting in the skies over Germany instead of Vietnam has a certain “alternate universe” charm that I just can’t ignore.
The 1/48 Huckebein is “Proudly made in Korea by AMTech”, or so it says on the kit. Being that the Huckebein is a very small aircraft, this is not a large kit, even in this scale. All panel lines are recessed, and are quite straight, although shallow. There are no rivet details, which is unfortunate at this scale, since the kit looks somewhat ‘naked’ when completed.
Upon opening the box, one finds several sprues of a greyish silver plastic. The kit is broken up along traditional lines, with wings and fuselage being provided as halves. Landing gear bays, the cockpit tub and nose/tail sections are all separate pieces. The tailplane is all one piece. The landing gear legs are also cast as one piece, so that the main legs and the retraction struts form an A-frame assembly. There is one clear sprue that contains the canopy bubble hood. However, this is one piece, so if you want to build the cockpit open, you’ve got some work cut out for you.
Since the Huckebein started out as a low volume kit of a niche subject, there are not a lot of extras that come with it. You are given the choice of two engine exhausts: one for the BWM 004 which would have been used on early production types and one for the ‘final’ version using the HeS 011 centrifugal flow turbojet. The kit also includes a drop tank for the centerline, and a choice for an open or closed centerline bay. This bay is opened to hold the tank in almost a semi-conformal arrangement, or closed for clean conditions. This is actually a very neat feature, and lends itself well to ‘Whiffing’ the armament fit of the aircraft.
As far as weaponry goes, four Ruhrstahl X-4 wire-guided AAMs are provided. These come moulded in halves, and are actually very difficult to get to fit together and look good. There are no other weapons, but a centerline tank is provided. Unfortunately, little extras like DF loops, radio masts and pitot tubes are not included. I have not seen the Tamiya version of this kit (which comes with a Kettenrad, I believe), but would like to hope that it corrects these rather startling omissions.
Building the Kit:
I figured that this would be a simple and easy kit to get completed. I was not disappointed. The fit of all the parts is excellent, and there was hardly any need for puttying at all. The only filler I needed was around the nose and engine exhaust caps, where the contours of the fuselage disagreed with the contours of the caps themselves.
Joining the wings to the body and the tailplane to the vertical tail was a no-brainer, and only light sanding was required. The same can be said for the installation of the cockpit tub and the landing gear bays (which must be done BEFORE gluing the body together). The center weapons bay also fit nicely, but not quite as flushly as the others.
The only disappointing parts of the kit, fit-wise, were the missiles. These were such a pain that I decided to only install two of the four missiles. The good news is that the holes for the pylons are not pre-drilled (although they are marked inside the wing), so leaving a pair of missiles off didn’t require me to fill any holes.
There were no nasty surprises building the Huckebein. To be on the safe side, I added significant weight to the plane’s nose. I glued a bunch of shot inside the front cone, as well as beside the front gear bay. The instructions don’t call for this, but given the Huckebein’s traditionally back heavy stance, and the fact that it has nearly no front-wheel overhang, it seemed like a prudent idea.
Painting and Finishing:
During construction, the panel lines got a bit softened by fit-checking with Wal-Mart primer. Thus, I had to re-etch the entire aircraft anyway. When it came time to put the final coat of primer on I used Mr. Surfacer 1000. This stuff is amazing, and ensures that any Tamiya paint sprayed on thereafter will adhere like there’s no tomorrow.
The instructions provide many alternate paint schemes for both 003 and HeS-011 powered versions. However, I was not too keen on many of them. I didn’t want a natural metal finish, because I didn’t want people thinking I was trying to make it look like a MiG/Sabre. I also get sick of the standard green/green splinter cammo that every Luftwaffe aircraft seems to have adopted near the end of the war.
I decided to do a Luftwaffe take on modern air superiority paints – namely multiple shades of greys. I stuck with a blue underside, though, as wraparound cammo doesn’t ever seem to have crossed the RLM’s mind at all. Thus, I did the underside in Tamiya XF-25 Light Sea Grey, which is actually quite bluish. The main colour for the topside was Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey, which was, amazingly, grey! (Whoa!! Stop the presses!)
For cammo, I decided to try and push my skills with my Badger 155, and see if I could do some thin squiggle patterns. Seeing as I was working at 1/48, I figured I had a little more room to play with. As it turns out, doing the squiggles was fairly simple, once I got the hang of it. I even found that it would be easier to do them at 1/72, because I wouldn’t have to go over them as much! The squiggles were done in Tamiya XF-53 Neutral Grey which has a definitely purplish tinge; perfect for Luft ’46 aircraft! Once the cammo was on, I oversprayed the entire topside with a light dusting of XF-25, to tone down the contrast between the squiggles and the rest of it.
The cockpit, landing gear bays and centerline bay were all done in a custom “interior green” colour that I mixed up ages ago. Unfortunately, this colour ran out half way through the model, so I had to mix up another batch as closely as I could. Thankfully, I managed to do this successfully. The paints I used were Tamiya XF-26 and XF-14, as well as Gunze RLM 70 and Testors Model Master Green Zinc Chromate.
All ‘internal’ surfaces painted the green were also black washed using an acrylic wash. The control panel was drybrushed in silver to pick out details, and some drybrushing was also done inside the cockpit to make it look aged.
The trickiest paint of all to do was the wings on the Ruhrstahl X-4s. These were, on production units, to be made out of wood. To simulate wood grain, I resurrected an old jar of Testors first generation Model Master acrylic Afrika Korps Mustard, and painted a basecoat. I then drybrushed on some Gunze Mahogany for grain. To unify everything, I put two REALLY thin coats of the AK Mustard over top, and then glossed the snot out of everything. The effect, while not perfect, was actually quite good.
With all the paint on, the panel lines were coloured in using an HB mechanical pencil filed down to give a small fine line. At this point, the kit was gloss coated using Tamiya Clear. The decals that come with the Huckebein kit are made by Microscale and are fantastic! They are very thin, quite malleable and go on very well. Once a decal was down and tacked into place, I cut it over the panel lines, re-applied some water and floated the decal away from the panel line in question. This worked exceptionally well except on the swastikas. The swastikas given with the kit are of the two-part variety, and when cut over panels, there were too many parts to re-align correctly. Thus, the swastikas on this particular kit are actually ones from an Allmark sheet of Eric Green’s.
The decals were set in place with Future, and the whole kit was given a once over with Future when that was done. Gunze flat clear was used for the final finish, as it gives an extremely nice flat finish with little chance of ‘salting’ (over-flatting and turning white).
The AMTech Huckebein is a very good, albeit fairly simple, kit. It does not have a lot of extra bells and whistles, and isn’t likely to give you a lot to put into your spares box. It does fit together very well, though, and should pose little problems even to those of limited experience.
There are some significant things, though, that make one take pause. The lack of ‘greeblies’ (pitot tubes, radio aerials, etc.) is odd, and the lack of glass navigation lights for the wings was surprising given their size and the scale of the kit. Also, the drawings I’ve seen (including the engineering drawings in Griehl’s book) show the Huckebein to sit quite ‘tail-heavy’. However, the AMTech sits very level, which tells me the rear landing gear legs are too long. Now, it turns out that it looks way better this way, but some of the “Hexperten” out there will surely take exception to this.
The best way to describe the Huckebein is that it is a good, basic kit, with excellent decals. It won’t challenge a modeller, but it does provide a nice canvas if you’re a superdetailer. There are plenty of extra things you can do to this kit to make it seem a lot more realistic.
Therein, though, lies the biggest downside to the kit. It is normally very expensive for what you get. I got mine at the WellCOME X show in 2006, so I only paid $15. I’ve seen it as high as $65. It’s worth $15, and maybe a bit more, but certainly nowhere near $65. What it all boils down to though, is whether or not you can afford to be without this nice model of Kurt Tank’s fish-like little fighter, a wonder weapon never quite got the chance to be.