By now, you know that I’m a fan of the weird, especially my own brand of weird. If there’s one thing I love, it’s transforming ordinary late-WWII Luftwaffe planes into Luft ’46 types – i.e. experimental, project or proposed versions. Of course, just normal project aircraft aren’t always enough. Sometimes, I need MORE. I need to create my OWN Luft ’46 projects. I love variants, and being an engineer, I love to evolve new types out of extisting airframes.
To that end, I turned to the ancient FROG He 219 Uhu. The Uhu was, in its day, an exceptional aircraft. It was one of the few night fighters that could even begin to handle the legendary Mosquito, and featured, for the first time in mass production, ejection seats for the crew! One thing not everyone realizes, though, is that the 219 family was originally intended as a family of multipurpose airplanes. Zerstoerers, Schnellbombers and advanced night fighters were all proposed.
Thus, I decided to make something other than a standard a-model night fighter from my old chestnut of a kit. After some pondering, I decided that the plane would have made an excellent torpedo bomber. It’s high speed and slim shape would have been well-suited to the role. Unfortunately, I don’t have any 1/72 torpedoes, and since I only spent $4 on the kit, I sure as heck wasn’t going to fork over anything for extra weapons. Nope, everything has to come from the spares box for this kind of project…
Then, I came up with the perfect idea! It could be used to launch V1 missiles! The problem with that was either I’d have to mount the missile on the back (an arrangement I hate) or I’d have to hang it upside down, which would look dumb. Then, inspiration hit me! I could make it a missile launcher – but instead of a V1 I could make MY OWN MISSILE! Now the fun was about to start…
The FROG Uhu – a Brutal Disappointment
We all know that FROG is not a company mentioned in the same glowing terms as Hasegawa, Tamiya or Revell Germany. Heck, the only things worse are old Auroras and Starfixes, for the most part. However, despite this, I’ve found the other FROGs I’ve built to be adequate. The Uhu was NOT. It is without a doubt a horrible, unacceptable and truly reprehensible kit. Other than the fact that it is vaguely Uhu-shaped, there’s not a lot of love I can give this model.
For one thing, the nose is completely wrong. While the box art shows the plane shaped correctly, the kit doesn’t look right at all. Progressing aft, the detailing department at FROG displayed gross negligence in the cockpit area. There are no instruments, no dashboard, and only the most rudimentary seats. There are no consoles beside the seats, and there’s only HALF a floor! Yes, you read it right – HALF A FRIGGIN’ FLOOR! You can actually see RIGHT THROUGH THE PLANE if you build it according to the instructions. The rest of the plane is, for the most part, acceptable, although the surface detail is very raised, and the exhaust suppressors are flash-encrusted garbage. Forget the ventral gun tray – there’s some outlining where there COULD be guns, but there’s nothing there. There’s no real landing gear detail either, and my kit was missing a rear tire, which would make my life even more complicated later…
Regardless, I set about etching the surface detail and assembling parts, like the wings and engine nacelles, as they became ready. Turns out the fit on the Uhu is, how can I put this, precipitously close to non-existent. On some parts, namely the engine nacelle/wing and wing/ and tailplane/body junctions (so, yeah, most of the major gluing points), the parts to be joined only touch at four or five points. Needless to say, there’s a lot more CA in the Uhu than in any previous model I’ve built.
As I mentioned before, the cockpit puts the RUDE back in rudimentary. It was clear that I had to do something, and this is where a lot of the work that went into the Uhu can be found. The first step was to get a floor. I found the nametag from the old Monogram 1/48 Skyraider and cut it to size. I reasoned that with such a long cockpit, I could actually fit three seats in the Uhu, and I stepped the front seats lower than the rear two. I glued the properly cut down name tag in place to the original floor, and set about looking for seats and dashboards. I found the dashboard in a bunch of parts I got at a garage sale. I took the rear seat coaming from the single-seat 1/72 Hobbycraft F-18 and bolted it to the back of the dash. The shape was almost a perfect fit for the opening in the Uhu. I then used some Milliput to build the coaming.
The rear dash was from the Heller Komet, and was glued to a cut down bomb fin to support it. The rear panel (in ‘front’ of the rear-facing gunner) was also from the F-18. I couldn’t find anything to use for side consoles, so I built them up from balsa stringers I have left over from my Guillows days. I used some leftover photoetch from the Airwaves He-177 detail set to add instruments to the consoles.
The seats were scavenged from the Hobbycraft 1/72 Cessna Skymaster/O-2 kit. With a little painting and filling, and some masking tape seat belts, they were ready to go. It was quite a thrill to find that the seats were just the right width to fit between the consoles, and just the right length to fit in the space provided. It’s amazing how these things work. I’m sure there’s no other 3-seater Uhu anywhere else with a cockpit like this one!
One thing I wanted the Uhu to have was a gun turret. I’ve always liked the low-profile remote controlled type of gun turrets found on some German planes, like the He-177. Thankfully, I had a completely intact spare turret, and cut a hole in the fuselage to accommodate it. This hole was, in fact, already started for me – it was the place to put the suppressed D/F aerial. I just had to make it a bit bigger and VOILA!
The main weapon was, as you have by now read, to be a new and original air-launched missile. To make this weapon, I decided to use a small drop tank from the 1/48 Escii Mig-23, with wings coming from the rudders of the 1/48 Hobbycraft F-19 and fins from something off the 1/48 Dragon Me 262 Jabo. The back of the drop tank was cut off, to make an engine opening, and the fins were glued at an angle to allow the missile to be mounted under the fuselage. At this point, I had the idea of recessing the weapon, to allow for conformal carriage.
This meant I needed a weapons bay, which I found in the form of half of a large Mig-23 drop tank. It was almost exactly the same width as the Uhu, and fit the smaller drop tank like a glove! Thus, I cut the ventral gun pack out of the Uhu and glued in the drop tank half. This created a perfect recess for the missile! With some Milliput and some internal reinforcing bars, the weapons bay was secured in place, and once it was sanded, looked like it was always supposed to be there.
The last addition to the weapons were the two 20mm cannon packs that came with Academy’s beautiful Bf-109 K kit. These packs fit nicely under the wings, inboard of the engine nacelles. This lead to the armament of the aircraft being a.) quite light and b.) concentrated very heavily in a small space of the airframe.
Assembly is far too soft a word to describe the construction of the FROG Uhu. It was really more like constructive surgery (and in some cases, reconstructive surgery). There was a lot of CA used to correct etching mistakes, not to mention fill the very large gaps between the major subassemblies. Filling in the wing joints was actually the easiest part. The tailplanes were a problem, and I actually managed to sand and etch THROUGH THE PLASTIC on either side of the tailplane/fuselage junction.
To give the plane some character, a new nose was made out of Milliput. I built it up to match the cockpit edges, but these were skewed, and when I sat the canopy on top, there was a large gap on the starboard side. Thus, I had to Milliput on a cosmetic addendum. Getting the Milliput to contour to the plastic was no mean feat, and after about seven iterations, I managed to finally blend the new nose and the old fuselage sides together. Don’t ask how much CA that took.
The canopy was yellowed, a bit cracked and the cockpit bars on it were very poorly marked. Thus, I sanded the cockpit down, both inside and out, using 2000 grit sandpaper. I then cleared up the scratches with Mother’s California Gold scratch remover (perfect for clear pieces, let me tell you!) and Futured both sides of the canopy. Unfortunately, the cracks in the glass became worse, and there’s nothing I can do about that. I used Dymo tape to re-etch the cockpit rails and canopy frames, and I decided to keep it a lot simpler than a conventional Uhu. This way, I don’t end up hiding all my work on the cockpit tub!
Painting and Decalling:
The entire topside of the plane is done in Tamiya XF-49 Khaki. I didn’t want to leave it just one colour, so I applied a light pattern of Tamiya X-9 Brown. I did this by lowering the air pressure on my brush to about 12-15 psi. I held the brush close to the surface and, using only a little bit of paint, randomly and spasmodically traced lines over the surfaces of the aircraft.
I must say that, after touching up some overspray, I was really impressed with the results. The paint makes the Uhu look like a lizard, and while it no longer looks like a fighter, it does have the paint of a ground attack plane. I pained the cowls with Tamiya X-8 Lemon Yellow. In the great Luftwaffe tradition, the use of such bright paint renders the intricate camouflage pattern pointless, which only serves to heighten the realism of the model in my view. The props were painted Testors Aircraft Interior Black, and the landing gear were done in a mix of Testors German Silver Metallic and Aluminum. The landing gear and weapons bay were then washed with a diluted Testors Model Master acrylic black wash.
For decals, I actually was able to use the original kit decals that FROG provided. While the decals were a bit thick, I was amazed at how well they worked for their age. They were tough, but could get into some of the panel lines. The yellow number on the side and the nose insignia were from some second-hand aftermarket decals. To finish the project, the entire plane was coated in Microscale Microflat flat coat. The missile was coated in several hand-brushed coats of future, and was left shiny.
Overall, I’m very happy with how this project turned out. Given the terrible fit, awful detail and spartan extras that came with the Uhu, I wasn’t expecting much. However, this kit proved that with some dedication, elbow grease and patience, it really is possible to get a silk purse from the proverbial sow’s ear. There were many times I wanted to simply give up and chuck this model in the trash, I’ll be honest. Something in me made me stick with the project to the end.
Thankfully, the end was not bitter in the slightest. For those of you out there who are working on Tamiya or Hasegawa kits, or even Italeris for that matter, don’t get upset if the kit isn’t quite up to the standard you think it should be. This kit has shown me what a great distance modelling has come in three decades. If you think you’ve got something to whine about, find one of these old puppies on eBay and see if you feel so hardly done by then!
Operational History of the He 219G-5/RT “Vielfrass”
Please note that the following is FICTIONAL. There never was an aircraft called the He 219 G5, and to my knowledge no design such as the one I have built was ever put forward. I am a sci-fi fan, and thus I enjoy fictional histories. This kit gives me a chance to both build a coolly fictional yet plausible model while also allowing me to indulge in creating a bit of alternate history.
Understand that this is NOT intended to be a revision of any true, WWII history. It is not intended to re-write any of the facts or refute any of the known events that transpired in the dark days from 1939-1945. If you believe this write up instead of the many excellent texts on the Luftwaffe or WW II, you do so at your peril. The standard disclaimer having been given, here we go:
As the war in Europe dragged on, the Luftwaffe found itself in a unique position. On one hand, it had some of the most technologically aircraft either at its disposal or soon to be in service; these of course were aircraft like the Me 262, the Ar 234, the Do 335 and the Ta 152 C/H family. On the other hand, much of the Luftwaffe’s inventory was getting long in the tooth. It’s bomber/attack force was no longer competitive with the new light bombers the Allies were fielding, and the dismal failure of the Me 410 ensured that the conventional twin-engined Zerstoerer would not play a significant role in the battles to come.
What was needed was an aircraft that could bridge the gap between these two technologies, and do so quickly. The answer was the He 219 family. Fast, powerful and possessed of tremendous development potential, several advanced, multirole versions had already been proposed when Heinkel was asked to create the A-series night fighter.
The Luftwaffe’s most pressing concern was to halt the stream of Allied bombers that daily pounded the Reich. However, there was also a need to take the fight back to the Allies, in particular to do damage to harbour facilities and radars in the south of England, as well as to stem the flow of men and materiel across the English Channel.
After several false starts, the G-series was selected as the basis for a number of surface attack variants. The G-models were based on the He 219A series, although there were some significant modifications. All night fighting equipment and the ventral gun tray were deleted. This made room for a slim enclosed weapons bay, capable of carrying two 1,000 kg bombs. The G-3 introduced a ventral recess that could be used to carry torpedoes or larger bombs in a semi conformal manner. Included for the first time on this model was a remote controlled rear turret, manned by a third crewmember facing aft. This turret contained two MG 131 machine guns, and was the same as the turret used on the He-177.
The most common variant was the G-5, which had a crew of three sitting under a blown glass canopy of new design. This canopy afforded the crew excellent visibility, and was lighter than the previous versions. In addition, the plane was fitted with an extended nose cone which could contain anti-shipping radar as well as the FuG 350 Naxos system used for hunting down RAF bombers. Armament was increased by the addition of two fixed, forward firing 20mm cannons under the wings. By moving the cannons below the wing, space was cleared for extra ammunition. These guns, and the turret on the aircraft’s back, were the only armament of the G-5 version.
The G-5 was designed primarily for anti-shipping work, and could carry a torpedo in the belly or two Hs 293 missiles on the wings. For ground attack, a single long bomb, based on a torpedo, was carried in the weapons recess. While this aircraft was very fast and powerful, it was found that the bomb was not acceptable, and most attacks ended with little damage being done to the target.
The solution was to adapt the aircraft to carry the K-928 Hederich (wild radish) missile that was just entering testing. The Hederich was designed as a long range anti-aircraft rocket, to be launched from a rail, with a range of about 7 miles. It had solid fuel boosters to start it and a 4 chamber alcohol/oxygen sustainer motor, similar to the F-55 Feuerlile. As luck had it, it was also about the same dimensions as the weapons recess in the He 219G-5. After several test flights ended in disaster, it was decided to simplify the missile for carriage. The result was the K-932, which was still known as the Hederich. The K-932 had no boosters – it’s initial velocity came from the carrier aircraft. Thus, a simple, effective and above all else, safe, solid fuel motor could be used. The swept wings were made 15% larger and only two tail fins were used. These were mounted on an angel, to clear the body of the G-5 carrier.
Tests showed the new system performed very well, and a pair of special trials aircraft successfully launched 13 missiles between March and May 1945. Some minor modifications to the aircraft were required, particularly strengthening of the fuselage to take the weight of the missile. Fully fuelled, a Hederich weighed almost 4,500 lbs., which was more than the original design of the G-5 could safely accommodate routinely. This led to the G-5/RT variant (RT=Racketentraeger, or rocket carrier), which is externally identical to a normal G-5.
In August of 1945, the first squadron to employ the G-5/RT went into service with the newly formed KG 446, flying from Leck. Within two weeks, the unit had fired over 20 missiles, with a success rate of 75%. However, despite the missile’s 14 mile range (thanks to air-launching), attacks could only be made against large, fixed targets. There was no guidance on the missile, so small targets, such as ships, were out of the question unless the G-5 got much closer to the target.
This changed in September 1946 with the introduction of the K-932C1. This had a replaceable guidance section, which could be set to home in on either the radio emissions from English coastal warning radars, surface ship radars, the radars surrounding RAF and USAAF bases or the H2S radars of the RAF’s “heavies”. This seeker was based on the Naxos system, and a similar Naxos aerial was located in the G-5’s nose. With this new weapon, the G-5/RTs of KG 446 were directed to engage and destroy coastal warning radars, so that V1s and other bombers could once again penetrate English airspace. In this role, the G-5/RT earned its nickname “Vielfrass” (wolverine).
On September 23, 1945, operation “Augenausstechen” (literally ‘eye-gouging’) began with 10 of KG 446’s aircraft engaging and destroying 7 coastal radar towers. Two days later, the same feat was repeated, and on Sept 28, 1945, two Royal Navy ships were heavily damaged by attacks from G-5s using Hederichs with the anti-ship radar seeker. In addition to being an excellent weapons carrier, the Vielfrab gave excellent account of itself when attacked. Once the missile had been fired (or jettisoned), the G-5 was a very agile and fast machine, and was able to either outrun or outfight most enemy interceptors. An exception was the USAAF’s P-80, whose speed was too great for the Heinkel. However, the more pedestrian Meteors of the RAF proved to be good adversaries, 10 falling to the G-5s during combat in Sept-Oct 1945 alone.
Most of the modifications made to this weapons system dealt with the missile and its associated seeker and guidance packages. There were several versions designed for conventional bombardment with warheads including conventional and incendiary explosives. There were also a handful built with chemical wareads, although these were only to be used against Soviet troops or civilian areas, such as the Warsaw Ghetto. Thankfully, they were never used.
When the war ended in 1946, there were over 78 G-5s in service, and 50 of these were RTs. Over 310 K-932 missiles had been produced, although only about 1/3 of these were ever issued to squadrons KG 446 and KG 912. Contrary to urban legend, there were no plans for a nuclear warhead for the Hederich. The He 219G-5/RT was not able to turn the tide of battle to the Reich’s favour, but it did prove the concept now known as ‘lethal SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences)’ to be viable. The G-5 was a beautiful plane to fly, with excellently balanced controls and crisp handling; even when encumbered by the Hederich it was a match for a Bf-110.
The model presented in this review is painted in the late-autumn paint typically found on KG 446 aircraft operating against shipping and English radars.