Friday, January 27, 2012

Accurizing Revell AG's 1/72 Horten 229, Part 1

A layout of the Revell AG 1/72 Go 229 on my workbench, showing bits that have been assembled, modified, or replaced.
I've been working on this project off and on since kit came out in the '90s. This kit seems to represent a production Ho 229 (or more properly, Go 229), putting it in the realm of Luft '46. The decal sheet from the original release has operational markings for JG 301 including the Reichsverteidigung stripes. This puts it beyond historical fact, where its accuracy isn't subject to as much criticism. However, I decided to represent the Go 229V3 as it might have looked fully assembled. The V3 was and is a very real airplane, now in the hands of the National Air and Space Museum.

My first exposure to this plane was in Gene Gurney's The War in the Air, in a section entitled "Last-Ditch Weapons." A photo shows the center section of the aircraft on the tarmac, and as a boy I could not make out what it was. I had no idea how the complete aircraft would look and mistook the tip of the tail (or lack thereof) for the nose, thus imagining this was some kind of supersonic aircraft. This and the other Wunderwaffen pictured in Gurney's book captured my imagination, and added an element of science fiction to my fascination with with WWII.

PM 1/72 Horten 229, showing upper surface paint scheme
1990's Fujicolor picture, natural light, 35mm(?) lens
In college in the '80s, I built a few models of Luftwaffe aircraft, using Wm. Green's Warplanes of the Third Reich among other references. One was the PM 1/72 Go 229, a very basic kit from Turkey, and I followed the speculative camoflage shown in Green's book.

Recent digital photo of PM 1/72 Horten 229,
 mix of fluorescent/incandescent light to simulate natural light

The PM kit is not very detailed, and somewhat inaccurate. (But it's really cheap!) I noticed a the jet intakes were shaped wrong and filed them down to a more accurate shape. One thing about this model is that the nose wheel doors consist of a wide door attached to the strut, which swings back with the nose gear as it retracts, and two narrow doors behind that, which close sideways to cover the large nose wheel. According to my references (Kenneth Merrick, German Aircraft Interiors and Hans-Peter Dabrowski, Flying Wings of the Horten Brothers), the Go 229V3 had two sideways-opening doors running the length of the nosegear bay. This will come up again later.

Another recent photo of PM 1/72 Horten 229
Unlike the V2, which flew (and crashed), the V3 was never finished, although three major sub-assemblies were substantially completed: the center section (with engines, cockpit, and landing gear) and the two wing panels.  Final assembly never took place, even after the plane was in American hands.

DML 1/48 Horten 229 by Mark Tucker
In 1997 I had the opportunity to visit Silver Hill (NASM's Paul Garber Restoration Facility), while there with my brother and Australian modeler Mark Tucker, whose work is astounding. At left is an appropriate example of his work. Note that the DML kit also has the big nose wheel door up front.

One of the things we were most eager to see was, of course, the Horten 229. Here are a few photos of it from that trip.
Horten 229 V3 at NASM, rear view, 1997.

The rear view (showing what I thought was the nose when I was a boy!) reveals the presence of two Jumo 004 engines--you can see the center-body protruding from each exhaust. Damage has occurred to the plywood covering along the trailing edge at right. Spurious Nazi markings have also been added late in the aircraft's career.

Horten 229 V3 at NASM, front-left view, 1997.

The front view shows the intake, internal structure at the wing root (if you can call it that in an all-wing aircraft), and the lowered landing gear sans wheels, supported on a dolly. The lip of the intake is smoothly rounded and puttied to make a clean aerodynamic shape. You can see the fairing over the Riedel starter motor mounted on the front center-body of the Jumo 004.
Horten 229 V3 at NASM, side view, 1997.

The side view is a close-up of the welded steel tubing internal structure. You also see the stiffeners that run out along the wing, and attach the plywood surface to the frame. A stenciled identification number, T2-490, appears on the side of the fairing over the left engine. T2 refers to the Technical Section that had possession of the aircraft. Many photos of captured aircraft show similar markings starting with FE for "foreign equipment."

Horten 229 V3 at NASM, main gear bay, 1997.
The view of the main gear bay shows the rather complex retraction mechanism and, nearly lost in shadow, the usual bewildering array of wiring and plumbing. The door over the strut appears at the far right of the picture, and also visible at right is the contour of the fairing that blends from the center landing gear bulge back to the trailing edge.

Horten 229 V3 at NASM, nose gear, 1997.
The view from the front looking up into the nose gear bay shows damage to the plywood skin under the left engine, and of course the doors are missing. The front of the strut lacks any lugs that would provide attachment points for a nose gear door, simply because there was none. The Go 229V2 had such a door mounted on the strut. Such a door would produce a lot of drag and cause the plane to pitch down.The V2 was destroyed during a test flight when a malfunction lowered the gear unexpectedly (Hans-Peter Dabrowski, Flying Wings of the Horten Brothers).

Part 2: My modifications to the Revell kit so far.

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