Luftwaffe Mosquito hunter and famous Lancaster tribute

Luftwaffe Mosquito hunter and famous Lancaster tribute

Welcome to this latest edition of Workbench and all the news, updates and exclusive announcements from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. We are pleased that everyone seemed to enjoy our previous edition, which included more of the behind the scenes details regarding the recent announcement of our ‘Vintage Classics’ range and some of the exclusive images of the original artwork which will be used on many of these nostalgic releases. The feature also sparked some interesting debate on various modelling forums, with members posting their hopes for future model inclusions in this soon to be expanded range of classic kits and we are certainly looking forward to bringing you news of any additions as soon as we are in a position to do so.

The main subject of this latest edition brings us right up to date with the current Airfix model range and features an exclusive update from the highly anticipated new 1/72nd scale Messerschmitt Me262B-1a/U1 / Avia CS-92 kit, which features new parts and two fascinating scheme options in which to consider finishing your model. We will be bringing you an exclusive first look at the scheme decoration guides and a full description of the two scheme options which will be included with the release of A04062, as we head towards the scheduled October release for this extremely attractive new kit. We follow this up with a fascinating double build review from Australia, which features one of Britain’s most famous historic aircraft, but with both models wearing very different markings to the famous ones we are all now familiar with – if we tell you that the owners of this magnificent WWII bomber recently announced their intentions to return their aircraft to airworthy condition, you will have no trouble in identifying the subject of this particular feature. Let’s make a start straight away by heading back to the final days of the Luftwaffe and a ground-breaking aircraft which proved to be one of the most capable night hunters of WWII, but was very much a case of too little too late.

Night fighting enters the jet age

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

A computer rendered image of the impending Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 kit release

As one of the most advanced aircraft of the Second World War, the jet powered Messerschmitt Me 262 ‘Schwalbe’ has been a source of fascination for aviation enthusiasts and modellers alike in the years following the end of WWII. Representing the huge advances in aviation technology over a relatively short period of time, the Me 262 was the world’s first operational jet fighter and gave the Luftwaffe a significant advantage in the savage fighting taking place in the skies above Europe. Unfortunately, almost every aspect of the Me 262’s service introduction proved to be something of a wartime juxtaposition and even though it was undoubtedly an extremely advanced aeroplane, it had little chance of altering the outcome of the conflict, which had already turned inexorably in favour of the Allies. Representing highly advanced technology, Allied dominance dictated that not only would materials and fuel for the jet fighter be difficult to obtain, manufacturing would be seriously hampered by constant bombing and the roving eyes of reconnaissance aircraft searching for anything out of the ordinary. Its service introduction would be undertaken with Germany very much on the defensive and the propeller driven Allied fighters the Me 262 bettered in almost every aspect of performance would hunt the new jets mercilessly whilst on the ground and either taking off or landing, to ensure they never really had the opportunity to have an impact on the air war.

Significantly for the Luftwaffe, the ground-breaking powerplants which endowed the Messerschmitt Me 262 with its technological advantage proved also to be its Achilles heel and determined that this would always be a high maintenance aircraft, difficult to keep serviceable and incapable of being operated from anything but a large and fully equipped airfield. With an operational life which rarely exceeded twelve flying hours, Luftwaffe engineers had to become proficient at changing the Junkers Jumo engines and they would get plenty of practice - airfields playing host to the Messerschmitt jets were littered with engines in various states of repair and aircraft waiting to receive them. For this and numerous other reasons, the number of serviceable aircraft available at any one time would never be enough to cause serious concern to the Allied air forces, who by this time had gained a significant superiority in the skies above Europe.

Cosford Messerschmitt Me 262A-2a jet fighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Cosford’s Messerschmitt Me 262 A-2a ‘Yellow 4’ continues to be one of the most popular museum exhibits in the country

Even though the Messerschmitt Me 262 had little chance of altering the course of the war, it nevertheless represents a significant leap forward in aviation technology and was undoubtedly one of the most capable fighting aircraft of WWII. Had Germany been able to develop the aircraft and its engines without disruption and had official interference not delayed its introduction as a high speed interceptor, large numbers of these fighters may have been operational much sooner than they eventually were and things may have been very different – thankfully that was not to be the case. The distinctive shark-like fuselage profile of the Messerschmitt Me 262 and its swept wings underlined the fact that this was a hunting aircraft built for speed and combined with its devastating firepower, its attacks in a combat situation would have been almost impervious to Allied defensive tactics. Avoiding being drawn into a turning dogfight, Me 262 pilots would simply fire and run, using its much superior speed both to outrun enemy fighters and to gain height for another attack on the bombers they were attempting to protect.

A Messerschmitt made for two

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

More computer rendered goodness. The Me 262 B-1a/U1 is a very different looking model from the previously released single seat variant

The introduction of the Messerschmitt Me 262 in the late summer of 1944 presented the Luftwaffe with a weapon of significant potential, more capable than anything the Allies had available to them and therefore able to command a level of combat superiority. There were, however, many problems facing their effective operation, not least the fact that the first solo flight of a pilot converting to the ‘Schwalbe’ would be his first flight in a jet powered aircraft. This technology was significantly different from the famous Bf 109 and Focke Wulf piston engined fighters they had been flying previously and initially dictated that only the most accomplished pilots were selected for conversion to the new Messerschmitt jet fighter. Engine management and thrust input requests proved to be particularly challenging and if the aircraft was to achieve its full potential, it would have to be flown in great numbers and by regular squadron pilots, even novice replacements straight from flying school – a solution had to be found and quickly.

The answer proved to be as simple as it was ingenious – the Me 262 B-1a tandem two seat trainer. Retaining the nose armament of the fighter to make this a fully operational combat aircraft, the B-1a included a second cockpit for the instructor, positioned behind the student and requiring the removal of the rear fuel tanks and replacement with reduced capacity alternatives. A large and slightly bulbous looking dorsal fairing was fitted behind the second cockpit, which when combined with the lengthened canopy gave the appearance of a larger aeroplane – this is nothing more than an optical illusion, as no new built B-1a trainers were produced, they were all converted from standard single seat fighters taken from the production line. The aircraft was equipped with a fully functioning dual control flight system. The first Me 262 B-1a prototype made its first flight on 28th April 1944, with initial production examples reaching operational units by the following September, most destined for the Advanced Operation Conversion Wing 2 at Lechfeld. Approximately 70 B-1a trainers were produced before the end of the war, although their operational effectiveness was limited in the same way as the single seat fighters were, most noticeably by the poor service life of the Jumo jet engines.

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Rendered Messerschmitt walk-around. A further series of computer rendered images from the two-seat Messerschmitt Me 262 project

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog
New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Perhaps the most interesting of all the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter variants were the B-1a/U1 ‘interim nightfighters’ developed from the standard two-seat trainers. The most obvious differences between the two variants are the adoption of the distinctive stag antler radar antenna of the Siemens FuG 218 Neptune V airborne interception radar in the nose of the nightfighter, along with the two large drop tanks routinely carried under the forward fuselage of the aircraft. These two modifications added a significant amount of additional drag to the Me 262, but its performance was so spectacular that this still meant it was significantly faster than the de Havilland Mosquitos which were its primary target. The rear cockpit was modified to accept a basic radar console by the removal of the control column and moving the seat forward which also allowed for the installation of a larger internal fuel tank – in a less than ideal arrangement, this tank would have to be filled through the open canopy of the rear cockpit.

Although produced in relatively small numbers, these elusive night hunters proved to be extremely effective in this role and helped to further underline the technological edge the Germans had at this stage of the war, even though it proved to be a case of too little, too late with regard to the ultimate outcome. As the Allies closed in on final victory and began to overrun former Luftwaffe airfields, a frantic race to capture this jet technology intact became of paramount importance, with British, US and Russian units given specific orders to secure these highly prized assets for evaluation.

New parts for new Messerschmitt Me 262 kit

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

With stunning artwork like this around, it is no wonder that the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter continues to be a source of fascination to this day

With the historical importance of the Me 262 jet fighter, there was absolutely no doubt that our newly tooled 1/72nd scale example, which was initially released in early 2017 (A03088), was going to be well received by modellers. In fact, it has proved incredibly difficult to keep this kit in stock since its release, with our website currently inviting pre-orders for a future production run, although it may be possible to pick up an example in model shops up and down the country. With the announcement of the 2018 model range, Airfix fans would have no doubt been excited to see the inclusion of a second release from this popular tooling, this time allowing the construction of the B-1a trainer and distinctive B-1a/U1 Behelfsnachtjager (interim night fighter) versions of the world’s first jet fighter to see operational service. With two distinctive scheme options accompanying the future release of this fantastic kit, it appears as if interest in this historic aircraft is showing absolutely no sign of diminishing and our modelling display shelves are about to be graced by two more fascinating examples of the Me 262.

As there are some significant differences between the Messerschmitt Me 262A-1A single seat fighter version of the first release and this two seat trainer version, A04062 introduces a completely new component frame to the kit, along with additional clear parts for the three section elongated canopy. In an exclusive first look for Workbench readers, we are pleased to bring you pictures of the test sprue components of the new kit, both as the complete set and with the new component frames individually presented. This important development highlights the fact that this handsome new kit is advancing nicely towards its currently scheduled October release date.

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Test frames from the new Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 / Avia CS-92 kit, showing all the parts (minus clears)

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Exclusive test frame image showing the new fuselage and ancillary components for the Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

The new clear components needed to build a two seat Messerschmitt Me 262

The distinctive shape of the new Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1 kit is only one side of this impressive new kit’s undoubted appeal, as its beautiful sweeping lines will be further enhanced by the addition of two attractive new scheme options in which to finish your model. Let’s take a closer look at why these make such interesting subjects for the aviation modeller.

Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 Nightfighter, Wk. Nr 111980 ‘Red 12’, 10./Nachtjagdgeschwader 11, Schleswig, Germany, May 1945. Additional decals provided for the aircraft as operated by the Royal Aircraft Establishment Aerodynamic Flight

New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog
New Airfix Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighter on the Airfix Workbench blog

Full painting and decal placement guide for completing the 10./NJG 11 Nightfighter, including when it was flown in British hands

The Luftwaffe had battled long and hard to overcome the effectiveness of British Mosquitos which roamed with some degree of impunity over German occupied Europe, performing reconnaissance, pathfinding and strategic bombing duties with notable success. Specific units had been established to counter the Mosquito threat, with some pilots resorting to removing the paint from their fighters and having them highly polished, in an attempt to obtain a more speed with which to catch the British raiders. The arrival of the Me 262 jet fighter finally allowed the Luftwaffe to challenge these hated Mosquito raids, with the aircraft possessing even greater speed that the ‘Wooden Wonder’, although they themselves would be hunted mercilessly by Allied fighters now fully aware of their existence. At the end of 1944, successful nightfighter ace Kurt Welter was given command of a specialist unit, 10./NJG 11, which was equipped with a small number of Messerschmitt Me 262 single seat fighters and tasked with disrupting the RAF’s night bombing campaign and specifically to target the Mosquitos which had been proving to be such a menace. These nocturnal hunters soon began to score victories and were later supplemented with a handful of two seat Me 262 B-1a/U1 variants optimised for night fighting operations, although the actual number is the subject of some debate and ranges from between four to ten aircraft.

Kurt Welter would prove to be particularly adept at this type of aerial warfare and was not only regarded as the Luftwaffe’s greatest jet nightfighter ace, but also the most successful jet ace of WWII. From a total of 93 night missions, he claimed no fewer than 56 victories (63 in all operations) of which 33 were claimed to be against Mosquito intruders. In the years following the end of WWII, these claims have been suggested to be significantly exaggerated by several historians and indeed official RAF loss records would suggest that they have a strong case.

As the war neared its conclusion, Welter seemed to have a rather pragmatic view on the future of Europe and the potential security of the men under his command. He ensured that his unit were in possession of as many Messerschmitt Me 262s as possible when they moved to the base at Schleswig-Jagel, near the Danish border and contacted British forces with an offer of surrender – this was thought to be the only such action by a jet equipped Luftwaffe unit. Amongst the aircraft handed over to the British was Me 262 B-1a/U1 ‘Red 12’ (Wk.Nr 111980) which was said to have been one of four such aircraft captured, three of which were in airworthy condition – conclusive photographic evidence only exists of two such aircraft, which made these incredibly rare birds indeed. Red 12 had its pervious national markings removed, to be replaced by RAF roundels and fin flash and was test flown at Schleswig by the Royal Aircraft Establishment Aerodynamic Flight, reputedly with the assistance of former members of Kommando Welter. It was later ferried to Gilze-Rijen in Holland and then on to Farnborough, where it underwent a concerted period of testing and evaluation. It was destroyed in 1947 following damage sustained during severe gales and was subsequently scrapped. In one final act of Luftwaffe defiance, this aircraft was also used by another Luftwaffe ace, Herbert Altner, in the destruction of an RAF Mosquito over Berlin on 3rd April 1945.

Of the small number of Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 nightfighters produced, only one genuine example remains intact and that is displayed at the National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Avia CS-92 ‘V-31’ (CS-92-5), VLU, Zatec, Czechoslovakia, September 1947

New Airfix Avia CS-92 trainer on the Airfix Workbench blog
New Airfix Avia CS-92 trainer on the Airfix Workbench blog

The fascinating scheme details for this unusual aircraft, one of the last Me 262 jet aircraft to see operational service

Due to the importance of the Messerschmitt Me 262 to the German war effort and the ever increasing dominance of the Allied air forces over Europe, production of the aircraft was dispersed across Germany and wider Europe, in an attempt to ensure a constant supply of new aircraft. The Avia production facility in Czechoslovakia was engaged in manufacturing nose and forward fuselage sections of the aircraft, but it was planned that the factory would start full production once the necessary arrangements had been made. Other factories in the country were producing major components for the Jumo 004B engines, so when Russian forces liberated the factories intact, the country was holding significant stocks of Me 262 components and the new government decided that these would be pressed into service with the Czech Air Force. With one factory producing a Czech version of the Jumo 004B engines (now designated M-04) and the Avia plant resuming work on producing the aircraft themselves, they concentrated their efforts on the 18 former Luftwaffe airframes they were holding in storage. The aircraft would carry the designation Avia S-92 Turbina (with S denoting fighter), with these aircraft being virtually identical to the Me 262A-1a fighters of the Luftwaffe.

As well as the nine S-92 fighters produced for Czech use, Avia also produced three two seat training variants of the aircraft, which were referred to as Avia CS-92s and were once again almost identical to the Me 262B-1a operated by the Luftwaffe during WWII. The limited production run included single and two seat variants being manufactured at the same time, using the complete sections finished during the war and original construction blueprints secured some time later. Due to the fact that each aircraft was basically hand built by craftsmen engineers at the Avia factory, only 12 machines would eventually be delivered to the Czechoslovak Air Force, where they would all serve with the 5th Fighter Squadron at Praha-Kbely Air Base, charged with the defence of the Capital. By 1950, the S-92 fighters were withdrawn from squadron service and reassigned to ground instructional duties, with the two seat CS-92s soldiering on for a further twelve months. Although there were tentative plans to develop the aircraft and search for overseas sales, closer ties with the Soviet Union and the Avia factory’s desire to produce the Mig-15 under licence dictated that this never became a reality. Historically, the Czech Air Force were the only other air force in the world apart from the Luftwaffe to use the Messerschmitt Me 262 operationally, as well as being the last to operate the world’s first operational jet fighter – a fascinating footnote in the history of this important aircraft. Two examples of the Avia built aircraft survive to this day, one single seat S-92 and a two seat CS-92, which are both on display at the Vojenske Muzeum, Kbely AB, Czech Republic.

New Airfix Avia CS-92 trainer on the Airfix Workbench blog

Stencil placement guidance to be used when building the Me 262 B-1a/U1 Nightfighter

This unusual scheme helps to illustrate the story of the final service Messerschmitt Me 262s and how they managed to live on several years after the end of the Second World War. They will also make for a real conversation starter when displayed next to Luftwaffe examples of the mighty Me 262, especially in this elegant two seat configuration. Our new Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1 / Avia CS-92 kit A04062 is scheduled for an October release and we are very much looking forward to bringing you the artwork reveal which will accompany this stunning release.

Exquisite Australian East Kirkby Lancaster Tribute

Airfix Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on Airfix Workbench blog

Geoff Jenkins built this beautiful model of Lancaster NX611, during its French Naval Air Arm service, before it became ‘Just Jane’

As you know, we are always happy to show off the modelling talents of Airfix enthusiasts and Workbench readers within our blog and when we recently saw these magnificent pictures of a Lancaster dual build expertly completed by Geoff Jenkins of Doveton, Australia, we simply had to find out more. Both builds feature the same famous aircraft, Avro Lancaster B Mk.VII NX611, better known to most of us as the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre’s ‘Just Jane’, but in schemes worn prior to her arrival at East Kirkby, but still representing an important part of her history. NX611 was produced by Austin Motors in April 1945 and was destined for service in the Far East as part of the RAFs ‘Tiger Force’. The surrender of Japan saw the aircraft surplus to requirement and was later one of 54 Lancasters sold to the French Naval Air Arm – converted to French Maritime configuration at Avro’s Woodford factory, the aircraft was painted in a smart Midnight Blue scheme and given the codes WU15, before being picked up by a French ferry crew and flown across the Channel. She joined Escadrille de Servitude 55s, where she performed maritime patrol, reconnaissance and ASR duties.

Following a major overhaul in November 1962, the aircraft was given a new paint scheme of all-over white, with black sections behind each engine, presumably as these areas would be prone to staining. She was ferried to New Caledonia in the Southwest Pacific, where she would once more perform her maritime duties with distinction. As one of the last three Lancasters in service, spares and serviceability were becoming a problem for the French, who offered the aircraft for sale – NX611 was secured by Britain’s Historic Aviation Preservation Society and handed over to their care at Sydney Bankstown Airport – all they had to do now was arrange the significant undertaking of flying the aircraft back to the UK.

Airfix Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on Airfix Workbench blog

Lancaster NX611 was looking very different by the time she arrived at Sydney’s Bankstown Airport

Geoff kindly informed us that this fascinating project started when a friend of his in the UK, who happens to be a ground crew volunteer at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, asked him to make two Lancasters, each one wearing a different scheme previously worn by NX611 ‘Just Jane’. He sent Geoff a decal set which included 13 different schemes the aircraft had worn during its lifetime, which served as the basis for the project, however Geoff bought the two kits in Australia and also purchased decal sets for French Aeronavale Lancasters which provided the roundels, stencils, squadron codes and badges which would be needed.

Geoff used the Airfix Lancaster B.I (FE) / B.III kit as a base to build them from but would need to use his modelling skills to modify the aircraft to B Mk.VII standard. Most of the fuselage windows were filled and new ones were cut out of rear fuselage, along with an entry door. The Mid upper turret was removed and the resultant hole filled. The Airfix kit doesn't come with the taller version of the astrodome, so this had to be cut off and replaced with something suitable from the spares box. The front and rear turrets had the guns removed and holes drilled where they should have been to make it look like the barrels had been removed. The H2S blister was all clear on the real aircraft, so Geoff polished the inside of the clear part as it is part frosted in the kit – he also drilled out where it should be clear in the fuselage hatches and put in some clear plastic for added realism. The French Lancasters had two small domes on the top of the fuselage, which also needed to be added and were simply made from pieces of shaped sprue. The glycol windshield washers were cut off and moved further apart to be more accurate and the nose blister needed an extra oval shaped panel which was simply painted on.

Airfix Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on Airfix Workbench blog

Another view of ‘Just Jane’ during her maritime service with Escadrille de Servitude 55s

After all the modifications were done and the kits were assembled, the painting could begin, using base colours of blue and white respectively for each model. The white Lancaster was then masked to paint the black stripes on the wings, before applying number decals on the wings, fuselage and tail fins, which highlighted how much Geoff would have to mask around them, so he could paint the off-white colour over the top to give a more accurate representation of the real aircraft. He then applied all the decals to both models and followed this up with a coat of satin clear varnish.

The next stage was to apply weathering to the models, which involved spraying exhaust stains on engine nacelles and back over the wings. The white Lancaster also had quite a lot of oil streaks on engine nacelles, so they were painted on too, before the subtle application of weathering pastels added to the overall appearance, taking away the stark white finish and making the model appear much more realistic. Another coat of satin clear overall and Geoff could add the aerial wires to finish each of these impressive models off.

Airfix Avro Lancaster NX611 Just Jane Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre on Airfix Workbench blog

Geoff’s beautiful Lancaster build features all the markings associated with this aircraft when it arrived at Bankstown Airport, prior to its flight back to the UK. These include sponsors logos and tributes from some of the companies who had helped to secure its future

Geoff has managed to make everything sound all so effortless, but he has produce a pair of Lancaster beauties and ones which are destined to make a certain ‘Just Jane’ aficionado extremely happy when he takes delivery of them. We would like to thank Geoff Jenkins for kindly allowing us to feature his impressive Lancaster dual build – he asked if we would be good enough to mention the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in this feature, which we are only too happy to do. Thanks again Geoff.

That’s it for yet another edition of Workbench, but as usual, we will be back in two weeks’ time with all the latest exclusive announcements, news and features from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition of the blog, or ways in which we could enhance your enjoyment of Workbench, please do not hesitate in contacting us. We can be reached via our usual e-mail address at workbench@airfix.com or by contributing to our Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch, as it is always interesting to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts and the projects you have on the go at the moment.

As always, the Airfix website is the place to go for all the latest model release information, with our New Arrivals, Coming Soon and Last Chance to Buy sections all accessed by clicking on the above links. As updating the website is a constant process, a quick search through each section of the Airfix web pages will reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections and this is always an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend a few minutes.

The next edition of Workbench is due to be published on Friday 6th July, when we look forward to bringing you all the latest news, updates and exclusives from the fascinating world of Airfix modelling.

Thank you for your continued support.

The Airfix Workbench Team

 

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