Too Little, Too Late…
Leaving the broad political aspects of WWII to one side and considering only the technical scrambling which took place throughout the Third Reich, especially towards the end of the war, one might be puzzled as to the seeming waste (dangerous for a nation not all that well supplied with resources) and internal conflict among the various ship, tank, and aircraft producers.
Unlike the Allied forces, who settled relatively quickly on the concept of minimum design, maximum output Germany in these years developed a technical reputation for large numbers of massively complex, technically magnificent war materials, which were rolled out on insignificant numbers to combat the juggernaut of the righteously enraged Allies.
The reasons for this decentralization in thought as well as production seems to be rooted in the basically paranoid command structure of the German High Command, and the way that Der Fuhrer himself felt it necessary to intervene (or not, as his mood changed) in the whole process of prosecuting the war…
For example, when Messerschmidt presented the fighter concept of what would become the ME262 in 1942, the whole development program was pushed back two years, simply because Adolf Hitler could not settle on whether he wanted to see this jet plane as a fast bomber or a fighter – even though it had clearly been designed as a high-altitude bomber interceptor.
‘What if?’ is a game for scholars to be sure, and there is little to be gained in speculating about might have beens, but there are always things that raise such questions, almost unbidden.
In the case of Germany at the end of the war (and just as profoundly shocking as with the Allied discovery of jets such as the 262, the Horten and the so-called Volksjaeger) many allied pilots and technical crew became more and more obsessed with a small number of ‘long-snouted FW 190s’ which appeared in the skies over the dying reich.
Initially styled as ‘Hitler’s Mustangs,’ as they resembled the US fighter in both appearance and capabilities, the long-winged aircraft was soon properly tagged: The Focke Wulfe Ta-152.
From a Workhorse to the Thoroughbred
The famed Focke Wulfe designer and test pilot, Kurt Tank had been instrumental in the development of the all-purpose fighter, the FW 190 (AKA The Butcher Bird), which began supplementing, if not actually replacing, the Bf 109 as of 1941. Even though it had vastly improved firepower, acceleration, and climb rate, many pilots preferred the older, inline Bf 109 for its tighter turning circle, which was often considered the deciding factor in a duel against enemy fighters.
However, in all but turning, the 190 still remained an effective dogfighter up to the introduction of the Spitfire IX and P51 Mustang, whereupon Tank began considering whether his own desire for a multi-role aircraft (capable of high altitude action against bombers, dueling with enemy fighters and ground attack) and began the program that would bring him to the Ta-152.
His main concern was the issue which Luftwaffe planes were having when going up against US Airforce daylight raids, as the B17s used on these operations operated well above 20,000 feet, and made even the potent FW190 little better than a gasping wreck when trying to engage both the bombers and their better aspirated Mustang the Thunderbolt opponents.
Taking the high altitude FW 190D as a base, Tank worked on lengthening the wings of the aircraft, modifying the motor, and adding a pressurized cockpit to the 152 H models. Using rubber hoses filled with an aerated foam, both the cockpit and engine compartments were sealed and the whole aicraft was kept at a steady if low atmosphere at all altitudes.
Having built a few of Volks IMS Mortar Headds in the last few years, I was prepared for some idiosyncrasies in the material build of the kit. Not related to the construction, you understand, but due to the very fiddly nature of the actual ‘bits.’ What I mean, of course, is that Volks seems to have a fascination for the sort of ‘fiddly bits’ that might make even an eagle with 20/20 vision have something of a fit.
With my eyes being a bit on the peaky side, and having only just ruined a Tamiya 1/32 Zero A2 the week before*, I was very nervous at the thought of having to contend with all manner of pipework and cockpit gubbins…
This is part of the charm, I know but having failed once, and at one of the Kings of 1/32 scale, I was wary of going in on such a special kit to me – owing to its Matsumoto Leiji connection – and doubly aware that the success of this build would determine whether I would be willing to risk money on the upcoming Tamiya Mosquito.
* I normally wash down sprues with alochol before undercoating. I normally do not use Airbrush cleaner, and you can imagine the mess which that liquid made of the poor old wings…. Talk about muppets on a stick. 🙁
One of the things I love about larger aircraft kits (1/32 and 1/24 both) is the level of detail one can get into the interiors, a fact which both Tamiya and Volks exploit to the hilt on their masters. Here, or so I am told, Volks had a couple of chaps crawling all over the last (semi) surviving example at the National Air and Space Museum Storage Facility in the USA.
Though perhaps not as detailed as more recent SWS kits (such as the Uhu, Horten, and retool of the Mustang), even this early foray into 1/32 for Volks echoes the effort put in by the design team.
The power plant is a little rough around the edges, to be sure, but I am told that more guesswork than might be ideal was required to get this down pat, as few full schemes exist to which the Volks chaps could look, and the example in Maryland is not in the most pristine of conditions.
Though some of my friends have complained that Volks does not include enough detail parts in their kits (unlike Tamiya) as a cost-saving exercise, and instead offer them as optional extras, I have no complaints about the quality of what is in the kit which, as you can see, is more than serviceable.
As you can see from the wings, the kit preserves one of the unusual features of the Ta-152.
Owing to the limited aluminum supplies in the late war period, the usual design could not be followed. Thus, central steel spars were used to support the weight of the plan in flight, which seems to have worked well enough.
Mind the Gap…
I’m always expecting gaps on kits like this, and as you can see, the wing joint is less than ideal. It was an easy fix, to be sure, and this is not a criticism of the kit, but of the builder. I really should have paid more attention when siting the engine block…
As much as I like the design, the styling, and of course, the source material for this lovely little kit, there is one thing which irks me about it: the fact that it is in an all-black scheme.
I’ve never had much luck with black. No matter what I do, it always looks rather iffy and fake.
In this case though, I took a little bit of a chance with the paint, in as much as it is not actually black. I’ve been working on how dark greys look to the eye. I fished out an old Pantone mix book and whipped up a few blends. Most were obviously grey, but one came out very well indeed. Up close it looks solidly grey, but when looked at from a distance, especially if not strongly lit, the effect is sound.
Using Tamiya colors: 75% XF1 Flat Black, 10% XF17 Sea Blue, 5% X35 Semi Gloss Clear, 10% X19 Smoke
A bit Heath Robinson, I know, but I found that, as you can see in the photos, the final effect reflects just enough light to give some life to the otherwise flat paint (without being too shiny, of course), and the slight hint of blue further brings up the effect. As far as I am concerned it still has the right look, and I wonder how many people looking down the images did not even question the choice of paint before getting to this.
I further added some weathering to the mix, using Tamiya Eye Shadow… I mean Weathering Master, as well as some Mr. Hobby Rust and black wash compounds – as well as airbrushing some medium gray (XF54, Dark Sea Grey) mixed 50/50 with X20A thinner down the seams, using a car mask, to give a little more definition to the panels. Do note, though, that after I did this, the effect was a shade too pronounced, so I went back over the whole kit with a heavily thinned mix of the above mentioned black/grey/smoke paint (65% thinner, 35% paint, applied in several light coats). This resulted in the panel lines dropping back, but not out of sight.
I then airbrushed thinned (50/50) XF64 (red brown) in areas to create further notions of wear.
I did the wing edge by going directly into the leading edge so that it would take the brunt of the paint, and dragged some around the top and bottom surfaces. I supplemented that with some light dusting from the Weather Master which, whilst being too light to show up well in the photos, does look good (and not too heavy) in the flesh.
I still hate painting black, but I’m going to dig further into this issue as, even from a cursory Google scan, it is obvious there is a great deal of data available on how to handle this…
Despite the mistakes I made in construction (some real corkers with regard to seams and the like), I cannot say I am unhappy, as the final result still looks very nice. I shall have to say that these Volks kits (much like the big 1/32 Tamiya planes) are really not for the novice or the nervous, but are not nearly as daunting as one might imagine.
Volks is catching up fast to Tamiya in this field, and though the Mosquito – due in Sept/Oct 2015 – will really thrown down the gauntlet to the smaller company, the last few releases (from the Horten to the present day) give sound notice that Volks does not admit defeat.
Mind you, I do not see this as a David vs. Goliath conflict between the companies, but more of a Yoshitsune and Benkei alliance.
Tamiya and Volks have identified very different markets and approaches, and even where they do work on the same sources (the P51 being a good example), the kits are so very different that I certainly demanded to have both.
Now… If only I can persuade Volks to have a go at the Hurricane, Beaufighter, Me-110 (preferably a night fighter version), Or a P-61 Black Widow (though that would mean more black…)
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