by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
In April 1945, when troops of the US VIII Corps investigated the Gotha factory at Friedrichsrode, they discovered a number of prototypes of the Horten Ho 229 "flying wing" in various stages of completion. Among these were the V4 and V5, development aircraft for the proposed Ho 229B two-seat night-fighter. This was to feature an extended nose to make room for the second crew member and FuG 244 Bremen radar.
Not a great deal of information has survived, but some sources sources suggest the V4 was 40% complete when seized. Of all the prototypes discovered, just one - the V3 single seater - was deemed worthy of transport to the USA for further study... the rest are presumed to have been burned.
Not surprisingly, Dragon has used a number of parts from its single-seater kit, but the Ho 229B doesn't feature the detailed engines and armament of the earlier model, and is generally simpler. Dragon have chosen an armament of 4 x Mk 108 cannon and 4 x Henschel Hs 298 air-to-air missles. The latter is an odd choice as, apparently, this missle was cancelled in favour of the X-4 early in 1945.
The kit includes 113 plastic part, including 8 clear, plus a fret of 9 photo-etched parts.
The main parts are moulded very cleanly in pale grey plastic with hardly a trace of flash. Ejector-pin marks are mostly well hidden, but there are a couple on the inside of the u/c doors which will be difficult to clean up.
The centre section is moulded in upper and lower halves with a separate nose. The outer wing panels seem unchanged from the single-seater and could do with their trailing edges thinning down a bit.
There aren't many panel lines, but they are engraved very nicely. All the major parts have what can be described as a "satin" finish, which it might be best to polish a little before painting, to help towards good decal adhesion.
The cockpit is a fairly simple affair. Two tubular side-frames attach to a bulkhead which supports the pilot's seat and the radar operator's display. This sits on a floor which is moulded integrally with the main centre section ready for a pair of ejector seats and other details. The instrument panel features simple raised circles which match the layout of the instruments on the preserved V3, but look nothing like German instrument bezels. The panel is mounted on a plinth which doesn't seem to be true to the original aircraft.
The distinctive tricycle landing gear is nicely depicted, complete with the enormous nosewheel, but the tyres are "un-weighted". By comparison, the wheel-wells look rather bare; there is a little rivet-detail in the main wheel-well, but nothing at all for the nose wheel (except for a couple of mould lines which will need to be removed).
4 x Hs 298 missles are provided, each comprising 11 pieces which include pylons and sway-braces. The tail fins are a little thick, but these are neat little models in their own right and feature optional clear or solid noses.
Photo-Etch & Clear Parts
A small fret of stainless steel parts provides a radar array for the nose, the radar operator's display and a couple of other aerials and undercarriage parts. The etched parts are a bit disappointing; the radar dipoles are really too 2-dimensional to look convincing in this scale (strangely, Dragon supply the tail aerial as a plastic part...) and the radar display looks rather crude. Far more welcome would have been a set of seat harnesses.
Clear parts include internal armoured glass for the pilot and a one-piece canopy, along with wing-tip navigation lights, missile noses and a tiny reflector for the gunsight.
Instructions, Decals and Conclusion
The assembly instructions are well drawn and simple to follow in 12 stages. Numbers for Gunze Sangyo and Italeri paints are given along with RLM and FS references.
A small decal sheet provides markings for a single, fictitious, aircraft. The decals are rather thick, and mine had yellowed badly, so I don't know how long this kit had been on the shelf...
The painting instructions are rather confusing... partly because of a misprint - the same Italeri colour is quoted as both RLM 02 and RLM 71... and partly because they seem to be printed in "negative"; that is to say, while on the instructions the a/c is shown with dark upper surfaces and a pale underside, in fact the scheme is for RLM 76 topsides with black on the lower surfaces. The topsides are mottled with "Olive Drab" and RLM 71. A more likely combination might be RLM 81 & 82.
In conclusion this should be quite a simple kit to build. It's hard to talk about accuracy for an aircraft that never flew, but Luft '46 fans should have a field day with this. If you're feeling ambitious, you could try a bit of cross-kitting to install the engines and cannons from Dragon's Ho 229 A, or try mounting a battery of X-4 missles for even more options.
I bought this kit "as new" from Comet Miniatures, but the state of the decals makes me suspect mine is pretty old stock. While the model is still generally available, it doesn't appear in Dragon's catalogue.