Besides its reputation as being the first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 was a catalyst for many advancements in aircraft design. Despite being regarded by some as a last ditch Nazi weapon, it actually began development before the start of WWII. Although never available to the Luftwaffe in large numbers, it was effectively used in a variety of roles and proved itself a potent weapon.
Development of the Me 262 began in April 1939, code-named Stormbird or Silver. The characteristic swept wing resulted from the need to place the center of gravity aft, to compensate for the heavier-than-anticipated engines; only later was the aerodynamic benefit of swept wings realized.
In April 18, 1941 the first test flights began with Me 262 V1 PC UA. Since the intended BMW 003 turbojets were not yet available, a conventional Jumo 210 twelve cylinder, nose-mounted engine was used for powering the airframe.
PC UC became the first fully jet-propelled Me 262 on July 18, 1942, powered by Jumo 004A-0 turbojets . This engine would prove to be the Me 262's greatest weakness, as jet development was still in its infancy resulting in many technical hurdles which had to be overcome. The cost of this was long delays in development and production, exacerbated by a shortage of manufacturing materials. The reliability of the engines was often compromised, sometimes resulting in catastrophic failure during initial run-up. Many engines had a service life of only 12 hours.
The Me 262 entered service in April 1944 and was used in two primary roles, although many other variants were tried and tested. The subjects of the Academy kit are the Me 262 A-1a "Schwalbe" (Swallow), developed as a defensive interceptor and the Me 262 A-2a "Sturmvogel" (Stormbird), a fighter-bomber variant. A third option is included on the sprues (though not advertised as such on the box or decal sheet), the Me 262 C-1a, fitted with a rocket booster in its tail to give a short burst of increased acceleration and climb.
The uniqueness of the Me 262’s design and its status as the first jet fighter has made it a favourite subject amongst modellers. Kits have appeared in all the major scales, and in 1/72 numerous manufacturers have attempted it over the years – Heller, Matchbox, FROG, Airfix, Hasegawa and Revell amongst them. The styrene in this latest ‘Last Ace’ boxing from Academy was originally tooled in 2007, and with the inclusion of new decals rates as one of the best 262 kits available in this scale.
For a relatively small aircraft Academy’s
kit comes in a big box, but the size of the sprues and the number of optional parts justify this. The box contains four sprues moulded in light grey, and a clear sprue which includes the three-part canopy and gunsight. A decal sheet printed by Cartograf provides five marking options, and a set of well illustrated instructions complete the package.
Mouldings are typical of recent Academy
models, with sharp detail and finely recessed panel lines. The level of detail on the wheel hubs and tyres is most impressive for a 1/72 kit, spoiled only by ejector pin marks on the tyres. In fact the more closely I examined the sprues, the more of these marks became evident, many of them in places where they’ll easily be seen: the pilot’s seat, the undercarriage doors, even the instrument panel, so some work with filler and sanding sticks may be necessary. However this minor annoyance is offset by the overall high standard of detail, especially in the cockpit and wheel wells.
Not only is the three-part canopy very thin and clear, it’s protected on the sprue by two raised ‘walls’, as well as being bagged separately to prevent scratching; kudos to Academy for this attention to quality control.
specify 5–8g of noseweight, and this can be inserted after the fuselage has been glued together, as the nose gun panel is a separate part. Two gun configurations are provided for the -1a and -2a versions, each referenced to the appropriate paint scheme in the instructions.
Also supplied as optional parts are the rear fuselage/tail section. As mentioned, three variants are supplied, although the Me 262C-1a is not catered for on any of the decal schemes. It’s worth pointing out though (in case anyone buys the kit in order to model this variant) that the rear fuselage for this rocket-assisted version is inaccurate, tapering to a flat cross-section. It should be circular to accommodate the tailpipe, as shown in the accompanying photograph (used with permission from www.walterwerke.co.uk
), which shows the C-1a with rudder removed.
The kit includes two WGr 21 Type 42 rocket tubes, two 250kg bombs and two racks of 24 R4M 50mm under-wing rockets. Again, the instructions indicate which colour schemes these are applicable to.
The Cartograf decal sheet is superbly printed. Colour registration is perfect on my sample, even the fine white-outlined red ‘B’ decals showing no signs of misalignment. All five schemes are in RLM 76/81/82, in a variety of mottle, splinter and squiggle applications. The black and white illustrations show plan views of only three schemes, so further research may be required.
The schemes featured are:
- Me 262 A-1a, White 4, 'Kommando Nowotny', September 1944
- Me 262 A-1a, W.Nr. 110956, Obstlt Heinz Bar April 1945
- Me 262 A-1a, JV 44, General/Leutnant Adolf Galland April 1945
- Me 262 A-2a, 9K BN, 5./KG (J) 51, December 1944
- Me 262 A-2a, W.Nr. 170096, 9K BH, 1./KG 51 September 1944