by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Back to basics. What do you get in the sturdy box? Well, it's surprisingly well stuffed with parts - far more than the old TriMaster version - to the point where it almost looks like someone's slipped up and packed two kits in one box!
The kit comprises:
138 x grey styrene parts on no less than 17 sprues
15 x etched brass parts
4 x clear parts
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The first thing you notice when checking all the parts is that you get 2 each of spues A and C containing the fuselage parts. The reason is that Dragon now include a Walter rocket motor and the fuselage parts have been modified with an extra cutting-guide on the inside to let the model be displayed with the tail removed. Providing spare fuselages is generous since, with careful cutting, you may well be able to get away with using only one set.
Some of the Komet's re-boxings over the last few years have shown a marked of build-up of flash and other signs of mould-wear. The real surprise for me was just what good condition the parts here are in. Dragon have obviously paid real attention to quality control, because the parts are looking as good as new - in fact, slightly better in a couple of cases! - when I compared the latest mouldings against an original TriMaster kit, I spotted a few a sink-marks on the original that have been eliminated in the new version. Perhaps the only sign of age was that one access panel on one wing is rather faint. Otherwise, the overall moulding quality is excellent.
For those unfamiliar with the kit, the surface detail consists of neatly scribed panel lines, embossed rivets in places, a few raised panels and nicely depicted fabric control surfaces. TriMaster set the standard back in the early 90s and the detail still looks up-to-date today.
One area where the original came in for some criticism was a slightly slender nose and the shape of the wing roots and, not surprisingly, these remain unchanged. Compared with photos, this Komet has a slightly "racey" look (the opposite of Tamiya's new Salamander, which looks uncharacteristically pugnacious). The way the parts break down, tackling the problem is a major task and I'm not sure if a correction set has ever been released. Most modellers are content to leave well alone.
Construction breakdownThe model can be built in 2 ways:
1. As per the original TriMaster model, or
2. With the Walter rocket motor added to the forward fuselage and with the tail removed.
The cockpit tub is neatly depicted with etched straps for the seat, separate details for the side "consoles" mounted on the T-Stoff tanks, and a very crisply moulded instrument panel which will repay careful painting. The instructions indicate a home-brew colour for the interior of RLM 02 black, which doesn't seem likely to produce a match for RLM 66. Interestingly, in his latest work, Ken Merrick indicates that some components in the full-sized Komet's cockpit were painted dark green.
Moving on, the retractable skid and its housing are built up from a combination of plastic and etched parts, and there's a choice of tailwheels which can be built in four different positions.
The big change over previous releases occurs in stage 12 with the Walter rocket motor. The parts are unchanged from those provided with the Bachem Natter. I don't have details of whether the installation was identical in the two aircraft (logic says "Probably not..."), still, the area looks suitably busy and the inclusion of the ground crew should open up plenty of diorama prospects. I have to admit I've never come across a photo of a '163 mounted on a trestle like the one provided (That's hopefully a cue for a deluge of references for just such an arrangement!), but it seems logical enough and will make for an interesting vignette. The Walter engine simply slots into the forward fuselage, leaving the tail to lie on the ground. There's no structural detail inside the tail, so there's plenty of scope for thinning the plastic at the join and adding some structural details and the rudder and tailwheel control linkages if you can find sufficient references. One point to watch out for if building the engine exposed, is that Dragon still show the exhaust nozzle in the tail.
Painting and decalsDragon provide very nicely printed Cartograph decals for no less than 5 colour schemes:
1. Me 163B V41, PK QL, as flown by Wolfgang Späte in a all-red scheme. According to his memoirs, Späte was horrified by the conspicuous colour scheme and ordered that the aircraft be re-camouflaged after just one flight!
2. An unidentified a/c of JG 400, 1944, wearing splinter camouflage on the fuselage and wings.
3. W.Nr. 440166 of JG 400, with a heavily mottled fuselage. Strangely, the instructions only show the s/n applied to one side of the fin.
4. White 11, W.Nr. 163100 of 1./JG 400, 1944.
5. White 9, 1./JG 400, 1944.
The painting instructions are at odds with my references for the Komet. The uppersurfaces of options 2,4 & 5 are shown as RLM 80 and 82, while option 3 is depicted in RLM 80 and an unidentified colour not listed in the colour chart. RLM 80 (a desert camouflage colour) seems an odd choice, most authorities stating RLM 81 and 82, with early production aircraft like W.Nr. 440166 camouflaged in RLM 74, 75.
The decals themselves are excellent, thin and in excellent register with a good selection of stencils. No Swastikas are provided, but these are easily found elsewhere. Be careful when applying the national insignia under the wings; Dragon show them parallel to the line of flight, but many original photos show them splayed slightly outwards (as shown for the upper surfaces).
ConclusionDespite its age, the old TriMaster Me 163B remains an excellent kit, and is easily the best-detailed model of the aircraft available in this scale (as far as I know, the only alternative is the simple 1960s Hawk kit, which re-appeared under the Italeri label many years ago and may still be found occasionally at swap meets). It's good to see Dragon release this classic kit looking better than it has for some time, with a bunch of extra parts to boot.
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