by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
BackgroundThe Henschel Hs 123 was introduced in 1935 as a close-support aircraft and divebomber. The type proved its effectiveness with the Luftwaffe contingent that fought in the Spanish Civil War, where its robust airframe and ability to operate in hostile conditions were demonstrated. Despite its apparent obsolescence following the introduction of more modern aircraft, the Hs 123 remained in the Luftwaffe inventory, underlining its worth in the invasion of Poland and later in the Balkans.
But it was on the Eastern Front where the Hs 123 shone most, continuing to operate in appalling weather conditions which grounded other aircraft. Such was its value that restarting production was seriously considered, but sadly for the Luftwaffe, the necessary jigs had long been destroyed. So the Hs 123 slowly disappeared from the scene as spare parts became ever scarcer, finally being retired from first-line duties as late as 1944.
One machine remained airworthy in Spain until 1952, when it was involved in a taxiing accident. Judged too uneconomical to repair, the last remaining Hs 123 was scrapped.
The KitGasPatch’s Hs 123 arrives in an attractive flip-top box with excellent rendered artwork on the front, colour profiles on the side, and a history of the aircraft in English on the bottom. The box is good and sturdy – which it needed to be in my case, because the package clearly had a rough ride in the post. Luckily it did its job perfectly and the kit arrived totally intact.
The Hs 123 comprises:
172 x grey styrene parts (plus 3 not needed)
3 x clear styrene parts
45 x etched brass parts
A printed sheet of acetate
A set of vinyl painting masks
A die-cut cardboard assembly jig
Decals for 5 x colour schemes
The kit is beautifully presented and exquisitely moulded and detailed. Opening the box was definitely one of those “Wow!” moments - and I have to say, for a small manufacturer like GasPatch, the kit is almost outrageously good and rivals the best I’ve seen from most of the “majors”. There’s no flash on my kit and I found just two small sink marks. As far as I can tell at this stage, ejection pin marks have been kept completely out of sight.
The exterior finish comprises finely engraved panel lines, with some raised fasteners, and quite a subtle fabric effect. Or should I say effects? - because it differs depending where you look on the kit.; the underside of the top wing has rib tapes, whereas the bottom of the lower wing doesn’t. GasPatch have modelled the elevators and rudder plain for the Hs 123B (they have them fabric covered in their Hs 123A), but MMP's book (Orange series 8115) shows them fabric covered on the 'B as well. The kit could well be correct.
Test FitThe overall fit is very precise. I noted a slight curve to the lower wing in my kit, but this disappeared as soon as the halves were joined. The basic construction of the airframe looks very straightforward, making the Hs 123 a good choice for anyone who’s not tried a biplane before.
A Few DetailsConstruction kicks off with the cockpit, which with over 40 parts is one of the best I’ve seen in a 1:48 mainstream kit. The mix of styrene and photo-etched parts includes the sort of pipework and cabling normally missed in kits – for instance, the oxygen tank and regulator has a perforated etched shield to wrap around the core and is complete with the filler pipes and breathing tube. The instrument panels feature individual decals for each dial, plus etched levers, and the 11-part(!) seat is then treated to an etched harness.
The same attention to detail extends to the sights mounted on the cockpit coaming, with an etched ring and bead sight backing up the acetate reflector glass in its etched frame. The windscreen is crystal clear with a crisply detailed frame. GasPatch provide painting masks for the inside and out – just don’t forget to cover the edges too.
The kit features optional lower wing surfaces, depending how you’re configuring the landing gear – and proof that this is a kit designed by modellers for modellers is the inclusion of a cardboard jig to help you make sure you’ve got the model sitting correctly on its wheels. It’s touches like this that raise GasPatch’s Hs 123 above the pack and make you wish other manufacturers would do likewise. The undercarriage itself can be build in three ways; spatted, half-spatted and with the spats removed entirely. The gear legs for the latter styles look good and sturdy, while still capturing the spindly look of the originals, and two types of weighted wheels are provided to cover all the options.
The landing flaps are separate, with detailed interiors and indicators that show through the top surface of the wings.
The engine really is a gem. The single row of cylinders is dressed up with paired push-rods and a ring of intake pipes. The exhausts are hollowed out (although they’d look better with the lips thinned down), and the crankcase cover has a couple of separate plugs. It’s worth noting that many photos show the top plug removed and a pipe leading to the opening.
GasPatch have split the cowl into no less than 12 sections to capture the shape and the bulges over the rocker covers, rounding it off with the triangular support frame which attaches to the crankcase.
The propeller is attached to its sprue on the faces of the blades, so you’ll need to do a little careful sanding to prepare it. It was here that I found the only sink marks in the kit – on either side of the hub. They’re only tiny, and a dab of filler will take care of each of them.
Stores consist of 4 x SC 50kg bombs on nicely detailed underwing racks and an auxiliary fuel tank under the fuselage.
Instructions & DecalsThe construction guide is printed as a very classy 24-page colour booklet. The assembly is broken down into 19 logical stages, with clear shaded diagrams and full-colour rendered info-views of many of the details. Colour matches are provided throughout, with RLM names and codes quoted where appropriate.
GasPatch have provided decals for five colour schemes, which are illustrated with superb photo-realistic rendered profiles and plan views:
Hs 123 “Blue N”, 10(Sch)/LG2, Balkans, April 1941, Operation Marita
Hs 123 “Blue N”, 10(Sch)/LG2, Russia, April 1941, Operation Barbarossa (same machine with modified markings)
Hs 123 “Blue 4”, Erg.St/LG2, Russia, Winter 1941-42, Operation Barbarossa
Hs 123 “L2-AM”, 4(Sch)/LG2, flown by Adolf Galland, September 1939, Poland
Hs 123, 7 (Sch)/G1, Eastern Front, 1942. This appears to be the Geschwader Vice-Commander or Technical Officer’s aircraft.
The decals are custom-printed by Cartograf, so the quality is excellent as you’d expect. The items are thin and glossy, with minimal excess carrier film, and the registration is pin sharp. Swastikas are included, split in two to avoid problems in some countries.
ConclusionGasPatch’s Hs 123 is a beautiful kit that’s packed with detail. The clever design and moulding quality should ensure a straightforward build – although some areas may be a little complex for total beginners.
The only real problem – and it’s rather the “elephant in the room” (certainly for UK modellers with the current rate of exchange for sterling) – is the price; there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a premium kit with a price tag to match, and I fear the cost will inevitably deter some people. But GasPatch deserve support for producing such a great kit of a subject that’s been begging for an up-to-date new-tool model for too long – so, if you can afford it, I’d recommend the Hs 123 wholeheartedly.
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