by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
The kitDragon's Me 262B-1a arrives in a very solid conventional box and the packaging and presentation is excellent. Each sprue is separately bagged and the bags containing the clear parts, tyres, decals and etched frets are taped to a cardboard insert for extra protection. By combining sprues from previous kits in the Dragon range, the designers have inevitably included a number of unused parts destined for the spares box. Counting up what is indicated for use, the kit consists of:
126 x pale grey styrene parts on 8 x sprues
7 x clear styrene arts
198 x etched metal parts on 3 x frets
3 x rubber tyres
Decals for 3 x colour schemes
Dragon's original Me 262 dates right back to the famous TriMaster range of "Hi Tech" kits and first appeared around 1989 as a single-seater. TriMaster models were among the first mainstream kits to include white metal and etched parts as standard, but when TriMaster folded, Dragon took over the range and re-engineered the kits to make more use of conventional styrene parts. It was as part of this new series that the Me 262B-1a/U1 first appeared in 1993.
Comparing the latest boxing with an original shows the moulds are holding up very well despite their age. There are a couple of small blemishes on the port wing (also there on the 1993 kit) but, if anything, the current kit is actually moulded somewhat cleaner tha the old, and a few small areas of sinkage in the original are missing now. Surface detail consists of fine scribed panel lines, plus a few raised access panels. The wings and tailplanes are glossy, while the fuselage has a satin finish.
One of the highlights of the new kit is undoubtedly the inclusion of a pair of engines. Looking at the large gap in the sprues for the 1993 version, it does appear that these were intended as an option even then, but I've never come across them in any of the subsequent releases before now. Building the kit with the engines fully exposed will certainly make for an eye-catching model, but beginners should beware; fitting them requires some careful surgery to the wings - and once started, there's no going back. The engines themselves are very nicely moulded and have a fair degree of detail (although there's scope to add a lot more "plumbing". If you don't want to fit them to the airframe, you could always display them separately on a simple scratchbuilt stand.
When the Dragon Me 262B-1a/U1 Nightfighter appeared, it contained 2 small etched frets. With the new version, it appears Dragon have teamed up with Eduard to possibly the most comprehensive set of etched parts yet seen in an injected kit - it's almost like having a BigEd set included as standard!
The 3 frets comprise:
1. A pre-painted set of cockpit details, including instrument panels, side consoles and seat harnesses.
2. A small steel fret from the original Dragon release
3. A new brass fret containing parts for the undercarriage and wheel wells, plus wiring and a number of boxes to fold to shape.
A serious question of accuracy...
So, we have a well moulded kit, complete with engines for display, plus an exceptional set of etched parts... but Dragon have lifted the fuselage sprue straight from their Me 262 nightfighter kit, which begs the question - "Can it accurately represent an Me 262B-1a trainer?" Well, according to all my references, unfortunately the simple answer is "No".
The basic difference between the two aircraft lies in the rear cockpit. The 'B-1a trainer was fitted with a full set of dual-controls, none of which are included in Dragon's kit, plus the arrangement of the rear cockpit was completely different from the later nightfighter, with the instructor's seat and differently shaped side consoles and instrument panel all fitted further back. To depict this on the model requires the cockpit opening extending back to the next fuselage frame and then some serious surgery to the cockpit tub. Some profiles show the prominent FuG16 radio set mounted between the trainer cockpits, but I haven't found any photos to back this up.
Externally, the kit is configured for a nightfighter too. While the instructions do show that the radar antennae shouldn't be used, they fail to pick up on the mounting stubs protruding either side of the nose! The kit includes a pair of long-barrelled cannon as seen on some nightfighters, with the upper gun ports faired-over. There may well have been exceptions, but all my photo references show trainers with gun ports for a standard set of 4 x Mk 108 cannons (ironically, as shown on the box-art), so the upper ports will need opening up. There are actually guides on the inside of the nose panel, so this shouldn't be too painful a task.
Instructions and paintingThe assembly diagrams are well drawn and break the construction down into 17 stages. They certainly demand close attention, because this is quite a complex kit with choices betweeen using metal or styrene parts at many stages and, to be honest, it's not always clear at first glance what's needed where.
The kit includes a neat set of decals printed by Cartograph. As usual with Dragon, no Swastikas are included, but the decals are printed in excellent register with a semi-gloss finish. There's a set of stencils included, along with dashes for wing-walk markings - although the latter look a bit oversized.
Markings for three trainers are included:
1. W.Nr 118639 "Red 35" - EJG2, Germany, 1945. Judging by the distinctive n/m nacelle intakes, I presume this is actually W.Nr 110639 "White 35" (the number was just an outline) captured and flown as one of "Watson's Whizzers". Part of the confusion may stem from the profile in AJ Press's Me 262 Vol. 2, which shows W. Nr 118639 "Red 35" - although this is contradicted by the clear photos earlier in the book and the list of Me 262 production batches which don't include any "118***" numbers.
2. W.Nr 110556 "White S", JV 44, Germany, 1945.
3. W.Nr 118639 (again?!) "Black A", JG 7, Germany 1945.
The camouflage schemes match official '262 patterns well enough and colour matches are included for Gunze Sangyo paints, but you're still left with a set of decals that aren't appropriate for the kit parts as supplied.
ConclusionI can't help but feel that Dragon have concentrated so hard on adding the mega-set of etched parts, they've let themselves down by not doing some basic research - you can't just put some new decals on an Me 262B-1/U1 nightfighter and call it a 'B-1a trainer. By doing so, they've produced a kit which is neither fish nor fowl; it's a great nightfighter, but doesn't have any suitable decals included, while it can't be built as an accurate trainer either. As it stands, you're left with several choices:
1. Build it as an Me 262B-1/U1 nightfighter and buy a set of aftermarket decals or hunt for some suitable markings in the spares box.
2. Build it OOB and ignore all the problems.
3. Get ready for some modification work... either making some minor external modification and turning a blind eye to the cockpit, or going the whole hog to model an accurate Me 262B-1a trainer.
It's hard to know how to rate this kit. It's beautifully produced, comes complete with a great set of etched parts, but it simply can't be built OOB to represent what it says on the box. Dragon's target market of Luftwaffe enthusiast are bound to be very disappointed by this missed opportunity, because we still don't have a 1/48 scale kit of the 'B-1a trainer. But, trying to look on the bright side, it's a lovely Me 262B-1a/U1 nightfighter - now if only Dragon will re-release it with a suitable set of decals...
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