Messerschmitt produced a number of designs to try to overcome the serious shortcomings of the Me 163B rocket fighter. The company's design staff began work on what was initially called the Me 163D in early 1944, but the whole project was transferred to Junkers, who re-designated the aircraft the Ju 248. In August 1944, the designation was changed yet again and the aircraft became known as the Me 263.
The new design was concerned primarily with providing increased fuel capacity and much improved ground handling. An entirely new fuselage was constructed which housed 50% more fuel and a retractable nose-wheel undercarriage. The cockpit was pressurised and boasted much better visibility than the Me 163B. The Walter rocket motor was equipped with a cruise chamber which stretched the endurance to 15 minutes (compared with 8 minutes for the Me 163B). The wings and tail were also redesigned, and it is believed that the Me 163's fixed slots were deleted.
The Me 263 was something of a disappointment. Flight and wind tunnel tests showed that the centre of gravity shifted seriously at Mach 0.8 (slower than the Me 163B's limiting Mach number) and the narrow track landing gear failed to improve ground handling as much as had been hoped. Nevertheless, work was continued because the increased range was sufficient justification, but the War's end halted plans for mass-production.
Czech Model's Me 263 is seven years old now and is typical of the first generation of short-run plastic models, with quite basic plastic parts augmented by resin details.
18 x Plastic parts
10 x Resin parts
1 x Vacuform canopy (plus spare)
Decals for 4 aircraft.
The main parts are moulded in pale-grey plastic. The major parts are fairly thick, but there's no sign of warping or sinkage. The surface is shiny, but there are a few blemishes which need polishing off. The parts have nice restrained engraving for the panel lines. There is a little flash here and there, and the smaller parts will need a bit of a clean up before assembly. The sprue attachments are a bit heavy and extend onto the surface of the parts in some cases so, again, some careful cleaning up will be necessary. A number of the detail parts are made redundant by the superior resin replacements included.
The basic airframe consists of just seven pieces and, in common with most short-run kits, there are no locating pins and the mating surfaces all need smoothing. The fuselage is split horizontally and the halves fit together pretty well, but the tail seems slightly skewed on my sample and I imagine it'll take a little work to blend in the rocket nozzles. The panel detail all lines up correctly and the wings match the chord and airfoil of the roots very well indeed.
Both the wings and vertical tail are plain butt-joints to the fuselage, so it might be a good idea to add reinforcing pins to aid assembly.
A well cast set of resin details is provided. The two main parts are a neat cockpit tub, which includes the nose-wheel well, and a beautifully detailed main-gear well. Smaller items include a seat with moulded-on harness and a very nice instrument panel, but there is no gunsight (this may not have been fitted to the prototype). Replacement wheels are included with "weighted" tyres and these are a big improvement over the plastic items.
A small insert fits behind the headrest under the canopy. This looks rather too thick and will need thinning down a lot to avoid breaking the fuselage contour.
The vacuform canopy is very clear and Czech Model thoughtfully supply a spare in case of accidents. Two reference photos are provided on the instructions, one of which looks retouched, which seem to show two styles of windscreen - one more bulbous than the other - and two styles of internal armoured windscreen. The armour isn't included in the kit, but it shouldn't be hard to scratch-build.
Instructions and Decals
As stated above, the instructions feature a couple of reference photos, which is a great idea and something I wish more manufacturers would do. The assembly diagrams are clearly drawn and include a number of useful scrap views. The kit will be a tail-sitter, so don't forget to add the 1/2 oz. of nose-weight recommended. The painting guide is very complete and discusses "scale effect" along with quoting FS equivalents for the RLM colours. The painting diagrams are well drawn and show the camouflage patterns and decasl positions very clearly.
Decals are provided for 4 aircraft; the prototype, plus 3 fictitious "operational" aircraft in the markings of JG400. The decals themselves are beautifully printed - thin and perfectly in register.
It may seem a little unfair to review Czech Model's very first kit alongside their latest releases but, despite its age, this essentially simple kit should build into a very nice model. It isn't really suitable for beginners, but experienced modellers should have few problems and, of course, Luft '46 fans can have a field day with the potential schemes.
Thank you to MMD-Squadron for kindly supplying the review sample.
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