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KIT REVIEW


Zoukei Mura Super Wings Series No. 17
Henschel Hs 129B-2/III -- 1:32 Scale

 

Today, when we think of the words “tank killer,” one likely conjures an image of the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II.  Yet, the idea of a heavily armed close air support aircraft specializing in killing armor goes back many decades.  During WWII, the Hs 129 was one of the Luftwaffe’s most heavily armed ground attack platforms.  It was a unique aircraft and has been generally overlooked by most scale model manufacturers.  In late 2019, Zoukei-mura released their long awaited 1:32 scale Hs 129B-2/RIII kit.  A copy of the kit just arrived on our review bench from Kyoto, so let’s take a look at Zoukei-mura’s latest large-scale effort in their 1:32 Super Wings Series. 

By the mid-1930s, the concept of the dedicated ground attack role was gaining prominence in Luftwaffe circles, especially following the lessons learned from the German Kondor Legion’s close air support work during the Spanish Civil War.  There, cannon-armed He 112s and Hs 123s demonstrated just how effective ground attack aircraft can be.  In 1937, the RLM issued a request for proposal for a specialized ground attack aircraft.  Proposals included a modified Focke-Wulf 189 while Henschel pitched an all-new design – the Hs 129.  The latter was ultimately selected in 1940.

The Hs 129 was designed around a steel bathtub that literally enclosed the pilot such that it reduced visibility and made the cockpit exceptionally cramped.  Early issues with poor flying characteristics, excessive weight, and underpowered engines were progressively overcome in the Hs 129A-1, armed with two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons, two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns and four 100-pound bombs under the fuselage.  By 1941, the Hs 129B-1 was developed and was powered by the Gnôme-Rhône 14M radial engines (a French powerplant still produced in Vichy France).  A larger windscreen and a new canopy helped to improve visibility to a degree.  It was also fitted with a tank-killing 30 mm MK 101 cannon pod under the fuselage. 

The first Hs 129B-2 was delivered in May 1942.  The key differences with the B-1 were internal alterations of the fuel system, the removal of the radio antenna mast, the addition of a direction-finding radio loop antenna, and shortened engine exhaust stacks.  Once delivered, B-2s were often field-modified with Rüstsatz kits that provided an upgraded cannon pod fitted with a 30 mm MK 103 cannon.  This weapon had twice the firing rate of the MK 101.  By the time the war came to an end, more than 860 Hs 129s had been delivered, and while -C and -D variants were under development, they were never produced. 

While the Hs 129 was never manufactured in large numbers, it was intensely employed against Soviet armor along the Eastern Front and arguably saw the apex of its career during the Battle of Kursk.  The Luftwaffe’s tank buster was generally well regarded by pilots for its ruggedness and survivability.  Slow maximum speed (200 mph), poor climb rate, continued visibility issues, and the temperamental and underpowered nature of the Gnôme-Rhône engines all offset the Hs 129’s strengths.  Hs 129s were deployed on smaller numbers in North Africa in 1942 and the Western Front following D-Day.  Yet, as Allied fighters improved and ground fire became more deadly, the Hs 129 suffered ever-increasing losses.  By Autumn 1944, the dwindling numbers of Hs 129s participated in a near constant stream of unwinnable defensive engagements and by the end of the war, virtually no Hs 129s remained airworthy. Zoukei-mura’s 1:32 scale Hs 129B-2/RIII comes in a rather large and heavy box, measuring 21”x13”x5”.  Upon opening the box, the builder will find it contains a total of 401 injection-molded parts on 17 tan or sand-colored sprues and 14 clear parts on one clear sprue.  A pre-cut self-adhesive masking set is also included.  The full-color instruction booklet organizes the build over 51 pages.  One decal sheet provides markings for one aircraft:

Strengths: Zoukei-mura consistently produces exceptional injection-molded model kits, and here, Zoukei-mura’s design and production teams do not disappoint.  This is another front-runner for the upcoming announcement for the 2019 Detail & Scale Kit of the Year Award.

Zoukei-mura’s 1:32 scale Hs 129B-2/RIII features an exceptionally detailed cockpit interior, two complete Gnôme-Rhône 14M engines, a complete set of armament (both the fuselage-mounted machine guns and the 30 mm MK 101 cannons as noted above), bombs, and very detailed landing gear.  While there’s a great deal of internal detail, spanning the internal wing structures to wing fuel tanks, ammunition magazines, and other really neat and complex details, this kit does not include optional parts to build a clear version, such as with their Ki-45 and Do 335 kits, for example.  The quality of the parts design is outstanding and the fidelity of the injection molding rivals the best cast resin.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by engraved, recessed details.  The parts breakdown is quite logical and not overly-complicated. 

Construction options for the Hs 129B-2 include an open or closed canopy, separate ailerons, flaps, and rudder, along with elevators that can be positioned as desired.  The clear parts for the windscreen and canopy are gorgeous – to the point that any treatment in Future/Johnson’s Pledge floor wax, I fear, could somehow actually alter the pristine optical quality of these parts.  The pre-cut self-adhesive masking set for the windscreen and canopy is also a thoughtful touch and will save a lot of time. 

While the aircraft’s cockpit was fairly simple, what is there is highly detailed.  Various fine detail parts are sequentially added for the following assembly of the floor and seat, and include the throttle quadrant, flaps and landing gear levers, and mixture and boost levers.  The sidewalls are also excellent.

There are two instrument panel versions in the kit that provide three different approaches to making this important part.  You can choose to use a full panel decal placed behind the clear instrument panel off of Sprue I.  You can also use decals to simulate the instrument dial faces on Sprue J.  One can also forego the decals as the instrument panel has a beautiful range of raised details for the detail painter.  At the end of the day, the cockpit is an amazing example of the quality and scope of detail that can be designed into a plastic model kit.  In a word, it is gorgeous.  Though it is not overly complex, it does build up into a rather remarkable replica of the real thing.   

The engines are equally impressive, with 138 parts between them.  The detail on the cylinders (split into front and back halves) is excellent.  You won’t be able to see it in the completed engine, but Zoukei-mura includes even the actual interior cylinders attaching to the interior of the central crankcase.  Still, it’s a nice little touch.  The pushrods are highly detailed as are the air intake pipes, and the exhaust stacks are hollow (no need for aftermarket details here).  Other details include the engine mounts, carburetors, magnetos, alternator, the turbine housing, and more.  There’s even a generalized engine maintenance stand that can be used to display the engine removed from the airplane.  The armament is excellent, and includes highly detailed machine guns on Sprue Q.  The 30mm MK 101 cannon and cannon pod is all that’s on Sprue R, and the detail is just top-notch.        

As noted earlier, and as is the case with many of Zoukei-mura’s other 1:32 scale SWS kits, structural elements are provided for the interior of the fuselage along with the FuG 7 radio set, stringers, longerons, bulkheads, and fuel tanks inside the wings.  Some access panels can be opened on the fuselage to reveal these really great interior details.  Yet, there are no optional clear parts to allow the builder to do a see-through version to show off those elements, especially in the wing.  I’m not sure why this is, but most scale modelers will however paint their Hs 129 negating this option, anyway.  The main gear and tail wheel are also multi-part assemblies and are practically models in and of themselves.  Included are separate parts for the brake hydraulic lines.  

The gorgeous instruction booklet is trademark Zoukei-mura, with its cover appearing as a replica of the front-page of the Hs 129B-2 flight manual.  It contains lots of interesting information about the Hs 129, its history, and part-by-part breakdowns of the specific items that you are assembling, sequentially organized by the engine followed by the cockpit, fuselage, wings and landing gear, final outfitting, and markings guide.  Their beautifully rendered, step-by-step approach to assembly breaks down a very complicated build into quite manageable steps. 

The decals were printed by Cartograf and are perfectly designed and printed.  Everything is in register, colors are vibrant and solid, and carrier film is thin and quite restrained.  Markings for one airplane are provided and includes a full range of maintenance stencils.

Weaknesses:  There are very few shortcomings that can be identified in this kit.  Of course, this is a complex kit and it’s not for beginners.  Keep an eye out for ejection pin markings, of course.  There are no shoulder harnesses or lap belts included, and that is a bit of an oversight.  Still, I think they had aftermarket products in mind as they designed the kit.  As noted, a lot of interior detail is indeed lost from view as assembly progresses.  I’m okay with that, and some folks may see that as an opportunity to open up more panels beyond what the kit provides during the course of their build.  Also, I did pick up on a little online chatter that the machine gun access panels are a little tricky to fit in the closed position.  Keep on an eye on that. 

I am not overly enthused with the sand-colored sprues, but that’s an immaterial critique.  Many builders will apply a primer coat consisting of some other shade, so any plastic/base color overlap issues will not be a serious problem in terms of visualizing base color coverage and seams.  It’s also too bad there’s only one markings option.  Even a little choice would have been nice…                            
Zoukei-mura once again wows scale modelers with their 1:32 scale Hs 129.  Along with their other recent releases, it is one of the best kits I’ve seen regarding precision, detail, and thoughtful engineering.  It is certainly the best Hs 129 in any scale.  This kit receives my highest praise.  For me, I would say that kits such as this are why we build – it taps into our varied sources of inspiration, imagination, and passion for this hobby.  Zoukei-mura has a way of doing that quite frequently for many scale modelers.  Zoukei-mura also has a range of detail parts available for the kit, from turned brass gun barrels to weighted cast resin tires, metal landing gear, and a display base.  The kit was released in Japan on November 20, 2019, and its U. S. release is December 13. 

Sincere thanks are owed to Mr. Hideyuki Shigeta, the president of Zoukei-mura, Anne in their International Operations department, and the entire SWS Development Team for their generosity in providing this sample.  You can find out more about them at http://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/ and follow Mr. Shigeta’s latest blog at https://www.zoukeimura.co.jp/en/sentiment/oyajiblog_105.html which is a good way to follow development of their kits and other activities of interest which currently include a 1:48 scale F-4E Phantom II and several other projects as well.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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