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KIT REVIEW


Zoukei Mura Super Wings Series 1:72 & 1:144 #1
Horten Ho 229 -- 1:72 & 1;144 Scale

 

Flying wing aircraft have long captured the imagination – exotic, sleek, and almost organic-looking flying machines.  The flying wing was arguably pioneered by Germany’s Horten Brothers and took the form of the Ho 229 just before WWII ended.  Zoukei-mura has now released their much-anticipated 1:72 and 1:144 scale kits of the Ho 229 - boxed together in a dual-kit combo.  Let’s check it out!

In the early 1930s, the Treaty of Versailles was in effect and Germany was forbidden from building powered aircraft.  Germany did however exploit plenty of loopholes as they began to quietly reconstitute the Luftwaffe.  One approach was designing and engineering gliders.  A pair of designers – the Horten Brothers – were at the time experimenting with tail-less gliders.  In effect, these were early flying wings that offered the lowest possible penalties of weight and drag.

In 1943, Göring issued a request for proposals for his “3×1000 project.”  The aim was to produce a bomber capable of carrying a 1,000 kilogram (2,200 lb) bomb load over 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) at 1,000 kilometers per hour (620 mph).  No conventional design could meet these specifications – but a jet-powered flying wing could.  The Horten Brothers proposed their Horten IX design and the Air Ministry approved it, but also added two 30 mm cannons for air-to-air encounters.  The H.IX featured a mid-fuselage “pod” containing the cockpit and Junkers Jumo 004 engines.  The “pod” was made from welded steel tubing and wooden wing spars.  The wings were carbon-impregnated plywood panels bonded together with a charcoal-sawdust mixture.  Though wood might not seem tough, the airframe was rated up to 12.5g.  The elevons and spoilers provided smooth and effective controls.

The prototype H.IX V1 was an unpowered glider with fixed landing gear.  It first flew in March 1944.  Results were very favorable. The Horten brothers did not have the industrial infrastructure to take the work much further, and the project was taken over by Gothaer Waggonfabrik.  The Gotha team added a primitive ejection seat and redesigned the gear among other changes.  The jet-powered version, now named the Ho 229, flew in December of that year.  Again, it demonstrated excellent performance, including out-flying the Me 262 in one early test flight.  While the V1 prototype aircraft crashed on the third test sortie, development continued in desperate fashion as the annihilation of the Third Reich became increasingly inevitable.  In early 1945, the Ho 229 was included in the Jäger-Notprogramm (Emergency Fighter Program) calling for accelerated production of inexpensive "wonder weapons."  Work simultaneously commenced on the third prototype, the larger Ho 229 V3 powered by the uprated Jumo 004C engines.  Work had also started on the protypes for the two-seat Ho 229 V4, Ho 229 V5 night-fighter, the Ho 229 V6 armament test vehicle, and the Ho 229 V7 two-seat trainer.  Allied forces soon overran the Gotha facility and captured a Horten glider and the Ho 229 V3 (which was in final assembly) as part of Operation SEAHORSE.  Today, the V3 resides on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.  It is the only one of its kind of the world.   

Zoukei-mura’s 1:72 and 1:144 scale dual combo Ho 229 kit set contains two kits.  The 1:72 scale kit contains 77 parts on eight sprues with two parts on one clear sprue.  The 1:144 scale kit contains 17 parts on one sprue and one clear part on one sprue.  Decals for both kits come on a single decal sheet for two hypothetical, operational Ho 229s paint schemes with dozens of potential customizable aircraft numbers and other markings for each kit.

Strengths:  The Zoukei-mura 1:32 scale Ho 229 is one of the great “wonder kits” of our time, and their 1:48 scale version of the Ho 229 is also quite an outstanding effort by the Japanese kit manufacturer.  Finally, with this release, Zoukei-mura’s Ho 229 family spanning all the major scales is complete. 

First, let’s take a look at the 1:72 scale kit in this set.  If you’ve seen either the 1:32 or 1:48 scale version, the 1:72 scale Ho 229 design, parts breakdown, tooling, and other features will be familiar to you.  The recessed panel lines, rivets, and other details are highly accurate.  It is directly related to the fact that the Zoukei-mura design team carefully studied the Ho 229 V3 at the Smithsonian as part of their research for this kit.  They captured all of the nuances of the aircraft, including the slight anhedral of the wings.  I also checked out the V3 in preparation as part of my homework for this review, and Zoukei-mura really nailed it.  

The kit features a complete interior, and by that, it’s not just the cockpit: you get the full and highly complex fuselage interior framework and two complete Jumo powerplants.  The option is available to include the outer skin if you wish to cover up all that detail.  The wings may also be built equally with or without the skin and you’ve got all the parts to show off the internal wing spars and fuel tanks.  It’s awesome. 

The interior detail is amazing, especially for 1:72 scale.  As with the 1:32 or 1:48 versions of the kit, it’s pretty breathtaking.  The molding quality is generally exceptional (though see below) and just about flawless.  The details of the cockpit frame, fuselage frame, Mk 103 30mm cannons, engines, landing gear, and wheels are all exceptional, especially for 1:72 scale.  This kit can be built up into a really stunning model.  Another nice touch: the forward section of the nose is provided as a single-piece, slide-mold manufactured part (Sprue A).  No tricky seams to worry about here.

The 1:144 scale Ho 229 is substantively a more simple kit - but that does not mean that it’s any less nice.  Again, detail is excellent and the molding is perfection.  Still, it’s not as involved.  There’s no detailed interior framework or engines.  It’s a more ‘standard’ kit in that respect and the parts breakdown is simple and straightforward.  The canopy is only a single piece and is molded closed.

The decals are something of a “choose your own adventure” as the aircraft never fielded an operational paint scheme.  Surely, some builders will want to go with an unpainted wood finish, but others can go full hypothetical with the diverse range of potential markings options.  Overall, decal quality looks great, from the details of the instrument panel to airframe stencils and other markings.  Colors are solid, everything is in register, and carrier film is nice and tight.

Weaknesses:  Only a few things of note: there are no shoulder harnesses or lap belts.  Also, look out for some flash on the fuselage frame parts on Sprue F.  Finally, I do wish a markings option could have been provided for the captured V3 that is preserved at the Smithsonian.  That would have been an interesting option.      

Zoukei-mura’s 1:72 and 1:144 scale Ho 229 kit set completes their family of Ho 229 kits.  Both are outstanding and they do justice to this unique but ill-fated aircraft.  Especially for 1:72 scale, you have all the ingredients to build a real gem.

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 the review 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 1:32 scale Hs 129 and a 1:48 scale F-4E Phantom II.

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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