1:72 Messerschmitt P.1093/Me 362 A-1; "<I-+" of Stabschwarm IV./JG4, mount of Major Heinz 'Heino' Lerchenberg; Mark Zwuschen (near Berlin), early summer 1945 (Whif/Matchbox kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Messerschmitt Me 362 was a derivative of the jet-powered Me 262 Schwalbe or Sturmvogel (English: "Swallow"/ "Storm Bird") fighter aircraft that was to bridge the gap between advanced aerodynamics and the lack of sufficient production jet engines as well as their poor reliability and performance.
Design work for the Me 262 started before World War II began, but engine problems and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944 - and even then the highly advanced aircraft suffered from constant problems. About 1,400 Me 262s were produced, but only a maximum of 200 were operational at any one time.
Being faced with growing numbers of incoming bombers, the RLM was desperate to find an appropriate inteceptor that would combine both speed and firepower. The Me 262 was a potential solution, since it was faster, and more heavily-armed than any Allied fighter, including the British jet-powered Gloster Meteor which entered service in the UK a month earlier than the Me 262. But it was soon clear that the jet-powered aircraft would not be available soon.
In order to keep production up and not to lose too much time with new constructions or aerodynamic research, Messerschmitt suggested a piston-engine variant of the Me 262 that would use much of the jet fighter's structure, while relying on a proven engine. But instead of mounting engine and propeller in classic pull arrangement, the new fighter used a pusher propeller, wdriven via extension shaft by a DB603G engine mounted in the airframe's center of gravity. The result was the Messerschmitt P.1093, which soon received the designation Me 362 from the RLM.
The Me 362 V1 prototype, powered by a DB 603 A engine, flew on 26 October 1944. However, several problems during the initial flight of the Me 362 would continue to plague the aircraft through most of its short history. Issues were found with the weak, elongated landing gear and with the lower tail fin, which had to be reinforced for the remainder of the V1's test flights. The Me 362 V1 made 27 flights, flown by three different pilots. During these test flights the V2 was completed and made its first flight on 31 December 1944. New to the V2 were an upgraded DB 603G engine and several refinements learned from the test flights of the V1 as well as further windtunnel testing.
Following the flights of the V2, in mid January 1945, RLM ordered five more prototypes (V21–V25), to be built as fast bombers and night fighters. By this time more than 60 hours of flight time had been put on the Me 362s and reports showed it to be a good handling, but more importantly, very fast aircraft, thanks to its clean lines and advanced aerodynmics - the V2 prototype reached more than 780km/h (484 mph, even though with reduced weight, compared with the later service aircraft).
Thus the Me 362 was immediately scheduled to begin mass construction, and, as part of the Jägernotprogramm directive which had taken effect in late 1944, maximum priority was immediately given to Me 362 production. The initial order of 120 aircraft was to be manufactured by Messerschmitt Augsburg and Dornier München and to be completed no later than January 1946, while upgraded variants were already on the drawing board, e. g. a fast reconnaissance aircraft (the Me 362 B) and an interceptor that carried a rack with 38 unguided R4M missiles in the nose instead of the four MK 108 (Me 362 C)
The first serial aircraft, designated Me 362 A-1, were converted from unfinished Me 262 airframes and immediately sent to front units, primarily as interceptors for Berlin and in northern Germany. They reached the front units in April 1945, and with little conversion training the mostly unexperienced pilots had to cope with an aircraft that was totally different to handle from the standard German piston fighters and hazardous to operate on the ground, especially during take-off and landing. It is consequently no surprise that until August 1945 more Me 362s were lost in taxiing accidents than through enemy fire, be it in the air or on the ground.
Pilots who were accustimed to the Me 262 found the Me 362 easier to handle, even though its delicate balance and poor ground clearance called for constant attention. Nevertheless, in the hands of experienced pilots the Me 362 proved to be a very effective interceptor that could outrun and -dive any Allied escort fighter that protected the bomber groups over Germany. But the little nimber of aircraft and the few skilled pilots that could man these machines had only little impact.
Length overall: 10.33 m (34 ft 1/2 in)
Wingspan: 12.60 m (41 ft 6 in)
Height: 3.85 m (12 ft 7 1/2 in)
Wing area: 21.7 m² (234 ft²)
Empty weight: 3,250 kg (7,165 lb)
Loaded weight: 4,150 kg (9,149 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 4,413 kg (9,730 lb)
Aspect ratio: 7.32
1× Daimler Benz DB 603G liquid-cooled, inverted V12 engine, rated at 1900 PS (1874 hp, 1397 kW) max. power at 2700 rpm at sea level and 1560 PS (1539 hp, 1147 kW) combat power at 2700 rpm at sea level
Maximum speed: 765 km/h (474 mph)
Cruising speed: 665 km/h (413 mph; 359 kn)
Rate of climb: 3,180 ft/min (16.15 m/s)
Range: 1,100 km (684 mi; 594 nmi)
Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
4x 30mm MK108 cannon in the nose section with 80 RPG,
2x hardpoints under the forward fuselage, each able to carry up to 250kg (550lb), including bombs or 300l drop tanks (rarely used)
2x underwing hardpoints for two pairs of Bordrakete 21 unguided missiles or racks with a total of 24× 55 mm (2.2 in) R4M rockets
The kit and its assembly:
This fictional aircraft was inspired by the simple idea to retrograde the Me 262 jet fighter into a piston-engined 'Behelfsjäger' alternative. While considering options like wing-mounted nacelles I wondered if the triangular fuselage diameter could not be of use, and so the concept of a pusher aircraft was born - certainly inspired by the Do 335 and its tail construction.
Anyway, what sound simple took a lot of detail work and subsequent conversions:
#1 - Engine bay
While I wanted to implant a coupled engine like the DB606 I found it too big and heavy for a fighter, so a simple Daimler Benz V12 would have to suffice. But just sticking it behind the cockpit would not work - the center of gravity would move backwards considerably. Therefore I decided to move the cockpit forward, replacing the front tank behind the weapons bay, and then place the engine above the OOB main landing gear.
The fuselage was sliced up accoringly and the cockpit opening moved forward by ~0.5". Inside, a cockpit tub from a Revell Me 262 was inserted, as well as a new seat, a dashboard and other details, together with a pilot figure. The OOB canopy could be kept this way, and openings for the exhausts were cut into the fuselage flanks, with flare blockers.
Since the model was built with its wheels down, any space in the fuselage nose was crammed with lead - and the model barely keeps its stance with the nose down...
#2 - Clean wings
The wings were taken OOB, but the engine nacelles left away and the respective gaps filled with 2C putty.
#3 - New tail
This included a scrathed propeller, its mounting inside of the fuselage and a cruziform tail.
The original fin and rudder were cut away, shortening the fuselage. From a drop tank of appropriate size, a pointed spinner was made as well as a round 'adapter ring' of apporoproate diameter for the fuselage's end section. Inside, a styrene tube holds a metal axis with the spinner, so that it can run freely.
For the propeller blades I used four clipped, swept resin blades from a C-130J conversion kit. That appears futuristic, but such designs were actually on the drawing board (e. g. at Dornier) for heavy pusher aircraft with a top speed of 800km/h and more.
With the help of the adapter ring the tail section/shape was re-sculpted with putty. The four fins all belong to Me 262 kits: the horizontal stabilizers come from the Matchbox kit, while the vertical stabilizers were leftover pieces from a Revell kit.
#4 - Radiator
Since a liquid-cooled engine, especially when buried in the fuselage, needs a radiator I went for the ventral tunnel option. At first I considered a P-51 piece, but I found a different and more massive part, that perfectly matched the Me 262 outlines: an piece of an underwater ship hull (IIRC from a German mine sweeper model from Heller, built maybe 30 years ago)!
Wide and shallow, the opening (separated with styrene blades into three sections) is wide enough to house two radiator intakes as well as the carburetor scoop in the middle that would have had otherwise to be stuck onto the fuselage flank, breaking up the clean lines.
The ship hull was long enough to be extended up to the lower fin, so that the Me 262's profile and proportions changed considerably.
#5 - Landing gear
With the lower fin as propeller guard the OOB landing gear was too short, so I had to scratch/improvise a new one. Actually, the only things left from the Matchbox kit are the covers and the front wheel. The main landing gear wells were lengthened and the track widened in order to accomodate the longer struts.
The bomb pylons under the Matchbox kit's front fuselage were covered, but as an alternative extra armament I scratched two twin starters for 'BR21' unguided air-to-air missiles from styrene profiles and placed then under the outer wings.
Painting and markings:
This aircraft was to appear hastily camouflaged after delivery from factory in an overall RLM 76 finish, and I found a late war Fw 190 D-9 as design benchmark. This machine was even partly left in bare metal or grey primer and carried only RLM 83 (Dunkelgrün) on the wings' upper surfaces, with some additional RLM 82 (Hellgrün) on the fuselage only. Furthermore, the typical speckles on the fuselage flanks and the fin(s) was very light only on this aircraft, so that it appeared very light and 'clean'.
I tried to transplant this basic concept onto the Me 362, and I also incorporated the very light paint coat seen on many Me 262s that let the bare metal as well as the filler on the panel seams below shine through, due to the lack of paint and haste of production.
In order to simulate this, the kit received a primer coat with acrylic aluminum, on which the seams were highlighted with dark grey.
On top of that, a coat of thinned camouflage (Humbrol enamels 247, 252 + 253) was added. With the same thinned colors the few camouflage spots were created. Once the paint had dried, I wet-sanded the surface so that the lower aluminum/filler and RLM 76 coat could shine through here and there.
All rudders were painted with a slightly different blue-grey (FS 36320), and here and there some paint repair spots with different tones (RLM 02, 75 and even some Sky) added.
The cockpit interior became very dark grey (RLM 66), as well as the wheel discs, while the landing gear and the respective wells became RLM 02. The propeller blades were painted in RLM 70 (Schwarzgrün) while the spinner carries the Stab flight's color code, bright green (RLM 25, maybe?).
A light black ink wash emphasized panel lines and toned the light RLM 76 down a bit. Decals and markings were puzzled together, and as a typical Stab aircraft it received chevron symbols instead of a colored tactical code number. Most decals come from TL Modellbau aftermarket sheets, most stencils come from a Revell Me 262's sheet.
Some soot and oil stains were added, light, dry-brushed silver on the leading edges and around the canopy simulates chipped and worn paint. Finally, everything was sealed with matt acrylic varnish.
What looks like a simple 'Me 262 with a tail prop' took more effort than one might think - one thing led to another, but the result is IMHO pretty plausible - and the layout is not too far-fetched: there were similar designs on the drawing boards of Dornier and Focke Wulf, with swept wings, pusher props and even two engines or with auxiliary jet engines in wing nacelles, but these were much bigger and heavier aircraft, though. Mounting a V12 engine in a Me 262 would certainly not have been easy, so this whiffy model remains pure fiction.