1:72 Messerschmitt Me 309 T-2; “Gelbe 12” of the 9./JG 1, Deutsche Luftwaffe; Husum, late 1945 (Whif/kitbashing)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the model, the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Me 309 project began in mid-1940, just as the Bf 109 was having its first encounters with the Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, the first aircraft to match the 109 in speed and performance. Already, Messerschmitt anticipated the need for an improved design to replace the Bf 109. The Reich Air Ministry, however, did not feel the same urgency, with the project given a low priority, resulting in the design not being finalized until the end of 1941.
The new fighter had many novel features, such as tricycle landing gear (with a nose gear strut that twisted through 90° during retraction, to a "flat" orientation under the engine) and a pressurized cockpit, which would have given it more comfortable and effective high-altitude performance. Each of the new features was first tested on a number of Bf 109F airframes, the V23 having a ventral radiator, the V31 with a radiator and tricycle landing gear, and the V30 having a pressurized cockpit.
Low government interest in the project delayed completion of the first prototype until spring 1942, and trouble with the nose wheel pushed back the 309's first flight to July. When it did fly, the Me 309's performance was satisfactory – about 50 km/h (30 mph) faster than a standard Bf 109G – but not exemplary. In fact, the Bf 109G could out-turn its intended replacement. With the addition of armament, the aircraft's speed decreased to an unacceptable level. In light of its poor performance and the much more promising development of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190D, the Me 309 in its original form was canceled.
However, the design was not dead and eventually found its way into the Me 509 (with a mid-engine layout) and the Me 609 (a heavy fighter which joined two Me 309 fuselages with a new centre wing section). By the time designs were being ironed out in the course of 1943, revolutionary turbojet engines became operational and with them new designs like the Me 262 or the He 162. These promised superior performance concerning speed, but they had only a short range and the new turbojets’ reliability was poor.
In another attempt to keep the Me 309 alive, Franz Hirschleitner, a young engineer who had formerly worked for Blohm & Voss, proposed the addition of a turbojet engine to the piston fighter as a booster. This would combine the range and reliability of the old technology with the new engine’s potential gain of speed. Having worked on the innovative Bv 141 reconnaissance aircraft before, Hirschleitner proposed an unusual solution for the Me 309 update: since as many original parts of the fighter were to be retained (what ruled out a redesign of the fuselage to carry the turbojet engine), he presented an asymmetrical layout which added a new pod with the cockpit, the armament and an underslung BMW 003 turbojet, which was connected to the Me 309 fuselage with a short wing. The Me 309 fuselage itself was virtually identical with the original fighter, just the weapons had been deleted from it (saving weight) and the former cockpit was faired over, the internal space being used for additional fuel tanks. The outer wings were taken from the Me 309, too, except for a reinforced landing gear which now retracted outwards, so that the aircraft’s track width was kept in acceptable limits. The front wheel still retracted into the Me 309 fuselage.
This aircraft, called the Me 309 T (for “Turbine” = jet engine), was envisioned as a heavy single-seat fighter, armed with four 30 mm cannon. Hardpoints under the middle wing section allowed an external ordnance of 1.000 kg (2.202 lb), including two bombs of up to 500 kg (1.100 lb) caliber each or two 300l drop tanks. Furthermore, the cockpit pod was large enough to add a second crew member under an extended canopy, so that the type could also be developed into a night fighter with a radar.
Despite initial skepticism at the Messerschmitt design bureau, Hirschleitner’s proposal was accepted and presented to the RLM in late 1943. Not surprisingly, it was rejected at first for being “too innovative”. Nevertheless, growing pressure from the Allied forces made the RLM reconsider the Hirschleitner design, since it was based on existing components and could be quickly realized. Therefore, the Me 309 T was ordered into production as the T-0 version in Spring 1944. From these initial aircraft, 12 were produced until August 1944 and used for field tests and conversion training. The T-0 was powered by a DB 603G and a BMW 003C and armed with four MK 108 machine cannon. These initial frontline tests lasted until December 1945 and the aircraft was ordered into full production as the T-1.
Just as the first production machines left the factories in April 1945, an upgraded variant, the T-2, was introduced. It shared the same airframe as the earlier variants but had an upgraded turbojet engine, a BMW 003D, which offered 10.76 kN (2,420 lbf) of thrust instead of the former 8.81 kN (1,980 lbf), together with improved reliability. The armament was upgraded, too: Two of the MK 108s were replaced by MK 103 30 mm machine cannon, a weapon that offered a much higher range and penetration power, so that the aircraft could fire effectively while keeping outside of the Allied bombers' defensive fire, which now frequently entered German airspace. Furthermore a Rüstsatz (R1) was introduced which put two additional MK 108 behind the cockpit, firing obliquely upwards as "schräge Musik" .
Despite the acceptable performance, which made it superior to pure piston-driven fighters of the time like the Republic P-47 or the North American P-51D, the Me 309 T was not very popular among the pilots. The handling on the ground was difficult, not only because of the offset front wheel, but also due to the fact that the left fuselage blocked almost the complete portside field of view. This flaw also created a significant blind spot during flight. Furthermore, getting the Me 309 T into the air without the support from the jet engine could be a gamble, too, esp. when the machine carried external loads. The BMW 003D, even though its reliability had been improved over time, was prone to failure, and the resulting lack of thrust made it a dead weight that severely hampered the aircraft's performance. All in all, only 123 machines were eventually built, with no two-seat night fighter or a trainer ever produced.
Length: 9.46 m (31 ft 0 in)
Wingspan: 13.60 m (44 ft 7 in)
Height: 3.9 m (12 ft 10 in)
Wing area: 21.1 m² (226 sq ft)
Empty weight: 3,795 kg (8,367 lb)
Gross weight: 6,473 kg (14,271 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 7,130 kg (15,719 lb)
1× Daimler-Benz DB 603G inverted V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 1,287 kW (1,726 hp)
1× BMW 003D (TL 109-003) turbojet with 10.76 kN (2,420 lbf) / 10,000 rpm / sea level
Maximum speed: 840 km/h (522 mph, 464 kn) with both powerplants
695 km/h (431 mph, 383 kn) with the DB 603G only
Cruise speed: 665 km/h (413 mph, 359 kn)
Range: 1,100 km (680 mi, 590 nmi)
Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
Wing loading: 256 kg/m2 (52 lb/sq ft)
Power/mass: 0.31 kW/kg (0.19 hp/lb)
2× 30 mm (.1.181 in) MK 103 cannon
2× 30 mm (.1.181 in) MK 108 cannon
Underwing hardpoints for a total external ordnance of 1.000 kg (2.202 lb)
The kit and its assembly:
This model went through a prolonged development phase. It is based on the question whether an asymmetrical Blohm & Voss design could be made compact enough for a fighter aircraft? Aircraft like the Bv 141 reconnaissance aircraft (which actually flew) or the P-194 attack aircraft (which only existed as a paper project) were considerably bigger than typical single seat fighters.
While doing legwork I also found the relatively compact Blohm & Voss P-197 project in literature, which already came closer to my idea - I initally planned to build something along its lines, based on a Revell P-194 kit, but the latter turned out to be too big for this plan and I shelved the idea again.
However, the projected lingered in the back of my mind and was soon revived through the idea of using a Fw 190D fuselage as an alternative. But, alas, I still did not find the affair to be convincing enough for a build, also because of conceptual problems with the landing gear.
Then I eventually stumbled upon a HUMA Me 609 in the stash and considered a "modernized" asymmetrical layout with a tricycle landing gear. And this became the Me 309T.
It sounds so simple: take an aircraft model and add the cockpit pod, together with a new wing middle section. But turning this plan into hardware caused serious headaches. The biggest issue became the landing gear: the only space to stow the main landing gear would be the outer wings. Bu using the original Me 309 landing gear, which retracted inwards and already had a wide track, was impossible. So I decided to "reverse" the landing gear wells for an outward-retracting arrangement. Easier said than done, because the thin Me 309 wings come as single pieces in the HUMA kit: I had to cut out the complete well section on each wing, switch it around and re-sculpt the wings' profiles and surfaces. A lot of work!
The Me 309 fuselage was built OOB and I used the cockpit cover that comes with the Me 609 kit. The Bv P-194 cockpit pod with the jet engine was built OOB, too, but the wing attachment points had to be heavily re-sculpted because the P-194's wings are much deeper and thicker than the Me 309's. For the same reason I could not use the P-194's mid wing section - I had to scratch one from a leftover section of a VEB Plasticart 1:100 An-12, styrene sheet and putty. Messy affair, but at least it matches the outer Me 309 wings in shape and thickness.
A lot of putty was furthermore needed to finish the Me 309 fuselage and re-build all the wing/fuselage intersections. The HUMA Me 309 is a very basic affair, and fit as well as detail are mediocre, putting it in a polite fashion. The Revell P-194 is a little better, but it has many doubtful details like a pilot seat and canopy for pygmies or a poorly fitting jet exhaust section.
Thanks to the wing surgery, the Me 309's OOB landing gear could be retained - it looks pretty stalky, though, and the front wheel strut comes very close to the propeller disc.
Sice the HUMA Me 609 does not come with separate stabilizers I finally had to improvise again: I initially considered and asymmetrical layout (somewhat compensating for the cockpit pod on the starboard side with and extended span at port side), but when I saw how close the fuselages were, I settled upon an enlarged, convetional layout in the form of stabilizers from a Heller He 112.
Painting and markings:
This caused some headaches, too. I did not want a "conventional" late WWII Luftwaffe scheme, even though I wanted to use standard RLM colors. I eventually found inspiration in Me 262 recce aircraft, which frequently featured a unique paint scheme in the form of an overall RLM 76 livery onto which very fine dots or ondulating, thin lines in one or more darker contrast colors (RLM 81 and/or 83) were painted or sprayed. At first In wanted to adapt this scheme to the whole aircraft, but eventually decided to give the wings' upper surfaces a different, more "planar" scheme.
So, the whole model initially received and overall coat of RLM 76 (Humbrol 247), with the wings' undersides left in bare metal and the rudders painted in a greenish-grey primer. The cover of the DB 603 was kept in bare metal, too.
Contrast areas in RLM 81 and 83 (Braunviolett and Dunkelgrün, both from ModelMaster's Authentic line) were added onto the top of the wings, while I painted the fuselages and the fin with a semi-translucent "snake" pattern in RLM 82 (Humbrol 102).
The decals come from a Sky Models Fw 190A/F sheet, the crosses on the fuselage and under the wings come from a generic TL Modellbau sheet.
The cockpit interior as well as the landing gear wells were painted in very dark grey (Revell 09), while the landing gear struts became RLM 02 (Revell 45). The spinner received a black-and-white spiral, with black green propeller blades.
Well, I am not 100% happy with the result. While the overall model looks quite balanced, I am not happy with the finish - partly due to the massive use of putty and the fact that I had to mount parts in a fashion that the kits' manufacturers never expected to happen, but also due to the paint: The Humbrol enamels that I used turned out to be from the poor batch when the fabrication was moved to Belgium a while ago. With the result of a poor and gooey quality. That could have gone better. :-(
Nevertheless, I like the odd look of the asymmetrical design, esp. with the tricycle landing gear. From certain angles, the model looks really weird! And I am amazed how good the camouflage works - it's really disruptive.