by: Darren Baker [ ]
Originally published on:
The Me 163B Komet first went into active service in 1944 with much fanfare; it was the first and last production operational rocket fighter/interceptor and It was also the first swept wing aircraft to enter operational service. I believe it also held the climb record reaching 30,000 Ft plus in a minute from take-off, however with a powered flight time of under 10 minutes its range and ability to engage in combat were very limited. The Komet also suffered from the two fuels used (C Stoff and T Stoff) being highly combustible which resulted in a number of aircraft blowing up anytime fuel was on board and was also a very real hazard for ground crews fuelling the Komet. And even better, one of the fuels dissolved human bodies on contact and a number of persons perished this way. Perhaps the biggest weakness with the Komet was the fact it was easy prey when gliding back to ground to any patrolling Allied aircraft.
The Me 163B Komet from Meng has been well received and had some positive reviews. When I asked for this model to review I agreed to a build review as well as an in-box review, I will admit this did make me a little nervous as it has been some years since I built a wingy thingy and it will take a great deal of control on my part not to add a lot of mud and some dents to this model. A link to the in-box review can be found at the end of this review. One thing that does need saying here is a quick warning on parts removal from the sprue. I use a very good set of wire cutters for most parts removal but I have found that where I get a neat cut on most manufacturers kits with them, I tend to get a tear mark on Meng products, so when removing parts I suggest cutting away from the part and then sand the stub away. There is an alternative which I also use is a razor blade with a guard on one side, this with care allows you to cut close to the part and avoid tearing to the part being removed.
As with most aircraft kits I have ever built it starts by tackling the cockpit which means a fair amount of painting before much in the way of construction begins. Construction and painting of the cockpit components is surprisingly easy for the most part with the only area to make me sweat being the instrument panel. The seat of the komet is very accurately detailed; it is supplied as a recessed seat and separate back which when joined leaves a seam that should be there so donít be tempted to fill it. The seat harness supplied with kit would be nice if it was printed such as the sets from Eduard but nevertheless it is accurate. The shoulder portion of the harness is easy to locate and secure with CA glue, the lap portion is not so easy to locate as I could see no obvious securing point on the seat.
Looking at available reference material covering the cockpit there are a number of areas where a modeller could add extra detail however the provided parts should meet the needs of most I believe. The painting instructions provided for the cockpit is not an area I can comment on as all of the reference I have are not World War Two pictures and we all know that museum pieces can be questionable and even have had dials changed. That said I followed the instructions as laid out and then got to the instrument panel.
You are given two options for the panel with the easiest being a single plastic part with the dial detail moulded on it, the second option is a moulded panel with some detail moulded on it, there are decals provided for each instrument and four photo etched parts that make up the face. I removed the photo etched pieces and held them in place on the plastic part, I then drew inside each of the open dial faces in the photo etched parts to use as guides for each of the decals' placement. Each of the decals in place, I gave them a coat micro sol to hold them in place and then gave the photo etched parts a coat of paint (I did drop one of the photo etched parts and spent two days looking for it before it was located which caused me to sweat a bit). Next I added the photo etched parts to the instrument panel with CA glue and once set I used a small brush to flood each of the recessed areas in the photo etched parts above the decals with Klear floor polish to represent the faces of the dials. All of the parts are then brought together into a very compact cockpit.
Rocket Engine Turbine
While this is called the rocket engine turbine I would have thought it was a compressor for the fuel mix, however I will rely on you all to clarify that situation. If doing the instrument panel made me sweat this part of the build had me pulling my hair out and as is clear from my picture I donít have any to spare. In fairness to Meng this looks to be very accurate but it is the level of accuracy included that makes this area so difficult. Sitting on the top rear of the compressor are three plastic that do not make a large assembly and there are then another three very fine plastic lines that are glued to the other parts, the other ends of these fine lines will eventually join to the back plate of the rocket engine tailpipe. I was lucky in that I had two (F) sprues in my kit and so had spares, but one of the lines (Pieces 37) was broken on both sprues and being so fine reattachment is not really an option. In hindsight I would recommend forgetting these lines completely if like me you are not going to display the model fully open, and if you are going to display opened up drill the receiver holes in part (F31) and replace them with suitable wire. I suggest wire as the finish will I believe be more pleasing and allow manipulation of the parts when you add it to the rocket engine tailpipe back plate. Moving onto the rest of this assembly things do not really improve as while the individual sub-assemblies go together well, the three sided box structure in which everything goes together does not result in a stable structure until added to the rocket engine tailpipe back plate.
Rocket Engine Tailpipe
Back on a happier note and blood pressure lowering you move on to the rocket engine tailpipe assembly. This apart of construction is easy and straight forward; however there will be some filling and sanding to do on the tailpipe if you are going to display the model all opened up, but as I said no big issue as this is a standard modelling practice. You are then presented with the task of joining the rocket engine turbine to the rocket engine tailpipe; due to the problem of trying to keep everything square with the rocket engine turbine and again minimal contact areas along with four tubes/pipes this may again raise your blood pressure, however once mated it does look very good and accurate. The two pipes that are also added at this stage go on very easily with the only areas of concern being removal from the sprue and clean-up.
The assembly of this tank is very easy and construction well designed; I do have one negative comment which is that the mating surfaces on the tank do not close up well and will require at least one hit with the filler and more likely two to achieve a good finish. Again mine will be hidden for the most part and so I only smoothed everything out with filler. The instructions do show this line in the second sub-assembly and so it may be an accurate seam line down each side, but for me it just looks plain wrong considering what the tank contains.
All of the various parts assembled so far now come together and goes together quite well. The only area that may catch you out is the ring that is attached at this stage; the ring judging from the instructions looks as if it is added onto the back plate of the T-Stoff tank, but checking the other image shows that it fits onto the back plate of the rocket engine tailpipe. I believe this is a good example of make sure you look ahead while youíre making your model and check the fit of parts before adding glue to the mix. I should mention for those that are going to display their model fully opened up that painting details are called out as you go.
With the cockpit and rocket engine more or less complete front to rear work begins on the fuselage itself. The front fuselage halves have been moulded in such a way that there is very little strength in it, that is not a complaint as I believe it has been done for the sake of accuracy. You then add a plate to each side which makes everything rigid. When adding these parts I suggest you attach it at the two top or two bottom areas first and allow to cure before attaching the other side, I suggest this as it achieves a very good bond at all four points and locks the fuselage into the correct shape, you also add what I believe is the ammunition feeder. You also add a couple of glazed areas (one to each half) and I have to say they are a very good fit. Lastly here you add a detail part over the interior of the glazed area and the retainer for the canopy when open. I donít think you will be surprised to hear a lot more painting as you go is needed and which is especially true if you are displaying the model opened up. Take Note that when I got to the stage where the wings are added it has become clear that the parts (C22 and 23) should extend into the interior of the fuselage and not as indicated by the instructions into the wing root area.
The skid assembly and wheels are very easy to construct and looks quite good in my opinion. The wheels attach to the pegs on the skid via poly caps which is the same method as Tamiya use in their various offerings for the most part. One of the benefits of this is that the wheels and for that matter the tyres as well can be removed for painting. This portion of the build uses a minimum of parts which go together well and results in a clean sub assembly. There was a down side for me which is where you assemble the skid retraction assembly which is an option rather than a necessity. These parts I found a pig to put together and gave up on as I did not intend to use it anyway. The part I have discarded allows you to display the skid in a deployed position. If you opt to try it I hope you have more luck than I had.
There are only three parts that make up this assembly but make sure you use the right one for your finishing choice. This assembly looks quite effective when painted and fits to the already assembled parts well.
Closing up the Front Fuselage
Finally I have reached a milestone and I get to close up the front fuselage. Be very careful when adding the assembled interior to left hand side of the fuselage as it is tricky to get it correctly placed, also make sure to add the ammunition feeder/magazine to the top of the T-Stoff tank before locating the assembly into the fuselage and part A3 to the lower area. Part A2 that locates at the top of the fuselage behind the ammunition magazine I left off until I closed up the two halves of the fuselage. It is very easy to place the assembled interior in the correct location as regards front and rear but I found that because there is some rotation in the interior it is best to line up the interior via the pilots headrest. I recommend cementing the front portion of the fuselage first, then the bottom area, then insert and glue part A2 before cementing the area above and behind the cockpit. Securing this area behind the cockpit did require some pressure to close up but still required a bit of filler. Inserting and cementing the landing skid did not and should not present any difficulties.
You continue to add parts to the now closed up front fuselage in the form of the nose cone and what I believe is a targeting sight. The nose cone is a very good fit to the fuselage as long as you place the locating tag towards the bottom of the fuselage. The small propeller that sits on the front of the nose cone and which I believe provides electrical power to the aircraft also fits very well; there are two options for the propeller but it is not clear to me which one is for which finishing option. One area of concern is just how fine this propeller is as it will break very easily if knocked. The sighting system is a little tricky to get together but looks good once in place.
The Komet has an option of two armaments in the form of 2 MK 108 30mm cannons or the two 15mm MG 151/20 guns, make sure you select to correct armament for the version you are replicating. I selected the 2 MK 108 30mm cannons as these are suitable for two of the finishing options of the Komet as supplied in the box. These parts look to make good representations of the cannons and go together well, there are some seams that need to be cleaned up but this is made easier by the fact that there are not a lot of sprue connection points. I would not be too worried about the guns as once they are in the wings and the wings installed onto the fuselage very little of them can be seen. I suppose one of the biggest things against this kit is that there is some fantastic detail achievable from the box contents but very little of it can be seen even if you have every possible panel open.
The wings go together very well for the most part with the exception of the small area of the leading edge of the wing between the fuselage and the opening for the weapons barrels. Otherwise the only issue is getting glue into the joint along the trailing edge of the wing due to the ailerons and flaps having to be in place during construction. I very strongly suggest that you leave the flaps (unless displayed closed) off of the wings until they are attached to the fuselage plus any other detail parts as I can almost guarantee they will be damaged or broken off while attachment takes place.
Wing, Canopy and Access Panel Attachment
It was while on the home stretch that I came face to face with an error in the instructions that I had followed; I looked at adding the wings to the fuselage and realised very quickly that the ammunition feeds could not possibly belong where I had been directed to place them unless a new type of plastic has been designed to pass through other plastic, still no big issue for me as they will not be seen so take them off with my trusty scalpel. It is worth noting that these feeds in my opinion cannot be seen even if you open everything up unless you have the engine sitting outside of the fuselage. OK, that done I offered up the wings again and still no joy. Time for the nail files to be put to work and after 2 hours I finally had a fit I could live with even if I was not entirely happy with; now I could have gone further with the sanding to try and get a perfect fit but I was concerned about thinning the plastic any further.
Moving onto the canopy I found a fantastic fit that I was very happy with, I do suggest that you cut the sprue connection points well back from the canopy and then sand the remaining tabs back to the canopy moulding. When finished donít forget to clean the clear canopy to avoid finger prints on the finished model, however I suspect I am preaching to the choir with that warning.
The access panels that fit along the spine of the aircraft require the minimum of sanding and fit very well into the designated space. The photo etched parts fit well but as they are folded differently depending on if the panels are being depicted loose or locked down the folding instructions could be clearer.
There are 4 tail wheel options depending on the finishing option you have selected. I selected the correct finishing option for my chosen version and used the tail wheel in the retracted position as I liked the clean line it created, I also selected this option as most of the pictures I looked at online that show this area of the aircraft on the ground had the wheel in the retracted position. I found clean-up to be very minimal which is a plus.
The tail assembly of the model almost falls together, however the rudder is a disappointment as it travels too far one way and nothing at all the other. I know it is not a toy but it does mean it needs to be cemented to the right or inline where I was hoping to leave it free during painting. The tail wheel fits perfectly with the option I have chosen and results in a nice clean line, the joint between wheel assembly and tail is also very strong which is another plus in my book. I left part (A17) off until after I had run some filler along the bottom joint as it made sanding easier to do and prevented the seam around this part becoming filled when I believe it should be present. While adding parts (C3 and 4) be careful with placement or you will end up with a nasty joint where they butt up against the wing roots. The rib detail inside the tail section goes back far enough to give the impression of being complete.
Closing the fuselage
The last task for me was adding the tail section of the fuselage to the front portion and Meng Model has tackled this join in quite a clever way. Meng Model has designed two plastic parts that fit into the rear of the wing roots that the trailing edge of the wing root attached to the tail slip over, this creates a good snug fit that could be split again in the future if you decide to display your model open. These parts would not be on the real aircraft but I feel by it providing the option of open or closed fuselage this inaccuracy is worth considering.
I am going to cease assembly at this point as the remaining parts I wish to add after painting, I will however supply some more images of the completed model ASAP.
I have enjoyed building this model as much for the detail included in the kit as for the change of pace from building armour models. The kit does have its issues but then again what kit doesnít? I hope I have highlighted the highs and the lows of this Meng Model offering and given you some ideas for tackling it yourselves. I will admit to being a little annoyed about some of the fit issues I have faced, with the wing connections being the element that rattled me the most and I feel is the biggest weakness. While on the subject of connecting the wings a friend felt I had done too good a job of fitting the fuselage wing braces and so I would suggest assembling the wings and using them to check the brace placement on your model.
The interior is of course the star of the show and is very complete as regards the rocket motor and fuel tank. One part of the rocket motor assembly that mystifies me is why they have added so much detail but not supplied anyway of making it visible after the model is completed, I would suggest closing up the fuselage of the model completely and displaying the rocket motor and fuel tank outside with some super detailing added to really get the most from it for your input. The cockpit interior is good but there is room for further improvement for those who want 100% accuracy. The instrument panel is a brilliant piece of work if you use the multi part option with the moulded instrument panel being a poor second unless you are an excellent detail painter. All in all this is a very complete model which I know some of you out there will be able to make into a real eye catcher.
Well having built this Komet from Meng Model I am seriously considering purchasing another to tackle with the knowledge I have picked up while building this one and I believe that is perhaps the best recommendation I can give. I do believe this kit should only be tackled by modellers with a fair grounding in the hobby as I feel this model will be a bit much for a modeller still learning their way.