Trumpeter | 02260: Me 262A-1a Heavy Armament

Reviewed by Matt Gannon

Specs at a Glance

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It would be hard for many planes in WW2 to match the revolutionary advancements that the Me 262 bought to aviation during the mid 1940s. It was an aircraft that was unique in almost every aspect. It’s an aircraft unlike any other of its time and it still fires the imagination. So what’s new about this boxing of the Schwalbe and why model it?

Trumpeter's releases of the Me 262A-1a and the Me 262A-2a in 2005 seem to have met with almost unanimous praise for the quality of finish, shape, fantastic level of detail and options provided in these model kits. In fact I actually found it hard to find anything negative written about this kit in a forum or in a review at all. Way to go Trumpeter…talk about a gold medal performance.

In 2005 the initial release version of the Me262A-1a was reviewed comprehensively on LSP by Mark Proulx here.

Since then perhaps enough of the box contents seem to have changed to warrant a recap. So it’s on with sprue shots of the box contents interspersed with some history to whet your appetite to go and get one and start gluing it together.

Mythbusting some of the Me 262 Story

Much has been said about the political interference of Hitler and the RLM creating unnecessary delays in bringing the Me262 type into service. David Baker’s Me 262 book is part of the Crowoods Aviation Series. It is one book that comprehensively scrutinises the political maneuvering associated with the development and operational deployment of the Me 262. The book debunks the myth of political interference and RLM bungling that seems to so readily capture our imagination and find its way into nearly all other conventional Me 262 texts. The text deals comprehensively with the intrinsic difficulties associated with the development of jet technology by Messerschmitt, BMW, Junkers and Heinkel. It contextualises and cites many historic facts that go a long way to really explaining why the delays in operational deployment of the Me 262 weapon system ‘really’ occurred.

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What was so Different about the Me 262 in Operational Service?

Pretty much everything. It was this utter uniqueness in every aspect which delayed and complicated the effective deployment of this most secret asset. Once deployed, pilots had to relearn and develop new ways of approaching combat and flying against other aircraft. Pilots often found that the closure rates, the way an attack would be set up and the time with the pipper on target were so fleeting that they were completely alien compared to anything previously experienced in propeller driven planes. From a technical perspective engine technology had also still not, and never did produce sufficiently reliable or flexible power plants under conditions combat pilots were used to. Ground personnel skills, tasks and the logistic supply train associated with each aircraft were all totally different from anything propeller driven that was previously in service with the Luftwaffe. Finally, and of immense significance, is that the allies had realized the awesome potential of the new aircraft. The allies were very careful to identify critical vulnerabilities in the Me262’s operational use and manufacture and exploit these in order to minimize the Me262 threat and keep it from becoming operationally decisive.

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Bringing Down the Bombers

In 1944 and 1945 Germany was being pulverized by large formations of well protected allied bombers. There were high levels of motivation in the Luftwaffe to ensure each mission flown brought down or dispersed the bombers from their tight box formations. This dispersal of the box formation immediately rendered the bomber ineffective in its primary role of ‘area bombing’. It rendered the individual bomber significantly more vulnerable to attack by other conventional fighters still being used by the Luftwaffe with the decrease in mutual defensive fire from other aircraft of the box formation. It also meant that any bombers managing to remain in formation would also be more vulnerable with the loss of defensive fire from the missing aircraft.

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Heavy Armament Versions?

Whilst the Me 262A-1a represented the definitive fighter version of that plane, development of heavier armament was continuous. The four nose mounted Mk108 cannons were lethal if the target could be hit. Unfortunately, their low cyclic rate of fire and shell velocity, coupled with the incredible closure rates between fighter and victim meant that many a bomber often escaped. Indeed, allied single seat fighters flying erratic courses became almost impossible targets to hit unless the Schwalbe sacrificed speed. Given the newly encountered challenges being faced by Luftwaffe Me 262 pilots, many of whom were transitioning from far inferior aircraft with minimal training, the question remained. How was the Me 262A-1a to be best employed as a weapon system by anyone less than an experten pilot?

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Dispersion of Box Formations by Heavy Armament

One way dispersion of the box formations was achieved was via the use of air to air mortars and rockets. A well recognized modification (Rutzsatze R7) was made to about 60 Me 262A-1as late in the war by fitting typically 12 but up to 24 R4M rockets under each wing. The rockets were designed to be fired in salvos and to allow less skillful or less experienced pilots to still hit targets and overcome the difficulties associated with such a high performance delivery system. In essence the R4M solution was like a giant shotgun approach.

R4M rockets (R=Rakete , 4kg , M=Minenkopf) were designed by Kurt Heber and manufactured by DWM. Late in the war Germany’s need was dire, so despite not having been fully tested, the rockets were rushed into service. The history of the development, fault finding and ingenuity associated with the creation and deployment of these rockets is simply astounding. That so many rockets were tested and problem solved in such a short time is nothing short of Herculean.

R4M rockets were nicknamed Orkan rockets (translated means Hurricane). They were apparently given this nickname after the smoke trail they left once having been fired. The rockets were 55mm in caliber, 814mm long, and 3.5kg in total weight. The construction was of thin-walled steel, contained 520-530g of HTA explosive which was detonated by an AZR2 impact fuse. The combustion chamber contained 815g of propulsive charge with a burn of 0.8s giving it a maximum acceleration of 540m/s/s. The rocket was to be stabilized by 8 blade fins that deployed due to aerodynamic drag when the projectile left the wooden underwing rack. There is an excellent picture of a rocket with fins deployed on page 39 of Kagero’s book on JG7 ‘Nowotny’.

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Incidentally it was after the failure of the honeycomb launching device designed for the Natter that encouraged the Kommandeur of JG 10 and his technical officer to come up with another solution for launching. They drew up plans and had an example made in a joinery in Schwerin using curtain rods for the launching rails. After wiring up the rack under a FW190 they found that the launcher worked perfectly. Unfortunately, launching all the rockets together caused such disruptions in airflow that the trajectory of the rockets were adversely affected. It sent the rockets and no doubt all those testing them in every direction. This was solved by using the bomb release electrics from a He177 which ignited the rockets at intervals and in smaller groups. After further modification, fitting this equipment to a Me 262 was instigated. The initial test was a flop, but tests immediately thereafter proved incredibly encouraging.

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The rockets had the trajectory of Mk108 30mm cannon shells and a range of 1800m.(this fact varies with different sources as others claim 800m) This, almost stand-off type range must have been highly desirable when facing the massed 0.50cal machine guns of the bomber forces. Given the trajectory was the same as the Mk108 Cannon shells, the rockets required no additional sighting by pilots other than that which was required for the nose guns.

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The R4M rockets were devastating when accurately used from a single aircraft but increasingly so if used in a coordinated fashion by formations of Me 262s. They were apparently subject to drift in high winds given their shape and relatively low velocity when fired from long range. However, on the times they were operationally used, they apparently had a devastating effect. There is an account in the Wikipedia link of a Luftwaffe General Gordon Gollob claiming up to 14 bombers in one action. They truly were examples of the wonder weapons Hitler had touted even though it was too little and too late. A good summary of the R4M rockets can be found on Wikipedia.

Comments on the Kit

Of the four builds I quickly found on LSP, Trumpeter's Me 262 kits rated extremely highly in the satisfaction stakes. This version of the Me262A-1a doesn’t have both types of nose wheel and tyres found in the earlier released kit, but it still has the option of white metal landing gear or plastic. In many respects it’s the same kit so I’d almost expect any purchasers or builders to get the same satisfaction. As you can see, nothing too dramatic has changed, nor is this a new-tool kit.

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In a nice bonus though, despite the kit focusing on and having the racks and R4M rockets, it is also equipped with the ETC 503 or Wikingerschiff (Viking ship) racks. These racks preceded the ETC 504 racks and were capable of carrying bombs or fuel tanks. This great little inclusion creates flexibility for the modeler to substitute the kit supplied drop tanks for some SC250 bombs and create a Me262A-1a Jabo. Of course, simply the extra paint scheme opportunities this extra inclusion creates is a nice bonus in itself.

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When it came to decals this trumpeter kit had me stumped. I had no idea initially which units the schemes were for, or if the profiles were correct. I think Trumpeter forgot to include something because there is no information on them at all in the kit boxing. Admittedly when these types of planes with the R7 Rutzsatze modification were flying, Germany and the Luftwaffe was in almost constant disarray. I almost began to wonder if not having unit markings and werknumbers might have been deliberately omitted in an effort to capture the desperation of the times when the planes flew. Nevertheless it’s a surprising omission on the decal sheet options. It gave me a problem to try and resolve and with that squarely in my sights I hit the reference books.

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Paint and decal options for scheme A remind me of aircraft from JV 44 at Munchen-Riem in April 1945. It appears from the references I had at my disposal that many of the JV44 aircraft wore varied colour schemes but were consistent in having no theatre band on the fuselage and a white number in front of the national insignia on the fuselage. Other comparable paint schemes all seem to have had their white numbers on the fuselage near the wing root leading edge. Other ‘possibles’ such as aircraft from 3./JG7 had theatre bands, but as these are not supplied in the decal sheet I discounted them from consideration. Despite the best efforts of my research though, I can’t be definitive where this plane ‘White 3’ comes from. With a bit of creative masking and research, maybe a combo of decals, you’ll be able to make your own custom scheme up.

Paint and decal options for scheme B however, appears to represent Yellow 3 of 9/KG54(J) of spring 1945, an aircraft previously used in JG7. This scheme appears in a profile on pg 87 of Mushrooms Yellow Series book, The Me 262A Schwalbe. Some aspects of the scheme in that book are not consistent with the decal sheet or paint guide.

The scheme is also the same one as option 1) in an Eagle Strike Productions decal sheet (32017). It cites an unknown 3 of KG54(J) based at Munchen-Rien airfield in May of 1945. The paint schemes are very similar although the Eagle Strike decals have the theatre band marked in green and white squares whereas the Trumpeter decal sheet supplies blue and white squares.

Well, who got it right? It might be up to some intrepid researcher in the goldmine that is the LSP forums to work that one out. Alternatively, when you have a Luftwaffe question who do we all seem to turn to? Well, I just clicked onto the Eagle Editions home page, went to decals and got the answer I’d been searching for. Here’s the link to the decal sheet with the scheme in question. Now given Jerry Crandall’s rocksolid reputation for research skill and diligence I think I’m happy to call it problem solved.

The remaining parts in the kit are photographed below for you to peruse.

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Kit in Summary

Whilst not a new kit by any means, modelers now have the option of building the Trumpeter Me 262A-1a with Heavy Armament options. The conspicuous absence of criticism of Trumpeter's Me 262 kits is a phenomenon in itself even though ostensibly this general Me 262 kit has been thoroughly reviewed a number of times. Perhaps the team at Trumpeter stumbled across a perfect approach required to the achieve the finish and options modelers crave. That phenomenon alone warrants serious reflection and duplication in subsequent releases. Non-consequential decal sheet issues notwithstanding, this boxing of the Me 262A-1a Heavy Armament edition promises to deliver a great build and offers the flexibility to build the R7 version or a Jabo. It’s nice to have the choice and even better to have such a fine injection moulded model kit. ‘Currently’ the MSRP from the US distributor is $94.95


Review sample courtesy of Stevens International.


© Matt Gannon 2007

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This review was published on Saturday, July 02 2011; Last modified on Wednesday, May 18 2016