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Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger

21st Century Toys 1/18 Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2008 Manufacturer 21st Century Toys
Subject Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger Scale 1/18
Kit Number N/A Primary Media Styrene
Pros Excellent desk or 'hanging' model for the adult or young aspiring aviator. Nice finish and detailing Cons
Skill Level Novice MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger
Me 262B-1a/U1 Nachtjäger

When the Me 262A first appeared in operational Luftwaffe squadrons, it became quickly apparent that some pilots were going to need transition training to deal with unique issues of the aircraft. Since many of the pilots coming through the training pipeline were single-engine trained, the blessing and curse of a twin engined aircraft like the Me 262 was having a 'spare' engine when one inevitably failed, but not having the experience to maintain airspeed (greater than 300 kph) will cause the aircraft yaw/roll out of control due to asymmetric thrust. Even with two good engines, if for any reason you needed to abort a landing approach, piston-engined fighters had almost instantaneous throttle response to get you more airspeed and altitude. These early jet engines like those on the Me 262 took a painful amount of time to spool up from idle and pilots would quickly get behind the power curve and smack the ground.

The answer was simple enough, build a two-seat trainer to give new pilots a few hours of instruction with an experienced pilot before venturing off solo in their Me 262As. Messerschmitt managed to turn out a small number of two seat trainers, designated Me 262B-1a to help with the transition, but most of these were redirected to night fighter duties with many of them receiving the FuG-218 Neptun radar system and designated Me 262B-1a/U1. The aircraft did see action with 10./NJG 11 where several pilots were highly successful in providing a little 'payback' to the Mosquito night fighters that had been running almost unopposed in the night skies over the continent in the later years of the war. Had the single and two-seat Me 262s arrived in larger numbers earlier in the war, the firepower of their 30mm guns and R4M rockets would have had a devastating effect on daylight and night bombardment while remaining out of reach of the piston-engined escort fighters.

21st Century Toys released this interesting follow-up to their 1/18 scale Messerschmitt Me 262A single-seat fighter/fighter-bomber (reviewed here). This is the two-seat Me 262B that was redirected from the trainer role to a night fighter, or nachtjäger. As usual, this model is large and impressive, and as with their past offerings, 21st Century Toys offers some interesting working features as part of their design.

The aircraft is protected by their usual excellent packaging that ensures the model will reach you in mint condition. With all of the wire ties used to secure the components to the transport tray, I don't even bother with trying to untwist all of those wires. Out came the wire cutters and in a minute, the tray was cleared of parts. There is a pouch of screws, caps and small details under the tray that might get missed with the cardboard cover under the black tray. You'll definitely be needing these!

Look at the instructions carefully as this beast does not go together intuitively. You'll screw the two wing halves together, then add the centerline beam that also carries in inboard main gear doors to the interior of the main gear wells. The completed wing assembly then attaches to the fuselage with four screws, then the resulting holes are capped over with color-matched caps.

Assembly didn't take long, and a several problems that I found in the Me 262A review are corrected in this release. In the Me 262A, there were some problems with the paint interfering with the gear door, canopy, and flight control hinges. Even the landing gear down locks weren't effective because of the thickness of the paint on those surfaces. Not so with this release and my bird went together and operates just fine.

This model is designed with the following features:

  • Movable ailerons
  • Movable elevators
  • Movable rudder
  • Movable leading edge slats
  • Movable trailing edge flaps
  • Retractable landing gear
  • Opening gun bay doors
  • Opening canopies
  • Detailed front and rear cockpits
  • Two posable pilot figures
  • Optional external fuel tanks
  • Optional bombs

The one thing I would pass along to you is to be VERY careful with assembling and handling this model. This one is definitely not suitable for most children. Why? Look at those antennas. When one of these models gets swung around, and this naturally takes some real estate to move, the dorsal antennas, the lone ventral antenna, and those radar antennas on the nose are going to snag something (someone) or poke someone. After accidentally getting thwacked with the 1/32 Su-27 fuselage that I was maneuvering around my work bench, my cat has learned to stay out of the way (most of the time), but a 1/18 Me 262 will use up some space as well.

Once the model is either on the shelf or hanging safely in flight, there are no real issues (as long as you used good hardware to hang the model, otherwise gravity will step in).

The aircraft is configured as a gun fighter with four 20mm cannons under those opening gun doors and you'll find some nice detailing in there as well as inside those cockpits.

In my sample was something unusual. The kit had a set of decals that are evidently offered separately to provide the non-politically correct swastikas on the tail. Kudos to 21st Century Toys for finding a way for those who can display the model in its accurate appearance. You'll have to check with 21st Century Toys about these decals.

You've just got to like the mottled gray over black night camouflage scheme applied to Red 10. If this doesn't suit you, you can always repaint the aircraft to your favorite scheme.

Well, this had to be my favorite release from 21st Century to date, though the F-104 is in a very close second. This aircraft wasn't the first two-seat radar night fighter to serve operationally in the war, but it most definitely was the first jet-powered radar night fighter.

It boggles the mind that you can buy a brand new full-scale single or two-seat Me 262 today or even see them on the airshow circuit. If the Germans had the reliability and lower fuel consumption of those GE J85 engines that power todays Me 262s, those aircraft would have potentially been far more dangerous (to the enemy).

You can find these at any one of the retailers listed on the 21st Century Toys website.

My sincere thanks to 21st Century Toys for this review sample!


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