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Ho 229 Kit

Zoukei-Mura Inc. 1/48 Ho 229 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review November 2015 Manufacturer Zoukei-Mura Inc.
Subject Ho 229 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48003 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Beautiful molding, excellent detail, clear exterior surfaces Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) Approx $55.00

First Look

Ho 229 Kit
Ho 229 Kit
Ho 229 Kit
Ho 229 Kit
Ho 229 Kit

The Ho 229 (Go 229) was the game-changing aircraft design of the famous Horten brothers. Unlike the other aircraft designers developing Luftwaffe designs, the Horten brothers were pilots who tinkered with aircraft design concepts and not formal aeronautical engineers. The three brothers were all Luftwaffe pilots first: Wolfram was a bomber pilot killed during Dunkirk, Walter flew as Adolf Galland's wingman during the Battle of Britain, while Weimar was on the staff for Operation Sea Lion (the invasion of Britain). When the Battle of Britain ended in failure, the Walter and Weimar Horten advanced their aircraft design concepts in response to a 3x1000 requirement issued by the RLM. Hermann Goering had issued this requirement for a light bomber design that could carry a 1000 kilogram bomb load to 1000 kilometers at 1000 kilometers per hour (3x1000). Goering personally approved the Horten concept and so began an unusual development effort.

The heart of the Horten concept was a flying wing based upon experience from their previous competition glider designs. The aircraft was scaled up to house the fuel and two jet engines which could meet the speed and payload requirements. Their first prototype was the Ho 229V1 which was an unpowered glider with fixed landing gear that flew well but suffered a landing accident when an instrumentation mast was not retracted before landing. With the relative success of this design, development and construction of the aircraft was given to Gothaer Waggonfabrik (Gotha) while the Horten brothers turned their attention to the RLM's Amerika Bomber design effort.

Gotha made some fundamental changes to the Horten design including the addition of an ejection seat as they produced the Ho 229V2 (second prototype). Despite the advanced nature of the Ho 229 design, the cockpit was located inside a tubular framework that made up the skeleton of the airframe and it was open on either side of the cockpit. The two jet engines sat on either side of the pilot. With no enclosure, no sound-proofing, no environmental controls (heat), and no pressurization, the pilot had to wear heavy clothing during higher altitude testing. Ho229V2 was far along in construction when designers learned that the BMW 003 engines that they'd been promised were going to be substituted for Jumo 004 engines. This required cutting and rewelding the structure to accommodate the different engines. The Jumo engines also caused the center of gravity to shift significantly aft requiring lead ballast shaped as armor plate to be installed in the nose and under the cockpit.

Test flights of the first powered Ho 229 (V2) were very promising until the third test flight - one of the engines failed and caught fire. The test pilot dove the aircraft and extinguished the fire, but was believed to be overcome by fumes when the aircraft settled into a gentle downward spiral and crashed. Despite this setback, the program was classified as one of the Luftwaffe's new group of inexpensive 'wonder weapons' and an initial batch of 20 aircraft were ordered. Gotha started construction of a scaled-up version (Ho 229V3) which was to be powered by a pair of the Jumo 004C and armed with two Mk 108 30mm cannons. The war ended before V3 was completed and it was seized as part of Operation Paperclip and brought back to the US where it now finally resides in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum restoration area.

A few other interesting points:

  • The Horten brothers were not seized in Operation Paperclip. Unlike numerous other scientists, the Hortens were not technically engineers and were passed over. Walter remained in post-war Germany and would resume flying with the rebuilt Luftwaffe. Reimar emigrated to Argentina and also continued flying where he also tried to develop some new aircraft designs in the process. Both brothers passed away in the 1990s.
  • The Ho 229 was a metal tubular airframe covered by a composite skin (non-strategic materials). One of the unique features was the carbon that was embedded in the laminate glue which had radar absorption characteristics, giving the Ho 229 the first radar absorbing 'stealth' capabilities.
  • Northrop Grumman built a replica of this aircraft in 2008 to study its stealth characteristics.
  • The huge nose gear used the large tire and wheel hub from an He 177 main gear to provide take-off and landing roll control on grassy runways.
  • Since the aircraft had limited pitch control at low airspeeds, the nosegear held the nose of the aircraft much higher off the ground than the main gear allowing the aircraft to fly off the ground at sufficient airspeed and touching down on all three wheels at landing.
  • The Ho 229 was one of the first aircraft to use a braking parachute on landing.

One year ago, Zoukei-Mura released their 1/32 masterpiece kit of the Ho 229. It remains quite popular and even the stack of Hortens at the last IPMS/USA convention quickly sold out. The company also started releasing 1/48 scale versions of their 1/32 scale kits with the first being the J7W1 Shinden and the second being the Ta 152H-1. Here is number three in the series, the Ho 229 and this kit looks as impressive as its larger cousin.

This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on nine parts trees plus four trees of clear parts (duplicate tree not shown). This kit does have some amazing detail yet is laid out for relatively simple construction. When you see the kit in person, you'll be really tempted to build it with clear skin so you can show off that beautiful detailing inside. This kit also provides the option of displaying the aircraft with the wings removed and you can even build it where the wings are removable (pull four pins out of each wing root).

Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Very detailed Jumo 004 engines
  • Very detailed tubular airframe details
  • Positionable rogue chute bay doors
  • Detailed Mk.103 cannons with magazines
  • Detailed flight control linkages
  • Beautifully detailed cockpit
  • Positionable canopy
  • Detailed landing gear
  • Wing fuel cells
  • Optionally removable outer wing panels
  • Positionable drag rudders
  • Positionable elevons
  • Positionable flaps
  • Positionable speed brakes

The instructions really make this project easy as they provide clear assembly steps using the 3D CAD model illustrations as well as recommended paint colors for each step.

This kit is technically a very detailed recreation of Ho 229V3. The Ho 229V6 was being mocked up when the war ended and it would have been the design basis of the initial Ho 229A-0 production run. The V6 would have incorporated any lessons learned from V3 flight test had it reached that stage of development. Given the urgency to get these wonder weapons into combat, the differences between V3 and V6 would have been relatively minor with the most notable planned change being a different set of cannons.

In the world of Luft '46 however, the operations of the Ho 229A-0 would have been limited to lower altitudes given the lack of pressurization or any other environmental concerns in the open cockpit. The Luftwaffe was paying attention to high altitude operations with the inclusion of pressurization in aircraft like the Ta 152H, so I would expect that a subsequent variant (say Ho 229A-1) would have enclosed and pressurized the cockpit to support sustained high altitude operations. Gotha was looking ahead with the V4 as a two-seat trainer (Ho 229B) as well as V5 as a two seat radar-equipped nachtjäger (which Trimaster did produce in 1/48 scale).

This is another amazing work of kit engineering from Zoukei-Mura and you'll be seeing this built in progressive steps straight out of the box soon. Until now, the only real choice for the Ho 229 in 1/48 scale was the Trimaster (now DML) kit, which was released in this single-seat version as well as the aforementioned two-seat nachtjäger. This kit offers greater detail without the complexity and at an affordable price. This kit gets our vote for best Ho 229 in this scale (but the best Ho 229 remains the Zoukei-Mura 1/32 Ho 229 kit).

My sincere thanks to  Zoukei-Mura Inc. for this review sample!