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1:32 Horten Ho 229
Zoukei-mura
Catalogue # SWS No.8
Available from Zoukei-mura for ¥13,800 (+fee)

 

 

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The very seed of the Horten Ho 229 project, was sown by the harsh restrictions which were forced upon Germany when she signed the Armistice at the end of The Great War. Whilst many civilians were facing untold hardship and starvation in the closing stages of the conflict, and her armies were on retreat, they still had reasonable strength that, had things been different, could have turned the tide of the war in Germany's favour. As a result, many within Germany saw the restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, as being the equivalence of military castration. Those restrictions did lack something though, and those were certain technologies which were seen to be non-militaristic, and even folly. These were the development and pursuance of activities such as gliding, and jet and rocket propulsion. As gliding become popular in 1920's Germany, leading proponents of future technologies, began to appear.

 

Enter Reimar and Walter Horten. Their work on flying wing designs began to be noticed in the 1930's, and their activities were of particular interest to the Nazi party, and at the outbreak of war, despite both serving in the Luftwaffe, their expertise was called upon by aero engineers. When Goering issued a requirement for a new high speed bomber in 1943, the Horten brothers submitted a flying wing design, which without a traditional fuselage and tail, could reduce overall drag and result in a much sleeker, lightweight aircraft, capable of carrying the 1000kg bomb load which was stipulated in the RLM requirements. The result was a beautiful and quite imposing bat-wing style machine which was constructed from a tubular metal central section, timber and carbon composite spars, and sheathed in plywood. It was also powered by two turbojet engines, housed either side of the pilot. Several prototypes were built, and flew, with varying success, and by the end of the war, only one complete machine remained, awaiting final assembly (V3), and several were in various stages of completion. The V3 is now housed at the NASM, awaiting restoration. The Ho 229 was also known as the Go 229, after the factory at which it was built (Gothaer Waggonfabrik). Like several late war German designs, had the war not ended in 1945, production of the Ho 229 could indeed have had an effect on Allied bombing of Germany, and also very possibly have delivered its own payload of bombs to neighbouring countries.

 

 

ZM's Ho 229 has been mooted for around 2 years now, and as this goes to publication, should be available from both the Volks USA and Volks Japan websites. Ours was shipped via EMS, and having many parcels arriving to our team via EMS, you will usually find this to be quite a cost-efficient and swift system of delivery.

 

It's been quite a long time since we looked at a Zoukei-mura kit, but we firmly believe that if a kit looks interesting, then we should put it through its paces and take an honest, unbiased review of it. This is quite a reasonable-sized box for what is essentially only a wing. Yes, that tends to be the format of a flying wing, and from the very outset, the box art does tend to get you in the mood for what you'll see within. I do very much like Jerry Boucher's art, and it was this author that introduced Jerry to ZM, but I do have to ask why a Ho 229 is seen engaging a Lancaster during daylight hours. I know the Ho 229 never entered production, but unless there was a significant shift in Bomber Command strategy, the Lancaster only ever operated during the hours of darkness. Still, it is a great looking box art, and certainly will help to sell this kit.

 

If you like lots of plastic (and who doesn't?), then this release will hit the mark immediately. If you thought that an aircraft that simply comprised a jet-powered wing would fall short on sprue count, you might be surprised to know that this kit contains no less than NINETEEN sprues in a mix of light grey and clear plastic. Since the He 219, ZM has ditched the multi-coloured sprues that really weren't too popular. I had told ZM of this issue during the development of the He 219, and the modelling community also voiced their dislike. ZM took this on board and started to manufacture their releases in a more conventional way. In the run up to the full-scale production of this kit, modellers were asked whether they wanted to see the main exterior sections moulded in either grey plastic or clear plastic. The latter won the day, hence you see the wings and 'fuselage' moulded in that manner.

 

As with other ZM releases, when you remove the lid, you reveal a rigid and complete box that has a top-opening flap. A card section breaks up the box into two compartments so that the sprues don't float around in transit. I quite like this approach, especially as these boxes are quite resilient to stash hoarding! ZM have packaged their sprues in separate bags, which always gets my vote.

 

Usually, I would review a kit in a sprue-by-sprue format, but the unusual tubular frame and exterior shell format that occupies many sprues, would tend to make this a rather dull article, so instead I'll look at the central airframe, engines, wings, cockpit, exterior, weapons, and undercarriage as sections in themselves, and see what options are offered, and how well they represent the aircraft itself.

 

ENGINES (2 x Sprue A)

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This particular bird was powered by two Junkers Jumo 004 engines. These were the same power plant that occupied the nacelles of the Arado Ar 234, and the Messerschmitt Me 262. However, unlike other manufacturers, ZM have really pushed the boat out here and produced beautiful miniature representations of the real thing. I thought the Trumpeter Me 262 kit parts were good, but those needed to be wired up by the modeller. With this kit, all the plumbing is there for you. Not only that, but strip away the exterior, and you will find the 8-stage fan compressor unit that was the core of the real Jumo 004. These compression blades all fit to their central drive shaft before being hidden forever within the compressor housing. The more adventurous of us will perhaps do an engineering cutaway of this and expose the compressor fans. Inside the compressor housing, the fan blades are designed to fit within the various chamber sections. Each of these consists of two parts.

 

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The fan parts themselves are beautifully moulded and the blades nice and thin. Each engine comprises of around SIXTY parts! Looking at the images of the completed engines, they do appear to be very faithful to the images I have in my reference library, and against the numerous photos published online. You get a detailed turbine rotor/nozzle assembly, gearbox, nozzle adjustment shaft, ignition, Reidel starter cone, and numerous other auxiliary parts. You really could display one of these all by itself. In fact, that's something that the ZM team already realised, and parts are included for you to display a Jumo 004 externally to the model, on a small display stand that is constructed from sections of square sprue. To do this, you will have to sacrifice its installation to the Ho 229. I fell that's a shame, and the addition of a third engine sprue would have been a real bonus. Perhaps ZM will allow that to be bought separately. Well, you put a red-hot jet engine in a wooden-skinned aircraft. What could possibly go wrong? Luckily, the Horten engineers also figured that would be an Achilles here, and included a heat shield for the rear 50% of the engine. That is included here as a two-part assembly in clear styrene, so the engine can be viewed from the various airframe orifices.

 

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Central Airframe

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The Horten Ho 229 was quite a complex beast underneath its wooden skinning, and ZM have really done a sterling job with this one, this time creating something that is more than just representative. If you like plastic jigsaws, then you'll like this. In all fairness, the engineering breakdown does its very best to make a very complicated looking tubular assembly, as straightforward as possible. You'll still need your wits about you, as the parts count is still very high.

 

Construction of this is very logical; starting with the lower, centre tubular sections first. As you assemble the subsequent framework parts, you should check the fit against the lower tubular framework whilst your glue is still not quite set. All does look very straightforward, but extreme care should be taken with these crucial areas. Out of the nineteen sprues in this package, around 8 of them are solely related to the Ho 229 skeleton. Ok, four of those sprues only contain one key rib each, so perhaps that makes it sound a little less scary.

 

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The detail of the tubular frame is absolutely superb, with very little clean-up to perform. Seams are at an absolute minimum. In his latest blog, ZM's president shows his special tool for removing seams, made from different metals, laminated and heat welded together, like a Samurai sword. Whilst I was in Japan, Mr Shigeta gave me one of these, and it is pretty neat, if not a little scary! In reality, you won't need specialised hardware to clean up anything here, as it's all very straightforward. To ease your path through this part of the model, the manual provides stars to show you where you need to apply cement.

 

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The first section to be constructed is that centre 'fuselage' area, and into this you then need to fit the Jumo 004 engines, before you can apply the upper tubular frame sections. ZM have made their illustration of everything as easy as they can, and credit needs to be given for that.

 

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Wings

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Now this is where ZM's kit evolution really shows. These complicated structures are pretty much moulded as single pieces, complete with ribs. Those two Jumo jet engines were pretty thirsty, and the wings were full of fuel tanks. After all, where else could they go! Each wing contains four separate fuel tanks, (comprising two parts each) and you will also fit the separate mating wing rib too. These were a combination of wood and metal in real life, so you'll need to get your painting techniques straight before you start. I've seen one completed model with the internal wing structures painted in RLM02. I am pretty sure these will have been plain timber.

 

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Each wing had a speed-brake mechanism in their outer areas, and these are also included in gorgeous detail, and you will be able to pose these too. Top marks to ZM for the superb tooling that has gone into the core wing part. Very impressive indeed.

 

The wings will be attached to the fuselage only when the latter has had its exterior parts attached. ZM have also mimicked how those wings attach to the fuse. On the real aircraft, the wings were manoeuvred into position, and then bolts were used to secure them. That's also the case here. Once attached, you'll fit the external wing panels. At this point, you'll see just how accurate your construction has been, and if its paid off. All going well, there should be no gaps between those exterior surfaces.

 

Of course, all control surfaces are moulded separately, and also in clear plastic, to match the rest of the exterior structures.

 

Exterior

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ZM listened to their fans, and moulded all external shell parts in clear styrene. Producing clear parts is a little more costly than the regular sprues due to the level of mould polishing required. As a result, only certain clear sprues are polished to canopy standard. The remainder, making up the exterior of the Ho 229, have a very slightly frosted appearance, but this is more than good enough for those modellers who wish to only partially paint the exterior, and to show the interior structures.

 

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Each upper and lower wing panel is separately moulded in this clear styrene, and contains the same exquisite level of external detail that you would see on regular grey parts. Finely engraved panel lines are the order of the day, with all parts moulded with the finesse that you expect from a modern-tooled kit. Other clear parts are the centre fuselage exterior sections (of course), and air brakes and control surfaces. The latter comprise split landing flaps and ailerons.

 

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Utilising a truly impressive piece of slide-moulding technology, the fuselage nose fairing is moulded as a single piece. On the actual Ho 229, this metal and wood ensemble would be able to be removed in sections, incorporating the nose and the jet engine nacelle intakes. This part really gives the modeller a true impression of the appearance of the Ho 229. This, along with the various clear upper and lower panels, will need to have a very exacting construction below them, if you are to realise a model with no gaps. The rear jet engine covers can be removed, or simply displayed off the model, so show your hard work on those Jumo 004s'.

 

External detail consists of fine panel lines, various access port plates and delicate fastener detail. Despite the seemingly simple exterior of this aircraft, it is still a hive of visual interest.

 

Cockpit

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The cockpit of a model is possibly the most religious part of the whole build. If I can get the pit right, then I'm in a mental position to do my very best on all other airframe parts. Whilst the pilot's office of the Ho 229 is perhaps a little more rudimentary than that of its peers, it presents some excellent and rather unique opportunities for detailing. As the tubular frame is a key feature of this model, it will come as no surprise that it also is a main feature of the cockpit itself. Unusually for a model kit, the cockpit is only installed when the rest of the fuselage.

 

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TWO instrument panel options are supplied here. You can choose to use the regular part with moulded dial detail, and onto this you can apply an instrument detail. This is one option I would never wish to use. However, the second option is more to my taste. This is a clear instrument panel part, and behind that is applied an instrument decal. You will need to add punched discs to each instrument face though, and for this, you will need a tool such as the excellent set from RP Toolz which I now use on a regular basis. If I'm to be honest, I would rather use the clear panel, and add Airscale decals to the instrument recesses, first punched out with the punch/die set.

 

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Cockpit detail is still impressive in its execution, even it is very simplistic in its very nature. The incredible framework will form the rather draughty cockpit, and this will further be enhanced with that instrument panel, control stick, various linkages, and also the canopy framework and hood rails. Here is where you will find yet another option. The hood itself is provided either as a single clear part, or, as with both the He 219 and Raiden kits, as a glazed part which inserts into the surrounding framing. The latter is a far more attractive proposition for me, negating any need to have to mask the hood at all. Unfortunately, you won't be able to avoid this for the windshield.

 

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Undercarriage

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The Ho 229 was a machine that seemed to sit quite strangely on the ground. This was due to a rather large front wheel that reputedly came from a He 177. That would certainly explain it's sheer size. The angle of attack of the Ho 229 helped facilitate its take-off distance, generating extra lift quite early on as it moved down the runway.

 

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That enormous nose wheel of the Ho 229's tricycle undercarriage is moulded in conventional halves, and with separate, very detailed hubs. There is no weighting in the wheels. They also have OONTINENTAL moulded onto them so that you can change the first 'O' for a 'C' by scraping away a little plastic. That helps ZM to get around any licencing issue. That powerful, characteristic retraction form is also beautifully detailed, and as it both sections are moulded with the correctly set angle, attaching this and the piston jacks, should be a breeze.

 

A simple approach is taken with the two rear, lesser wheels. Each strut has a two part oleo scissor and a moulded hydraulic line for the brakes. The retraction fork is moulded as a single piece and you will have no problem with this installation.

 

Weapons

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A fighter aircraft is no good without armament, and with this aircraft, this takes the form of two powerful MK103 cannon. These are comprised of two parts each, and moulded with a separate hollow muzzle. Onto these will fit the feed and ejection chutes, and of course each gun has a magazine. These fit into the fuselage of the Ho 229, very early on in construction. Panels on the underside of the aircraft, can be posed in an open position to view these, or you can use the fact that those doors are moulded as crystal clear plastic, to view them when closed. So many possibilities.

 

Plastic Summary
Moulding is generally very refined throughout this release. No trace of any flaw can be seen, and ejector pin marks are both either limited and out of the way, or the use of tags, external to the parts, has been utilised instead. This just means that for the greater part, these tags just need to be cut away. The only polished clear parts are for the canopy, Jumo heat shields, weapon bay doors, and a small number of other parts. The rest of the clear parts are very slightly frosted. Without a doubt, the best Ho 229 in the ZM Concept Note book is that built by Radu Brinzan. He has managed to polish the wing panels even further, and created an innovative way of displaying the wing internals. Certainly the most original and highest standard build in that book. It's a route I'd be interested in taking with mine.

 

Masks

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A small sheet of sharply cut, green vinyl is supplied for masking the canopy. Both internal and external masks are supplied for the sliding hood. When I built the Ta 152, I found the quality of these to be a little dubious, with them not conforming to curves properly, and with them not having great adhesion. Be careful when you use yours on this kit.

 

Decals

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You aren't really spoiled for choice with schemes here, and only two of them are supplied on a single decal sheet, both based on a wavy edged RLM81 and RLM82 scheme, with RLM76 undersides. As the Ho 229 never progressed beyond the prototype stage, both schemes are also speculative. With this kit, you really are just verging on the edge of Luft '46 territory. If you choose to depict anything other than the prototype, then you will firmly trespass into that area. The decal sheet itself contains the rather sparse national markings which would have adorned the Ho 229, plus a full suite of stencils, of which I'm assuming are also mostly, if not all, speculative. Swastikas are included as halves, but as the ones on the NASM machine were painted post-war, it's likely it may never have carried that particular image, due to the tailless configuration.

 

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I can't tell who printed the decals, but they are a little thick, and have more excess carrier film than I would like. Some of the colour is also patchy and the stencils aren't sharp. The instrument decals are also poor, and I would replace these with Airscale. Decals are always, for me, the weak part of any ZM kit, and these are no different.

 

Instruction manual

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ZM's concept is for the modeller to not only build a complete replica, but also to learn a little about the machine during that construction. They do carry this off with aplomb. Taking the appearance of an engineering manual (complete with Zoukei-mura AG on the cover!), each section of the build is beautifully illustrated and contains information about the real machine.

 

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As well as drawings, numerous photographs are included which will help immensely with this quite complex model. Colour codes are given for Vallejo codes, but I would quite like to see others, such as Gunze and Tamiya etc.

 

Corrections

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There are TWO corrections in this kit. One is for the renumbering of parts on Sprue R, and the other is a replacement wheel door with a moulding 'hole' which is missing in the regular sprue part. Instructions explaining this are also given.

 

Conclusion
I have to say that I've been very excited by the prospect of this release for quite some time now. For me, the late war jet and rocket aircraft have an aura to them that ZM have perfectly captured here, with the Ho 229 release. Large scale builders haven't had the luxury of a regular, injection moulded kit, with the closest option being the 1:48 releases from Dragon. Those aren't too easy to come by these days either. This kit has everything; presence, detail, massive visual interest, and of course another gap which can now be filled for late-war Luftwaffe fans. Such a great kit, and I'll shortly begin to build this for Military Illustrated Modeller.

 

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Highly recommended

 

My sincere thanks to Zoukei-mura for getting this kit out to us so quickly. To purchase from Volks Japan, use THIS link. To purchase from Volks USA, click THIS link.

 

James H

 

 

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Another great review Jim...

 

That clear frosted cockpit front piece so reminds me of something you might often find in this part of the world, if you were to venture up into the roof cavity of your house... a carpet snake skin having been shed by the previous inhabitant. Both of them with a suitably menacing presence!

 

Another must-have from Zoukei-Mura.

 

S

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You have to hand it to them, ZM certainly put themselves out there don't they?  This is yet another example of ZM answering the wishes of modellers who want something outside the ordinary.

 

As always Jim, you've written another superb review; I truly hope that Zoukei Mura continues showcasing their work via LSM directly - they won't get more in depth review anywhere else on the web (as far as I know!).

 

Grant

 

PS: Great photos too!

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