Academy 1/72 Me 163B Komet

Within days the kit came out in the Netherlands, my modeling friend Eric Verschuur found one for me, and even donated it as a gift. Thanks again Eric! I decided to build my example straight from the box, to get to know the kit - I'm planning to do a few more. This report is also shown on my Komet web site.

'Straight from the box' build report

I assembled the whole model in one evening, using CA glue and Milliput. One difficult aspect is the lining up of the wings. Since they have a strong twist, just like the real thing. That makes it difficult to decide what to use as a reference. I decided to use the leading edge as reference, and give that zero degrees dihedral. About the only way to achieve this is to deviate from the instructions, and attach the upper wings halves to the upper fuselage, the three parts resting on a flat surface. I then added the lower fuselage, and finished with the lower wings halves.

The kit fits very well. An exception is the clear fuselage part (D4) which is too high and wide. I sanded the part and attached it under stress to the upper fuselage. This required super glue, and to prevent fogging of the clear plastic I had to cover both inside and outside with tape during this operation. Next time I will sand the part exactly to size before gluing it to the model. The four part fuselage has a complex division line and this also required some extra attention. Unfortunately the panel lines don't line up exactly at the rear fuselage break. Although I built my model straight from the box, I had to add one panel line on each side. It's one just above the rudder actuator. With this extra panel line, the rear fuselage break becomes much more natural.

The whole interior was painted RLM66 with suitable variations and some dry brushing. The cockpit tub is quite nice, with nice detail for a 1/72 model. But I think the tub sits a little too deep in the fuselage; the tanks should be closer to the canopy sill, and the rear bulkhead should connect with the upper fuselage. The headrest cushion does not have a completely accurate shape. There's another small problem: you can see from one rear window to the other. There should be some sheet metal blocking the view. I did not add these this time, but I definitely would do it next time.

The two pictures below show the model after a base coat of Model Master II enamel RLM 76. I think the excellent quality of the model shows. The transparent parts are covered with Cheap Chocolate Foil. Don't forget to mask the small circle where the radio antenna attaches! On the real aircraft the antenna mast passes through a piece of Perspex, attaching to equipment inside the fuselage. After this base coat, I found a number of areas that needed some reworking.  
This lower wing shows the nice detail and good fit of the model. Also apparent is the smooth finish of the Model Master II paint.
I had decided to build 'White 14', because it is quite well documented, and I find mottled Komets by far the coolest looking ones! Also, the other option, 'Yellow 26', doesn't have an original wartime scheme. I carefully studied all known pictures and sketched the mottle pattern on a large scale side view drawing. Unfortunately all pictures show the left side only. I tried a new technique to create the dozens of tiny mottles on the model. I can airbrush mottles in 1/48, but 1/72 is too small for me. Also I don't like the stress from the danger of doing one mottle wrong and messing up the whole model.

So I decided to try pastel powder. First problem was finding pastels in RLM 70 and 71. I painted pieces of plastic card in 70, 71 and 76, and went to an art shop. There I rubbed pastels on the RLM76 card, trying to match the 70 and 71 chips. I soon found two that looked suitable. In the mean time I had painted the whole model with Humbrol Satin Cote (thinned with lacquer thinner) in order create a slight rough paint layer, so the pastel powder had something to grab to. I sanded the pastel sticks until I had small heaps of powder, and went to work. I was a bit disappointed when I found out that only a little of the pastel powder wanted to stick to the model. I could not get an opaque mottle. The only solution was to spray another layer of Satin Cote over the model, and put new powder on that, most of it in the center of the previously applied powder. This worked much better than expected: it created a completely opaque center of each mottle (like in 1:1 scale), with a very nice soft edge, and I could even make half-transparent mottles. After that I added yet another layer of Satin Cote to seal it all.
Note that the mottling on the right side is completely fictitious. I tried to copy the style of the mottles on the left side, without making it a mirror copy. Actually I like the right side better than the left side, but that could be the result of the two different mottle colors showing a little clearer on the right side.
I did not shoot photos during this phase, that's why this and the next photos show the finished model.

That only left painting the wings. Again I used RLM 70/71 (Model Master II enamels), because I think that 'White 14' is an early Komet, that was painted before the late-war colors RLM 81 and 83 became available. Because I found the contrast between Model Master's 70 and 71 too big, I mixed my own version of RLM 71 from 71 and 70 in a ratio of 2:1. I followed Academy's wing camo pattern, because of a complete lack of better information. Komet wing patterns are a big mystery to me! The transition between the painted wings and mottled fuselage did not look right at this point, so for the third time I used pastels to create a nicer transition.
Next were the decals. Here I ran into troubles. My decal sheet was misregistered, and most decals having two or more colors were unusable. I replaced the fuselage Iron Crosses with those from a Techmod Komet sheet, and the T-Stoff markings from old Heller Komet sheets. Swastikas are not included on the Academy sheet and were taken from the Techmod sheet. Despite using three different decal brands, I suffered only some silvering on the wing Balkenkreuze, most likely caused by the panel line running underneath the decal. The Techmod decals resisted Micro Sol completely, and refused to conform to the panel lines. I left off the C-Stoff markings because I don't see them in the photographs of the real thing. I also cut away most of the red arrows near the stencilling. This style is only seen on some museum aircraft, and 'White 14' did not have them. I skipped the stencils on the lower side of the wing root (I have never seen any there), the dashed line around the trim tabs and the rudder lock stencil (seen on other Komets though).

Another detail I added was gun muzzle tape. Most Komets show this, and I tried to make it from thick aluminum foil. This proved to be rather difficult, since you have to force it into a double curved shape. They are also slightly too large. Next was a dark grey wash with water colors, and some 'anti-monochromatic' drybrushing of the wings.
After that, I only had to add the smaller parts. I painted the skid RLM66 (many colors are visible on wartime Komets), the tires a very dark grey, the wheels and dolly axle a mix between black and dark grey, rocket nozzle dark grey, tail wheel similar to the main wheels with an RLM 76 arm, Morane radio antenna RLM 76, and the generator propeller silver. I attached these small parts with super glue and epoxy. The Morane antenna was very difficult to attach, since its base is tiny, and it is easily broken off. I did add a small piece of stretched sprue to the top of the antenna; Academy couldn't possibly have molded this. Lastly I added a new pitot tube made from steel wire and stretched tubing. Finished!  


Looking back at this project, I must say it was a lot of fun. The Model Master II enamels airbrushed surprisingly nice, but I don't think the colors are very accurate. I think I would use another pattern for the wing camo, a splinter pattern with soft edges probably.

Possible improvements

I quickly built this model straight from the box to get to know the kit. While building it I noted down the following points for possible improvement.





Landing gear


Alternative markings

Available detail sets

2023 conversion

I finished this model originally in 2000. In 2023, a club project revolving around fictitious shop displays required a few modifications to the model: a pilot in the cockpit and a retracted skid.

I found a bunch of 1/72 pilots in my spares box, and selected the blue one as the best suitable for conversion. The light tan pilot is identical, and I do not know the origin of these pilots, but the colors strongly suggest Matchbox. The helmet of the blue pilot was sanded down to leather cap dimensions, and two ear bulges were added. There's a strap for goggles, but I didn't manage to build realistic goggles, so I skipped that. I also gave him a bit more of a neck by scraping down the shoulders, and removed the life jacket.

Luckily I hadn't glued the skid with landing gear dolly, so I could slide it out. The replacement stil has to be painted.
The goggles I planned to add were so small that I gave up - the club project did not require this level of detail anyway. I used Humbrol HU3 'Neutral Grey 43' for the suit and cap, a wild guess at color of the special chemical suit.

I painted the skid Revell 9 coal black, and drybrushed it. Done!
And here's the model on its shop display. This was the first shop display I came up with, way back in 2016. I wanted the Komet to fly right through a formation of US bombers, with a rocket engine smoke trail. That was easy, some cotton wool glued to a spring steel rod. For the background I selected the great 'Wie ein Floh - aber oho!' emblem, a large Academy logo, and 'Geheime Kommandosache', all placed on a camouflage pattern. Maybe to visually support the climb angle of the Komet, I cut off the card at an angle. I had it printed at a copy shop, that gave me a quality I could not achieve at home. In 2023, we finally unveiled it to the public on our IPMS Regio Zuid-Holland club table at Euro Scale Modeling.  

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