JV44 was a special jet fighter unit, a sort of “Dream Team”, created right at the end of the war by Gen. Adolf Galland, after he was demoted during the final months of the war for being outspoken against the incompetency of the Hermann Goring and the Luftwaffe’s highest leadership. Galland was able to gather some of the highest scoring Luftwaffe aces, including Heinz Bar, Gerhard Barkhorn, Walter Krupinski, Gunther Lutzow, Johannes Steinhoff, Heinrich Brucker, and Heinz Sachsenburg, all Knight’s Cross holders, and others, who then received rudimentary training on this revolutionary aircraft before flying combat missions. The basic purpose of the unit, and the motivation of the men involved, was to prove to the Luftwaffe leadership, that the ME-262, when used properly, could have helped to regain Luftwaffe air supremacy during the latter stages of the war, when other leaders, notably HItler and Peltz, wanted to use the ME-262 as a bomber. Hitler finally relented and allowed the formation of fighter units, notably JG7, equipped with ME-262, but Galland was on his own in appropriating people and airplanes for JV44. Galland was certainly out to prove a point, but the war was already lost, and this was another example of “Too Little, Too Late”. The unit eventually surrendered to the Americans at the end of the war. Read the Osprey JV44 book for a detailed account of this fascinating story.
Galland was allowed to form his unit, and was given pretty much a free run of the limited resources available, with the only restriction that he could not name the unit after himself. He collected flying and maintenance personnel, aircraft, support equipment, flak units, and other necessities, molding them into what could have been a very effective combat unit. However, by the time that things got organized, March, 1945, the war was essentially over as far as the Luftwaffe was concerned, and US and British aircraft roamed Germany at will, attacking any targets that had survived up to that point. A major problem with the ME-262 was that it was not an easy plane to fly, and coupled with the extreme unreliability of its engines, this made it a very dangerous aircraft for even experienced pilots. Galland had to develop tactics that would use the airplane’s excellent high speed performance and minimize the wide turning radius associated with the high speed jets. They used three plane formations instead of two, and attacked bomber formations from the rear, rather than the head-on tactic used by the Bf-109”s and FW-190’s. Accidents were common, and an engine failure was very often fatal. Rarely could the unit send up more than three or four aircraft, and it was more the rule than the exception that half of the ME-262 pilots, after taking off on an interception mission, had to return to base with mechanical problems. The use of R4M air-to-air unguided rockets meant that an attack on a bomber formation could be devastating, but fortunately for the Americans, this did not happen often, especially since the unit only operated during late March and April, 1945, when the war was essentially over. Many of their aircraft were destroyed on the ground by Allied bombers and fighters, and many had to be abandoned due to mechanical issues that could not be solved by the time the unit had to move to another base due to the approach of American forces. The Luftwaffe did still have radar units and controllers who could direct the jets to their targets, but the major problem was that the ME-262, like most early jets, was very slow in accelerating, and on takeoff, and on final approach with gear and flaps down, the planes were extremely vulnerable to patrolling Allied fighter pilots, who knew where the ME-262 bases were. Single engine performance has been described as scary, so an ME-262 pilot attempting an approach on one engine was in a very difficult situation, the function of the functioning engine usually being to take the airplane to the crash site. To combat this, JV44 was assigned at least five FW-190D fighters, mostly of the D-9 variant, but including at least one D-11, and these planes were painted red with white stripes on the undersides for rapid identification to keep the flak units from shooting them down. These aircraft patrolled the approaches to the airfields to protect against enemy fighters, although some ME-262’s were still lost while taking off or making final approaches.
Sources of Information
For an airplane this significant, there is remarkably little information on the FW-190D available in print. Probably the best source information is the Squadron “Walk-Around” on the FW-190D, which provides a number of color schemes, photos, and detail information. The French “Planes and Pilots” publication on the FW-190, which is also well worth having, has about 40 profile views of various models of the Fw190D, not to mention numerous views of the BMW-powered versions and the TA-152. There is a good drawing of the FW-190D-11 operated by JV44, but nothing on the D-9’s. The Osprey series on JV44 probably has the best material on JV44’s FW-190D’s, as well as their ME-262’s, including a number of photos. Other sources have sketchy material on the aircraft, but beware of the 1986 Monogram Close Up No. 10 on the FW-190D. It has a lot of material, but scant information on JV44’s FW-190D’s. In fact, their one color view shows “White 1” reputedly flown by Hptm. Waldemar Wubke, Staffelkapitan of the protection squadron attached to JV44 at Munchen-Riem, in April, 1945. However, the only photo of the plane in that book shows a front view with no markings visible. It is my opinion that a “White 1” never existed, and that is was actually “Red 1”. In the Osprey JV44 book, a whole chapter is devoted to JV44’s unit, which states that there were at least five FW-190D’s operated by JV44, which included FW-190D-9’s “Red 1”, “Red 3”, and “Red 13”, and FW-190D-11 “Red 4”. Any other 190D’s were apparently never photographed, but the ones listed above obviously survived the war, as they were photographed numerous times by Allied personnel after the surrender. The Hasegawa kit provides decals for “Red 1” and “Red 13”. However, so do the decal sheets of the Airfix, Tamiya, and Hobby Boss kits, so these markings have been available for some time. No kit, however, offers decals for “Red 3” and “Red 4”.
In 1987, Almark Decals, a British firm, issued a decal sheet C-6 entitled “FW-190D and Bf-109G ME-262 Protection Flights”, which included markings for “White 1” and “White 2” from the JV44 Protection Flight. This includes the white stripes for the undersides, and a red motif on the left fuselage side of “White 1”, along with a lot of maintenance markings and “no-step” labels. That’s the only mention of a “2” aircraft, which possibly could have been “Red 2“. The other FW-190D’s were described as having been operated in support of Kommando Nowotny, which also operated ME-262’s. Decals for one Bf-109G are also included, but I have no documentation on these aircraft. I built “White 1” many years ago, although today I would have to say that it is probably incorrectly marked.
The ME-262 has been better served by historians, and information on this aircraft is plentiful. Squadron’s In-Action and Walk-Around publications are good, as are numerous other books and magazine articles. Osprey has several publications, including “German Jet aces” and several unit histories, including JV44. There is no shortage of information on the ME-262.
The Hasegawa kit provides decals for two of JV44’s ME-262A’s, “Red S”, w/n 110556, and “White 5”, w/n 111745. These are also illustrated in Osprey’s JV44 book, as well as in the “In-Action” issue on the ME-262. A photograph of “Red S” is included in Osprey, , along with a color profile drawing that agrees with the drawings provided in the Hasegawa kit. This plane was one of the first delivered to JV44, and was used mainly for conversion training. However, the second marking provided by Hasegawa, “White 5” appears to be off the mark. The kit instructions show an 81/82 splinter color scheme on top, with 76 undersides. However, the photos of ”White 5”, of which 4 are published in the Osprey JV44 book, clearly show a one-color 82 over 76 scheme, a rather drab but authentic scheme used by JV44’s ME-262’s towards the end of the war. So the splinter pattern does not look accurate, so I used the one-color pattern.
This is a reissue, the originals having come out about 20 years ago. In fact, the FW-190 has been issued by more kit manufacturers that almost any other type over the years, the first FW-190D being an old Frog Penguin kit issued just after World War II. Airfix has produced two different kits, along with Lindberg, Tamiya, Dragon, Hobby Boss, and, of course, Hasegawa. This does not include the various vacuform and resin examples. Hasegawa’s first issue was not so good, but a remake of the molds resulted in the first really accurate FW-190D’s, which is one of the better kits on the market today. Likewise, the ME-262 has been produced in 1/72 scale by a number of manufacturers, including Airfix, Frog, Revell, Heller, Matchbox, Academy, Italeri, Jo-Han, and a number of others, but Hasegawa’s versions of the A and B model are as good as any, and certainly better than some of the earlier ones. So these kits are not new, but are reissues of basically good solid kits.
The Hasegawa ME-262A
Although this kit has been around for a long time, it is still a good kit, and can be built into an excellent model of the ME-262. Actually, the kit in slightly modified form is marketed as a two seat ME-262B, but parts are included in this kit for only the A model. Molding is crisp, and fit is quite good, with only a little filler required. Sprue attachment points on the wings are good, joining the wings in places where they are not on the exterior surface of the model. On the fuselage, this is not true, as the sprue points are right along the spine of the airplane. The flare chutes on the left side of the fuselage are a little too pronounced. The rear units need to be trimmed off, as shown in the instruction, but the forward units should be trimmed back to almost flush. Then, four small holes need to be drilled in each protrusion. The interior is very basic, with a floor, seat, stick, side panels, and an instrument panel. Detail is provided with decals for the instrument panel and side panel radio and control gear. Some added detailing is called for here. Seam lines need to be puttied over and sanded to eliminate the lines. This is also true for the engine nacelles. Weight should be added in the nose, but this is easy, as there is a small panel ahead of the windshield that fits in after the weight is added. I used lead shot from shotgun shells, kept in position with white glue. The canopy is molded in three pieces, one of which can remain open, and there is a rear cockpit part that goes right behind the pilot’s seat, and underneath the rear canopy cover. Once the canopy is attached, it can be masked and then painted. I would suggest painting the entire airframe before attaching the landing gear and gear doors. The landing gear attaches easily, and the plane ready for detailing and decals.
One problem I encountered in my research was the use of the R4M rockets. Accounts show that they were used more often than not in JV44’s attacks on American bomber formations. However, I can’t find any drawings or photos of the ME-262A in JV44 use with the rockets or racks attached. There are photos of the units, but not identifiable for any specific airplane. Since the racks could be easily installed or removed, I opted for the racks on my model. They are very nice little units, and look good on the plane.
Hasegawa Focke Wulf FW-190D-9
The FW-190D-9 is also crisply molded in light grey styrene, with excellent recessed panel lines and detail. Some sprue attachment points are difficult to clean up. The cockpit interior is quite basic, with a floor, seat, instrument panel, and control stick. Decals provide side panel and instrument panel details. The serious modeler will want to do some added detailing in the cockpit area. The fuselage and wings go together easily, and only a little filler is required. There is a small scoop on the right side of the cowling. This is easy to lose---I did it without undue effort, although building another from plastic rod is not difficult. There is no gunsight, so one should be scratched. The canopy is molded in two pieces, so the canopy can be built in the open or closed position. In addition, two canopies are provided, one for each canopy type, so you have your choice on this one. Wing to fuselage fit is very good, and only a little filler is required. However, you should paint the model before attaching the landing gear or prop. One thing to remember on these aircraft is that they were used for airfield protection duties exclusively, so they did not carry belly racks or tanks. They just took off, flew around the field while ME-262’s were taking off or landing, and then landed to refuel. They weren’t even allowed to formate with the jets in the pattern.
Painting and Finishing
As previously stated, the FW-190D instructions are correct for “Red 1” and “Red 13”, as are the decals. The decals are thin, and must be applied carefully, but they don’t require much trimming, although you can see the clear edges on some of the detail maintenance markings. Tail swastikas are provided on the edge of the decal sheet, so that they can be trimmed off for sale in countries that still insist that Luftwaffe airplanes were not marked that way during the war. I didn’t use any setting solutions on any of the decals, and I was satisfied with the results. The colors appear to have been RML 82 and RLM 83, although the drawings I have show a color closer to RML 81 rather than 83. I opted for 81. On the decal sheet, although the white stripes would probably work OK, I opted for painting and masking instead.
For the ME-262A, I used a base undercoat of RLM 76 blue, over which I sprayed a coat of RLM 82 green. I dirtied it up a little with an overspray of RLM 81, light grey, and light brown mixed very thin. It is really a pretty grungy looking airplane, which is what it looks like in the photos. I used the kit decals straight from the sheet.
One problem I came across was that I had previously built both “Red 1” and “Red 13” using the Hobby Boss kit. I therefore decided to finish my collection with “Red 3” and “Red 4”, using the Hasegawa kit and decals for “Red 3” while using an old Airfix D-9 converted to a D-11 for “Red 4”. This way, I have models of four of the five aircraft, as although five planes are known to have operated with the unit, only four of the numbers are known.
These kits are some of the better issues of these types, and are worth getting if you don’t have them.
Thanks to Hasegawa for the review samples.