By Andriy Kudelin, Ukraine
Prop & Jet, 1/72
A Decade-Long Journey of Building the Hs 132 Scale Model
More than ten years ago, in the crisp January of 2011, I embarked on the construction of a model that would become a testament to my passion for scale aircraft modeling. However, like many projects, this one faced interruptions and was put on hold due to various reasons. The spark of inspiration needed to bring this model to completion eluded me. Fast forward to 2020, and I found myself drawn back to the unfinished masterpiece.
The Model: A Rare Gem from Prop&Jet
The model in question is a vacuum-formed kit released in 2002 by Prop&Jet (Kit #7209). To my discerning eye, it boasts commendable quality and is quite a rarity. The manufacturer claimed that only about 50 of these kits were ever produced, adding an element of exclusivity to the endeavor.
The kit includes vacuum-formed plastic sheets with parts, a vacuum-formed canopy, and landing gear and engine details cast in white metal. More information and the kit review can be found on this website.
My set had well-crafted landing gear struts in white metal, requiring minimal processing. However, a minor imperfection was noted in the canopy, a small bubble marring an otherwise pristine piece.
Notably, among the models available at that time, Prop&Jet's Hs 132 was considered the most accurate in terms of geometry. Comparing it, for instance, with Hs 132 from Huma Models, Prop&Jet appeared more precise. Even in comparison to the newer model from RS Models, Prop&Jet seemed, in my opinion, more faithful to the original, considering the scarcity of information available on the aircraft.
Building the Model
The initiation of the project followed the classic routine for models crafted using vacuum-forming technology: a careful process of filing and coarse sanding to extract components from a solid plastic sheet.
Crafted from a sufficiently thick styrene sheet, the model's assembly presented few challenges. I carved out the nose gear well, doubling as the pilot's cockpit, and fashioned the main landing gear wells in the wings.
For ease of assembly, wing spars and corresponding openings in the fuselage were incorporated. A rudimentary cockpit interior was fashioned, although it would be barely visible in the completed model.
The cockpit was painted in RLM 66, a characteristic hue for Luftwaffe aircraft of that era. Employing a dry brush technique with lighter paint added dimension to all raised details. However, this did not significantly enhance their visibility on the final model.
To ensure proper balance, I loaded the model with lead and assembled the fuselage, attaching the wings. Navigation lights were fashioned from clear plastic.
The assembly of the stabilizer presented some challenges. During its installation, I had to use a two-component putty to smooth the joint with the fuselage.
The intake and exhaust of the BMW 003 engine, crafted from white metal in the kit, resembled a copy of the parts from Dragon's He 162 model, complete with their flaws and shortcomings. In lieu of these, I intended to use resin parts, to be crafted by a friend who also promised resin wheels, sparing me the task of assembling wheels from vacuum-formed pieces.
However, installing the resin engine components brought an unexpected hiccup. The inlet channel of the air intake simply refused to fit into the engine nacelle. With no room to maneuver, I delicately cut along the seam, allowing me to spread the halves and insert the intake. Yet, the nacelle still proved too narrow, requiring a 1mm-thick insert along the seam.
Moving forward, I constructed the vertical stabilizer. Opting not to cut a thin piece from the thick plastic sheet, I instead cut new fins and shaped them to the required profile.
Preparing for Priming
Upon assembling the airframe, I meticulously tried to fit the canopy, requiring considerable adjustments. I separated and treated the resin engine components, preparing them for priming. The trim tabs for the elevator were crafted and affixed in a deflected position. Noticing that the marked evacuation hatch on the fuselage seemed undersized, I enlarged it slightly and shifted it forward. Additionally, I cut a window in the lower nose section and inserted a clear piece of plastic.
Next, the Hs 132 model was primed with Mr.Surfacer 1200 to reveal and subsequently address surface defects. Without a primer on the white plastic, these imperfections were hard to discern.
After a while, a critical reevaluation of the model revealed dissatisfaction with the panel lines I had scribed at the beginning of the construction. It was not very neat, somewhat uneven, and with excessive depth. I decided to putty over it and scribe new lines. For this task, I used Ustar black cyanoacrylate putty, which is easy to work with and sufficiently durable. Attempts to scribe new lines over the old ones failed, as the putty chipped off. Trying to create new panel lines adjacent to the existing ones on the assembled model proved highly impractical. In the end, disheartened, I puttied over everything once again. The model would now go without panel lines, replicating the factory puttying along panel seams, as was common in wartime German aircraft.
Over the years since the model's inception, new information about the aircraft emerged: articles in aviation history journals and some photos from the official Hs 132 handbook from the end of World War II that surfaced on eBay.
Analyzing this new information led to the conclusion that the nose gear well and the shields for the front landing gear were not as proposed by Prop&Jet and as I initially constructed them. They were different, as depicted in the handbook.
Additionally, I came across photographs of an Hs 132 model built by German enthusiast Günter Sengfelder. I refrained from modifying the gear well shapes; at this stage, it was possible but highly problematic. I considered it acceptable for a 'What If' model.
Reexamining the surviving photos (which unfortunately revealed little), I decided to once again change the shape of the pilot's cockpit evacuation hatch. Despite being depicted as rectangular on the diagrams, its width wouldn't allow the pilot to pass through without removing flight gear. Consequently, I opted to make this hatch circular.
The rectangular hatch was puttied over, and a circular one was cut out. Simultaneously, I slightly modified the fairings from the fuselage to the air intake of the engine nacelle.
Continuing with the next steps of my aircraft modeling project, I applied a coat of Mr.Surfacer 1200 to the model. This step is crucial as it helps reveal any imperfections in the surface, allowing me to identify areas where the old panel lines were not adequately filled and correct any other defects.
To enhance the authenticity of the model, I crafted the fairing for the antenna direction finder based on reference photos of the He 162. Using thin copper foil, I meticulously shaped the air intake for the generator's cooling system on the engine nacelle. However, the challenges of working with a tiny part, measuring just 1x2.5 mm, became apparent when it unexpectedly launched from my tweezers into the unknown. Undeterred, I recreated the piece, and this time, it narrowly avoided repeating the fate of its predecessor, remaining within the confines of the worktable.
Anticipating that the fuselage would be finished in a metallic sheen, which tends to accentuate imperfections, I devoted extra care to refining the surface. I meticulously removed the panel lines from the fuselage, where legend dictates they shouldn't be filled in at the factory. This involved addressing various elements such as hatches, the hood of the engine nacelle, and more. It dawned on me later that I forgot the hatches for the fuel tank necks, but I'll rectify that oversight soon.
The next task involved cutting and fitting the armored glass made from a millimeter-thick transparent plastic. Given that both parts of the vacuum-formed canopy will rest and adhere to this piece, achieving a precise fit was paramount. This required meticulous adjustments not only for dimensions but also for the angle of the bevel, adding another layer of intricacy to the process.
Once again, I applied a coat of primer to the fuselage to bring out any defects for further refinement. These meticulous steps contribute to the overall quality and authenticity of the model, ensuring that it stands out with accuracy and attention to detail.
Pilot's Cockpit Canopy
As previously mentioned, my kit had a bubble in the primary part of the canopy. While tolerable, the nose section presented more significant issues due to the plastic's excessive stretching, making it thin and prone to deformation. Consequently, the front part was dented. I decided to craft a new canopy.
Opting to vacuum-form it into a reverse mold, I cast a mold from epoxy. However, the result was not perfect due to inadequate mold release, and the resin, apparently, was not sufficiently vacuumed before pouring — a few bubbles marred the surface. Drilling air channels for vacuuming in resin is tricky, as the resin is very viscous, and thin drills tend to get stuck and break. As I later learned from a more experienced modeler, it's better to cast the holes directly rather than drilling later.
The canopy itself was drawn from 0.7mm-thick PET-G transparent plastic.
Among the crafted canopies, I selected the best pieces and commenced the assembly. I coated the primary canopy piece with Future and glued it with 702 akfix super glue. As the fuselage had a recessed area for the canopy with sloping edges (an artifact of vacuum-forming technology), a noticeable depression appeared along the seam. I puttyed it several times with the same glue after preliminary treatment.
Adding Some Details
With the major components of the glider assembled, I moved on to the intricate detailing that truly breathes life into a scale model.
Given the unconventional layout of the Hs 132, where the pilot assumed a prone position during flight for increased efficiency in dive-bombing, I decided to tackle the cockpit once the fuselage was fully assembled. Fitting and shaping instrument panels came next. The top layer was crafted from brass, with a plastic layer beneath. On the reverse side, I simulated instrument casings and wiring, even though these details would be barely visible through the lower window.
Embedding these instrument panels at the correct angles into the assembled fuselage proved challenging due to the dimensions and intricate angles involved. I added a shelf for the armored glass, throttle, control stick, and various levers according to the schematic. While the outcome wasn't perfectly to scale, it was the best compromise. After photos were taken, I affixed the front armored glass and fine-tuned its fit to ensure seamless integration with the rest of the canopy. The final touches involved creating a chin rest for the pilot, adding seatbelts, a gunsight, and then it would be ready for the canopy installation.
Careful examination of schematics and photographs led me to the realization that both the front landing gear well and the pilot's cabin with the prone position were slightly inaccurate. The well needed to be shifted back by 2-3 mm and feature a different-shaped cutout and doors. This adjustment was crucial for providing sufficient space in the cockpit, as the throttle and control stick were too close to the instrument panels.
I modified the starter intake of the BMW 003 engine nacelle and deepened the hole in the central nozzle body. The resin "flaps" on the nozzle were swapped for sturdier brass alternatives. The air intake with the fairing was painted with a polished metallic finish, given a oil wash, assembled, and glued into the engine nacelle.
Lacking any reference information, I crafted the landing gear based on other aircraft from the same era and my own imagination. They were fashioned from sheet metal cut from beer cans, drill bits, and a diamond-coated round file.
As the kit didn't include any armament, and for visual appeal, I wanted to suspend an SC500 bomb. I opted to simplify matters and purchased a resin kit from CMK. However, this proved to be a questionable decision as the resin stabilizer had an unsuitably large thickness. The bomb's head also had a completely dissimilar shape. In the end, I decided to assemble the bomb, refining it to an acceptable appearance.
During the construction of my model, I was inspired to recreate something similar to the well-known FW 190D-13 exhibited in a museum, which fortunately had plenty of photographs available. This aircraft had a rather intricate paint scheme with small, irregular patches of RLM 81 and RLM 82 over RLM 75.
I began the painting process by masking the canopy and applying a coat of RLM 66 over these parts. The undersides of the wings and stabilizers (which, according to legend, were wooden) I coated with a layer of RLM 76 with a light pre-shading.
After painting the lower surfaces, I proceeded to paint the fuselage and metal components of the aircraft in aluminum metallic. The wooden elements of the fuselage covering and the cowls of the engine nacelle were painted in RLM 02. I used the same paint, applied with a brush, to simulate filled seams in the covering.
For the bomb's paint scheme, I consulted various sources. According to RLM instructions after 1942, bombs smaller than SC 1000 were painted in RLM 02, though exceptions were noted, especially towards the end of the war.
On the upper surfaces, I hand-applied random patches of light-green paint RLM 82.
Subsequently, I added patches of a second, darker camouflage color of arbitrary shape—Dark Green RLM 81—over the applied RLM 82 patches.
Decals and Markings
I differentiated the rudders, ailerons, and flaps with a slightly darker color, indicating that they could be assembled and painted separately from the main aircraft components. This illustrates the production chaos and disarray in Germany towards the end of the war. Perhaps it adds a more vivid and interesting touch.
I painted white RLM 21 acrylic crosses on the wings using painter's tape masks. Admittedly, it turned out a bit uneven, and I had to make some corrections with a brush.
The decal adhered well, and the amberised undercoat against the vibrant camouflage was hardly noticeable. I decided to leave the air intake rim in the color of unpainted metal. With a brush, I painted the white letters of the formation code in yellow RLM 27, added swastikas on the tail (as those in the kit's decals seemed too large), and some stencils. I also had to paint the crosses on the lower wing, as the yellowed backing of the original decals would have stood out against the light background.
The model was coated with glossy lacquer, and I applied a wash of oil paint to highlight the sparse panel lines.
End of the Journey: Built Hs 132
After this, the model was finally assembled, with shields and landing gear wheels installed, antennas glued, and the engine nozzle secured in place. The SC 500 bomb was also mounted since the aircraft was envisioned as a super-fast dive bomber.
In the future, the model will be enhanced with a vignette featuring landscape elements, a pilot, ground crew, a ladder, and other details, but that's a project for another day. For now, the completed model takes its place on the shelf, adding to my collection.
Happy modeling to you all!
(Edited and Translated by Mykhailo Orlov)