Kit Manufacturer




Out of Box (OOB) or Modified

Rating (1-10 10=best)






Scratchbuilt Interior


The ME-163 was one of the Reich's "wonder weapons," that were supposed to turn the tide of the war back in Germany's favor. The wonder about this rocket-powered plane was that it was used - or that its pilots survived. Derived from a tailless, near-flying-wing glider designed by Lippisch, the 163 added a Walther rocket motor with very volatile, corrosive fuels, and a pair of cannon. While its high speed (while under power) and hard hitting cannon were formidable, it proved to be more deadly to its operators than to the bomber crews it was sent against.

The reason for this was not its high speed (though that affected accuracy) or the unpowered, gliding landing it was forced to make (though this did leave it vulnerable to Allied fighters.) Instead, it was due to the explosive fuels used in the rocket motor, labelled "T-Stoff" and "C-Stoff." If there was any fuel left on landing, and the landing was hard, there was a good chance of explosion. There was also a good chance of explosion on takeoff, or if the fuels came into contact during refuelling or cleaning out the tanks. And if it didn't explode, but just leaked, it would eat away at anyone it came into contact with. This was not something to be used lightly.

Still, the aircraft was unique. It's the only rocket-powered manned fighter to ever see service. As for performance, well - as the shield on the aircraft I modelled says - "Wie ein Floh, aber Oho!" (Like a flea, but wow!) The aircraft was given a jettisonable undercarriage. It took off and climbed at an incredible rate under rocket power, made a few slashing attacks at Allied bomber formations, then glided to a bumpy landing on its retractable skid. The small size and high speed of the aircraft made it hard to hit. Unfortunately, it also made it hard for the pilot to aim - which led to the fact that this aircraft didn't get many victories. Captured aircraft were tested by the Allies, but unlike the jets, it wasn't copied.

The model itself is a tiny thing, even in 1/48 scale. It is many years old (originally manufactured by Frog, if I recall,) and shows it. You get four light grey plastic and one clear sprue, all with just a few parts, and no interior detail to speak of - just a pilot clutching a control stick, an inaccurate seat, and control panel. Aside from this, there are two fuselage halves, a skid and support, four parts per wing, the antenna and pitot, and three pieces for the undercarriage - not much to it at all! It does have some amazing features to it for something this old, and this simple, however... we'll get to those as they come.

First, since this is a very "hollow" kit and has a large, clear (sort of) canopy, I had to work on the interior. I cut away the lower supporting pin for the seat (or pilot,) and scratchbuilt a basic "tub" for the cockpit. As the canopy is not all that clear, I didn't highly detail this (the details would be mostly on the sidewalls, which aren't visible.) I used the walkaround pictures on Aircraft Resource Center for a guide to color and placement. I finished up with a "shelf" behind the pilot's seat (fuel tanks and radios go here, actually, but I couldn't find any pictures of the area,) cutouts for the rear quarter windows, skid plates by the pilot's feet, and a control stick made of stretched sprue, painted and shaped properly. The majority of the cockpit was RLM66 dark grey, with a brown leather headrest and what appears to be wooden arm consoles. I'm not sure what the straps on the walkaround were for, right offhand, I'd have to find a good cutaway of the aircraft. Finally, I scrounged some unused photoetch seat harnesses for the seat, and buttoned everything up. (Don't forget to add the quarter-windows before closing up the fuselage - no, this is not from experience.)

While this was setting up, I got to work on the wings. Each wing has four parts - top, bottom, wing "slot" top, and spoiler/brake on the bottom. This gives a beautiful representation of the wing slots - better than just plastic "indentations," which many companies try to do to deal with these on other aircraft. The fit here was perfect. I can't say the same about the underwing brakes - they stick out horribly. You may want to sand these down if you don't position them as deployed, or use plastic card instead.

When all this had dried, the wings and fuselage were joined. it was at this point that I noticed two things: (1) The detail on the wings is raised, while that on the fuselage is engraved, and (2) the wings fit *horribly.* There were good size gaps top and bottom. I didn't have plastic card of the right thickness to shim this, so I used a good deal of putty (as you can see in a prior picture.) A little sanding, a little restored detail (raised lines are such fun,) and it was good to go.

PAINTING AND DECALLING - The instructions give you four options. Three of these are "standard" ME-163s in splinter and/or mottled camoflage, and look different enough from one another that you could start a good, but cheap, collection. The fourth is the first operational ME-163 (still a prototype) with an interesting story behind it - it seems that prior to its first flight, the ground crew painted it bright red, similar to the Red Baron's Fokkers in WWI. The pilot didn't have time to argue prior to flight, took off, and found himself behind two American P-47 Thunderbolts. Unfortunately for him, his guns jammed... fortunately, the P-47s never knew he was there! Upon landing, he demanded it be repainted back in camoflage, which was done. It definately looks different from the rest of the camoflaged warplanes out there!

I chose to make an aircraft of 2./JG400. This aircraft has a shield on the side (mentioned earlier) that captures the ME-163 perfectly with it's comment ("Wie ein Floh, aber Oho!") on its size and speed. It has the side benefit of not having a mottle to do on the side of the fuselage or tail...

I used PollyScale acrylics to paint the aircraft - RLM 76 Light Blue on the underside (brushed on since my paint is not in the best condition at the moment - but it went on well, not a brush mark in sight!) and RLM 81 Braunviolett and RLM 82 Dunkelgrun airbrushed up top.The paints went on nicely, with a smooth, satin look to them. Once these had dried, I applied decals - one of the nice things about this aircraft is the sparseness of stencilling! Testors included all markings, including the swastikas, which it felt it had to explain ("it is not our intention to glorify Naziism or its causes, but only to present an historically accurate model.") Ahhh, the joy of being politically correct... In any case, the decals were printed beautifully, were thin, and snuggled down well with a little AeroSol II solution. I then lightly weathered the model, with silver pencil to show chips around the fuelling doors and brown pastels aft of the landing skid (and the wing underside) where mud and dirt would have been thrown up on landing. With that done, the landing gear trolley was added, the curved tip of the antenna (made of stretched sprue) was added, and the model was complete.

This is a good, quick (I built mine in a day and a half, counting paint and decal drying time) build that doesn't take much room. It's an interesting aircraft, as well. The only things knocking down its score up top are the lack of interior, thick, distorting transparancies, and poor wing fit. The first two can be rectified by resin and vac-formed pieces, if you want to model it with an open cockpit, and the kit is cheap enough that if you want to try your hand at scratchbuilding (either the interior, or cutting away the fuselage and trying to create a Walther rocket,) it won't cost you an arm and a leg - or cost enough to make you worry about marring the kit. Reccommended.