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Me 410: Conflicting Aims...

n by Frank Spahr


A Not Entirely Succesful History

The Me 410 was the culmination of Germany's Kampfzerstörer (Destroyer) concept, developed in the mid-30s during the re-armament of the new Luftwaffe. Not so different in concept to the navy's pocket battleships, The Me 410 was meant to be used as a heavy fighter to break up enemy formations and as a fast bomber, all in one aircraft. While the pocket battleship combined heavy armament with battleship-like armor protection in a smaller, faster hull than that of an ordinary battleship, the destroyer aircraft was meant to be fast and agile enough to oppose single-engined fighters, yet heavier armed than its counterparts.

The first and initially successful variant was the Bf 110. Used extensively during the Blitzkrieg period against Poland and France. it's combat record was – on the whole – flawless, but only due to German air superiority. The 110's service in the battle of Britain, on the other hand, was catastrophic. Opposed to modern single-engine fighters, the 110's had neither sufficient performance nor agility to have any chance in dogfights. Without fighter protection, they were sitting ducks for Hurricanes and Spitfires. After heavy battle losses, the 110's, like the Stukas, were withdrawn.

Basically, the design suffered from the impossibility of achieving conflicting aims. The pocket battleship, was planned to be better armed and protected than a cruiser, yet faster than a battleship, so it could oppose one enemy and outrun the other. Practically, one would have had to admit that the opposite occurred; the pocket battleship consequently was slower and less agile than the cruisers, and weaker armed and armored than the battleships. This meant that less favorable battles with enemy ships of both classes than envisioned were inevitable from the outset. With the 110 it was proven that a larger, heavier airframe could not act as agile as a smaller one, given not only available engine power but also aerodynamical and structural limitations.

One should not blame the German air bureaucracy as outstanding in its blunderings. The German obsession with the destroyer concept or, even more outspoken, with dive-bombing-capability could be easily compared to the British obsession with turrets, both philosophies leading to „compromised" designs that surely cost the lives of many pilots and reduced the efficiency of the respective nation's airpower. And the American doctrine of daytime precision bombing, executed without fighter protection over enemy territory, cost a lot of American lives before air superiority was achieved.

Anyway, from posterity, even folks like you and me, who have done some reading, can feel cleverer than the decision-makers of 1936, which surely doesn't do them justice. So we should leave things as they are and simply state that the destroyer concept, brilliant as it may have seemed, didn't pay off.

The Bf, or later Me 110 (as an act of reverence towards Prof. Willy Messerschmitt, it was granted that his constructions were renamed from Bf for Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to Me for his surname, as was the case with Kurt Tank, famous constructor with Focke-Wulf) found other duties. It was efficiently used in theatres where Germany had air superiority, like the Mediterranean. More important, Me 110's equipped the budding German night fighter squadrons. In this service, the 110 lasted nearly until the end of the war, constantly improved and re-equipped.

The 110's shortcomings had been felt and addressed by Messerschmitt quite early, and already in 1937, design work on its successor, the 210, started. It should be a better machine than the 110 in all respects, with concentration on performance and firepower. Aerodynamics were improved with a very sleek nose and greenhouse section, there was heavy offensive armament and revolutionary remote-controlled rearward armament, comprising of a turret-mounted 13 mm machine gun on each side, sighted through an intricate periscopic system with provisions against accidentally firing into the rudder or elevators (remember Prof. Henry Jones seen., in the famous dogfight sequence from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"?) Moreover, a bomb bay was installed capable of holding a payload of 1,000 kg. All in all, the concept looked smashing.

The prototype made its first flight on 2 September, 1939, one day after hostilities began. When you lay your hands on the Squadron booklet (it's very useful for building the 410), have a look at Messerschmitt test pilot Wurster's expression on leaving the plane after its maiden flight; he was less than content. Construction work in those days wasn't as advanced as today when flying characteristics may be simulated in computers to quite some degree without even building a prototype, and the 210's poor flying characteristics were as surprising and annoying as undesired for anyone involved.

Under tremendous pressure from the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Imperial Air ministry), Messerschmitt worked frantically on the project, but when the RLM ordered the first batch of 1,000 210's in 1940, work was far from completion and the plane's flying characteristics still insufficient. So it came that the newly formed 210 units suffered accidents in a finally intolerable dimension, and in 1942, the 210's production had to be halted, an act very detrimental to Messerschmitt's prestige.

Finally, Messerschmitt found a cure for the 210's troubles in lengthening the fuselage and installing wing leading edge slats. The remaining production airmframes were retrofitted and the forthcoming series was renamed the 410, the unusual step ahead in numbers being meant to signal the amount of progress made. Moreover, the 210 was in such a bad light among Luftwaffe personnel that the usual custom of naming modifications in one type with letters plus numbers was skipped in this case, although no really radical re-design was undertaken.

The 410 found service mainly as an interceptor in home defense units, but also for reconnaissance purposes. As was common, several modifications in armament were produced as Rüstsätze (conversion sets), the bomb bay being used to install heavier guns up to 50 mm caliber. W.Gr.21 rockets were used as underwing stores. An experiment with a rotating rocket launcher for six W.Gr. 21's in the bomb bay failed. As with other German twin engined planes, the 410 was equipped with radar and torpedoes in the anti-shipping role, too. Several other experimental weapons were also tested with the 410, such as the L10 Friedensengel glider torpedo.

The main variant of the 410 was the B-series. It was equipped with more powerful DB 603G engines. The various sub-variants had variations in armament. Further variants, C, D and H, did not become operational.

The 410's operational record, beginning in 1943, was moderately successful until allied fighters started escorting the bombers and made their own fighter sweeps. Even the improved 410 was no match in dogfight for a modern single-engine fighter such as the P-51 or the Spitfire. Beginning in the summer of 1944, the destroyers were taken from front line duties and production was phased out in favor of single-engine fighters, with the 410's remaining in service flying reconnaissance duties only.

The model

Revell-ProModeler has produced a beautiful, highly detailed kit, providing very convincing value for money. As far as I know the kit is correct in dimensions and it features state-of-the-art surface detail. 

The very comprehensive decals sheet is up to kit's quality, including all stenciling. Three different planes from KG51 and ZG's 26 and 76 may be modelled. Paint schemes are RLM 74/75/76 in each case. The plane of KG51 carries underwing rockets.

I used the Eduard brass set (article no. 48-243) with the kit. It supplies quite a number of cockpit detail parts, including the typical combination of brass panels with slide films, foot pedals, seat belts and various levers. Moreover, the set includes some useful exterior detail, such as etched flame dampers in two varieties, trim plane actuators, FM antenna, landing gear scissors, engine cooling flaps and several parts for the large underwing coolers.

Construction

All in all, you've got your hands full with this kit. There's already quite a lot of work in the cockpit, before you come to any other points, especially when using that elaborate Eduard stuff. I will limit myself to pointing out areas that require extra attention:

The transparent parts form a weak point of the kit. Their fit is behind the rest of the parts and requires some extra work. The first critical point comes in step 14 when installing clear part no. 90 between the fuselage halves. Installing this part is rather tricky. The part needs a very stable glue, ideally cyanoacrylate, which means there's an imminent danger of glue fumes blinding the "glass". I masked both sides with Parafilm prior to assembling to prevent this, and since there's hardly a way of removing the film from the inside with the cockpit installations in place, I glued a small wire to the Parafilm with Maskol, in order to pull it off. It worked.

The next problem was the intricate triple gunsight of the rearward armament. It interfered with the canopy, so I had to make a few corrections.

I've already written on these pages about my problems with the clear parts cracking and having to be replaced, so won't describe it again. For masking the glass, I strongly recommend using EZ-Masks! There are some 20-odd panels, some of them bulged in an extremely nasty way, and the money for the masks were well-invested.

Fixing the canopy to the fuselage required more work than expected because of insufficient fit and considerable tension between the parts. With my previous experiences, I made no attempts at heating and bending the parts for fear of cracks. I glued the many parts with CA glue, because nothing else would do, and filled the remaining gaps with Kristal Kleer.

The construction of main components proceeded with few problems. Very little filling was necessary, mostly at the wing roots and the engine nacelles.

I replaced the exhausts with home-made brass ones, not out of necessity, but as a trial and since the exhaust dampers would conceal them in the worst case. The results were favourable, so I will repeat the procedure on my next project. 

The rest of the kit was built out of the box, save some thinning out, especially at the air intakes and missile tubes, and replacing the belly gun barrels with sections of hypodermic needles.

The FuBl2 instrument-landing antenna in the kit was replaced with one made from sprue and thin brass wire. I preferred a scratch-built version compared to the photo-etched part provided by Eduard, due to the latter's flat appearance.

Paint and decals

The paint job started with applying aluminum metalizer to the wear areas and pre-shadowing the panel lines with black. The interior had been painted RLM 02, the panels and boxes RLM 66 with a few color-coded highlights here and there.

The exterior was painted with Xtracolor only. I began with the lower surfaces using RLM 76. Then the splinter pattern and the common German mottling in RLM 74 and 75 was applied. The masking tape I used worked as a paint remover in more than one place, so I had to redo a considerable amount of the paint job.

The Reich's Defense band was painted in red and yellow, respective RLM 04 and 23 (see picture in article on masking canopies). I had a slight moment of horror, when I leafed through Camouflage and Markings of the Luftwaffe Aircraft vol.1 during a Formula 1 afternoon at a friend's house. I found a red-and-yellow RD band, but the other way around with yellow in front. I really wouldn't have had much fun in re-making all the masking and spraying, so I was relieved when  realized that it was JG 301's version of the RD band only. The references in the Squadron booklet show rather clearly how the band is arranged.

I applied the decals using Micro Sol which worked fine. The walkway markings were time-consuming to apply, but posed no real problems. When all decals had been applied, I recoated them first with gloss, then with a flat clear varnish, letting the model to dry thoroughly between the coats. Finally I laboriously removed the canopy masks. 

I finished the project by producing antenna wire from very thin stretched sprue. After being glued in place it was tightened with a hot waxing instrument and sprayed silver and grey. Isolators were made from Kristal Kleer.

Summary

My most complex project so far, and one that was worth the many hours of work for me. I'd build it again, especially since there were some really interesting paint schemes around. The brass set seems rather useful to me and the EZ masks are indispensable.

Resources

  • Revell/Monogram 1/48 Me 410 B-2
  • Eduard etched brass set #48243
  • E-Z masks set #67
  • Squadron/Signal Aircraft #147: Me 210/410 in action

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