By Allan Wanta
The Horten brothers, Reimar and Walter, designed a number of tail-less aircraft and sailplanes before the beginning of the Second World War. Early sailplanes and powered gliders proved the feasibility of the flying wing, however the realization of flying wings as offensive and defensive weapons did not go over well with the RLM and thus was not taken seriously and were only given credence late in the war. One of these ideas was developed into a fighter, the Ho-229. The Ho-229 V1 flew and was a considerable success. Gotha was instructed to develop this fighter under the guidance of the Horten brothers. But in the brother's minds many more advanced ideas were being formulated, such as a bomber capable of striking the east coast of the United States from Germany. The Ho-XVIII was an all-wing bomber capable of doing just that, at least on paper.
The kit comes in a strudy white cardboard box with a color sketch depicting a number of Hortens advancing on Gotham City. Opening the box I found 55 parts, 37 of which are resin, 18 metal and two vacuformed canopies awaiting me, no decals are provided. Previous reports indicated this kit was a bear to assemble, requiring many laborious hours of sanding and puttying. Well they weren't too far off, but with patience and care the major obstacles were easily overcome.
The major point of contention is the left wing. It seems as though the mold was squashed when the resin was injected being too wide in chord and having a flatter profile, also the wings seem to be cast in a different grayish resin which was delaminating on the trailing edges.
The wings were faired into the other wing parts using an Evercoat Metal glaze and blended easily. Much of the details are molded into these parts such as wheel well details and some cockpit parts, all looking very nice and a great job of mold making.
Having blended the three-piece wings together we come to the center section which also is made up of three parts. The instructions are very vague and careful sanding and judgement is called for, as the pieces are not quite molded to fit together correctly. It will require a bit more Bondo to get this section to mate with the wings. A lot of thought was used to get the interior as complete as possible, seats, sidewalls, guns and accessories are all there. For those who would use this kit as a center point of a diorama, the wings can be left off; internal details are cast into the roots of the wing such as braces and wiring. A very nice touch, one not found on a lot of cottage kits
With all wing/body parts connected and bondo applied and smoothed, it was starting to look like the marvelous kit I knew was in the box. This is not a small kit, it's a full 1 foot 10 inches in span (57cm), and it's a bomber after all! As with all Horten aircraft, the canopy was a smooth continuation of the wing surface, no large, bulbous greenhouse to disrupt the clean lines. Thus the thin vacuform canopy supplied with the kit was glued and smoothed with filler to blend into the form. Since no frame lines are imprinted on the canopy one is given free liberty to decide the placement. An application of mask and we're ready for the painting.
The camouflage scheme for this aircraft is of course, one of possibilities. A bomber scheme would be 70/71/65, or since it was to fly over water 72/73/65, I chose an 82/83/76 with a disruptive 76 wave pattern. Since no transfers are included, I raided the spare box for appropriate markings.
Next come the little ditties, landing gear is nicely done in metal with resin tires, the front nose wheel and gear fork in resin, but the builder is expected to scratch-build the strut from the supplied tubing. Six engine exhaust cones are next and sit in the rearward end of all turbines, and seeing that hot jet exhaust was to be encountered the aft portions behind the engines was sprayed aluminum and jet exhaust.
The complex landing gear assembly was tackled slowly, meaning each wheel was sanded round, drilled and fixed to an axle. Four wheels to a gear leg means these could be left to move which eliminates the fear of the wheels not all contacting the surface to be displayed. A bit of scratch building is needed for a retraction strut for the front nose gear; a paper clip sacrificed its life for the job. All gear doors are cleanly molded and easily removed from their blocks, all were painted and glue in place. The plane was ready for landing, unfortunately it ended up being a tail sitter, of all the weird things. A small clear sprue was glued to the very tip of the tail as a support, there is no way to load lead weights into this kit or lighten areas to avoid tail heaviness. I'll just have to live with it I guess.
A few gun barrels, pitot tube, and some altimeter antennae were added as the last step. There we have the Horten Ho-XVIII, a well-done kit for those with a goodly amount of scratch building skills and fore thought. It looks great next to the other Horten wings, even if it dwarfs them, and is surely a project for those needing to add to their Luft'46 collection.