The Henschel Hs 126 was in many ways the German counterpart of the Lysander. Both were classic "army cooperation" aircraft, designed to fulfil a broad variety of roles from spotting, short range reconnaissance and light bombing. Developed throughout the 1920s and '30s, speed and firepower were largely secondary to good visibility and STOL performance, but by 1940 the modern battlefield had changed dramatically, with modern fighters and anti-aircraft defences making it increasing difficult for such vulnerable aircraft to hope to survive. The Hs 126 outlived the Lysander in a front-line role due to the Luftwaffe's overwhelming air superiority in the early years of the war, but the writing was on the wall and faster, better armed replacements were brought in as soon as possible.
But that was certainly not the end of the story for the Hs 126, with the aircraft performing valuable service in training units and as a glider tug, while it was still ideal for anti-partisan operations in rear areas throughout the Balkans and Caucasus. From 1942 onwards the aircraft came back to the frontline on the Eastern Front as a Nachtschlacht aircraft - an answer to the Soviet night harassment raids.
Quoted production numbers for the Hs 126 vary - around 800 to 900 is a common estimate - and the last veterans soldiered on until the final months of the war.
I bought my kit from Neomega Resin (Vector's UK distributor) and I must start out by praising their mail order service, because the kit arrived at my doorstep the morning after I ordered it! The other thing which I really appreciate is how well the model was packed. In common with Vector's La-5 (reviewed HERE
), the kit's actually box is very flimsy, being made of very light-weight card. Neomega therefore pack the parts in bubble-wrap inside a sturdy corrugated card box with the original carton flat-packed along with the instructions and decals to ensure everything is safe in the post.
The kit comprises:
141 x dark grey resin parts (2 not needed)
2 x clear resin parts
4 x etched brass gunsights (3 are spare)
2 x steel tubes
Decals for 7 x colour schemes
The kit impresses from the moment you open the box, and the more you examine the parts the better things get. Suffice to say, this is among the very finest resin kits I've ever seen! The detail casting throughout is extraordinary (some actually beggars belief) and, despite a very careful hunt, I haven't managed to find a single bubble or mal-formed part.
The fuselage halves and wings are ready-separated from their casting blocks, leaving just small rod-like attachments and a mould parting line along the bottom of the fuselage and the wing leading edge to clean up on my kit. The surface details are beautifully crisp, with engraved panel lines and embossed fasteners, delicate raised panels and attachment points, and a really subtle fabric effect on the control surfaces. Smaller parts are supplied on casting bocks and a really nice touch is that every part has its number cast on or adjacent to it like a conventional styrene kit.
The fuselage halves are cast impressively thin and this does mean there's a degree a flexibility. They have no locating pins, so it may be worth adding some tabs from styrene sheet (vacuform build-style) to aid alignment and make for a stronger join. The very nature of the Hs 126 means its hard to do much of a test fit, but the fuselage halves line up well and the stabilizers slot in neatly, with the tail having the distinctive anti-torque "twist" of the full sized aircraft. Optional appliqué armour is provided and this matches the fuselage contours very well. The main gear legs slot into the fuselage very positively and capture the slightly insect-like look of the originals.
The wing is cast in four pieces - upper and lower halves and split at the centre-line. The fit seems excellent, but there's no central locating tab, so you might want to add a couple of metal rods or a styrene tab to beef up the joint a bit. All the control surfaces are separate with nice sharp trailing edges. Wing struts are very delicate, with neat locating pips very much like a conventional kit.
I was worried that the wing might cause a real weight problem, so it's encouraging to see the halves are cast hollow with internal "spars" to keep them light and straight. However, neither the gear legs nor wing struts are cast in denser resin or with metal cores so, despite Vector's efforts to keep the weight of the wings and fuselage down, I think it could still well be worth adding a length of metal rod in a groove to strengthen at least some of the main struts, and maybe making a simple support cradle for when the model isn't on display (especially in hot weather, or if you like to have the heating on high in winter).
For my reference, I've used the Mushroom Model Publications book on the Hs 126 by Robert Panek and Robert Pęczkowski (ISBN 978-83-89450-40-1, 2008). This is the most comprehensive work I've found on the type, combining a concise history of the aircraft's development and service with numerous photos, scale plans, drawings taken from original manuals, plus a nice selection of colour profiles.
I've scaled up the 1:72 plans for a basic comparison of the kit parts, but I should add to my usual caveat about relying on things done this way that some details in the drawings do differ with the photos in the book they're taken from - so I don't hold them to be necessarily trustworthy. However, the kit matches the drawings closely enough in basic outline to satisfy me - and where there are minor differences, I must admit that, given his enviable reputation, I’m more inclined to trust Sergey Kosachev (the master modeller behind Vector models) than the drawings.
A few details
One of the real highlights of the kit is its superbly detailed cockpit. The interior of the fuselage halves has beautiful integral sidewall details, but this only the start of it, as there are 48 more parts to add. Some of the detail is extraordinary, such as the pilot's side consoles with perfectly cast throttle levers already in place, detailed faces on the instruments and tiny knobs as switches. The camera and radios are excellent and everything seems to match the photos in Mushroom Publications book very closely. The pilot's seat has a cast-on harness, which of course isn't to everyone's taste, but the belts are finely detailed and realistically posed. No harness is provided for the observer - according to pictures taken from the operating manual, this attached to the sidewalls and was hung up on each side when not in use. The only other item that seems to be missing is a signal pistol on the right hand side of the observer's cockpit.
The engine comprises separate cylinders, crankcase and exhausts, and only needs pushrods and wirings to look a real gem. The cowling is excellent - cast realistically thin, with nicely detailed cylinder head bulges and cooling gills. The propeller consists of individual blades and spinner. The parts seem to match the BWM 323 and VDM propeller very nicely. Do note though, one of the decal options is for an Hs 126A-1, which used a BMW 132 and Ju-HPC III propeller. The differences are quite small (in modelling terms) and the engine is effectively hidden inside the cowling. At first I didn't think the spinner seemed bulbous enough, but looking through the Mushroom book, there seem to be two slightly different styles, possibly down to the change in propellers. Some photos show a classic "bullet shaped" spinner (similar if not identical to those fitted to the Hs 129) while in others it seems flatter sided, with a blunter tip. The kit spinner matches the latter style. Rounding off the engine section, flame dampers are included for two of the decal options.
The main undercarriage can be modelled with or without spats and the mainwheels have good hub and tread detail. The tyres are unweighted. The tailwheel is moulded complete with it's fork and mudguard.
The canopy is beautifully cast in thin crystal clear resin with crisply defined frames. Be warned though - it is extremely delicate. The sliding section of the original was mounted on external rails to allow it to move, and Vector depict this accurately with metal tubes running through holes drilled in attachments on the canopy. This will entail some very careful work and could well be the scariest part of building the model, as any mistake could end in disaster. To be honest, I would have liked to see Vector include a spare canopy - or even a vacuformed alternative (although it would not match the resin canopy for accuracy, it would almost certainly be more robust could be a life-saver if you mess up.) The canopy lacks the sliding panels either side, so some (very!) careful scribing is called for (alternatively, as a safer option, a thin strip of clear decal might suggest the overlap in the panels well enough).
As good as it is, no kit is absolutely perfect and I spotted a couple of surprising omissions. My references show a compass mounted at on the wing's trailing edge above the canopy and some of the aircraft featured on the decal sheet were fitted with a tropical compressor inlet and oil filter which aren't included, but both should be straightforward to add. Other items often visible in photos, but not always fitted, were a bomb rack on the left hand side and a generator on a pylon on the right. Again, they shouldn't be too hard to make - I'm sure I can scrounge the basis of the bomb rack from the spares box.
Instructions & Decals
When I reviewed Vector's La-5F, I felt the instructions didn't really match up to the quality of the rest of the kit. Happily, with the Hs 126 they are a vast improvement, printed on both sides of an A-4 sheet with large, clear illustrations. Construction is broken down into 16 logical stages and looks quite straightforward (except for fitting the canopy, as noted above).
No interior colour matches are given (I assume it was predominantly RLM 02), but RLM numbers are quoted for the 7 decal options, illustrated in colour on another A-4 sheet:
1. Hs 126B, V7 1E,1.(H)/32, Finland,1941.
2. Hs 126B, V7 1C,1.(H)/32, Finland, December 1941.
3. Hs 126B-1, 6K EH,1.(H)/23, Eastern Front, Winter 1941/42.
4. Hs 126B, 6K EM, 4.(H)/23, Eastern Front, Winter 1942.
5. Hs 126B, 5F HH, 1.(H)/14, Poland, September 1939.
6. Hs 126B, 5F FK, 2.(H)/14, North Africa, July 1941.
7. Hs 126A-1, 19-3, Legion Kondor, Spain, 1938.
The decals are printed by Begemot and seem very good quality, with excellent registration and the very matte finish that's typical of sheets from this manufacturer. Along with the national and unit markings, there's a small selection of stencils, plus the sighting lines for the left hand side of the fuselage.
Vector's Hs 126 is a pretty stunning kit! It really represents the state of the art in modern resin aircraft kit manufacture. Of course this kind of quality inevitably comes with a fairly hefty price tag attached, but Vector's model is far and away the best kit of this aircraft currently available. The only fly in the proverbial ointment for Vector will be the arrival of the long-awaited ICM injected kit, but this is already overdue, so it's great to see such a fine model get a well-deserved "window of opportunity" to justify all the hard work that's gone into its design and production. I'm quite sure even the release of ICM's kit won't be the end of the story - at the very least, we can look forward to Sergey releasing a comprehensive detail set! Highly recommended to modellers with experience of resin kits.
Vector’s Henschel Hs 126 is available now from Neomega Resin - specialists in Eastern European resin kits and aftermarket sets.
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