Hasegawa 1/48 Arado Ar 234 B-2
Model, Text and Photos by: Steven 'Modeldad' Eisenman
The de Havilland Mosquito and the Arado Ar234, cousins in purpose and separated by war. A strange thought to tie them together? I think not. As the Mossie prototype took to the air in November 1940, the Arado Flugzeugwerke undertook a project at the request of the Reichsluftfhartministerium (RLM) to produce an aircraft with an intended purpose quite similar to that of the Mossie; an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft that was capable of avoiding interception because of its speed. But unlike the Mossie which utilized a pair of powerful Rolls Royce Merlin piston engines, the Arado Ar. 234 was to be mated with the new turbojet engines being developed by BMW and Junkers.
There was an undeniable need for an aircraft such as the Ar 234 when it finally entered service in the Autumn of 1944 with Sonderkommando Gotz. With the allies having control of the air, Germany was denied much needed photographic intelligence. The Ar 234 could fly over England and Italy, with virtual impunity, to gather that information.
Like the Mossie, the Ar 234 was also found to be a highly effective and accurate bomber, limited only by the load it could carry. But unlike the Mossie, which required a second crewman, the Ar 234 incorporated a three-axis auto pilot that allowed the pilot to swing the control yoke out of the way and use an optical bombsight located between his legs. The Pilot could also use the periscope and a bombing computer to effect a more traditional shallow dive attack.
But like most of the late war German jet projects that became reality, they came too little and too late. Although over 200 Ar 234 Bs were built, very few entered combat service.
Upon opening the box you quickly realize that this is a highly detailed kit with everything you need to create either the reconnaissance or bomber version. The plastic is a light gray with beautifully engraved panel lines. This kit is light years ahead of the old Hobbycraft kit, which was more like 1/50 scale. I did both versions of the Hobbycraft kit (bomber and nightfighter) and remember spending far too much time on the nose gear alone so it would not look like a blob of plastic!
For the recon version, you get a very nicely detailed set of cameras and the mountings and bulkheads for the aft part of the fuselage. The kit also provides clear parts for the camera ports in the lower fuselage. The problem is that the kit does not have decal markings for a recon aircraft and, most importantly, unless you do a bit of cutting, you will never see them. While the hatch cover area over the camera bay is done in clear plastic (which is intended for the night fighter version), they were not clear on the recon version, but were sheet metal painted as the rest of the aircraft. The only way you can show the cameras and bay area is to carefully cut out the hatch area and fabricate a thin hatch cover out of plastic. As to the markings, the decals are only for three bombers of KG 76. For a recon aircraft, appropriate codes would begin with T5+,T9+, 4N+, or 4U+.
For the bomber version there is a nicely done 1000sc (1000kg.) bomb and the Loft 7K bombsight (which is not to be used on the recon version). For both versions there are under engine, external fuel tanks and a lovely pair of Walter takeoff assist rockets.
But the one thing that is most noticeable about this kit, and the Ar. 234 in general, is the number of clear parts, some of which form part of the fuselage. Since the Ar 234 has a massive plexi-glass nose, you would expect to see a lot of cockpit detail, which you do, and you would expect a lot of detail in the cockpit, which the Hasegawa kit gives you. The cockpit is highly detailed, and in my opinion does not require a resin replacement.
(ed.note: for a look at what's in the box, see our preview of the kit here.)
It is with the clear parts and the cockpit that we start. It is also where we run into the first problem with the kit. Because of the molding limitation, the great big clear nose has a very noticeable seam running vertically on the outside and a not as noticeable one on the inside. Having returned to modeling 17 years ago, there is one thing that I have learned to truly dislike dealing with: clear parts. Whether it is masking or painting or cleaning up, I just never seem to get those clear parts as good as what I see on the internet modeling sites. I swear, some modelers must have sold their soul to the devil to get those canopies looking the way they do. I looked at that line and debated whether I could live with it or not; the answer was no, it had to go. The tool I used to start the task cost only pennies - a four-way nail board that you can buy at any drug store. I believe mine is the Sally Hansen brand. Each end of both sides has a different grade polishing board. They are simply market as EMERY, 1, 2 and 3. I started off with 1 and started rubbing across the mold seam and as it began to be reduced, I switched to a higher number. I checked my work by wetting the clear part, this cleaned out the dust and allowed me to see my progress better. After I was satisfied that I removed all of the seam, I brought out the "fine guns"; Alclad Micromesh Polishing Cloths. They feel as soft a chamois cloth, and they do one heck of a job in polishing clear parts. I worked my way up through the finest grits until I thought the clear parts looked as clear as could be. I did not deal with the inside, and leaving it alone was fine.
The nose will still look slightly cloudy, but fear not. I next gave all the clear parts used in the cockpit a bath in Future floor polish (or whatever it is called in your locale, "Clear", etc). Holding the clear parts by the edge with a tweezers, I let the excess run off and then carefully set them down on a piece of paper towel making sure only an edge touched. In this way I further wicked off excess amounts of Future. While these were drying (overnight) I went on with the rest of the cockpit.
The most noticeable thing that you see when you look directly in the cockpit of the Ar 234 from the front is the back of the instrument panel. And all the wires that stick out from the back of the gauges. The kit panel is devoid of any detail on the back. I had to fix this. I took a piece of old lamp cord with all those fine wires, took off the insulation and pulled off a few strands of wire. I held a wire strand to the back of each gauge put on a dollop of gel super glue. That bit of glue will not only hold the wire firmly in place, but I also hoped it would give some depth to the back of the panel. After the glue dried, I glued the panel to the stand, Part F3, making sure it was aligned vertically. I painted the panel a red-brown and the instruments black and dry brushed them. The reason red-brown was used was because that is the color of the panel of the National Air and Space Museum's Ar 234. It is possible that it was unpainted bakelite, although others may have been RLM 66. I pulled most of the strands of wire through the support frame to the right side and twisted them so as to represent the bundle of wires from the back of the instruments going back to the aircraft. I then had a couple going to the left side also. I painted the wires yellow.
I next drilled small holes in the end of the rudder pedal mechanism (parts J11 and J16). I then inserted 8 thou. fine brass wire, super glued them in place, and when dry carefully bent them under to represent the rudder control lines running back to the rear of the aircraft. The painting of the cockpit parts came next. I used a home made brew of Tamiya Dark Gray and just a bit of Tamiya NATO Black. The various boxes were painted a semi-gloss black. I made the seat harness and rudder pedal foot straps out of wine bottle foil. Although there are decals for the cockpit instrument, I chose to dry brush the panels and pick out switches with paint. I would like to point out a planning issue regarding the rudder pedal arms (J 11 and J16). For my own unknown reasons (probably because I feared something coming loose in the cockpit) I mounted the clear nose as the last step, as a result, the rudder pedal arms extend out and are easily broken off (Yep, I did it!). So be aware of this as you build your model.
The next step is the heart
of building the kit. The masking of the clear parts. First the concept of
the cockpit framing. The cockpit was framed with metal bands upon which the
formed plexi-glass glazing was attached and secured with fasteners from the
outside. So the actual frame was on the inside. Now masking the cockpit sides
and top was no problem. (Tamiya paper masking tape works quite nicely for
this.) But the nose! I tried to mask the inside, got frustrated and gave up.
A mistake there was too costly. Everything would stop until I got a new clear
part. So here is what I did. I masked the inside of the sides and top leaving
the frame lines exposed. I then did that to the outside of the sides and top
and the outside of the nose. I then sprayed the inside of the sides and top
with my RLM 66 (For heaven's sake, do not spray paint inside the nose!). I
next sprayed the outside of all clear parts with black (Remember the windows
inside and out have to be masked with exposed frame lines.). Now there is
some debate as to the actual color of the frames. The National Air and Space
Museum's Ar 234 has them in black, others say it should be RLM 66, it is up
to you. Now to jump ahead to the finishing of the model. After everything
was done, I again masked the clear parts, but this time I masked the painted
fuselage and exposed the clear parts and frame lines. I then sprayed them
with a coat of Future. A bit of
"trompe-l'oeil", the intent is to give the impression that a smooth, reflective glass like surface was over the framing. All things considered it worked nicely.
After removing the tape on the inside of the cockpit walls and top, I finished adding all the various little bits to the side walls and top and clamped the cockpit between the side wall and glued all the pieces together. Because of the very hard nature of the clear parts (which do not take glue all that well), you may want to use a gel super glue to attach the body of the cockpit to the side walls. One little extra I did add to the cockpit was a flare pistol. It is my understanding that the pilots signaled their landing approach by shooting a flare. The gun was located in a port in the lower front corner of the upper right hand side window. For the flare gun, I took one from an Accurate Miniatures SBD-1 Dauntless kit. I drilled a small hole for the port, cut a little off the barrel of the gun and glued it in place.
Test fit the nose clear part to the finished cockpit to make sure there is a good fit, and make any adjustments at this point.
Since I intended to do the bomber version, the cameras went to the spares box ( I may use them for a recon Me. 262). You next need to install the wheel wells and landing gear from the inside before you put the fuselage halves together. First a decision then a problem. The decision is what color to paint the wells. The NASM's Ar 234 has the wells done in a caramel color. This appears to have been a protective coating that German aircraft manufacturers applied to interior parts during WW-2. You could also do them in RLM 02, as was commonly used in wheel well. Or, in the case of late war aircraft, and as seen on Me 262s and Fw 190Ds, natural metal or RLM 76 Light Blue, which was the underside color. Once again it is your choice.
Now for the problem, the attachment points for the gear legs are very weak at best. And since they are attached at this point, they will remain sticking out throughout the build and, of course, are easy to snap off. After you get the fuselage halves together, remember to set parts J23 and J29 carefully, as they set the angle of the gear leg and are the only external points of support! I did not put on the gear doors or wheels at this point.
Once the fuselage halves were put together, I had to deal with some sink marks along the fuselage seams. Something I thought I'd never find in a Hasegawa kit! I then attached the two clear parts that make up the top and bottom of the aft fuselage. You will have to do a little fitting, and I found that there was a slight step between the front edge of part M1 and the fuselage. Also, the top seam required a bit of cleaning up. Since I was doing the bomber version, these clear parts would be painted the fuselage color. The bomb bay was installed at this point, but I did not attach parts A16; I did that at the end before attaching the bomb. After super gluing in some lead fishing weights in the forward part of the fuselage (I guess it was about 20 grams (3/4 ounce) as called for, because it worked), I then attached the cockpit bulkhead, after painting it RLM 66. The bulkhead requires some work as it is too big for the opening. You will need to take some plastic off around it and test fit until all is right. Next the top and bottom of the wings were put together, but I left off parts M6 and J22 until the end.
Attaching the wings to the fuselage seemed to be no problem until I noticed the fit at the rear center section. The fuselage of the Ar. 234 is basically a smooth square shaped tube. But the join at the top rear creates an ugly step which requires a bit of putty and sanding, which does damage a bit of the detail in that area. There were also small steps at the front and front lower corners. Not the end of the world, but I would have expected a far better fit from the engineers at Hasegawa.
The engines were next. I painted the inside of the engine nacelle front opening aluminum and the face of the turbine Tamiya Titanium Silver. All the parts at the exhaust end were painted Model Master Burnt Iron Metalizer. I also painted the rear third of the nacelles Burnt Iron. After assembling the engines, I made a major mistake. I attached them to the wings. That was just dumb, because it made painting the side of the nacelle facing the fuselage a real pain and I do mean pain! I would recommend that you paint the engine nacelles first and then attach them. But I did discover a few problems. First, there is quite a step between the top of the front of the nacelle and the leading edge of the wing. Pictures of the Ar 234 show a much more gradual fairing in at this point. Using modeling putty, I filled this area in and reshaped it so as to remove the step. Second, while the nacelles fit fairly well, on the inside join between the bottom of the wing and the nacelle there was a gap of approx 18 thou. There are two ways of dealing with this. Attach a 20 thou card stock to the inner mating surface and sand until you get the fit right, or after the nacelle is attached, run a bead of putty on the gap, smooth with your finger and touch it up. If you do attach the nacelles after painting, there will be a bit of finishing and repainting required.
After attaching the tail horizontal stabilizers, I went to attach the cockpit. Note: I did not attach or build any of the parts in step 11. That was done after I painted the model. Back to the cockpit, a poor fit and Hasegawa seems to have messed up the fuselage at this point. Hasegawa molded a band around the fuselage where it mated to the cockpit. I have no Idea where this came from, as the fuselage was quite smooth on the actual aircraft. Furthermore there was not an even mate between the cockpit and the fuselage. Out came the sanding paraphernalia and attempts made to preserve as much surface detail as possible. I glued the cockpit to the fuselage with gel super glue. I then glued the top of the cockpit on using gel super glue. Great care must be taken when doing this and only a couple of drops applied a tooth pick are needed. Again I will note that I did not attach the nose glazing at this point, but waited till the end. If you want to attach it here, you will need to put in the instrument panel. You will also need to re-mask it for painting, something I did not want to due. Once again small drops of gel super glue was what I used to attach it.
Yep, as with all late war Luftwaffe aircraft, the paint scheme is confusing. The instructions call for all three aircraft to be painted in RLM 81 Brown-Violet and RLM 82 Light (Bright) Green on the topside and RLM 76 (Pale) Light Blue underneath. In a general sense, that is fine, but I'd like to explain the confusion. When first produced the Ar 234 was to be painted in RLM 70 Black-Green, 71 Dark Green and 65 Light Blue. But during the production run the specifications for camouflage were changed to the 81/82/76 combination.
Now to the kit's aircraft markings. The first set of markings, F1+GS, is for the aircraft that is at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum. This restored aircraft is painted in the 81/82/76 combination, but it is believed that it originally was painted in the 70/71/65 combination. The other issue is that while it is known that this aircraft was assigned to Kg 76 with its designated code of F1, the code letters +GS were applied to represent a "typical" aircraft, as the original code was obliterated soon after it was captured. In a sense you have two color options for this aircraft.
The second aircraft I am not familiar with and it is quite possible that this was in the 81/82/76 combination, as it was most likely produced after the previous aircraft.
The third aircraft is most interesting. While it appears to have been produced prior to the first one, its basic camouflage colors were reported to be Brown-Violet, Dark Green and Pale Blue. There are a number of possibilities for this. It could have been in 70/71/65 and the paint weathered poorly and the report made after its capture was not as accurate as could be. Or, it could have been in Brown-Violet 81, but the Bright-Green was not available at the time. Furthermore, the aircraft had been partially over painted with a light blue. This was the aircraft I wanted to model.
So painting began to create F1+MT. I was privileged to have been sent a series of picture of this aircraft after its capture (sorry, but I am unable to show them to the public). A number of things were apparent. First, the upper surface camouflage had a soft edge to it, not at all like the hard edge pattern of the NASM aircraft or as shown in the instructions. Also, the demarcation line between upper and lower colors appears to be soft edged. Second, the light color over spray was not applied to the top of the aircraft as shown in the instruction. It has been said that this was a "winter camouflage". I do not believe this was so. I have seen pictures of Ar 234s parked in a snowy area and none were wearing a winter camouflage over spray. It is my opinion that the light paint applied to the side of the aircraft was an attempt to break up the outline of this dark aircraft against the gray sky when it was making a shallow dive bombing run. By doing this, anti-aircraft gunners on the ground and fighter aircraft approaching from the side would have a less clear target at which to aim.
Before painting began, I had to apply additional masking to the cockpit area. Not only did I have to make sure the clear parts were covered, but also I had to cover up the black framework. I first sprayed the undersides with Model Master Acrylic RLM 76 Light Blue. For the Dark Green I used Aeromaster RLM 82 Dark Green (which is incorrectly numbered; it should be 83) to which I added a bit of Model Master Acrylic RLM 77 Light Gray to lighten it a bit. For the Brown-Violet, I used Model Master Acrylic RLM 81 to which I added some Aeromaster French aircraft Dark Brown. I then sprayed the two upper surface camouflage colors freehand using my Sotar 20-20 airbrush. I painted the gear doors off the model.
After the paint dried, I sprayed the model with a coat of Future and when that dried I applied the kit decals. The kit decals were quite good, but could have been a bit thinner. The other thing is decal 19. This one decal contains on one piece of carrier film all the indicator markings for the hand holds. I was concerned that with such a large amount of carrier material in relation to the actual markings, there would be possibility of silvering. So I carefully sliced apart the decal so that each hand hold indicator was its own little decal. When the decals dried, I applied a coat of Model Master Acrylic clear flat.
The next step was to fill the cup of my airbrush with RLM 76 Light Blue and apply the over spray. While it is not very clear from the instructions, the over spray did cover over a lot of the markings on the aircraft, including parts of the swastika. After this dried, I followed up with an application of various pastels to dirty-up the aircraft, and finished it all with another light flat clear coat.
Landing Gear: I assembled the wheels and front gear legs. The gear legs and inside of the doors were painted RLM 02. All wheels and gear doors were attached.
The Bomb: A very nicely done one. The instruction call for it to be painted RLM 76 Light Blue, and pictures indicate it was a light color. But I decided, for model display purposes only, to paint it RLM 02, because it would make it stand out from the underside. I panted the band around it Aluminum.
Walter Assist Rockets: These are nicely detailed. The rockets were used to assist in take off and were jettisoned right after take off. A parachute was deployed so they could be recovered and used again. The only problem is that the seam lines are difficult to clean up because of all that detail. I painted the body of the rocket aluminum and the back portion near the exhaust a darker aluminum. The parachute in front was painted buff with light brown straps. I attached a fine piece of stretched sprue from the front center of the parachute pack and attached it to the front support. This cord linkage can be seen in a number of pictures. It may have been used to keep the cover attached after the parachute deployed. The rockets were attached to the locating holes in the wing, they do not seem to be handed.
External Fuel Tanks: Not all Ar 234 carried these. In fact, there are many pictures that show the Ar 234 without the mounting racks for the tanks. The pictures that I have of F1+MT seem to show that this aircraft did not have the racks under the engine nacelles. Therefore I did not use them.
Antenna: Parts J22 and M6. Pictures indicate that not all Ar 234s had the radio direction finding loop (J22) on top of the aircraft. When they did, it could be mounted as indicated in the small instruction box for the restoration aircraft, or further back on the fuselage aft of the rear hatch on top. The pictures I have of F1+MT indicate that this aircraft did not have one. In which case, it may have had the other style direction finder as represented by part M6. For my model, I used only this part, I painted the opening for it a dark metallic gray and then dry brushed the underside of part M6 with aluminum to bring out the radiating wires of the antenna. The fit between M6 and the opening in the fuselage was quite tight , and I did not have to use glue; but, you might want to use a little white glue to secure it.
The other antenna issue is the wire from the tail to the fuselage. This is not depicted in the instruction sheet, but is shown on the box top illustration. Pictures of the NASM Ar 234 show this wire. But other pictures I have do not seem to show this wire on all aircraft. The picture of F1+MT's fin and rudder, in the web site reference below, does not even show an attachment point. This is a decision you will have to make as to whether there was an antenna wire. Finally, mount the IFF antenna under the left wing, but once again pictures indicate that it may not have been on all aircraft. The restored NASM aircraft has it and it appears that F1+MT had it. So another modeling decision.
Of course don't forget the drag-chute wire at the rear underside of the fuselage. Also, the periscope on top the cockpit. I painted mine RLM 66. Interestingly, the kit also contains the early style periscopes presumably for one of the early recon versions.
For me the last thing to be done was to put the instrument panel into the nose clear part and put on the cockpit nose clear part. Once again I used just a couple drops of gel supper glue. Note that in putting the instrument panel in the nose, I cleaned out the attachment holes with a fine drill, as they had filled with future. I used gel super glue to attach the instrument panel.
This is well detailed kit but more difficult to build than what this review would indicate. The fit of the wing to fuselage, cockpit to fuselage and nacelles to the wing is not up to the standards of other new kits, such as Tamiya's Me 262 . Corrections will need to be made at the cockpit to fuselage join. Also, great care must be taken when working with the clear parts. I would not recommend this kit for a relatively inexperience modeler; I fear a frustration factor may take its toll. But there is no question that this kit relegates the old Hobbycraft kit to the dust bin. For anyone interested in WW-2 Luftwaffe jets, this kit is a must.
I would like to thank Roll Models for the review sample.
ARADO 234 BLITZ, by J. Richard Smith & Eddie J. Creek, Published by Monogram Aviation Publications, 1992 (Regrettably this volume is now out of print).
Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green, Published by Galahad Books, 1970.
(click to order)