What If – Luft ’46 Do-335A Nachtjager, NJG-1
Build Date: August 18, 2019, Finished Oct 24, 2019.
History of Do-335
In 1942, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) issued a specification and invitation for tender for a twin-engine Schnellbomber (fighter-bomber) capable of carrying a 500 kg bomb at speeds of 750 km/h over a range of 2000 km. Dornier presented their design to the RLM on January 19, 1943, and won the contract on the spot to build ten prototypes (V1 to V10). The “V” designation came from the German word Versuchs (experimental) and was used to designate the various prototype versions. Between January to December 1943, only two prototypes (V1 and V2) were built and tested while V3 was later finished and joined the test programme in mid-January, 1944. By that time, the RLM was confident enough about the Do-335 such that they had planned and scheduled for 120 pre-production aircraft by Dornier-Werke-Friedrichshafen to be completed by March 1946. This included 35 A-0 bombers, 40 B-0 destroyers, and 45 further developed 0-series variants. Later on, RLM’s wish list was continually modified to request that of these 120 aircrafts some of them should be delivered as trainers, reconnaissance, and “Wilde Sau” or night fighters. It was also planned that the Do-335B would begin production in February 1945 to replace the Bf 110 and be a considerable improvement over the Me 410. The difference between the Do-335A and Do-335B is the B-series was structurally strengthened, had larger tyres and was distinguished externally by having a V-shaped armoured glass windscreen.
Flight testing by prototypes V-1 to V-12 (V-11 and V-12 were two-seat trainers) continued to early 1945. Production started in September 1944 and production was dispersed to several factories to meet the delivery schedule and spread the risk of having production being destroyed by bombing. By the end of the war, fifty-seven Do-335A were built or partially built, but they did not have the chance to enter service. The reasons were the production aircraft had quality problems and underwent repairs, while many were destroyed by US bombing raids at the manufacturing plants or destroyed by the freed slave labourers when the Allied army over-run the facilities. Hence, the Do-335 was never used in combat: the few reported encounters of Do-335 with Allied aircraft were accidental encounter by the prototypes during flight testing and those Do-335s all sped away leaving the Allied fighters in the dust.
Prototype V-3, which was modified and fitted with a photographic reconnaissance camera in the bomb bay, almost made it into actual service with a reconnaissance unit 1./Versuchsverband OKL in May 1944, but constant serviceability problem prevented it from doing so. Some of the development problems the Do-335 had were weak landing gears that were easy to collapse, low hydraulic pressure, high oil temperature and weapon jamming problems. The Do-335 was equipped with an ejection seat propelled by compressed air, however, there were a whole host of problems with the system. There are multiples sequential steps the pilot must take before seat ejection can take place. The test pilot for Do-335 V2 was killed during an ejection when the canopy did not eject properly and flipped back and cracked the pilot’s head resulting in his death. Although amusing, there appears to be no truth to stories that pilots have both arms pulled out of their sockets during ejection of the canopy.
Do-335 was technologically advanced for its time in 1943. With a top speed of 763 km/hr at altitude, it was reputed to be one of the fastest propeller-driven fighter aircraft during WWII. Its test pilots described the aircraft as being fast, having excellent handling characteristics, and was extremely manoeuvrable for an aircraft of its size. It might actually make a tiny difference to the airwar in early-1945 if there was enough to enter service, but it is highly doubtful it would have changed the outcome of the war. But it didn’t and the programme did not help the Nazi war effort. Do-335 was a grand engineering experiment which did not align with the reality of the war when more weapons were needed over technical superiority.
Of the 57 (25 prototypes and 32 productions) Do-335 built or partially built during the war, only four aircraft were the two-seat night-fighter version and they were all prototypes phase: prototype aircraft V10, M15, M16, and M17. The German never had a Do-335 night fighter in operation. According to the book, “Nightfighters Over the Reich”, M16 was captured by the French and they used it as a test platform until 1949. The Siemens FuG 218 airborne interception equipment was used on these test aircraft. It featured huge, eight-dipole Hirschgeweih (stag’s antlers) antennas that slowed the aircraft down by as much as 25 mph.
The Monogram kit provides two pieces of radar antennas, one for each wing. They appear to be the Hirschgeweih (stag’s antlers) antennas type, typically used in the latter part of the war for the FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2. I do not know the basis on which Monogram used to make their decision to supply these two antennas, but I think it is wrong: It should have two horizontal antennas and two vertical antennas. However, if one were to build a fictitious Luft 46 aircraft, then any arrangement of the antennas is a possibility and we’ll justify it as advancement in radar design.
I am building a Do-335A from the classic Monogram kit 7538 from 1974. This is a real classic. It is a nice little kit for the price. It’s pretty basic by today’s standard. Typical with all classic Monogram kits, the fit-up is tricky and generally lots of gaps to fill.
This kit has the correct shape and dimensions. Just for my interest sake, I confirmed the overall length (tip of spinner to tip of spinner) on the kit as measured is approximately 11.5″. According to my reference books, the stated overall length is 45ft-5.5in = 545 in. In 48th scale, the scaled-down measurement is 11.35 in. So, the Monogram kit is a bit long by 0.15″ – quite acceptable tolerance in my opinion. I also have the Tamiya Do-335A kit and so I directly compared the length and to my surprise, Tamiya is far too short! It appears the mid-fuselage is not long enough and thus the overall length is short.
There are enough drawbacks in this kit that would make some people throw this kit away, however, not I. Again, the fit-up is poor and lots of gaps to fill. The plastic is hard and thus trimming to fit or cutting parts out is difficult. The cockpit isn’t too bad, but a bit of improvement to the seats and a few minor additions would help. The clear parts are too thick so posing them open would require replacement vacuform parts. The wheel wells are too shallow, especially the nose gear well.
This kit will allow one to build a single-seat fighter or a hypothetical staggered two-seater night fighter. According to reference books and available historical photos, the actual night fighter variants all had a flush-fitting glazed canopy for the radar operator cockpit as shown in photo below.
According to the Monogram Close-Up 21 book: “It has been suggested the basic trainer was adapted to the night fighting role however, there is no official evidence to support this assumption.” Hence, the night fighter offered in this Monogram kit is fictitious.
Typical German night fighters had four ‘toasting fork’ aerials on the wings, two for the lateral beams on the port side and two for the vertical on the starboard side. The Monogram kit only gives us one vertical ‘fork’ aerial for each wing. Hence, without modifications, the Monogram kit cannot be built to a proper night fighter variant to match historical information.
At the same time, it cannot be built to a proper two-seat trainer as well since the instrument panel provided in the kit for the backseater is for a night fighter (with scopes) and it is missing a control stick and throttle quadrant. However, since you cannot see that instrument panel after installation, once could get away with it and just add a scratch-built control stick and throttle quadrant. Since I already have a single-seater Tamya Do-335 kit in my stash, I will build this one as a fictitious two-seater night fighter and make some extra aerials to make up the difference.
As with all Monogram kits, I start the project by sanding off all the raised panel lines and rescribed the recessed panel lines. The plastic is hard so I used the Squadron scribing tool to make wider and deeper lines.
Next, I start with the cockpit detailing. The cockpit seems to be reasonably accurate. The seats are moulded with the cockpit bulkheads and don’t look very good. I concentrated mainly on improving the seats and thus made a new bulkhead and seatback from styrene sheet. Seat belts are made from wine bottle foil wrapper.
I read that German aircraft cockpit colour for aircraft produced from November 1941 was painted in RLM02 and then RLM66 (Schwarzgrau) afterwards till the end of the war. So I painted the cockpit in a dark grey.
To add some distinctive features for this project, I did some scratch building and open the rear engine’s oil cooler heat exhaust duct cover and posed it in the open/dropped position. I scratch built the engine oil cooler from styrene cards.
The duct cover is made from the kit’s fuselage cut out piece. It is shaven and sanded thin to simulate a sheet metal panel. I reasoned out the design of the cover based on the photo of the cover in the below photo.
To simulate the actuating exhaust door on the cover, I added a blacking plate and actuating arms.
I scratch build a boarding ladder and panel for the boarding ladder compartment underneath the wing. It will look good when installed.
The kit only provides two vertical antennas. I made two horizontal antennas to complete the looks. These are very fragile so I have to leave them to be installed near the end of the project.
A coat of grey primer was applied to the model to check for scratches and quality of the rescribed details. Areas not perfect were reworked and sanded as noted by the area where the grey primers are sanded off. The elevators were cut off and assembled in the dropped position.
When I looked over my reference photos, I noticed there is a stiffener rib that runs across the main landing gear bay with a big landing gear securing hook attached to it. I really don’t want to do anything more with this model, but I thought that it is visually significant enough and so I made the details.
The model is sprayed with a primer consists of Mr. Surfacer 1000 thinned with lacquer thinner at 1:1 ratio. This is the perfect primer as the lacquer bits onto the surface better than the acrylic primer. One last check on the joints and surfaces confirms that I am ready to paint.
The typical late war night fighter paint scheme consists of RLM 76 Lightblau and RLM 75 Grauviolett mottles. I sprayed Model Master 2086 (RLM 76) as the base coat on the entire model. Then I sprayed Model Master 2085 (RLM75) over the top surfaces of the wings, tail and upper parts of the fuselage, leaving a soft demarcation line on the fuselage between the two colours. The squiggles or mottles (depends on how you look at it) are created by spraying fine lines of RLM76 lighten with a little bit of white paint. I experiment to create the best thinned out mixture of this paint by keep adding thinner to the paint until I can consistently spray a perfectly fine line from my Iwata HP-C+ airbrush. I draw squiggle line patterns until I get the desired looking mottles surface finish. The idea here is to create mottles using squiggling lines, but you don’t want to be able to easily identify the squiggling line either. A lot of artistic licences is used in this process.
The national marking used on the wing and fuselage is the simplified Balkenkreuz typically used late in the war which showed only the quartet of right-angled “flanks” for its form to reduce visibility. For these, I made a painting mask from frisket film and spray painted them on for best results. The wing bottom’s Balkenkreuz retained the high vis white and black cross so that it is visible for the German ground troop to identify this aircraft and not shoot at it. For the other markings, I used the kit’s decal sheet for the NJG-1 unit badge, aircraft number and the tail’s swastika. I’m amazed that these old decals still work! I borrowed some kill markings to put on the lower tail from another decal sheet.
My Luft’46 project is a Do-335A Nachtjager, yellow 10 of NJG-1, with nine confirmed kills in defence of the Reich. The war dragged into early 1946 as the Nazi held on to the fight. Day and night bombing by the Allied continued and the need for more night fighters to stem the British night bombers intensified. Yellow 10, which was originally a two-seat trainer, was converted to a night fighter at the Oberpfaffenhofen factory during mid-1945 as a stop-gap measure until Do-335B and Do-335C night fighter production catches up.
It’s amazing to me how the Monogram’s half-cast engine actually looks pretty decent after it’s painted. The Ultracast resin exhaust pipes really helped to improve the details and looks of this model.
The reference books I am using for this subject are:
- Monogram Close-Up 21
- Dornier Do335 Arrow by J. Richard Smith and Eddie J. Creek. B
- Luftwaffe At War, Nightfighters Over the Reich by Manfred Griehl
- A Russian website brakedrum.kuvat.fi – Dornier Do 335 PFeil Photos and video.