1/72 Heinkel He-176

Kit Number 72102

Reviewed By Brian R. Baker, #43146

MSRP: $12.00 USD


The Heinkel HE-176 was the world’s first successful airplane to fly solely on the power of a liquid fuelled rocket engine.  Originally the result of a 1935 proposal by Major Wolfram von Richthofen to develop a rocket powered bomber interceptor, design was begun in 1936, and detail work was completed by July 1937, when prototype construction was begun at Heinkel’s Rostock-Marienehe plant.

The HE-176, an extremely small, single seat research aircraft, was a mid-wing cantilever monoplane with a retractable landing gear similar to that of the Messerschmitt Bf-109.  Actually, the plane sat on the main gear and a tail wheel, all retractable, when the plane was unoccupied, but a fixed, spatted nose wheel was attached to bear the weight of the aircraft when the pilot was in the cockpit if the aircraft were to go up on its nose.  Fuel, consisting of methanol and “super” hydrogen oxide, was carried in a special tank immediately behind the pilot’s seat.  Knowing the problems associated with rocket fuels encountered in the later ME-163B, this doesn’t seem to be such a good place for the fuel tanks, and in fact, the designers wanted to place the tanks in the wings, but when the wings were redesigned, they had to put the fuel in the fuselage.  At least, the airplane didn’t kill anyone, so the point is moot.

The engine was a Walter HWK R1 rocket which produced approximately 1100 to 1325 pounds of thrust, which exhausted through a small tailpipe.  The cockpit had a glass nose, and strangely, a windscreen rather than a canopy.  Although there was a hatch, the plane was probably flown without the hatch cover, and it does not show in the only photo available.  A good detailed account of the aircraft’s development, along with the only known photograph, can be seen on the Luft46 website.

During 1938, the HE-176 was tested in the wind tunnel at Gottingen, and later, for security reasons, it was moved to Pennemunde for flight tests.  In March, 1938, the first test flight was made by Flugkapitan Eric Warsitz, and later in June the plane was demonstrated to some top RLM officials, including Udet and Milch, neither of whom was impressed.  The plane made repeated test flights, usually with very little fuel aboard, and it was even flown in the presence of Hitler, but development ended soon afterwards, the order coming down on September 12, 1939.  For several years, the airplane was stored at Heinkel’s Rostock-Marienehe factory, but eventually it was shipped to the Berlin Air Museum, where it was destroyed in a bombing attack in 1944.


The HE-176 has had a lot of inaccurate information published about it over the years, mainly because a photo of the plane was not available until relatively recently.  Artists’ conceptions were close, but with no cigars, and a comparison shows significant differences.  It is fortunate that this kit was not produced until the photo emerged, as several previous kits were based on the inaccurate information.  As it is, the kit appears to be entirely accurate in outline, and probably as close as we will ever get to an accurate model of an airplane that has not existed for more than sixty years.


The instructions are clearly printed in Czech, English, and German, and contain the usual test history, sprue diagrams, and exploded views which serve as assembly instructions.

These are professionally done, and very useful in the construction of the model.  A three view drawing is on the back of the sheet, giving a general outline and painting instructions.  A front view is given on the previous page, requiring you to switch back and forth when the entire drawing is required, which I found to be somewhat awkward. Colors are noted, with Luftwaffe numbers provided when necessary.  Since the airplane never carried any markings, there are no decals.


This kit is the essence of simplicity, with  18 short run injection molded parts of very high quality, three clear transparencies, two of which you will probably not use, and 22 photo-etched brass parts.  Wing panels and the tail units are all one piece, which is to be expected in a kit this small, and the fit of the fuselage is good.  The wings butt joints need a little trimming, as they have small ridges that fit into receptacles on the fuselage, but they are not a real problem.  It is easy to line up the wings with the proper dihedral angle.

The interior is fairly detailed for an airplane this small, and since the cockpit is left open, the cockpit interior, especially the seat and side panels, is very visible.  The photo etched parts include seat belts, an instrument panel, what must be a trim tab wheel, and top panels for some side consoles.  The rudder pedals are somewhat complex, but they are visible through the nose cone, which is well molded and very transparent.  There is probably as much detail in the cockpit as anywhere on the kit.

Once the cockpit is detailed, and the fuselage is assembled, the joints must be sealed, as the seam lines are quite visible.  I had to re-scribe the panel lines after filling the seams, but this was no problem.  No filling was needed on the wing and tail unit joints, and the landing gear and related equipment went together easily.  One thing to watch is the main gear assemblies - they need to be pushed in as far as they will go, as they seat on some small tabs inside of the fuselage that cannot be seen once the fuselage halves are joined.

Painting is a snap.  I painted the wings and tail unit RLM 02 grey before assembly, along with some interior parts and the landing gear legs.  After attaching the wings (not the horizontal tail surfaces), I masked the wings and vertical tail unit, and masked off the cockpit and clear nose cone, and then painted the fuselage aluminum.  I then attached the horizontals.

Fortunately, this kit does not require weighting down the nose, as the plane normally sat on its tail unless the pilot was in the cockpit, and even then, it may have sat tail down.  There is no place to put any weights anyway, so it is not a problem.


This kit is essentially a “shake the box” type of kit, with no surprises.  The only problems one might encounter would relate to the size of the model.  There are a LOT of small parts, and these can sail off into the high pile carpet when being detached from the sprue, only to be found eons later by the archaeologists.  The same can be said for the photo etched parts.  Those control hinges are TINY, and there are six of them.  Once the kit is completed, you’ll have to be careful handling it, as once those small pieces are broken off, they are gone forever.

Another problem is the lack of a main cockpit cover.  It appears that the airplane was intended to test the concept of rocket flight, and that the fixed nose wheel was a temporary expedient until flight characteristics were established, and then high speed trials would begin without the nose wheel, with the main wheels retracted.  This, of course, didn’t happen, so the plane was presumably flown as an open cockpit plane, obviously so that the pilot would have a faster means of escape should problems occur, as there were no ejection seats at the time.  There was no cockpit cover included in the kit, although all of the drawings I was able to pull off the web show a cover detached from the airplane.  Since it is merely a curved piece of plastic, it shouldn’t be much trouble to make one and sit by the model.


It is good to see models of historic aircraft appear from time to time, and this is a good one.  It fills a gap in my collection of Luftwaffe aircraft, and turns into a very nice little model without undue effort.  I would certainly highly recommend it to any serious modeler of Luftwaffe aircraft.

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