1/48 SMER AIRCO DH-2

Gallery Article by Mike Muth on Aug 24 2020

 

      

Following the introduction of the Fokker E I, II, and III with their revolutionary forward firing synchronized machine gun(s), the Germans were able to rule the skies over the front for a period of time. The French and British, slower to develop their own synchronization gear, took different approaches to combating the Fokker scourge. The French attached a machine gun to the top wing of their Nieuport 11s that fired over the propeller arc. The British instead chose to use a pusher airplane developed by Geoffrey de Haviland's Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco) that mounted the engine behind the cockpit, leaving a clear field of fire in the front for a fixed Lewis machine gun. 

Despite its ungainly appearance, the DH-2 was faster than the Fokker machines and more maneuverable. Together, the Nieuports and DH-2 spelled the end of Fokker dominance over the trenches by the time of the Allied offensive in July of1916. By the end of the year, the Germans had regained control of the air with their newer, twin machine gun Albatros fighters. A total of 401 DH-2s were delivered, with 100 assigned to training units, the balance to RFC squadrons in France, the Middle East and Home Defense Units. The Germans referred to the DH-2 in their combat reports as "lattice tails".

The Dh-2 was powered by a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine. Different windscreens were experimented with at the local level. Depending on when and where the DH-2 was produced, it used either a 2-bladed or 4-bladed propeller. Extra ammunition drums were located on each side of the cockpit and occasionally inside the cockpit. The tail booms were tubular steel, with the rest of the major components being wood and fabric.

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The 1976 SMER kit of the Airco De Havilland DH-2 is from the original 1959 Merit mold, with new decals. Like many of the WW I kits from that era, it has raised markings on the fuselage, rudder and wings for where the national markings were located. The only real way to cure this problem is to sand them off. You lose some detail on the wings, but careful sanding and a few layers of paint take care of most of the problems. Anyway, in 1/48 scale the only other source for a DH-2 is the kit from Eduard. I haven't built that one yet, preferring to learn on an older kit to see how things are supposed to look. The building of the model is fairly straightforward. The spartan cockpit is built up with a seat, generic (i.e. inaccurate) instrument panel, floor, control stick and panel behind the seat. Each boom is pre-formed and fits into grooves on the wings. In addition, they slide nicely into grooves on the horizontal stabilizer. The cockpit sits on top of the one piece bottom wing. The landing gear fits into a notch on either side of the cockpit tub and slips into a rectangular cut out behind the engine.  The interplane struts are 4 inverted U that fit into troughs on the underside of the top wing. Finally the cabane struts are attached to the cockpit tub at somewhat oversized indentations. The fit of the kit is excellent with hardly any sanding necessary (0ther than that required to get rid of the raised markings!).

If you intend to make a super accurate DH-2, build the Eduard kit. The SMER supplied machine gun seemed oversized to me, so I substituted a smaller Lewis gun from the spares box. The decals I took from the decal dungeon...the blue may be a little too dark for the time period when the DH-2 was used, but it was the closest match I had to the blue I used when painting the tri-colored rudder.

The RFC equipped 3 RFC squadrons with the DH-2 by May, 1916: Nos. 24, 29, and 32. 24 Squadron was led by Major Lanoe Hawker, V.C. It was organized into 3 flights of 6 aircraft each. A flight chose red as its identifying color, B flight chose white and C flight chose blue. At first only the wheels were painted in the flight color. As more airplanes became involved in flights and fights over the front, additional markings came into use to help in identification. The outer interplane struts were painted in flight colors, with various stripes added in white for A and C flights and Black for B flight. The pattern applied indicated the pilot and his place in the flight. I chose to model a DH-2 from C flight and the blue and white markings indicate, I think, the second plane in the flight.

I used Model Master enamels for all of the painting except for Tamiya X4 red on the rudder. The clear doped linen on the wings and fuselage is MM radome tan. The gray on the cockpit and booms is MM medium sea gray . The PC 10 on the top of the wings and horizontal stabilizer is MM olive drab. The wheels are MM light gray. The blue is MM French blue.

The rigging on this is not for the faint of heart. I kept putting off doing a DH-2 because of the complicated rigging. The kit provides little if any guidance in its instructions. I pulled out Eduard's instruction sheet as well as the rigging diagram from the Wingnut Wings kit. After looking these over and studying photos in the Windsock Datafile and DH-2 In Action books, it does appear as if there were some variations among the DH-2s, so I tried to figure things out the best I could. I  am sure I either missed some rigging or connected things at the wrong location. I tried my best and am content with the result. The wings and horizontal stabilizer had small pyramids of plastic to represent the control horns. While they were horribly inaccurate in size and shape, I tried to use as many as possible. (Why? I am not sure.) Those on the horizontal tailplane remain, but those on the wings had to be replaced since they were where the sanded off markings were located. To represent the boom rigging I used ceramic wire. The rest of the rigging is silver thread. Finally, although the landing gear is pretty sturdy, I decided to use thick wire instead of thread for the 2 X rigging pattern to make things super sturdy.

So, not a kit for the faint of heart when it comes to rigging. However, the completed kit, even without rigging, provides a nice entry into early WW I aviation.

Mike Muth

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Photos and text by Mike Muth