Reviewed: Jul 2020
The Junkers EF-126 'Elli' was an experimental fighter proposed by the German Minaturjägerprogramm of 1944-1945, for a cheap and simple fighter powered by a pulse jet engine. No examples were built during the war, but the Soviet Union completed a single unpowered prototype, which crashed during testing and one in 1947 with a running engine. The design of the Ju EF-126 was developed into the Junkers EF-127 'Walli', a rocket-powered version.
During 1944, the Minaturjäger programme for the simplest, cheapest fighter possible was launched by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) or German Air Ministry. In order to minimise cost and complexity, it was to be powered by a pulse jet, as used by the V-1 flying bomb and its manned version, the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg). Designs were produced by Heinkel, with a pulse jet powered version of their Heinkel He 162, Blohm & Voss (P.213) and Junkers
Junker's design, the EF 126, was of similar layout to the V-1, with the single Argus 109-044, rated at 4.9 kilonewtons (1,100 lbf), mounted above the aft fuselage and fin. The fuselage was of metal construction while the wings were wooden. A retractable nosewheel undercarriage was to be fitted. As the pulse-jets power would reduce at altitude, the aircraft was intended for low-altitude use, and had a secondary ground attack role. Armament consisted of two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon while up to 400 kg (880 lb) of bombs could be carried under the wings. [source: wikipedia.org]
As an aircraft modeller, I had not really come across the Das Werk brand previously. This German based model manufacturer has until now produced a steady stream of armour kits, but I'm happy to say that changed when they announced their first aircraft kit in 1/32 scale (32001), the Ju EF-126 'Elli' / EF-127 'Walli'
Das Werk say of themselves "We want to tackle many things differently, unconventionally. We do not just bring models to the market. We would like to distribute joy in crafting".
As I read more about the Das Werk approach to model design and got my first look at the contents of the EF-126 box it reminded me so much of the Japanese company Zoukei-Mura, where the focus is less on making a buck and more on making a piece of art.
As with Zoukei-Mura, the passion and dedication just drips off each and everything to do with this Das Werk kit. Each part of the package demonstrates a very high level of attention to detail and a desire to produce the best kit they possibly could.
From the 40 page full color assembly manual (more like a book), the inspiring box art (the main reason I bought this kit), the large cartograph printed decal sheet to the beautifully designed and engineered plastic sprues, everything just works.
The Das Werk Ef-126 / Ef-127 kit is designed to be built in one of three main versions, with countless variations of final configuration possible. It can be built with or without booster rockets, in the takeoff configuration (sitting on the trolley), in the landing configuration (with the landing skid deployed), in a factory assembly configuration (with or without engines installed and resting on the wooden factory cradle) and in a number of various tail configurations. [source: Das Werk]
In Das Werk's own words "While the Ef-126 / Ef-127 never served in combat, we believe it is a beautiful aircraft design that would have looked quite attractive in a variety of late-war paint and marking schemes, and so we have included 7 different markings options and paint schemes. While the decal placement and profiles show the Ef-126 Dual Argus configuration, the markings can be applied to any version. We hope you will have fun letting your imagination soar a bit and will explore the possibilities."
For a kit designed to provide three different build options there are a deceptively small number (3) of sprues. This is possible mainly because the front fuselage half (including the wings) is common across all the variants. The one omission I found quite surprising was the lack of any photo-etch parts. Even a small PE fret is pretty standard these days and would have been the icing on the cake for this kit.
The front half of the fuselage is designed with a top-bottom split. Different wing mounting options are provided and it's at this early stage you need to decided if you want the wing spars or not. I appreciate that Das Werk provide detailed painting call outs and decal placements as you go. As would be expected with any late war Luftwaffe cockpit the color is listed as RLM66
The fit of the cockpit interior parts is extremely good, each clicking positively into place. The detail on the parts, especially the rudder pedals is worth noting, however some some PE details (like toe straps) would be have been welcome.
The seat design reminds me a little of a cross between the He-219 and He-162 seats. This is where the lack of a PE fret really starts to stick out like a sore thumb. A 1/32 seat without belts really does look quite naked. The other niggle about the seat is the large cutout in the back of the headrest. This corresponds to the head cushion and will need to be blanked off with some plasticard before painting. The main instrument panel is simple with nicely molded raised detail. I was a bit disappointed that Das Werk did not include at least a few decals for the main dials.
I dug out a Quickboost seat from my Revell He-162 kit and I feel it looks far better than the Das Werk seat due mainly to the inclusion of belts. You could of course make up your own belts or obtain a set from HGW designed for say the Me-163 or similar.
Once the cockpit and seat are installed the top half of the forward fuselage slips down into place. The fit here between the top and bottom is so good that even without glue its hard to tell which is the seam and which is a normal panel line. The precision of the parts in this kit are easily on par with modern Tamiya molds. It's a pity that the cockpit opening is so small as all that nice detail will be hidden away. Such is the life of the aircraft modeller I guess.
The wings of the Ju-126/127 were designed to be made from wood (a not uncommon feature of late war German aircraft due to the scarcity of metal). As such they are mostly devoid of any surface detail like panel lines and rivets. The control surfaces (flaps and ailerons) were to be all metal and its a pity that Das Werk did not provide some rivet detail to highlight this on the kit parts. The fit of the wings to the fuselage is once again very precise and the inclusion of wing spars provides perfect alignment and strength. I chose to remove the molded in pitot tube from the port wing and will reinstall this at the end of the build.
As the Ju-126/127 had no integral landing gear, it was designed to use a jetisonable trolley for takeoff and an extendable skid for landing. The main skid is built into the lower fuselage with a couple of hydraulic rams for extension and retraction. I found a small error in the instructions with several parts being labeled as A when the parts were in fact on the C sprue. As you see the detailing both inside the skids and the fuselage bay is very nice.
With the common nose/wings complete, now is the time to decide which tail options you will use for your model. The kit can be built in one of three main versions, with many variations of final configuration possible.
The first option (which is probably closest to the intended real thing) is the Single Argus engine. Standard fixed horizontal stabilisers are provided for this version, but remember Das Werk have designed the kit to allow you to swap parts in and out as you like. There is no right or wrong with a subject like this.
The rear fuselage is spilt vertically (left and right) and as you can see the surface detail is very well done. I personally will add some more riveting (as per Das Werks own drawings) and I'm not sure but it looks to me like they have tried to add some stressed skin effects as well. It's not surprising that the shape of the tail unit was almost identical to the V-1 Flying bomb.
The Argus As 014 (designated 109-014 by the RLM) was a pulsejet engine used on the German V-1 flying bomb, and the first model of pulsejet engine placed in mass production. License manufacture of the As 014 was carried out in Japan in the latter stages of World War II, as the Maru Ka10 for the Kawanishi Baika kamikaze jet. [source:wikipedia.org]
Much like the real engine, the Das Werk scale version is quite simple. The engine face is well detailed and there is literally no gaps present between the intake lip and the engine body, a testament to the quality of the tooling. I did think the raised weld beads on the engine are a little overscale (when you compare them to the real engine) but that's just a minor niggle.
Here is the final assembly of the main tail parts for the single Argus option. As you can see everything aligns and fits fine with no gaps present. One thing that did occur to me was that this option has no rudder included. Even the V-1 Flying Bomb had a rudder with essentially the exact same tail configuration.
One of the many available options provided by Das Werk is the Schmidding G3-S4 rocket boosters. The Schmidding SG 34 was a solid-fuelled rocket motor which was used by the Bachem Natter to provide extra thrust for launching. Such "Starthilfe" (literally takeoff-help) rocket-based booster systems, both solid and liquid-fuelled were already in use on some horizontal-takeoff German warplanes such as the Arado Ar 234B jet-powered recon-bomber to assist takeoff. Its entirely feasible that the G3-S4 would have been employed on the Ju-126 had they made it into production and combat use.
With the tail complete it is now mated with the nose/wings. For this photo I also quickly assembled the workshop support cradle and sat the canopy/windshield in place. I was also curious how the alternative horizontal tail would look and I think I prefer it.
The second option you have for the tail design is a Dual Argus layout. It's basically a simple adjustment to the single engine layout with slightly modified mounts for the engines.
Both the forward and aft engines mounts are in a V configuration. The parts click into place and pretty much self align making my job pretty easy. If only all models were this easy.
This dual engine layout is the variant that appears on the Das Werk box top and I think I like it so much because it reminds me of the Enterprise's warp engine nacelles in Star Trek.
To go with the V engine layout, Das Werk have included an alternate tail configuration as well. Reminiscent of an A-10 warthog, the rudders are located at the end of the horizontal tails. Not sure what is going on with the fabric rudders as Das Werk has included heavy raised rivet heads here. Equally odd is that these rivets only appear on the outer surface of the fabric rudders. I think I will be sanding those off.
The tail of the dual engine option certainly looks impressive. It also says a lot about the quality of the fit that everything lined up and stayed in place (without glue) for these photos.
A final shot of the dual engine option. Whilst initially my favourite I've now gone a bit cold on it now as I prefer something a little closer to what Junkers had planned with the single Argus layout.
The third and final tail/engine option is what Junkers planned for the rocket powered variant known as the EF-127 "Walli". Because the Walther 509C rocket engine was to be integral to the fuselage, Das Werk have needed to provide a whole new tail section with a more traditional empennage (vertical and horizontal tail)
This layout is also quite attractive and this photo shows the subtle scalloping for the cloth rudder and elevators. The tiny nozzles for the rocket motor are also very nicely detailed. Finally the mounting points for the optional Schmidding G3-S4 boosters are also included.
Regardless of which option you select for the tail, the clear parts included for the windshield and canopy are the same. The canopy is hinged on the port side and can be displayed open or closed on the Das Werk model.
The fit of the clear parts is excellent with no gaps or steps present. Likewise notice how the top of the three parts line up with each other so if decided to display the canopy closed it looks just right. If however you want to show the canopy open the kit includes solid mounting points onto which the hinges can be glued.
The last decision you need to make is how you will mount the finished model. Das Werk provide two options in the form of a factory cradle and a takeoff trolley. Of course you can choose to use neither of these and instead display your aircraft as if it has just landed with the skids extended n the ground. Plenty of options to spark the imagination.
The trolley and factory cradle are each nicely detailed and will add just that extra little bit of interest to the finished model, especially when paired with a 1/32 Kettenkrad tractor or similar.
One last photo of the mostly complete model sitting on the factory cradle. I think this is the aircraft configuration I will use for my build, probably sitting on the trolley with the skid extended. Mind you I'm just as likely to change my mind before then so who knows.
As a final thought I wanted to make mention of the clever little touch that Das Werk have provided for the sprue identification letters. Designing tham as cutouts from the plastic like this makes it SOOO much easier to quickly locate the right sprue when needed. Thank you Das Werk for such a simple, but effective, way of making our jobs a little easier.
Das Werk have given modellers a good head start on choosing a paint and markings scheme by including no less than seven (7) options in the kit. Remember that whilst the decal placement and profiles show the Ef-126 Dual Argus configuration, the markings can be applied to any version, this is after all a what-if kit. Of course if non of these appeal then you can make up your own markings and paint scheme and no-one can argue against it. I myself really like the tropical Luftwaffe schemes in RLM-79 Sandgelb so who knows
Thankfully Das Werk have used the well respected Italian decal manufacturer Cartograph for the decal sheet. Because of the number of options included, plus all the stencilling, the sheet is quite large. Swastikas for the tail are provided in the now standard multi-part layout on the sheet. As I mentioned earlier I am a bit surprised that Das Werk did not provide some instrument dial decals for the cockpit.
This is the first time I've laid hands on a Das Werk kit and I'm very impressed on many levels.
The packaging, instruction booklet and box have a professional feel about them whilst the plastic itself is very cleanly molded and sprues sensibly laid out making working on the model a breeze.
The subject matter is fresh and interesting (at least to me) and the depth of research undertaken by the Das Werk team is obvious after even a cursory look at the kit.
The only additions I would like to have seen was a photo-etch fret including at the very least some seat belts for the otherwise nice seat and perhaps some instrument dial decals for the cockpit.
Das Werk's hope was that we would have fun letting our imagination soar a bit and explore the possibilities. Well I'm happy to report "mission accomplished".
Very well done to Das Werk. I hope we see you release many more aircraft kits.