Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
The Mistel idea was one of the last-ditch attempts by the Luftwaffe to create a powerful weapon to strike at Allied targets, such as major bridges. It consisted of an unmanned bomber attached by struts to a fighter perched above it, the bomber's nose being adapted to carry a large explosive charge. In its most frequently used form, the bomber was usually a Ju 88 or 188, and the fighter was an Fw 190A or F.
The pilot of the fighter flew the composite to the target, and released the bomber by firing explosive bolts at the head of the strut assembly; the bomber then flew under power a shallow dive to take it to the target point, while the fighter stood off to observe the detonation, and then returned to its base. The accuracy of the system was not very high, because the bomber's controls and power settings were set before release, and as far as I know they couldn't be altered thereafter. The kind of precision that could be achieved by a dive bomber such as the Ju 87 was obviously far higher; but with a 2-ton charge in the bomber's nose, even a near miss could cause a lot of damage. A Volltreffer could probably render even a big bridge unusable for a considerable time.
In the event, no major damage was caused by Mistel combinations, although a near miss put a Royal Navy frigate out of action, killed nine crew members, and injured many more.
The Initial Image
Scott presented this model on MM a few years back, and it involves the typical pairing of a Ju 88 and a BMW-powered Fw 190.
I chose this image from the review partly because there is another image that shows the Fw 190 alone, in a pose nearly identical to this one, so I could use it to get a more detailed picture of the 190. At 550x327pixels, this isn't a high-definition image, but the resolution of detail is pretty good considering. Also, the pose is relatively undistorted, and the depth of field is good.
I will need to reconstruct the part of the Ju airframe that is obscured by the fighter, but the bomber will be a rather small secondary on the final image, so I don't need to be too pedantic about it.
Treatment of the Image
My rebuild of the Ju 88 was made easier by the dodge of selecting the whole of the starboard engine nacelle, reducing its size by around 10%, and then pasting it back onto the master image where the port engine should be; a small rotation of the nacelle was needed to allow for the convergent perspective.
The struts were not difficult to restore, but care was needed to get the perspective reasonably accurate. Restoring the cockpit area and the nose was not problematic, and then all I needed was to reduce the shadow areas where the fighter was blocking the light on the Ju.
Looking at the result of this work, I couldn't help thinking what a handsome aircraft the Ju 88 was, especially the later versions with the bigger more angular fin. I must do another some time, uncluttered by those unsightly struts.
The Fw 190 is the primary airframe in my picture, but my work on it was entirely routine, so enough said. I presume that the drop-tank would have been jettisoned directly after the release of the bomber, so that the pilot would have the full performance potential in case he got molested by P-51's or Lavochkins.
The Fw 190 in all its versions is always a nice-looking machine; to me, the surprise of this image is how smart the Ju 88 looks.