Special Hobby 1/48 He-115

KIT #: 48110
PRICE: 9775 yen at www.hlj.com
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Short run kit with photo etch


The Heinkel He 115 was a three-seat seaplane, was used as a torpedo bomber and for reconnaissance and minelaying.

The first prototype flew in August 1937,and the He 115 was selected over the Ha 140 early in 1938.  The first prototype set a series of international records for floatplanes over 1,000 km (621 mi) and 2,000 km (1,243 mi) closed circuits at a speed of 328 km/h (204 mph).

Initial armament was two 7.92 mm MG 15s, one in the nose and one in the dorsal position.  They were later fitted with a fixed forward-firing 15 mm or 20 mm MG 151 cannon, and two rearward-firing 7.92 mm MG 17s in the engine nacelles.  The aircraft could carry the LTF 5 or LTF 6b torpedoes and SD 500 500 kg (1,100 lb) or SC 250 250 kg (550 lb) bombs.  

Initially, the He-115s were used for minelaying in the English Channel and North Sea, but proved vulnerable when intercepted due to their relatively low speed and light armament.  When the British began sending convoys to Murmansk, the he-115 found use as a torpedo bomber and level bomber in attacking these convoys.  Since they generally lacked any air support and had minimal anti-aircraft defense, the slow speed and light armament of the He-115 was not a problem. 

Four H115s were delivered to the Norwegians before the war.  Three of them survived the 1940 German invasion and got to England, where they were operated by their crews in clandestine operations off Norway, and later in the Mediterranean. 

The biggest campaign the He-115 took part in was the attack on Convoy PQ-17 in July 1942.  PQ-17, the first Anglo-American naval operation of the war, consisting of 35 British and American merchant ships, departed Iceland on June 27, 1942, bound for Archangel.

The Royal Navy provided close escort for the convoy by the First Escort Group (EG1), under Cdr. J Broome, which included six destroyers, 11 corvettes, minesweepers or armed trawlers, and two anti- aircraft auxiliaries.  Distant cover was provided by the First Cruiser Squadron, under the command of Rear Admiral L. H. K. Hamilton, RN.  The four cruisers were the flagship, HMS London, HMS Norfolk, USS Wichita and USS Tuscaloosa, and four destroyers, two British and two American.  The heavy covering force, under the command of Admiral John Tovey RN, consisted of the carrier HMS Victorious, battleship HMS Duke of York, cruisers HMS Cumberland and HMS Nigeria, the American battleship USS Washington, and nine destroyers. 

The convoy was spotted by the Luftwaffe on July 1.  He-111s and He-115s made the first attack on July 2.  It was expected the convoy could come under attack anytime after July 4.  The heavy force closed on Bear Island to provide air support from Victorious.  A single He-115 scored a torpedo hit on the morning of July 4, hitting the SS Christopher Newport, which had to be scuttled by the escort.  There was an unsuccessful attack in the early evening by six He-115s which was broken up by USS Wainwright (DD-419).  At this time of year the Arctic had continuous daylight.  Later the same evening, 25 He-111 torpedo bombers sank SS William Hooper, while losing four shot down.

At the same time, Ultra gave warning that the German battleship Tirpitz would be deployed against the convoy, in addition to several German air units.  Air reconnaissance of Norway was hampered by poor weather, but it was confirmed Tirpitz and the cruiser Admiral Hipper had left port.

At 1230 on July 4, Admiral Hamilton was given permission to proceed east of 25 degrees east with his cruisers, should the situation demand, unless contrary orders were received from Admiral Tovey. This was a reversal of previous orders. As Tovey had no information that justified this change, Hamilton was ordered to withdraw when the convoy was east of 25 degrees east, unless the Admiralty assured him Tirpitz would not be met.  At 1858 the Admiralty instructed Hamilton to remain with the convoy pending further instructions. At 2111, Hamilton was ordered to withdraw to the west at high speed.  This was due to the presence of several U-boats detected by radio.  At 2123, the Admiralty ordered the convoy to disperse and proceed to Russian ports owing to threat from surface ships.  At 2136, the convoy was ordered to scatter.

 In the event, the Germans did not send Tirpitz into action, though the mere threat had set up what would become a naval disaster.

When the order to scatter was received, PQ-17 had covered more than half its route, losing only three ships. The consequences of the order to scatter were for the merchantmen.  The ships were now spread over a wide area, stripped of mutual protection as well as trained escort. The Germans took advantage of this situation.  Within hours, messages on Merchant Navy wavelengths began to be received: "Am being bombed by a large number of planes", "On fire in the ice", "Abandoning ship", "Six U-boats approaching on the surface."

Only the close escort of anti-aircraft auxiliaries, corvettes, minesweepers, and armed trawlers was left to protect the scattered convoy. On July 5, six merchantmen, including SS Fairfield City, SS Washington, and SS Daniel Morgan, were sunk by the Luftwaffe with six more by four U-boats: Commodore Dowding's flagship SS River Afton, SS Pan Kraft, SS Carlton, SS Honomu, SS Empire Byron and SS Peter Kerr.  Commodore Dowding's refusal to accept defeat was crucial to the rescue of most of the ships that eventually survived the convoy.

 SS Paulus Potter had been abandoned by her crew after an aerial attack on July 5. The ship was then boarded by sailors from U-255 on July 13.  After taking the ship's documents and flag, Kptlt. Reche then sank the Potter with one torpedo.

 On July 6, SS Pan Atlantic was sunk by Luftwaffe He-115s, and SS John Witherspoon by U-255. On July 7-8 July, five more ships were sunk, including SS Olapana and SS Alcoa Ranger by U-255.  The remaining escort withdrew into the Arctic Ocean on July 9. The last losses were SS Hoosier and SS El Capitan on July 10. The Luftwaffe had flown over 200 sorties, losing only five aircraft in exchange for the eight merchantmen they destroyed.

 Of the 34 ships which left Iceland, 23 were sunk.  Only 11 made it through: two British, four American, one Panamanian, and two Russian ships reached Arkhangel on July 12. Two American ships, the SS Samuel Chase and SS Benjamin Harrison, landed at Murmansk. 70,000 short tons out of 200,000 short tons which had started from Iceland made it through.

It was now known that it was impossible to send merchant convoys through the Norwegian Sea in high arctic summer and it was never again attempted.

 In 1943, the movie "Action In The North Atlantic," starring Humphrey Bogart as the captain of an American Victory ship, was released.  The story of the movie is essentially that of PQ-17 and includes actual combat film of attacks by He-115s and features the crash of a He-115 into the ship, shot down by the heroic ship's Navy gun crew.  It's the only World War II movie about the Merchant Marine, and well worth watching.


       This is the first injection-molded plastic kit of the He-115 to appear in 1/48 scale.  It features markings for three aircraft, including the He-115 recently raised from a Norwegian fjord and undergoing restoration.

 While this kit is a short-run product of MPM, I found it to be one of the better ones I have built.  Everything mostly fit with a minimum of extracurricular trouble.

I began by assembling the wings and horizontal stabilizers, and then attaching them to each fuselage half, so that I could work on the joints and thus reduce gaps and seams.  I then painted the interior RLM Gray, picking out details in semi-gloss black, and assembled the interior.  In retrospect, I should have attached the large side glass pieces to the nose before further assembly of the fuselage halves, as this would have resulted in a smoother final fit by working on it from both sides.

 I then assembled the pontoons.  I replaced the photo-etch splash guides and ice rudders with Evergreen plastic strip.  The pontoons and their struts all fit together and fit to the model far more easily than I had expected.  I painted the engines and assembled them in their cowlings and attached them.

I painted the area of the upper fuselage under the long greenhouse glass with RLM 72, rather than the RLM 02 that the kit instructions called for, after finding one upper view of an He-115 in a photo that showed that area the same color as the exterior.  I then attached the greenhouse, with the pilot's canopy and tail gunner's canopy glued closed, since they were too thick to pose realistically in the open position.  Masking off the extensive glass paneling took most of an afternoon.


I gave the model an overall coat of light grey, then pre-shaded panel lines.  I used Xtracrylix RLM 72, RLM 73 and RLM 65 for the camouflage, obtaining "hard edge" camo by masking with Tamiya tape.  Once I had taken the tape off, I freehanded the white areas in a ragged "field applied" manner which approximated some photos.

I unmasked the glass, attached the external gun barrels, the photoetch ladders and the props.


While this model was done very basically out of the box, I have seen two others by modelers who have put additional work into super-detailing the interiors, which goes a long way to making a good-looking model.  The He-115 has been a favorite of mine since I saw it crash into Bogie's cargo ship the first time I saw "Action in the North Atlantic," and I am glad to see it finally appear in 1/48.  The kit is complex but not complicated, and anyone who has done a few limited-run kits should have no difficulty creating a nice model for the final result.

Tom Cleaver

July 2014

Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review kit.  Order yours here.

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