Montex 1/32 Henschel Hs-123A-1

KIT #: 32005
PRICE: $179.95 MSRP
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver
NOTES: Full Resin kit


      The first designed-for-the-purpose dive bomber to see production and combat, the Henschel Hs 123A-1 was a single-seat biplane dive bomber and close-support attack aircraft that first saw combat with the German Condor Legion in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War and the Chinese Air Force against the Japanese Navy in 1938. Considered obsolete with the introduction of the Ju-87 Stuka in 1937, the Hs-123 soldiered on through the Polish and French campaigns and then the Eastern Front in the close-support role, where it was more effective than more modern types. 

     Soon after Hitler came to power, Henschel - to that point a locomotive manufacturer - decided to enter the aircraft industry.  Following his demonstration of the Curtiss Hawk, Ernst Udet convinced Erhard Milch to order a dive-bomber for the new Luftwaffe.  Henschel’s reply - in competition to the Fieseler Fi-98 - was the Hs 123, designed to meet the 1933 requirements which specified a single-seat biplane dive-bomber. Udet flew the Hs 123V1 prototype on its first public demonstration on May 8, 1935. The first three Henschel prototypes, powered by the 650 hp BMW 132A-3 engines, were tested at Rechlin in August 1936. The Hs-123 did away with bracing wires and although they looked outdated, they featured a fully-cantilever, all- metal construction, clean lines and excellent maneuverability.

     The performance of the Hs-123 V1 eliminated the more conventional Fi-98. During testing, the Hs-123 proved capable of pulling out of "near-vertical" dives.  Two prototypes crashed due to wing failures. The Hs-123V-4 incorporated stronger cabane struts to cure this. After successful tests, the Hs-123 was ordered into production with an 880 hp BMW 132Dc engine.

     The Hs-123 was intended to replace the Heinkel He-50 as well as be a "stop-gap" until the Junkers Ju-87 became available. Thus, production was limited with no further development considered. Production ended in October 1938 with 1000 aircraft. 

     A pre-production batch of Hs 123A-0s was produced in 1936 for service evaluation by the Luftwaffe, and were followed by the slightly modified Hs 123A-1 series, which was equipped with an armoured headrest and fairing, as well as removable main wheel spats and a faired tailwheel. The weapon load of four SC 50 110 lb bombs were carried on lower wing racks along with an additional SC250 550 lb (250 kg) bomb mounted on a "crutch" beneath the fuselage, though this was usually replaced by a drop tank. Two MG 17 machine guns (7.92 mm/0.312 in) were mounted in the nose synchronized to fire through the propeller arc.

    The Hs-123A-0 entered service with StG 162 “Immelmann” in October 1936, serving until the unit re-equipped with the Ju-87 the following year. Five Hs-123A-0 and A-1 aircraft were sent to Spain, where they proved highly effective in the close-support role, proving capable of absorbing punishment and getting home. The Spanish Nationalists were so impressed that they purchased the five Condor Legion airplanes and eleven more.  Known as the “Angelito,” the Spanish Hs-123s served until 1945, with one flown until the early 1950s. Twelve Hs-123s were exported to China in 1938, where they saw extensive operation as dive bombers against Japanese warships on the Yangtze River 

     In Spain, the aircraft proved themselves capable of operating from primitive airstrips close to the front.  It was here that the pilots discovered that the most potent weapon the Hs-123 had was its engine.  By changing revolutions on the controllable-pitch prop while in a dive, the airplane could emit sounds that frightened men and horses below, with calamitous results for the unit so attacked.  

     In 1938, the remaining Hs-123s were part of the temporary Fliegergeschwader 100 during the Munich Crisis. With the crisis over, the Hs-123s were transferred to Lehrgeschwader 2 as II.(Schl)/LG2.  In the invasion of Poland, the 39 Hs-123s of LG 2 proved particularly effective at close-support, where they were instrumental in breaking up attempts by Polish cavalry to attack German units, using the “staccato” sound discovered in Spain.  Flown from primitive fields close to the front, ground crews considered the Hs-123 reliable and easy to maintain. The leading pilot of this unit was Hauptmann Adolf Galland, who was at the time seen as a ground-attack expert due to his service with the He-51 in this role in the Condor Legion.

     With their success in the Polish campaign, the Hs-123s found a role in the Western Front Blitzkrieg against France and the Low Countries, where General Heinz Guderian was impressed by the quick turnaround time of II.(Schl)/LG 2.  Usually the most-forward-based unit, the Hs-123s flew more missions per day than any other type, and again proved their worth in the close-support role. Ju-87s were still used as tactical bombers rather than true ground support aircraft, so with no other capable aircraft available, the Hs 123 continued in service, though their numbers were constantly being reduced by attrition.  At the end of the French campaign, II/LG2 returned to Germany to swap their Hs-123s for Bf-109E fighter-bombers, even though all the pilots were convinced they were swapping out to a less-useful aircraft.

     At the outbreak of the Balkans Campaign, the 32 Hs-123s that had been retired after the fall of France were brought back to equip 10.(Schl)/LG 2. They performed so well they remained in service for Operation Barbarossa.  The single Gruppe dedicated to ground support was II.(Schl)/LG 2, which operated 38 Bf-109Es and 22 Hs-123s. In service on the Eastern Front in the Central and Southern theaters, the remaining Hs-123s were "field" modified with additional armor and carried extra machine guns and even 20mm cannons underwing.

     In January 1942, II.(Schl)/LG 2 was redesignated as the first dedicated ground attack Geschwader, Schlact Geschwader 1, with the Hs-123s being flown by 7./SG 1.  The unit flew in the Second Battle of Kharkov and participated in the Battle of Stalingrad.  To make up losses, Hs-123s were being taken from training schools and salvaged from derelict dumps. 

     In January, 1943, Generaloberst Wolfram von Richthofen, commander of Luftflotte 4, asked if the Hs-123 could be placed back in production because of its performance where mud, snow, rain and ice took a heavy toll on more advanced aircraft. Unfortunately, the Henschel factory had dismantled all tools and jigs in 1940.

     After participating in the Battle of Kursk, SG 1 returned to the Crimea, where they finally gave up the aircraft they had flown through five campaigns after it had been declared obsolete. In July 1944, 7./SG 1 traded its last Hs-123s for Ju-87s, the type that had “replaced” them back in 1937.


     This Hs-123A-1 is the fifth full-resin kit from Montex of Poland, following their Boomerang, Gloster Gamecock, Hawker Fury, and Fairey Fawn.  As has been noted in reviews of the previous kits, these are extremely-high-quality resin kits, with lots of great detail.  In test-fitting this kit, I can see that assembly is so easy and straightforward that any modeler who has had any experience at all assembling resin parts would have no difficulty building this kit out of the box into a show-stopper.

     The cockpit is fully detailed, lacking only seat belts which are available from Eduard.  The BMW 132 engine is also fully-detailed, to the point where it is almost a crime to enclose it in the beautiful three-part cowling. 

     Parts fit is entirely positive, so that it is impossible to get the dihedral of the upper wing wrong when assembling the two parts.  All control surfaces are molded separately and can be posed dynamically.

     Masks are provided to all the model to be built as a Spanish Air Force “Angelito” in 1942, or a Hs-123A-1 of 7./SG 1 on the Eastern Front in 1942.


     This kit from Montex is easily the very best resin kit I have ever built.  There are manufacturers of injection-molded kits who would wish on their happiest day that they had the ability to create a kit as well-engineered as this kit is.

     That said, in my initial review in-box, I said the kit would only need filler on the fuselage centerline seam.  That wasn’t accurate.  It turned out to need a bit of Mr. Surfacer and cyanoacrylate on all seams, but it needed a lot less than most limited-run injection-molded kits. There were a couple of places - most notably in the attachment of the upper wing - where I needed a good dose of “some modeling skill required”, but it was nothing really difficult for anyone who has learned “test-fit four times before gluing once.”

     That said, the kit was really quite easy to build.

     Construction started with the cockpit.  I pre-painted everything in RLM02, then gave everything a wash of thinned Tamiya “Smoke” to pop out detail, then did further weathering by dry-brushing Tamiya “Flat Aluminum” to further “pop out” detail. I used Eduard’s 1/32 Luftwaffe seatbelts to finish things off.

     Once the cockpit was done, the fuselage came together easily. I used some cyanoacrylate glue to fill the seam, smoothed that with Mr. Surfacer, and then rescribed panel lines where necessary.

     The engine was a model in itself, with a separate crankcase, separate cylinders, and all other detail also separate.  Everything fit perfectly. The exhaust detail was mostly lost when the cowling was closed up around the engine, but careful viewing will show it’s all in there.  The cowling seemed difficult at first, since it is a very close cowl.  I “clicked” the upper third into position and glued it in, then “clicked the other two parts, and only had to glue them along the mounting seams externally. 

     I attached the horizontal stabilizers and the lower wings, then attached the control surfaces in dynamic positions.  When all the seams were sanded smooth, the model was ready for paint.



     Lots of paint schemes for the Hs-123 will tell you that it was in a RLM70 and RLM71 splinter pattern.  This is wrong - as they say in Texas, it is “Armadillo patties.”.  All the airplanes were originally delivered in the three-tone grey/brown/green scheme, which was (according to the “X-purtz”) then overpainted in RLM70/71, and then later overpainted in overall RLM71.  Well, baloney!  Their Gauleiterships of the Reichluftfartministerium would never have put that much effort into painting what they saw at the time as a “second line” airplane.  The fact is that the only photos of Hs-123s that would give credence to the 2-tone upper scheme are photos with shadows.  Sorry, dark shadow lines are NOT evidence of RLM70/71!  These were not airplanes the Luftwaffe gave much of a rat’s patootie about.  Given that, they were most likely painted overall RLM71 from the git-go. (Anyone who can present a color photo to disprove this will receive a great dinner as my guest at my favorite Los Angeles French cuisine vegan restaurant, Madeleine’s Bistro.)

     So I did a “pre-shading” withe flat black, then did the model in overall RLM65 Hellblau from Tamiya, and RLM71 Dunkelgrun with Gunze, with both colors faded with multiple passes as I lightened the original colors with white and light grey.


     I don’t like masks, and didn’t particularly like these as I studied photos of Hs-123s on the eastern front.  So I went through that wing of the decal dungeon dedicated to 1/32 Luftwaffe, and found decals sufficient to cobble together my own markings, that being an Hs-123 on the southern front in the summer of 1942, from available photos.


     I had test-fitted the upper wing before painting, and thought it might go together as designed.  Once there was paint on the model and I could determine how things were really fitting, I had to cut off all the pegs on the wing struts and rear cabane struts, leaving only the locating pegs of the forward cabane struts.  I then test-fitted several times as I sanded the rear cabane struts and the interplane struts so they fit right.  With cyanoacrylate glue, everything went together without a problem.

     I then attached the windscreen, the bomb racks, the bombs, and the prop, after giving a few “dings” to the airframe and prop.  I applied exhaust staining with thinner Tamiya “Smoke.”  I “muddied” the wheels and spats with the Tamiya weathering set.



I have built the Airfix Hs-123 in 1/72 scale, and several ESCI Hs-123s in 1/48 scale, including two of the upgraded kits from AMTech, and can say that this is easily the best kit of this airplane produced by anyone in any scale.  It is easy to assemble, even with all the small detail parts, with no “wrestling” required.  If you like the Hs-123, or if you just want to build a really excellent model that will allow your talents to shine in the final product, this kit is well worth its price.

Review kit courtesy of Montex.

December 2008

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