1/72 Mistel II Conversion

KIT #: Matchbox PK-109, Hasegawa AP3, Falcon Unnumbered
DECALS: Spares box
REVIEWER: Brian Baker
NOTES: An interesting and challenging conversion.


The Mistel, or Beethoven project was inspired by the British Short-Mayo Composite Seaplane-Flying Boat  aircraft used in 1937-1938 to extend the range of the  Imperial Airways’ Short Empire flying boats carrying mail across the Atlantic. This consisted of a standard Short  S.23 Empire flying boat modified to S.21 Maia standard  with mounting struts (Maia was the name of the individual flying boat), and a specially built four engine seaplane, the S.20 Mercury , a small four engine floatplane which rode piggy-back on top of the S.23, and which was launched in the air at half of the Maia’s range,  completing the flight to its destination with the mail, while the flying boat went back to its departure point.   Although the aircraft completed its first Trans Atlantic flight in January, 1938, and its record long distance flight, 6,045 miles between Dundee, Scotland and Cape Town, South Africa, was completed in October, 1938, development was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II, when the aircraft were taken over by the RAF.  The photo shows the first in air separation of  Short S.23 Empire  “Maia” (G-ADHKM), and the original Short S.20 “Mercury” (G-ADHJ).

German Developments

In 1942, the DFS firm, known for its DFS.230 troop glider, began experiments to extend the range of the glider using the same principle, mounting a powered aircraft on top, which would release when the glider was near its intended landing point. They were aware of the British Short-Mayo developments.  First experiments were conducted in Bavaria in September, 1942, using a DFS-230 glider with a Klemm 35 primary trainer mounted on top.  The combination was towed into the air  by a JU-52 transport,  and it was found that the engine of the Klemm was not powerful enough for the combination to maintain altitude.  Practice separations were successful, however.  Next, they tried a Focke Wulf FW-56 Stosser trainer, which produced enough power to maintain altitude, but not enough for an independent takeoff.  By 1943, they got serious about the project, and replaced the FW-56 with a Messerschmitt Bf-109E, which finally achieved independent flight, requiring a takeoff run of only about 1200 feet (400 meters).  Although the aircraft was considered to be successful, it was never used in the glider role.

 Early in the war,  Junkers test pilot Siegfried Holzbaur came up with the idea of using the principle to attack targets on the ground.  The idea was initially rejected, but eventually, after it was discovered that the Luftwaffe was losing 27 aircraft for every ship sunk, the idea was again considered, this time using a JU-88 controlled by a fighter mounted above.  Finally, in 1943, a JU-88A-4/Bf-109F combination was successfully flown and separated, and tactics for its use were developed.  By 1944, hollow charge warheads had been developed and tested,   and flight tests showed some promise. A number of JU-88’s slated for scrapping were converted to Misteln, and these were test flown with their original nose sections, provision being made for the installation of a 3.5 ton warhead for operational use. Assembly and  flight testing was done at Nordhausen, and twelve aircraft of IV/KG 101were transferred to France after the Normandy invasion.  The first attacks were inconclusive due to weather and other factors.  Later, III/KG 66 was formed, and 5/KG 200 served as a pathfinder unit while  7/KG 200 became an operational training unit. Most combat missions during this period were failures, mainly because of the difficulty in controlling these planes after release.  They were also very vulnerable to enemy fighters. Plans to attack specific targets usually were canceled, and the Misteln were frittered away attacking individual targets, usually without success.  Most just hit the ground in open country causing terrific but harmless explosions.

 Variations included the Mistel I, with a Bf-109 control plane, and the Mistel II, using am FW-190A.  Versions preceded with an  ”S” were training versions. Some long fuselage JU-88H-4’s were converted, but although all types of Misteln were used to attack various bridges during the final days of the Third Reich, many survived to be captured and examined by the Allies.  A number of training combinations were converted, but usually BMW powered JU-88G’s were controlled by FW-190A’s burning the same type of fuel, while Jumo powered JU-88A’s had Bf-109’s, although training models varied.  Photos show fairly large groups of Misteln on the ground, but their effect on the overall war was extremely limited, and many were discovered and captured at various locations by the Allies at the end of the war. 


Although Italeri has produced an excellent  Mistel  I, with a JU-88A-4 and Bf-109F, it is left to the modeler to come up with the Mistel  II combination.  Possibilities include the Italeri JU-88G-1 night fighter kit, and the old Matchbox JU-188 kit, which is obsolete by modern standards with the appearance of the Italeri JU-188.  The Matchbox kit only requires a few modifications to become acceptable, although serious modelers will want to do some superdetailing for a real first class model. Not being that ambitious, I built mine almost OTB, except for the wingtip change and warhead installation.  I did use the radial engine and propeller units from the Italeri JU-188 kit, as the Matchbox engines and props are really poor. I was surprised by the results.

 First, the Matchbox is an old kit, and I used the one I had because I  wanted  to save my only remaining Italeri kit for another model.  It is reasonably accurate in outline for a JU-188, with the squared tail unit and pointed wingtips, but the cockpit arrangement is very poorly done, with some windows on clear plastic and others with just indentations in the plastic that, I suppose, are intended to be painted, although really serious modelers would probably trim them out and somehow fill them with transparent plastic if they don’t just go to the Italeri kit.  The engines are a bit crude, and the props and cowling fronts are identical to those of Matchbox’s FW-190A kit---not too bad for the FW-190 but totally inadequate for the JU-188. My solution was to scavenge the engines, cowlings, and propellers from an Italeri JU-188 kit, as these are much better, although they lack the cooling fan that the German BMW engines had.  I used star washers from the hardware store, and they worked out OK. Strange that Italeri left these out on the JU-188, as they are included in their DO-217 kit, which has the same identical engines.

The Matchbox kit is extremely basic, and the only real drawback is the trench-like panel lines which really need to be filled in and re-scribed.  The wings are molded in inner and outer sections, which means that they have to be aligned carefully.  You’ll need a lot of filler on this kit, which is to be expected of a kit of this vintage. The tail unit is also very simple, and can be glued in place with no trouble. The wingtips need to be reshaped, and it means more than just cutting off the tips, as a small sheet of card needs to be added to get the right contour.  This is explained in the Falcon kit instructions.

  The Falcon Conversion Kit

 The Falcon Mistel II conversion kit is very old, and mine must have been in my vacuform kit box for at least twenty five years, although there is no indication on the instruction sheet when this was issued. Since it was issued for the Matchbox kit, which is copyrighted 1974, and my earliest Italeri JU-188 model, which I estimate was built around 1977, my suspicion is that the Falcon conversion kit was issued in the late seventies, which could make it as much as forty years old. It consists of a small vacuform sheet of thick plastic with the halves of the warhead molded in accurate outline.  The plastic was extremely brittle, but this may have been due to its age and the fact that it was stored in an unheated airplane hangar for many years.  The parts are processed by trimming carefully, and sanding the edges down on a rough sheet of sandpaper, not a difficult task, but the brittleness of the plastic requires careful handling.   The instructions tell exactly where to trim the fuselage so that a fairly good fit is achieved,  and the warhead even has part of the leading edges of the wing roots included, which helps align it properly.  It is molded in styrene, so my Tenax worked perfectly.  It sanded and filled easily, and I continued assembling the kit.

The main problem was that although the mounting struts are outlined on the instruction sheets, they don’t coincide with the three view drawing in 1/72 scale that is provided, and you just have to eyeball the strut length to get them right.  The attachment points are easy to locate, and the three struts on each side are easy to line up.  In addition, there is no marking information provided, nor decals, but this isn’t a real problem if you have good references. Speaking of references,  a small paperback, “Mistel” by Hans-Peter Dabrowski was my main reference, as it has many photos of Mistels, although many of them are of aircraft without warheads, with just the struts attached.  William Green’s old “War Planes of the Third Reich” is also useful if you can find a copy. There is some information on line, but nothing that wasn’t in the above listed publications.

There is a more recent resin conversion kit available for this airplane based on the Italeri JU-88G-1 kit. This is produced by Aries, and would probably be an easier conversion than the one I did, but I did this one because I had it, and I enjoy a challenge.

 The Hasegawa FW-190A-8 kit has been reviewed many times, so I won’t repeat it again.  It is probably the best kit available of the A-8/F-8 version, and has the bubble canopy in addition to the flat hatch.  It can be displayed in open position, and it an acceptable model in all cases.  There are some aftermarket detail sets available for this kit, which are very nice, but an OTB model was sufficient for this project.  I used a standard 74/75/76 scheme with black outline crosses except for the upper wing surfaces, which used white outline crosses. When finished, it needs to be attached to the struts on top of the JU-88G. This can be a rather delicate proposition, but nothing a fairly experienced modeler with a lot of patience can’t handle. 


Since I was doing the BMW powered JU-88G,  and since nearly all JU-88G’s were night fighters, I used standard night fighter camouflage.  I don’t think that at that stage of the war, anyone was willing to devote much time and effort to repainting an airplane that was going on a one way mission, although some of these appear in photos with dark green patches all over the upper surfaces, probably hastily added for ground camouflage by ground crews after the rebuilding process.  I used RML 76 overall, with RML 75 grau speckled pattern, topped with RML 70 grun splotches for better ground camouflage. Many photos of these aircraft show them heavily camouflaged with nets or tree limbs, so an exact color match would be extremely difficult. I think I am safe going with the 76/75/70 scheme.  Few of these aircraft carried any kind of unit markings, and I haven’t seen a photo of one of the FW-190A’s with anything other than the usual Luftwaffe crosses. Most of the night fighters carried black crosses with white edging, and this is the scheme I used on my missile aircraft. The warhead was painted RML 70 on top, and RLM 76 below, and this shows in the few photos I have seen.  



If I had to do this again, I would probably opt for the Italeri kit.  First choice would probably be the Aires conversion kit, as it is newer and resin.  The Italeri JU-88G would be easiest to convert, but the JU-188 kit would also be useable if the wingtips are suitable modified. I understand that the Italeri JU-88G is rather hard to find,  but either kit would work.  This proves the old adage about the silk purse and sow’s ear. Take the challenge. That’s what modeling is all about.

Brian Baker

April 2010

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