+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the model, the conversion or the presented background story might be based historical facts. BEWARE!
The Dornier Do 319 was directly inspired by the (modest) successes experienced by the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter, the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before World War II began, but problems with engines, metallurgy and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the Luftwaffe until mid-1944.
However, when it became clear that the new jet engine carried the potential for aircraft that were faster than piston engine counterparts, the German Navy urged the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) to develop an amphibian fighter, attack and reconnaissance aircraft. This was not to be a navalized Me 262 (which was regarded as impossible due to the aircraft’s layout with low wings and underslung engine nacelles, and added floats would have ruined the aircraft’s aerodynamics, too), but rather a dedicated single-seat jet aircraft. This new design was to be either operated from catapults (replacing the Marine’s standard on-board aircraft, the Arado Ar 196 floatplane) or, with foldable wings, from submarines with water-tight hangars. This concept had already been discussed in the mid-late 1930s, when German class III submarines were to be outfitted with such compartments – but at that time for small motorboats only, for covert landing operations, and no submarine was converted accordingly. But the concept still found a lot of attention.
Dornier was tasked with the development of such an aircraft, based on the experience gained with the Me 262 and its innovative means of propulsion. Dornier realized that the new turbojet engine presented an opportunity to overcome the drawback of floatplanes if it was possible to combine the light jet engine with a streamlined flying boat hull, which would impose only a small aerodynamic penalty. Such an aircraft could still be at least on par with piston-engine land-based aircraft.
Using aerodynamic research data from the Messerschmitt fighter, Dornier conceived a compact flying boat with shoulder-mounted gull wings, carried by a narrow pylon behind the single seat cockpit. The engine nacelles were placed on the wings’ upper sides, as far away from spray water as possible. Through this layout, however, stabilizer floats would have necessitated very long and draggy struts, and the relatively thin, swept wings did not allow a (favored) retracting mechanism.
As a consequence, the aircraft was designed with Dornier’s trademark stub-wing floats, which added uplift in both water and air and offered, despite a permanent drag penalty, a convenient amount of space for extra fuel and the wells for a fully retractable landing/beaching gear, which made the aircraft fully amphibious and independent from a beaching trolley. Armament consisted of four 30mm MK 108 machine guns in the aircraft’s nose section, and the aircraft’s main task would be ground attack, air defense and, as a secondary mission, fast tactical reconnaissance.
Dornier first presented the initial concept to the RLM in mid-1943. Performance with two Junkers Jumo 004 axial-flow turbojet engines was – naturally – lower than the clean Me 262 fighter, but still impressive. The Me 262 was supposed to achieve a maximum speed of 900 km/h (559 mph), while the Dornier aircraft, with basically the same engines, was expected to have a top speed of 520 mph at 40,000 ft. But this was still regarded as sufficient, and the project was officially given the RLM’s type number 319. Two prototypes were built (under the designation Do 319 A-0), the first one making its maiden flight in February 1944.
However, at that time the German navy had lost much of its power and sovereignty, and more and more resources had to be allocated to defense projects. As a consequence, the Do 319 as a combat aircraft (originally designated Do 319 A) became a secondary priority only, and the original aircraft was cancelled. Still, the small amphibious aircraft attained a lot of interest through the type’s potential as a fast reconnaissance plane and for special purpose transport duties – namely as a personal transport for high-ranking officials and for covert operations behind enemy lines and at foreign shores – was discovered and the type nevertheless ordered into small-scale production.
As a consequence and as an adaptation of the airframe to its new role, the Do 319’s design was modified: the fuselage behind the cockpit was widened into a compartment for passengers, cargo or other equipment. The cabin could hold up to two passengers, sitting vis-à-vis, and it was accessible through a watertight door on each side above the stub floats. The cabin was open to the cockpit in front of it, but the opening was blocked if the front passenger seat was in place. Alternatively, up to 300 kg (660 lb) of cargo or photo equipment could be carried, and one or both seats could also be replaced by internal auxiliary tanks. The provision for the Do 319 A’s cannon armament was retained, but the weapons were rarely mounted in order to save weight.
In this form, and now designated Do 319 B and christened “Seeschwalbe”, the aircraft entered service with the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine on a limited scale. Most machines were exclusively assigned to staff units and reserved for special missions like liaison duties for high ranking officials, but they were also used in recce and other special missions. At least one Do 319 B was shot down over the American east coast, probably while deploying German agents from a submarine. How the aircraft with its limited range itself could come close to American shores remains a mystery until today, since Germany did not build or operate submarine aircraft carriers.
Production numbers remained low, though, reaching roundabout 20 aircraft (even this number is uncertain) until the end of the war, and no Do 319 survived the hostilities.
Crew: 1 pilot plus up to 2 passengers
Length: 10.80 m (35 ft 4 1/2 in)
Wingspan: 12.60 m (41 ft 6 in)
Height: 3.78 m (12 ft 4 1/2 in)
Wing area: 26.8 m² (288 ft²)
Aspect ratio: 7.32
Empty weight: 4,120 kg (9,075 lb)
Loaded weight: 6,830 kg (15,044 lb)
Max. take-off weight: 7,385 kg (16,266 lb)
2× Junkers Jumo 004 B-1 turbojets, 8.8 kN (1,980 lbf) each
Maximum speed: 820 km/h (510 mph)
Range: 1,200 km (652 mi)
2,100 km (1,300 mi) with extra internal fuel cells
Service ceiling: 10,850 m (35,538 ft)
Rate of climb: 1,000 m/min (At max weight of 7,130 kg) (3,275 ft/min)
Provisions for 4× 30 mm MK 108 cannon in the nose, but rarely mounted
The kit and its assembly:
Another entry for the “Flying Boat, Seaplane and Amphibian” Group Build at whatifmodelers.com in late 2017, and the result of a spontaneous inspiration from a drawing of a Luft’46/fantasy creation of a Me 262 fuselage with a planning bottom, a parasol(!) wing and a single jet engine exhausting right above the cockpit, and no (visible) stabilizing floats at all. Rather spurious.
Well, nevertheless, the Me 262 jet fighter has a very shark-like profile and shape, and it has already been converted into flying boats or even submarines by modelers, and I decided to create my personal interpretation of the theme. I remembered a lone He 115 float in my stash (maybe 35 years old or even more!), and when I held to a Me 262 fuselage the parts had almost the same length and width. So, creating a flying boat jet fighter seemed like a realistic task.
Things started straightforward with an 1:72 Smer Me 262 fighter, which is actually the vintage Heller two-seater night fighter with a new fuselage and canopy. My kit of choice would have been the Matchbox kit, but the Heller kit is also O.K., due to its simplicity and simple construction.
Creating something amphibian from a Me 262 is not a trivial task, though. With its low wings and underslung engine nacelles there’s a lot to be changed until you get a plausible floatplane. Another challenge is to integrate some form of stabilizer/outrigger floats, what also influences the wings’ position. Placing the engines where they are safe from spray ingestion is also a serious matter – you have to get the high and the intakes as far forward as possible.
Doing some legwork I found some similar builds, and they all did not convince me. And, after all, I wanted to create my own “design”; in order to incorporate some realism I eventually settled on Dornier’s typical WWII designs like the Do 18 and Do 24. These elegant aircraft had a common, elegant trait: low stub wings as stabilizer floats, paired with high wings (in the case of the Do 18 held by a massive central pylon) which carried the engine out of the water’s reach. This appeared like a feasible layout for my conversion, even though it would mean a total re-construction of the kit, or rather assembling it in a way that almost no part was glued into the intended place!
Work started with the cockpit, which had to be moved forward in order to make room for the wings behind the canopy, placed high on a pylon above the fuselage. For this stunt, the cockpit opening and the place in front of it (where the original front fuselage tank would be) were cut out and switched. The cockpit tub was moved forward and trimmed in order to fit into the new place. The nose section was filled with lead, because the stub wings/floats would allow a retractable landing gear to be added, too, making the aircraft a true amphibian!
The He 115 float was cut down in order to fit under the OOB Me 262 fuselage, and a front wheel well was integrated for a tricycle landing gear. Once the fuselage was closed, the planning bottom was added and the flanks sculpted with putty – lots of it.
In the meantime the Me 262 wing received a thorough re-arrangement, too. Not only were the engine nacelles moved to the upper wing surface (cutting the respective wing and intake sections of the nacelles off/out and turning them around 180°), the original connecting ventral wing part with the landing gear wells were turned upside down, too, the landing gear covers closed (with the respective OOB parts) and the inner wing sections modified into a gull wing, raising the engines even further. VERY complex task, and blending/re-shaping everything took a lot of PSR, too.
Under the central wing section I added a pylon left over from a Smer Curtiss SC Seahawk kit, because a massive Do 18-esque construction was out of question for a fast jet aircraft. The gaps were filled with putty, too.
In order to keep the stabilizers free from water spray they were moved upwards on the fin, too. The original attachment points were sanded away and hidden under putty, and the OOB stabilizers placed almost at the top at the fin.
Finding suitable stub wings/floats became a challenge: they have to be relatively thick (yielding buoyancy and also offering room for the retractable landing gear), but also short with not-so-rounded tips. It took a while until I found suitable donor parts in the form of the tips of an 1:32 AH-64 Apache (!) stabilizer! They were simply cut off, and openings for the main landing gear cut into their lower sides.
Once glued to the lower flanks and the stabilizers in place it was time to place the wing. In the meantime the moved cockpit had been blended to the fuselage, and initial tests indicated that the pylon would have to be placed right behind the canopy – actually on top of the end of the clear part. As a consequence the canopy was cut into pieces and its rear section integrated into the fuselage (more PSR).
However, the relatively thin and slender central pylon from the Curtiss SC indicated that some more struts would be necessary in order to ensure stability – very retro, and not really suited for a jet-powered aircraft. And the more I looked at the layout, the more I became convinced that the wings and engines were in a plausible position, but placed too high.
What started next were several sessions in which I shortened the pylon step by step, until I was satisfied with the overall proportions. This went so far that almost everything of the pylon had gone, and the wings almost rested directly on the Me 262’s spine!
However, this new layout offered the benefit of rendering the extra struts obsolete, since I decided to fill the small gap between wing and fuselage into a single, massive fairing. This would also mean more internal space, and consequently the original idea of a jet-powered combat aircraft was modified into a fast multi-purpose amphibian vehicle for special tasks, capable of transporting personnel behind enemy lines with a quick move.
More PSR, though, and after some finishing touches like a scratched landing gear (front leg/wheel from an Italeri Bae Hawk, main struts from a Mistercraft PZL Iskra trainer, wheels from an Academy OV-10 Bronco and with improvised covers), several antennae and mooring lugs made from wire, the aircraft was ready for painting. On the downside, though, almost any surface detail had been lost due to the massive, overall body sculpting – but the application of the light zigzag pattern helped to recreate some “illusionary” details like flaps or panel lines. 😉
Painting and markings:
Originally, when the Seeschwalbe was still conceived as a fighter, the model was to receive a daylight scheme in typical German naval aircraft colors (RLM 72/73/65). But this plan changed when the aircraft’s role became a ‘special purpose’ transporter for covert operations.
Nocturnal operations appeared plausible, so that the scheme became much more murky: from above, a splinter scheme with RLM 73 and RLM 74 (naval dark green and dark, greenish grey, both from the ModelMaster Authentic enamel paint range) was applied as a basis, and the undersides became black – as if standard daylight colors had been overpainted, a frequent practice.
Since this black paint was made from soot, it easily wore away and many Luftwaffe machines with improvised black undersides quickly gained a rather shaggy look. I wanted to re-create this look, and built up the lower paint accordingly: In an initial step, RLM76 (I used Humbrol 87, which is a tad darker than the RLM tone, for less contrast with the black) was painted on the lower wing surfaces, the fuselage with a medium waterline and the fin. Once dry, the national marking decals were added. Then a coat of thinned Revell Acrylics 6 Tar Black was applied on top of the lower surfaces, including the lower decals, and later wet-sanded in order to reveal some of the grey underneath for a worn look.
In order to break up the aircraft’s outlines, esp. at low altitude, a disruptive meander pattern in light grey (RLM 76) was painted on top of the upper surfaces. For this task, I thinned Humbrol’s 247 enamel and used a simple brush, painting the curls free-handedly. The finish looks pretty convincing, and it mimics well the technique with which those improvised patterns were applied in the field in real life: quickly, with anything at hand. The way the finish turned out, the pattern could have been applied with a broad brush – the use of a spray gun was rather uncommon, and IMHO the use of an airbrush on a model to recreate such a zigzag pattern rarely leads to convincing results?
This pattern was painted tightly around all the upper markings, and the markings themselves were kept at a minimum. For instance, the tactical code only comprises the aircraft’s individual letter “Blue O” behind the fuselage cross, which indicates an air staff machine. This would, following the official German squadron code system, be confirmed by an “A”, following as a fourth digit. The squadron’s code (“P7”, which is fictional, just like the aircraft’s sea reconnaissance squadron itself) was omitted, too. Such minimal markings became a frequent practice towards the final war stages, though, and it fits the aircraft’s special duty role well. The only individual marking is a squadron badge under the cockpit – lent from an Italian night fighter and placed on a dark blue disc. Another, subtle indicator for the aircraft’s operator are the blue air intake center bodies, repeating the staff flight’s blue color code.
Only some light weathering was done, with dry-brushed light grey on the leading edges, and finally the kit was sealed with matt acrylic varnish (Italeri). In a final step, some very light dry-brushing with aluminum was done on some of the fuselage edges, esp. the spray dams, and the position lights were painted with translucent paint over a silver base.
A messy project, in many ways, but I am happy with result. Most stunning is IMHO the fact that all major parts for this compact flying boat actually come from a single, simple Me 262 kit – but visually there’s not much of the left from the jet fighter. But it’s also amazing that the proportions look right, and the whole thing quite plausible and Dornier-esque! Turned out better than expected.
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