1/48 Heinkel-172W Sea Salamander

Gallery Article by Alvis 3.1

Silly Week 2008


Late in WW II, the Luftwaffe was being heavily attacked at its' own airfields.  One of their last ditch, and ultimately futile attempts at dispersal of aircraft was the Heinkel He-172 W.

Using the V-tailed He-172 as the basis for this aircraft, a hydrodynamically capable hull was engineered and attached to the aircraft.  Small stablising wingtip floats were also added.  Line connections and extra internal fuel capacity was introduced.  The pitot tube was shifted to the port wing

Since the standard position of the cannons had been under the nose, this caused some problems in the design.  Left as it was, the guns would either fill with water and explode when fired, or allow water into the aircraft upon landing and sink the plane. Neither was a good option.  The first attempt to rectify this involved watertight doors that would flick open when the guns were selected, but the doors had the tendency of closing when the cannons were fired (traced to interruptions in the electrical circuit caused by the vibrations of the guns firing) which led to large sections being blown forcibly off the aircraft.  This was unsuitable, as it led to in-flight fires, excessive drag, and instantaneous sinking of the plane when landing!  The doors also would flick open upon landing (again, short circuits were to blame) and sink the plane.  Obviously, this was the wrong approach.  After the loss of 11 test aircraft, Heinkel looked elsewhere for a solution.

The second option was to modify the underwing cannon pods from the Me-109. Since there was no landing gear in the aircraft, some space could be freed up to carry more ammunition.  With this, the major hurdles were overcome and the "Sea Salamander" was set for its' first combat forays.

Fortunately for the Allies, Heinkel was still using a wooden sandwich composition for the majority of the wing assembly, and since they still were using glue that lacked proper bonding capability, the "Sea Salamanders" had an atrocious rate of wing failures.  It was later determined that placing the planes in proximity to salt water merely accelerated the process.  Not one enemy aircraft fell to a "Sea Salamander".

Click on images below to see larger images




The kits used is the Dragon 1/48 scale He-172 and the float from an Airfix Ju-52. Amazingly, the two fit together quite well.  I merely cut the top of the float off, thinned the edges, and attached it to the fuselage of the He-172.  A small amount of putty later...viola! Flying boat variant complete!  I figured the cannon pods would also make handy stations for mechanics to stand on and for pilot entry as well.  The handling dolly is from a 1/48 Monogram Kingfisher.  I added hoist points on the plane, suspecting the Germans would have based Sea Salamanders on ships had they the time and ability to do so.  In fact, it's entirely possible that they might have given the design to Japan, who could have fit them nicely into a Type 400 sub as defensive fighters for a sub task force, or escorts for attacking bombers.

Water is a railroad accessory, which is a sheet of ripply, thin plastic, which I painted Tamiya Clear Blue, and cut out the area where the plane would sit.

Alvis 3.1

Photos and text by Alvis 3.1