onto the airframe of late Messerschmitt
BF 109 airframe and on top of it using also
heavy and wide “bomber” propeller, he
would hardly find an appropriate term.
I would, however, be sparing with strong
condemnations. Even though it was an
aircraft that was far from being able to
compete with the top fighters of its time,
it not only fulfilled, but actually surpassed
its task. It was originally intended only for
training of fighter pilots, helping to bridge
the critical period until the arrival of modern jet aircraft, but in the end, it was the
backbone of Czechoslovak fighter air force for about three years. There were not
enough funds to buy modern aircraft in
required numbers. Buying latest versions of Spitfires, Tempests or Mustangs
in the required quantities would have
drained almost all of the country's foreign
exchange reserves at the time. And considerations of buying Meteor jets, which
were also said to have been discussed,
could already be called an unattainable
dreams. The Soviet Union did not show up
too much of helpfulness after the war and
the aircraft the Czechoslovak pilots came
back with from abroad, whether from the
East or the West, were not in sufficient
numbers. The war may have been over,
but a new war was expected within ten to
fifteen years at that time, so the projected peacetime numbers of combat aircraft
were quite generous.
In spite of this, the creation of the S-199
was actually quite a smart move. It saved money, made use of what was already there. Without the problems with the
quality of the components, especially the
engines, and perhaps lousy quality of the
Photo: collection Michal Ovčáčík
FROM „MULE“ TO GRIPEN
So, we finished the „Mezek“ (Mule), as we
call the S-199, in 1/72nd scale... The molds
are ready, instructions, markings, photo
etched parts and decals are prepared too.
I will leave the evaluation of this kit, much
awaited by many, to the modelling community, but I personally like it very much.
In the course of preparing this kit we have
time and again encountered various ambiguities, contradictions in the interpretation of many photographs and other joys,
every aviation history researcher knows
very well. While it is true that no one seems to be discovering anything completely new, when it comes to the subject
of S-199, we have nevertheless come up
with a few interpretations of our own. I am
curious to see how they will be received
by the modelling community.
What I am very interested in, and have
been pondering for some time, is the real
importance of this aircraft to Czechoslovakia and its Air Force. It´s reputation here
in Czech Republic or in Slovakia is a specific mix of nostalgia, patriotism as well
as sober perspective. Although it was a
“mishmash” made of German components
available, we still keep that feeling it was
our aircraft. And you know what? I like the
S-199 probably the best of all the Messerschmitt variants. Not because of nostalgia, I just like the altered silhouette with
smaller propeller cone more than the
somewhat blunt-nosed Bf 109G. After all,
I don't know what words one would choose in the case of the S-199, who perhaps
should have called the Bf 109G-10 “the bastard from the Erla factory”. For grafting
a bombers-dedicated Jumo 211 engine
work of the postwar aircraft industry, the
S-199 might have had a slightly better reputation after all.
Interestingly, despite the many unflattering articles, veteran pilots remember the
S-199 mostly fondly. “I can notify you,” as
Major Zdeněk Smetana, my former Mi-2
pilot instructor, began his sentence in his
typical way, “that a well-adjusted Mule
was capable of doing over 600 kilometers
per hour in level flight!” The year was 1986
and this elderly gentleman was completing his flying career as an instructor by
pounding the necessary coordination of
collective, cyclic and pedals movements
into the heads of twenty-year-old academy students. He certainly didn't swear at
Mule. Quite on the contrary! “It was nice to
fly it, one just had to keep it under control
on takeoff..." That's what he said to me at
the time when I asked him about his experience with Mule.
Recently, I thought of a connection to the
present, where the future of the Czechoslovak Air Force is once again being
discussed regarding the fighter aircraft.
I was thinking that it would be best to keep
the existing Gripens, add possibly one
more squadron and update these aircraft
as much as possible. It seemed to me to
be a cost-saving and sufficient solution which would not drain the money out
from the budget too much. I considered
every thoughts about acquiring state-of-the-art F-35s to be an even more unattainable than the consideration of buying
hundreds of Meteors for our post-war Air
Force. I was in favor of a path more in line
with that of the Mule, though I certainly
don't want to compare the Gripen to it.
It's an excellent aircraft that bridged our
Air Force successfully from the old Mig-21s to the modern Western technology.
I thought it would be the best solution.
Then I woke up to February 24, 2022 and
I don't think so anymore...