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Avia S.199

by Jose R. Rodriguez


Avia S.199


Academy's 1/48 scale Avia S.199 is available online from Squadron.com




"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t."

Mark Twain

The above quote aptly applies to the Avia S.199 in Israeli service. An offspring of the aircraft that carried on its back much of the burden of the Nazi Luftwaffe and its quest for the thousand year Reich ended up being pivotal in the War of Independence of the Jewish nation. I don’t think even Tom Clancy could have come with that possibility in any of his books.

After WWII the Czechs were left with the remnants of aircraft factories that had been used by the occupying Germans to build Messerschmitt aircraft, in particular the Bf109 in the Gustav variant, or G model. Avia was one of such factories with a good supply of Bf109G airframes but with no Daimler-Benz engines. I read somewhere that the engines have been destroyed by an allied air raid; other sources said it had been a factory fire after the war. While the DB engines could not be had, there was a good supply of Jumo 211F engines. The catch was that these engines were designed for bombers; they had plenty of power but they were heavy, and they developed a lot of torque at low R.P.M, like a truck engine.

The Czechs were undaunted by this fact and proceeded to match the Bf109G airframe with the Jumo engine and thus one of the most disliked and without doubt the worst 109 variant ever made, the Avia S.199, was born, or ill conceived.

In 1947 the British had started pulling out of Palestine and Zionist Jews had commenced what would be known as the War of Independence, a war that created the state of Israel. The Zionists did not have a proper air force but a ragtag squadron of mismatched light aircraft from which this hardy people dropped hand grenades and fired infantry machine guns through the windows. This outfit was called the "Shirut Avir" (air service). When the regular armed forces of Egypt, Iraq and Syria invaded Palestine after Ben Gurion proclaimed the existence of the state of Israel, the Jews realized that they needed real aircraft to contest the total air supremacy of the Arab air forces over Tel Aviv and what was supposed to be the new nation of Israel.

Cloak-and-dagger operations got in motion worldwide trying to scrounge fighters for the not yet existing Israeli air force. The Czech government lent an ear to the Jewish request and was willing and able to supply the fighters, for a good price. That those fighters were the Avia S.199 and that they had to overpay for them matter none to the Jews because the situation in Israel was desperate and beggars cannot be choosers (another quote for you).

Money exchanged hands and a core of Jews and Gentiles (Machal volunteers) showed up in Czechoslovakia to get trained in the “Messerschmitt”, as the Avia was known to these men who had flown allied planes, Mustangs and Spitfires, against the 109. The Czechs called the Avia “Mezek” or Mule because of its stubborn handling. I doubt that was an official name. The Israelis gave the Avia the official name of Sakin or knife but unofficially continued to be called the “Messerschmitt” or Mule.


This first group of pilots included two Machal volunteers, Lou Lenart and Milton Rubenfeld (Pee Wee Herman’s dad), and eight Israeli Sherut Avir pilots, Modi Alon, Ezer Weizman, Jacob Ben-Chaim, Pinchas Ben-Porat, Itzchak Hennenson, Misha Kenner, Nachman Me'iri, and Eddie Cohen. Before they could be properly trained news reached them that Egyptian bombers had killed 42 people in Tel Aviv during a raid. The Israeli pilots demanded to be sent back to Israel immediately with their Mules even though they haven’t even completed gunnery training. They could practice on real targets was their argument against the best advice of their Czech mentors.

This unruly but dedicated bunch plus a few Czech mechanics hastily departed for the Holy Land and by May 29th, 1948, they had four aircraft assembled but not tested. The situation was desperate as an Egyptian armored column was only 20 miles away from Tel Aviv and the only thing in its way was an outnumbered, scattered and worn out Israeli army. Lou Lenart, Modi Alon, Ezer Weizman and Eddie Cohen took off in their four S.199s and found the Egyptians at a bridge near the Arab settlement of Isdoud. They bombed, strafed them and brought havoc on the unsuspecting Egyptians. From a military point of view this aerial assault was nothing to write home about; mostly all the aircraft guns jammed because they had never been test fired before, but the psychological effect on the Egyptians of seeing Israeli combat planes, real planes, was devastating on their morale. The Egyptian advanced stopped and it gave the Jewish ground forces a respite to reorganize and counterattack. During this action Eddie Cohen was downed by ground fire and to this day his remains have not been found.

The May 29th attack also marked the official formation date of Israel's first fighter squadron, the 101st "Hakrav Harishona" (First Fighter) Squadron, commanded by Mordechai “Modi” Alon.

Modi Alon became the first Israeli pilot to down an enemy aircraft with his Mule when on June 3rd, 1948 he shot down two Egyptian C-47’s bombing Tel Aviv. The Egyptians until then have bombed the city with impunity and nobody, neither Egyptians nor the people of Tel Aviv expected to see a lonely Avia coming out of nowhere and blasting the Dakotas out of the air. The morale boost to the Jewish civilian populace was beyond measure, and so was the demoralizing effect on the Egyptians.

The Avia S.199 became the reluctant hero of the hour. Being at the right time and the right place abated for its unforgiving handling but the aircraft exacted a high toll from the Israeli and Gentile pilots who flew it. Many pilots were killed in take off and landing accidents. The Mule had a very heavy nose, too much torque during take off (full power) settings, that combined with the infamous 109’s narrow wheel track made take offs a risky venture. If the pilot survived the take off the aircraft was still a handful because the engine did not develop the right power at the right times. Landings with a nose heavy aircraft were no piece of cake either. Modi Alon perished in a landing accident on October 16th after a mechanical failure prevented his landing gear from deploying. Amidst his attempts to lower the gear, his aircraft, D.114, hit the ground and exploded.

Israel bought 25 Mules and 24 reached the Holy Land. The missing aircraft was impounded by the Italians who were enforcing a UN arms embargo against Palestine. Jewish operatives blew up the Macchi factory that was building and shipping C.205’s to the Egyptians. I surmise that there was no love lost among the parties involved. Of the 24 aircraft, the Israelis were only able to keep a handful airworthy at any given time. Combat, accidents and precarious maintenance resulted in high Mule attrition and by 1949 only six were left, and Spitfires and Mustangs quickly replaced them, the aircraft the Israeli pilots had wanted from the beginning.

Despite its flaws, the S.199 covered itself with glory as the first effective combat aircraft of the new born state of Israel. Its effect as a morale booster probably surpassed its tactical accomplishments in the battlefield.

Somehow the Czechs flew the type until 1955. I wonder how they pulled it off.


But this is a Czech mule

Obviously something went wrong during my build, a usual occurrence. Following Aires and Eduard instructions I built a sliding canopy for my Avia, an option in both p.e. sets. The bubble canopy gave the aircraft a sleek look. After everything was in place I got suspicious about the fact that I haven’t seen an Israeli Mule with such canopy but with the Erla Haube type instead. Checking the gurus in HyperScale confirmed my suspicion; only the Czechs used the sliding canopy.

I could have unglued everything and start anew, or I could have built an Israeli Avia with a sliding canopy and then hide it in the highest shelf of my display and never tell anybody, or I could get the Czech decals that Hobbycraft put out for the Czech version they offered not too long ago. HyperScalers came to the rescue again and David Fry kindly sent me a set of Czech decals, the ones you see in this model. Thank you Mr. Fry.


Hobbycraft's 1/48 Scale Mule


This is Hobbycraft of Canada kit HC1540 in 1/48th scale of the Avia S.199, made in South Korea. Hobbycraft is the underdog of the modeling world and I believe they deserve better. Some hobbyists had come hard on this company because of sparse cockpit detail and the Shape Police has also been unkind to them, based on a few dogs they have put out. After building a few 109 kits and having others in the box ready to build, I can say that I like Hobbycraft’s Messerschmitts. Their 109 kits are simple, fit well, have recessed panel lines, the instructions are good, and the decals are well researched and rather usable. They are an excellent value for the money and they cannot be beat on price. They are not Tamigawa or Eduards, but you cannot buy a kit from any of these brands for less than fifteen dollars either.

With that off my chest lets see the kit. It comes in one bag with three gray sprues and one clear one. The fuselage sprue with the propeller is used only in the Avia. The other two sprues containing the wings and other details are marked 109G/K, which would be correct for this airframe. There is no flash, no grease residue, no warped plastic, and parts are well molded with a smooth surface. Cockpit detail is good but it is not comparable to an expensive aftermarket resin add-on but it should be enough for mostly any modeler who doesn’t want to fool with the extra work and expense. There two canopy options, close and open. Some of the parts will not be used because they don’t apply to the Avia.

The instructions are very well done and the painting and decaling section is outstanding.




As usual, I started construction on the wings. I dread cockpit work so I leave that for last. The wings are pure breed Bf109G-10. I cut the mid-span flaps and split cooler flaps off. I deepened the ailerons and leading edge wing slats panel lines to give them a deeper look that show them to be a separate part of the wing structure. It took me a while to figure out what to cut on how to cut so here is the skinny.

Leading edge slats: they are a free moving mechanism, i.e. there are no mechanical actuators connected to these slats. They work on ram air pressure. When the airspeed is high they are flush against the wing. As the airspeed drops the pressure exerted by the airflow against them decreases and they drop or slide forward increasing the wing chord and providing better handling at low speeds. The big question is, when the aircraft is parked on the ground, do the slats drop or stay flush? I posted the question on the HyperScale forum and the consensus was that both options were correct. Pictures show these slats to be anywhere from flush to fully extended, with some aircraft having one of each and anything in between. Ground crews would push them flush to avoid dirt from getting into the slats and jamming them but other times nobody would care. Anything you want to model will be correct. That was easy. I left my slats retracted. I thought about scratch building them from beer can aluminum to show them extended but it was a hassle to bend aluminum in such a sharp radius around the wing leading edge so I took the easy way out.

Glycol cooler split flaps: this contraction is a bit unusual. The inner flaps, those flaps closer to the wing root, are the backend of the under-wing glycol coolers. They automatically open and close in a scissor fashion based on engine temperature, but they also can drop at the same time to follow the path of the mid-span flaps when these are dropped. I posted the question on how these things work in the HyperScale forum and Mike Horrell suggested that I take a look at the 109 Lair site where this subject had been discussed before. My search found a long posting from Mr. Graeme Snadden on how these flaps work. I have summarized his explanations on the lines to follow.


An oft seen error when positioning flaps on a '109 is the relationship between the split cooler flaps and the mid-span landing flaps. In relation to the landing flaps when at the 40 degree full down position, with the cooler flaps full open, the lower flap would be in line with the landing flap and the top flap would be about 10 degrees below the top surface of the wing (in line with the trailing edge of the wing fillet). With landing flaps full down, in the automatic setting on start-up from cold, the flaps would motor shut, leaving the lower flap stationary whilst the top flap motored closed to leave a gap of about 125mm. Viewed in plan, this would mean that you would see the lower flap protruding beyond the upper. If the pilot were to then raise the flaps prior to taxiing, the cooler flaps would then come to a position where they were symmetrically positioned with the chord of the wing with little more than a 10mm gap at the trailing edge. On the ground, due to the poor cooling capacity of the small radiators, the flaps would often motor open whilst taxiing. With the landing flaps fully raised, the opened cooler flaps would be symmetrically deployed about the midpoint of the wing in cross section (fore & aft) with an angle of approximately 35degrees between them.

In case Mr. Snadden’s explanation wasn’t enough, HyperScaler Norman Graf, pointed me to these pics of the split cooler flaps in a Spanish Buchón, another 109 mutt with the much happier marriage of a Merlin engine to a 109 airframe,


By the way, despite what the link address says, these are glycol (engine coolant) radiators. The oil cooler is under the chin.

I used Eduard’s photo etched set to build the split flaps and the radiators buried under the wings. This set is great but has small parts and it takes some patience to put it together.

In a quick review, here are the modifications that I made to this kit:

  • Vacuum form canopy from Squadron, part number 9563. Squadron provides both the Erla Haube and the bubble, sliding canopies, one of each.

  • Resin cockpit from Aires, part 4020, with tiny p.e. parts.

  • Eduard p.e. set for the flaps and other small parts.

  • Electrical wire for the brake lines

  • Moskit exhaut pipes, part number 4856

  • Brass tubing cannons

  • The wing tips navigation lights were carved out with a knife and filled in with Kristal Klear, which dried into the right shape after letting the airplane hang nose down overnight.



Painting and Markings


Options: green, green and green, RLM71 each time. I picked LS-15 because it had a white nose with a blue spinner. The blue spinner is called out as FS25053, which of course I could not find at my hobby shop so I used Russian Underside blue without having any clue whatsoever if that is the right color hue. I started by painting the airframe white, then preshading the panel lines with black and finally adding the RLM71.



All paints are acrylics and each was from a different manufacturer (Tamiya, Polly S and Testors), using an Aztek airbrush. I sealed everything with Future floor wax.

Weathering was done with acrylic artist paints diluted in soapy water and chalk pastels. Paint chipping was done with enamel Testor Silver. A final dull coat finished the job.

The Hobbycraft decals worked like a charm.




Another finished 109 without Swastikas, saved from ending as a screwed up job by the wisdom and kindness of HyperScalers.

Buy Hobbycraft’s 109’s and have fun on the cheap; even straight out of the box they build into nice models.


Additional Images


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Images and Text Copyright © 2003 by Jose Rodriguez
Page Created 18 December, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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