Valiant Wings examine the Heinkel He 177 in their latest Airframe Album. Rowan takes a look.

The Heinkel He 177 is remembered as one of aviation's great white elephants. It was a potentially very potent aircraft that was beset by problems throughout its troubled career, due in no small part to the RLM's "love affair" with the dive-bomber, to the point where they demanded that even this heavy bomber be capable of making 60-degree diving attacks. Ernst Heinkel referred to it as "the accursed 177", and it was mockingly accused of being more dangerous to its crews than the enemy. All of which has no doubt helped ensure that the Greif (Griffon) has been a popular subject for generations of modellers, so Richard Franks' new detailed study of the aircraft is very welcome.

Airframe Album 20 follows the well-established format of the series, combining a wealth of historical information, modelling chapters along with the equivalent of a "walk around" reference section.


Things begin with a concise 26-page historical overview of the He 177, covering the background to its inception and its troubled development and service. Well-chosen photos illustrate its career, and these extend to the impressive He 274 that was completed and used for testing by France post-war. Reading the chapter makes it all too clear how the Greif, for all its promise, was hamstrung from the start by official interference and so achieved little militarily, despite the enormous investment of resources it required and which Germany could ill-afford.

Technical Description

This will undoubtedly by the main reason for many people to buy the book, and I think it's fair to say that it represents the most detailed photo reference on the He 177 that's currently available (or likely to be) for modellers. Comprising 76 pages, the chapter is broken down into the following broad sections:







Electrical Equipment


Each of these is further sub-divided so, for instance, you'll find 12 pages devoted to the cockpit and the same again covering the defensive gun positions. It really is a treasure trove of information for anyone building a model of the He 177 and looking to add detail to a standard kit.

Obviously, with no surviving Greif to photograph, the chapter relies almost entirely on period documentation and photographs to explore the aircraft, and the level of detail gone into is quite phenomenal.

Evolution - Prototype, Production and Projected Variants

Considering its troubled life, it's quite astonishing just how many prototypes and variants there were of the He 177, making it quite a minefield for anyone aiming to get the details correct for a specific airframe or paper-project, so this is another very useful chapter for modellers, with some 49 pages of clear isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski. Each drawing is accompanied by notes highlighting the specific changes and details, and good use is made of period photos to back up the drawings where possible.

Camouglage & Markings

Over the course of 25 pages the author does an excellent job of reconstructing the various camouflage patterns sported by the He 177. The text is again supported by a good selection of vintage B&W photos and diagrams, plus numerous high-quality colour profiles by Richard Caruana. There's no shortage of inspiration for modellers among the chosen examples, with a mix of factory schemes and complex field-applied mottles and "mirror wave" squiggles, along with Allied markings on captured aircraft and the He 274 in French service.


There's only one model-build presented in the book, but it's a good one - Revell's 1:72 He 177A-5 that first appeared in 2000. I always enjoy seeing the work of Libor Jekl, and he certainly doesn't disappoint with his build of the Greif, refining the kit's details and adding rivets to the airframe, plus painted-on markings over a freehand mottled camouflage scheme. The result is a very impressive model that belies its small scale.

Rounding things off are a useful set of appendices, with lists of the kits of the He 177 that have appeared over the years, the upgrade/conversion sets and decals produced to accompany them and, finally, a handy bibliography of titles for further reading.


Valiant Wings have produced an excellent guide to the He 177 that will be appeal to enthusiasts and modellers alike, and it  will be something of a must-have for anyone wanting to super-detail a kit of this impressive aircraft. As I write this I can see my unmade MPM 1:48 kit sitting on the shelf, still nagging me to tackle it. I really should start it as a major project - and, with the publication of this book, I certainly can't blame lack of sufficient reference material for failing to do so anymore!

Airframe Album 20 is available now from Valiant Wings - Price: £25.95

Many thanks to Valiant Wings for the review sample.

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