B-25G "Shark Mouth"
The B-25 Mitchell was one of the best known medium bombers of WWII, starting with the daring raid on Tokyo that began on an aircraft carrier of all places. Designed by North American, it was hastily pressed into service at the beginning of America's involvement with WWII with well over six thousand airframes constructed, and many variants fighting in all theatres of the Second World War.
The B-25G was sometimes referred to as the Strafer, as it was heavily modified in the shortened nose to mount a large 75mm cannon, in a similar fashion to that mounted in the TseTse Mosquito. It also carried either two or four 0.50cal machine guns in the nose, which were used partially for ranging of the main gun, the dorsal turret and tail turret, which was heavily blended into the tail fillet. The ventral turret was retractable, and additional fuel was carried to extend range in the "dirty" air that is found at lower altitudes. The forward cabin was also given a grafted on applique armour panel to protect the pilots, and the bomb bay could still be used for attacking ground or sea borne targets.
The plastic within the box is from the old Accurate Miniatures mould, and when I say old, that's not meant as a disrespectful term, just a case of passing time. Inside the large top opening box are eight sprues of medium grey styrene, a sprue of clear parts, decals, instruction manual and separate paint and markings guide. The good news is that the passage of time hasn't diminished the quality of the moulds, and they are still as crisp as ever. If you're familiar with Accurate Miniatures' work, you'll know that their kits were very well regarded, and you can see why when perusing the sprues. Detail is crisp and there is a lot of it in all of the right places, which leaves the competition in its wake.
There is fairly comprehensive interior included with the kit, which starts with the cockpit, with a decal for the clear instrument panel, which also has the instruments in raised relief. The pilots' seats are in one piece each, and that has resulted in a pair of shallow sink marks right at the base of the seat back, which can be hidden either with seatbelts, additional putty cushions or a combination of the two. Under the cockpit floor is a fair representation of the M5 gun, which will need its barrel drilling out for additional accuracy. It is kept in place by a large C-profiled "girder", which is made of one flat piece and is folded into shape in the same way as you would fold Photo-Etch (PE) metal parts. How well the joint will hold up to bending is guesswork, but the part is thin, so should be ok if you fold it once and leave it folded. Behind the cockpit, through an open bulkhead is the wing box and bomb bay roof, and from each side extends a small spar to hold the wings firmly on the fuselage. The dorsal turret is built up and installed on a tray with the ventral turret underneath, with a blanking plate provided in case you want to show it retracted. Various pieces of equipment, stowage and radio gear parts are added down the insides of the fuselage, which are decked out with fine ribbing detail where appropriate and an approximation of padded sound insulation here and there, although there are a couple of ejector pin marks that may be seen by the intrepid viewer. A few side windows are also inserted from inside with stepped edges to mate with the edge of the fuselage - for whatever reason there's even one next to the Elsan toilet, which is also supplied, although you'll have to fabricate your own loo roll!
The instructions show the nose wheel added before the fuselage is closed up, but leaving it out might be tricky due to the small aperture in the fuselage bottom. A little test-fitting will help with that decision. All of the small assemblies are fixed into one side of the fuselage, which then closes up, trapping them in place (hopefully). The sides of the bomb bay can be added after the fuselage is closed up, with the nose also being added at this time. Again, a single cruciform part is folded up into an ammo box a-la PE, placed on top of the gun-pack, and cemented into the floor of the gun bay. This has the lower fairing added, and the optional upper fairing attached if you are consigning the guns to darkness. The canopy is a single piece, and you have several on the sprue to choose from, so make sure you select the correct one. The applique armour is simply glued to the side of the fuselage, so check your references and ensure you have it in the correct place before gluing.
The H-tail is made from a single lower part that sits in a recess on the rear fuselage, with the upper parts in halves with either a raised glazed part for a manned position, or a flat panel where no gunner was carried. The wings build up as separate assemblies that slide onto the fuselage once completed, kept in line with the aforementioned spars. The wing halves fit neatly together and replicate the familiar aggressive anhedral of the outer wing panels nicely, the nacelles being two halves that install from under the wing, with a front panel that mates with the engine cowlings. Inside the cowling are some rather nicely moulded engines, with both rows of cylinders depicted, as well as the wiring harness and reduction gear bell housing. The cowlings are handed, so ensure that you place them correctly, and add the little hollow exhaust fairings into the depressions around the circumference of the cowling. The main gear legs are added later, as the B-25 had a very small area of the bay open with the gear down, enabling the leg with its separate oleo-scissor link to be inserted and mounted in a large cuff moulded into the underside of the wing. The small door is then added, hingeing to the side. The tyres are moulded in halves with a pronounced flat engineered in, plus separate hubs for extra detail. They should suffice for most of us, but I have no doubt that Eduard will be along with a resin set to improve the detail and remove the task of hiding the seam.
The bomb bay has room for either four small bombs or depth charges, or two larger bombs, which have separate fins, while the others have them moulded in. They are placed offset along the wall of the bomb bay with their mounting pins at a 45o angle, which could be a bit fiddly with the fuselage closed up. The bay doors are separate parts, and forward and aft are a pair of crew access ladders with moulded in doors. You'll have some work ahead of you if you want those to be closed up. The build is finished by the addition of a tail bumper, the single piece props, aerials and pitot probes.
There are quite a few parts unused with this edition of the kit, amongst them being the oft seen cheek mounted gun packs that gave the Mitchell extra punch, but neither markings options carry them in the accompanying documentation.
There are two options available from the included decal sheet, which is printed by Cartograf and these options are as follows:
- 9th bombardment Group, AAF Tactical Centre, Orlando, Florida, October 1943 (S/N 42-64758) - olive drab over grey with wavy demarcations and grey leading edges to the wings and tail. Shark mouth motif on the nose.
- 820th Bombardment Squadron, 45th Bombardment Group, marshall Islands, December 1944 (S/N 42-64896) - olive drab over grey with green mottle to the leading and trailing edges of the flying surfaces and vertical tails. Little Joe artwork on the fuselage side.
Other than the defining markings and national markings, there aren't many more decals supplied, except for a set of prop stencils and maker's marks. The instrument panel decal is simply black with white faces, and might look better mounted behind the clear panel, but that would make painting a little more fiddly. A pair of simple seatbelts are also included, but apart from their two-dimensional look, they're not especially endearing.
The quality of the decals is excellent, with good register, colour density and sharpness that you would expect from the masters at Cartograf, who have a very strong grip on the decal printing market due to their reputation for quality products.
Age hasn't really dulled the appeal of this kit, although a few areas could do with a little extra work to truly bring them up to the latest standards. The exterior detail is certainly up there with the best, with crisply engraved panel lines and petite rivets giving a good scale impression that should look great under a few coats of paint.