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  1. P-39N Airacobra (70056) 1:72 Arma Hobby The P-39 was the result of Bell’s response to a specification for a fighter from the USAAC, which was to be a high-altitude interceptor. With Bell’s usual left-field approach to aircraft design, the team produced the world’s first tricycle landing geared prop-driven aircraft, as well as the first aircraft to site the engine behind the pilot, while the airscrew remained at the front. The prop was driven by a long drive shaft that ran under the pilot’s floor, with a coaxial 37mm cannon firing through the centre of the spinner, in a quest for high penetration and accuracy. Ancillary armament varied depending on model, from nose mounted .50cals to four 7.62mm machine guns in the wings. The Airacobra had limited internal space for fuel thanks in part to its tapered nose, and the lack of a supercharger substantially limited its abilities at higher altitudes. Despite these drawbacks, and the likelihood of engine failure after hits from a rear attack, the Airacobra flew in most arenas of combat, but distinguished itself best on the Eastern Front in Soviet service, where almost 5,000 were flown with some notable aces racking up victories whilst flying them. The N model started life as a G model, but due to changes on the production line, were designated N instead, with around 500 made. In fact, no G models ever left the factory, being superseded and re-engineered as later marks. The final variant was the Q, which ceased production in 1944 after a variety of sub-variants and one-offs were created. The Kit This is a reboxing of their recent kit, and detail is exceptional, especially for the scale, with finely engraved panel lines, raised and recessed details, and gorgeous crisp details within the gear bays and cockpit. There are two sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, decal sheet, masking sheet for canopy and wheels (not pictured), a bag with three ball bearings for nose weight, and the glossy instruction booklet in stapled A5 format with colour throughout. Construction begins with the cockpit, starting with the footwell, which has the rear of the breeches for the nose machine guns, and the rudder pedals fixed to the front, then the instrument panel with decals and gunsight are added to the top half. The rear of the cockpit has a horseshoe-shaped frame glued to the front to hang the pilot’s seat from, which has decals to depict the four-point seatbelts. The two assemblies are fixed to the floor at either end along with the control column, and a V-shaped support under the floor. A scrap diagram shows the location of the instrument panel, and the fact that the drive-shaft is painted a brass colour. The V-shaped part is actually a cross-member within the nose gear bay, which is beneath the forward end of the cockpit, and the bay is completed by adding the side walls, which also have two scrap diagrams to show their orientation, and that they taper toward the front. The forward roof of the nose gear bay is installed over this, and here’s where the ball bearings come in handy. There are three hemispherical depressions in this part that you glue the ball bearings into with super glue or epoxy, and this acts as the model’s nose weight. It’s always nice when a company includes the nose weight to take the guesswork out of the process, so it’s appreciated. The cockpit still isn’t finished, as there is a detailed side console on the port side, plus a small detail part on the opposite sidewall that has its own decal. The fuselage halves have a circle of neatly positioned ejector-towers inside, and the instructions advise removing them with a pair of nippers before proceeding as they will interfere with the internals. Then it's time to put the cockpit in position within, along with a long, ribbed shelf behind the pilot’s position, which should have two holes drilled out to receive the radio before it is glued in place. A bobbin is trapped between the two halves as they are brought together, which will allow the prop to spin if you don’t glue it in place. There is a small inspection panel under the nose on the starboard side and two smaller rectangles, which should be removed for this version, and these are ringed in red to assist with their location. The Airacobra is a low-wing monoplane, so the lower wing half is full span, with some optional holes drilled first if you are using the centreline bomb or fuel tank. The upper halves are glued over the top with a small inverted T-shaped stiffener in the centre, first installing the twin gun barrels, which are mounted in pairs on a backing support. The tail is a separate assembly that begins with the elevator fins, which have the fin fillet moulded-in, and has a separate elevator pair fitted across the span before it is glued in place at the rear, plugging the fin into the top, and a separate rudder panel glued into the rear. The wings are also added at this point, filling the three engraved recognition lights in the starboard tip, taking care to avoid marring the detail around it. There’s a nose insert appropriate to this mark placed in the gap above the prop, and the radio unit is installed behind the pilot. The Airacobra’s ground-breaking landing gear format revolved around the nose gear, and that starts with you bending a triangular frame and locking it into position with another strut to form the retraction mechanism for the front leg. The long leg itself is moulded with a separate oleo-scissor and wheel, and inserts into the front of the bay, supported by the cranked strut that fixes to the rear on four raised pips that give it additional strength, as shown in a scrap diagram. The main gear legs are comparatively short and have separate wheels and captive gear bay doors. Unusually, the inner main bay doors and their actuators are added first at the same time as the three cooling flaps under the engine, slotting the legs into the outer ends in the following step. While the model is inverted, a front nose gear door is inserted in front of the strut. With the model back on its wheels for the first time, the canopy is dealt with. The P-39 had peculiar car-doors on the sides of the canopy, with the rest of the glazing fixed in place, so the main part covers the whole cockpit aperture. The two side doors are painted inside and have a few decals added to the door cards to detail them further, so you can choose to leave them closed, leave one open, or both open at your whim. The exhausts fit into slots midway down the sides of the fuselage, but the prop is still in the front, so don’t worry. The blades are moulded as one, with the spinner fitted over it and the assembly glued to the bobbin you trapped between the fuselage halves earlier. In the centre of the spinner is a cannon muzzle for the coaxial 39mm cannon. There are two long bay doors to be added to the nose bay, the pitot probe in the leading edge of the port wing, a recessed landing light under the port wing, and you also get to choose what to hang on the centreline pylon. You have a choice of a two-part fuel tank, a three-part 250lb or 500lb bomb, both of which have a tiny arming spinner inserted in the rear. Markings The stencils are common to all four decal options, and those are described in the last step of the instructions before turning the page to see the profiles. The back of the box shows three decal options, but there are indeed four on the sheet, the last one shown as “Bonus” on the rear page of the instructions, and is a variant on the first Soviet option. From the box you can build one of the following: 42-9033 ‘White 01’, 100th Guards Fighter Regiment, Pilot: Grigoriy Dol’nikov, April – May 1945 42-18354, 345th Fighter Squadron, Sardinia-Corsica, Spring 1944 42-18736, Cdt. Jean Machet de la Martiniére, GC 1/4 Navarre Commander, Reghaia Airbase, Algeria, March 1944 42-9033 ‘White 01’, 100th Guards Fighter Regiment, Pilot: Ivan Babak, 1943 – 1945 Decals are by Techmod, which is a guarantee of good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin gloss carrier film cut close to the printed areas. It includes seatbelts, instrument panel and stencil decals where appropriate. Conclusion Another good-looking boxing of this unique WWII fighter that perhaps didn’t get the appreciation it deserved, although it was by no means perfect. High quality moulding with a choice of decal options from three users that gives plenty of variation. Highly recommended. Review sample courtesy of
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