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Julien

P-61A Black Widow - 1:48 HobbyBoss

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P-61A Black Widow
1:48 Hobby Boss


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The Northrop P-61 or Black Widow was the first operational American aircraft designed from the outset to be a Night Fighter using Radar as the primary means of interception. The aircraft would feature a crew of three; Pilot, gunner and Radar Operator.

Early on in WWII the US in the person of their Air Officer in London Lt General Emmons were briefed on Radar by the British. At the same time the British were evaluating US Aircraft in their need for a high altitude, long loiter, and ability to carry a radar unit. At the time radar units were bulky and heavy. Jack Northrop realised that to fulfil these requirements he would need a large multi-engine aircraft. The Northrop proposal was to feature an aircraft with a long fuselage gondola between two engines and tailbooms. The size and weight (45' long with a wingspan of 66', and 22000Lb) were bigger than any fighter to date, and made t hard for some to accept the aircraft.

The P-61 as it became was to feature 4 x 20mm cannons under the fuselage with a remote control turret on top carrying 4 x 0.5 cal heavy machine guns. A model SCR-720A radar was fitted in the nose which had a range of 5 miles. The remote turret could rotate 360 degrees and fired by any of the crew members. The turret suffered from buffet problems but the main cause of its non fitment to many aircraft was short supply. The same mechanism being given priority in B-29 production.

The P-61 would see use in all theatres of WWII. American night fighter crew traded in there Mosquitos, Beaufighters, and P-70s to move to the new fighter. In addition to its night fighter duties P-61s were employed against V-1s in Southern England, and during the battle of the bulge certain units switched to ground attack where the four 20mm cannon proved their worth against ground targets. Despite it clearly being outclassed by the best aircraft coming online at the end of WWII the P-61 stayed in the US Inventory as the USAF experienced problems in developing a jet powered night fighter. Post war the P-61 would see use in developing ejection seats, and collecting radar data on thunderstorms. The aircraft we retired in 1947 as they were reaching the end of their operation lives, with no jet replacement in sight the USAF were forced to use surplus P-51s and make F-82s. The USAF would not get its first Jet Night Fighter the F-89 until 1951.

The Kit
The kit arrives in a fairly large box, there are nine sprues of grey plastic, a main clear sprue, a clear radar nose, two separate engine cowlings and a bag of metal parts (these are weights to stop a tail sitter!). The parts are very well moulded with fine engraved details and small sprue gates.

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Construction starts shockingly enough with the cockpit! in this case the front cockpit. Seats, consoles, and controls are installed for both the Pilot and Gunner, along with a bulkhead to the rear of the gunners position. The next area to be constructed is the front wheel bay which features as par of the cockpit floor. The front gear leg is positioned in along with the retraction strut and the two part front wheel, also the gear door retraction mechanism is installed. The first of two metal weights are installed now on the top of this part. The front cockpit is then installed on top of this weight. The second weight is then added in front of the pilots instrument panel.

sp2.JPG


Construction then moves inside the main fuselage pod. This is of convention left/right construction. Side panels are installed in each side, along with two 20mm cannon barrels. The rear radar operators compartment is then made up. Following this the front and rear cockpits are placed inside the main fuselage and it can be closed up. Once closed up the radar unit is added to the nose. Another two metal parts are provided for this area, so even if the modeller is not going to use the translucent nose part they will need to be installed. The main canopies are added along with front gear doors at this point (though I suspect they will be left until later).

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Construction then moves to the main booms. Before building up the booms the main wheel wells must be added. A bulkhead is placed in each and then the main landing gear is attached (thought I suspect this will be left until later). Each boom consists of a left and right part. These are sandwiched around the main wheel wells.

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Once the booms are done the main wigs are the next item to be assembled. The wings are a one part upper each side with two parts to the underside to go either side of the booms. Inlets are positioned either side of the engine area when the uppers and lowers are joined.

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Once the wings are assembled they can be joined to their respective booms. Outer wing spoilers are then added to the wings. The next stage is to add the engine nacelles to the wings. Metal rears for then engines are included to get that all important weight forward of the main landing gear. To these the engine faces are added. A one part engine cowling is then fitted so no seam to remove here! following this the propeller can be added, though I suspect again these will be left until the end, as will be the main gear doors which the instructions would have you add next.

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Once both wing/boom combinations are assembled they can be added to the main fuselage, not forgetting the tail plane at the same time which goes between both booms. To finish of your model underwing bombs/drop tanks/rockets can be added as needed.

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Clear Parts
There is a lot of glazing on the P-61 and Hobby Boss do not let us down here. A main sprue contains all the glazing apart from the front radome, which is contained on its own sprue. The parts are some of the best clear parts I have seen for a while. They are very clear and free from distortion while the frame lines are well defined which should make masking easier. The parts are very well protected in the box, given their own section and a foam sheet covering inside their individual bags.



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Decals
The decals are glossy, in register and appear colour dense. I have used HobbyBoss decals in the past with no problems at all. The red walkway line will need care to apply as there is no excess carrier film The plus us there is not chance of any silvering! The blue in the national insignia looks a bit to light for me. Decals are provided for two aircraft;
  • P-61A-1-NO 421st Night Fighter Sqn "Skippy/Nocturnal Nemesis" 25502.
  • P-61A-5-NO 422nd Night Fighter Sqn "Jukin Judy" .

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Internet pictures show that Skippy/Nocturnal Nemesis was fitted with the top turret. The turret is supplied on the sprues but this is not shown on the instructions anywhere!

Conclusion
A thoroughly modern tooling of the P-61. Highly recommended.


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Review sample courtesy of
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I'd love to build this side by side with my GWH P-61A, do a black and a green one, see how they both look.

Edit, Julien, could you get any shots of the radiator in the wings? GWH is a bit of a let down in that region, I wonder what Hobbyboss did.

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Unfortunately there is nothing in the kit to fit behind the openings that go into the wing leading edge.

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Sorry to bother you, I just had a random thought: I have the '72nd version of this, which looks to be a really nice if straightforward kit, but it doesn't, unless I'm being a dolt, show where exactly to place what I assume are small transfers/decsls to presumably go in the cockpit. I wonder if the bigger one does? I've been mooching round the web but haven't come upon anything yet, so I thought I'd try another avenue. It is a special aircraft to model isn't it?

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34 minutes ago, modelmaker said:

I wonder if the bigger one does?

 

No, the 1/48 version I did didn't have any reference to where the internal decals should go. I just had to guess.

To be honest, I wasn't impressed with the 1/48 kit for many reasons.

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Oh well, thanks anyway, very kind. I often find myself building some of the the stuff I did when I was a kid in the 60s so my 'small' '61 compared quite well to the last one I made (the Airfix, about 50 yrs ago), although I can't actually remember it if course. Mind you I can't remember what I had for breakfast today and I have the same thing ever day. The masochist in me has had a Novo/Frog for some time so I've used the new one to fashion cockpits, bulkheads etc, great fun. Thanks again JD

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1 hour ago, modelmaker said:

Sorry to bother you, I just had a random thought: I have the '72nd version of this, which looks to be a really nice if straightforward kit, but it doesn't, unless I'm being a dolt, show where exactly to place what I assume are small transfers/decsls to presumably go in the cockpit. I wonder if the bigger one does? I've been mooching round the web but haven't come upon anything yet, so I thought I'd try another avenue. It is a special aircraft to model isn't it?

Check out the restoration-in-progress pictures at this website:

 

http://www.maam.org/p61.html

 

I'm sure you'll find something helpful. The HB P-61 is the nicest kit of this subject available in 1/72, but that's because all the others (Airfix, FROG, Dragon) are utter crap. I'd love to see Airfix tackle this subject now.

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4 hours ago, modelmaker said:

but it doesn't, unless I'm being a dolt, show where exactly to place what I assume are small transfers/decsls to presumably go in the cockpit.

You are not being a dolt: the reviewer in SAM complains of the same thing.

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