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P-39Q Airacobra (70055) 1:72


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P-39Q Airacobra (70055)

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 thanks in part to its tapered nose for fuel, 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 USSR 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 In fact no G models ever left the factory, being superseded and re-engineered as later marks.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 brand-new tooling from the designers at Arma, and again it’s another stunner for the scale, with tons of detail baked-in.  The kit arrives in a small end-opening box with a painting of the aircraft flying over the Golden Gate Bridge, although I’m not America and have never been to San Francisco, so I could be wrong.  On the rear are the five decal options in side profile with a little information about each aircraft to the side.  Inside are two sprues in grey styrene, a clear sprue, a Ziploc bag containing three 5mm ball bearings, the decal sheet, two small sheets of canopy and wheel masks (not pictured) and of course the A5 instruction booklet that is printed on glossy paper in colour with profiles on the rear pages.  Detail is exceptional, especially for the scale, with finely engraved panel lines, raised and recessed details, and gorgeously crisp details within the gear bays and cockpit.








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 its decals and gunsight 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 part 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 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 complex side console on the port side, plus a small detail part on the sidewall that even has its own decal.






The fuselage halves have a number of neatly positioned ejector-towers inside, and the instructions advise removing them before proceeding.  Then it's time to put the cockpit in position within the fuselage, 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 up.  There is a small inspection panel under the nose on the starboard side, which should be removed for this edition, which is ringed in red to assist with its 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 0.50cal gun pods under the wings, or 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, then once the glue is dry, you should fill in the holes for the wing-mounted guns.  The tail is a separate assembly that begins with the elevator fins, which have the fin fillet moulded-in, and has a separate elevator 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 for all but one decal option, 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 antenna mast is placed behind the intake that is itself behind the cockpit.




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 strut 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.  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, the two gun pods are added under the wings for all but one decal option, and a front nose gear door is inserted in front of the strut.  With the model back on its wheels, probably for the first time, the canopy is dealt with.  The Airacobra had weird car-doors on the sides of the canopy, with the rest of the glazing fixed in place, so the main part covers the whole canopy, once you have glued the radio rack in place behind the pilot.  The two side doors are painted inside and have a number of decals added inside to detail them further, so you can choose to leave them closed, leave one open, or both open at your whim.


The exhausts for the mid-engined Airacobra fit into slots midway down the sides of the fuselage, but the prop is still in the front, 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 choice of two styles of cannon muzzle, which differs between decal options.  There are also separate barrels to be inserted into the gun pods, and a barbed pitot probe in the port wingtip.  It’s not over yet!  There are two long bay doors to be added to the nose bay, 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 spinner inserted in the rear.




There are five options on the decal sheet, with a variety of disparate schemes to choose from.  From the box you can build one of the following:

  • P-39Q-10 363rd FS, 357th FG, Lt. Clarence ‘Bud’ Anderson, Oroville, California, October 1943
  • P-39Q-1 6th FS, 15th FG, Makin, Gilbert Islands, late 1943
  • P-39Q-15 10° Gruppo, 4° Stormo, Galantina Air Base, November 1944
  • P-39Q-5 82nd TRS, 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Lt. Michael Moffitt, Saidor, New Guinea, Spring 1944
  • P-39Q-20 2nd Mixed-Special Air Regiment, Gen. Col. Fiodor Polynin






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 seatbelt, instrument panel and stencil decals, the latter covered on a separate set of diagrams from the main markings to avoid confusion.




This is a stunning 1:72 model of the oft-neglected Airacobra.  It is packed with detail and has some excellent decal options and masks included in the box.


Very highly recommended.




Review sample courtesy of


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