Special Hobby 1/72 Piaggio P.108b serie II
KIT #: ?
PRICE: 32.99
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Short run with resin detail parts

HISTORY

  During the 1930s advanced development work and design of a 4-engined heavy bomber was carried out under Ing.Caseragli of the Piaggio Company in Italy to go in service with Regia Aeronautica. The prototype bomber flew in 1939, powered by 1500hp Piaggio P12 R.C. 35 eighteen-cylinder radial engine. Italy was in fact the only axis power to produce such an aircraft, although it did not enter service with Regia Aeronautica until 1942. This aircraft was unique in its design because it was equipped with two wing-mounted turrets, each with two 12.7-mm machine guns, which were mounted on the outer engine nacelles. These were remote operated from two sighting domes atop the mid fuselage section. Two additional 12.7 mm guns were mounted in the nose and semi retractable ventral turret while two more guns were operated from lateral hatches bringing a total of eight weapons, extremely heavy by Italian standard.

After the success of the initial batch of 12 pre-production machines it was followed by a substantial order bringing the total to 163 aircraft produced. The first delivery to the Regia Aeronautica went to form the 247th Squadriglia Bombardiera at Grande Reggio which was entitled to use the name Bruno Mussolini, son of the dictator Benito Mussolini, who lost his life during the trials of the bomber. The unit employed mainly on night bombing missions and was active in the Mediterranean making several raids against the fortress of Gibraltar as well as Algerian and Tunisian ports. At the end of the war only three P-108 Bs remained with the Mussolini squadriglia, based at Foligno. Large number of these bombers was lost during the wartime operations. One aircraft did fall in the hands of the US Army Air Force for evaluation trials after which it was scrapped. Apart from operations over the North Africa the P-108Bs also served in the Russian theatre.

 The P-108B had a span of 104' 11.75"; a length of 75' 2.5"; and had a maximum speed of 267 mph at 13780', a service sealing of 27,880' and a maximum range of 2484 miles. It could carry a bomb load of 7716 lbs. over a range of 1550 miles, compared to 14000lbs over 1600 miles by a Lancaster, or 5000lbs over 2100 miles by a B-24 and 12600 lbs. over 1370 miles by a B-17.

THE KIT

In my view this is one of the largest 1/72-scale models of WWII bombers and I have never in my wildest dreams expected the release of the Piaggio P-108 in kit form. Yet considering that there are not many operational bombers left represented in kit form it stands to reason that it was the turn for the P-108. So here it is a high quality injection moulded product coming out of Special Hobby. Obviously its size makes one think twice upon starting on it as is going to take some considerable space when complete.

 The kit represents a Piaggio P-108 II series, issued in operational markings circa 1943. Unique about this aircraft is that it had two remote controlled gun positions, which are mounted on top of the outer engine nacelles. This also comes with parts to make the earlier P-108-I series or the prototype version. An impressive kit as indeed the boxart reveals showing a loitering bomber with nose mounted gun position. Strangely enough there is no mention or reference to the nose gun in the instruction sheet. This may further add to the possibility to rebox the kit to represent the earlier model of the P-108. The extra parts are a nose mounted gun position and adjoining new fuselage front, as well as an extra set of 8 pieces that form the engine cowlings and which to me were not different from the other set also present with the kit. There is an alternative instrument panel that was intended for the earlier I serie.

The kit contains 85 medium grey injection moulded parts, 13exceptionally clear, thin plastic parts, as well as 33 resin parts. The instructions are in the form of a comprehensive three and a half, double-sided pages and one may suggest that it would be wise to go through it thoroughly before starting to assemble the kit. Painting detail in Gunze Sangyo tones is also provided and is indicated on every item. The kit provides a choice of two aircraft colour schemes. One of these represents a P-108 B (MM 22004) bomber in toned down Regia Aeronautica markings as depicted also on the box cover. This is the type that carried bombing missions on Gibraltar and Tunisia. Initially the type was a series I aircraft that was reconstructed to a standard II series. On January 13th, 1943 the aircraft commanded by Capitano.Semprini and Tenente.Cervi did not return from a raid against the ports of Algiers. The other choice is a P-108B (MM24325) and is the last machine taken over by Regia Aeronautica that was flown by pilot Tenente.Gmeiner. From 8th September the aircraft was taken over on the airfield Grottaglia in Puglia when the US Army Air Force ran over the base. It had rather colourful markings but odd in my opinion as there is no mention of operational history tied to it and was one used for test and evaluation before being destroyed.

 The grey plastic parts forming the Fuselage halves, wing parts, nacelle etc are semi matt finish with fine recessed panel lines and rippled fabric texture on areas as elevators and ailerons. The transparencies are very clear, thin and injection moulded. The nose clear parts are in two halves but the seam at the joint is of no concern as this happened in way of frame areas. The clear parts themselves show areas, which are matt texture surface finish, a good indication where to paint. I preferred to mask with tape the clear areas to keep safe. The resin parts are highly detailed to the usual type produced in the Czech Republic. There are enough parts to make a detailed cockpit compartment, which includes two crew seats, instrument panel, two control columns and a central console to fit between the seats. All the parts are engraved and full of minute details. The crew seats for instance carry arc shaped arm supports, harness and cushions which compare very well with photos that I have of the real ones.

For a look at what comes in the box, please visit this preview. Ed

CONSTRUCTION

 All the parts fit reasonably well but the limited run offering excludes the presence of locating pins and raised ejector pins to guide the parts when brought together. For this reason I suggest the fixing of runner pieces at the inner face of the joint line at various intervals and this makes the task of guiding and mating the two halves together so much simpler especially when one considers that we are dealing with large fuselage parts. The internal fuselage bulkheads fit very nicely and also assist with the alignment of the long fuselage halves. One of these bulkheads has an extended internal wing spar, centrally positioned. This helps to obtain a secure fit of the rather large wings. It also gives the wings the correct dihedral when slotted together. The fit of the tail planes is a different matter as they are butt jointed. I have made some observations which worth mentioning.

The portholes on the fuselage would require cleaning from flash and this may somehow enlarge the opening to a tiny amount that the clear part to fit in them will be loose. This is remedied by discarding the clear part and use Kristal Kleer instead. The slot cut vertically in the fuselage where the wing parts meet should be cleared from flash as these create an obstacle when it comes to fit the main wing spar D10. Half way down the fuselage there are two gun positions which are open and also have rectangular covers. As no detail interior is provided and there are no gun position parts one would preferably select to close these for good unless one makes his own interior decorations and details as can be seen in the photo of the real thing. The nacelle mounted gun turrets are resin parts and fit tightly into their circular location. These should be fitted from underneath the upper wing half and should protrude by 1mm above the cowling upper surface.

When it comes to fit the aft resin bulkhead of the engine nacelles (Part pur4) it is best to remove all the excess resin at the back of this component as there will not be enough space to allow the plastic part D5 to fit in place. The rectangular floor square piece D7 which has to stick partly at the front fuselage floor and half inside the nose perspex, I found it is better to fit it first inside the perspex nose floor. When this is dry then the protruding floor piece along with the nose is then glued to the fuselage. When positioning the tiny air intake under the cowling it is best to make reference to the side views at the end of the instruction sheet to find the exact position from the front end of the cowling. One final item is that careful study of the instruction sheet is necessary when fitting the propellers because two sets of propellers on one wing turn in a different rotation to those of the other wing. The starboard one rotates clockwise and the port propeller rotates anticlockwise. This means that care is taken when joining the blades to the propeller boss making sure that the leading edge of each blade is placed at the correct angle as per instruction sheet and photos of the real aircraft.

Each engine inner cowling consists of 15 different pieces and contains tiny air intakes and detailed exhaust manifolds. Careful step by step assembly will produce a clean and accurately aligned assembly.  The wheel assembly was left off until a later stage in order to ease painting. There is one item, which is missing from the kit, which is the landing light installed on the leading edge of the starboard wing. This is very clearly indicated on the box artwork. I made this by filing a slot of the correct dimension then drilled through a 2mm hole so that when the perspex is fixed in placed the see through effect will show the detail. (See photo). Another item which needs to be added and which is always shown prominent when observing the tailwheel is the leg struts fitted to the rear of the tail-wheel. I made these out of surgical needle and thin steel wire that is passed through and both cut to size. This represented what appears to be a hydraulic or spring-loaded pair of struts. I also preferred to replace the resin nacelle mounted guns with lengths from a surgical hollow syringe of same diameter and cut to the required length.

 The Piaggio P-108 is an accurate well detailed model of an unusual and appealing subject but should be treated with respect and being a limited run injection moulded kit it is more intended for anyone who have experience with a few resin and plastic kits. It is well worth the price at 32.90 Sterling. This may at first appear on the high side but one should consider the high investment placed on the large metal moulds that can inject a kit of this size. 

COLORS & MARKINGS

 The Reggia Aeronautica P-108b colour scheme is indicated in toned down markings. This basically     consisting of obscuring the white fuselage band and white cross on the rudder with black paint thus making them less conspicuous during night missions. The bright fuselage identification numbers were also doped in black. One may have reason to believe that on the real thing this was a somewhat rush job and the paint job was done in a matter of a brief interval close to the night mission. This may be so because the bright red number "1" painted on the starboard aft fuselage was left in bright red paint, while the painting-over job to the white areas was roughly done. This is very untypical of the artistic Italian decorators who have a reputation of making a clean job that they do on ID markings, insignia and camouflage colour patterns. In any case this did not only apply to the Italians who were short of time to tone down the colours but may also apply to the artist who made the otherwise fantastic artwork on the kit box. This is so because the "Fascio Littorio" motif, which is elaborately printed on the nose area, is painted the wrong way round. The silver axehead should have the blade pointing forward on both sides of the fuselage.  This was obviously displayed on the forward fuselage which was otherwise missing on aircraft of foreign origin that operated with Regia Aeronautica. The reason for this appears to be that these particular fascist decals were applied to the aeronautical firms and SRAM units but not to the units. Since most of these aircraft went directly to units, only the main markings were painted on over those of previous owner. These markings have obviously disappeared from all combat aircraft with the fall of fascism on the 25th of July 1943 and the Distintivo di Guerra (white cross) obliterated. The instruction sheet on page 10 does show the fascist nose emblem correctly.

 The upper surface camouflage of theP-108 was overall verde mimetico but this was so widely subjected to weathering, oiling, exhaust residue effect and the beating sunshine that it took several varying shades of greens with stream effect that follow the a straight path. It may also be possible that the underside black colour was Nera sottomarino Antivegitativa (black anti-fouling) as applied to seaplanes since the P-108 was to fly long missions over the sea to reach its target. The kit decal sheet, which can only be described as of top quality in register and colour tones, also contains propeller blade decal markings. There is no clear indication as to the correct position these have to be applied to each blade. One has to identify this by referring to the photos.

CONCLUSIONS

 All in all this was a superb kit and fits in both categories for those keen on building heavy bombers and others who are making a collection of combat aircraft that served with the Regia Aeronautica during WWII.

September 2008 

Carmel J. Attard

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