Airfix 1/72 VB-29
KIT #: ?
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Simple conversion



The B-29 became the frst aircraft in the world to drop a nuclear weapon in anger….and also the last. It was one of the first bombers to be built with a tricycle undercarriage, the first to have all its armament in remotely controlled turrets, to have self sealing fuel tanks, a pressurized fuselage and armour plating.

The combat status of the B-29 was an impressive one. The first deployment overseas of the type was  at Kwanghan in China on 24th of April 1944 in one of the freshly prepared 4 airfields by Chinese workmen. The first raid was carried out on Bangkok, Thailand on the 5th of June 1944. This was followed 10 days later when 50 B-29s attacked the first target on the Japanese mainland hitting steel mills in Yawata, with loss of 7 aircraft only one of which attributed to enemy action.

Following that no less than 180 B-29s went on each bases on recaptured Mariana Islands., 3 bases on Guam, 2 on Tinian and one on Saipan. The first raids from the Marianas was on 24th December 1944 when 111 B-29s made the 3,000 mile round trip to hit the Musahino engine factory. The B-29s then gained fame for their fire raids with incendary bombs causing such devastation to highly flammable Japanese style of house building. Firebombs like the M-69 was an incendary cluster containing a jelly gasoline compound was developed for such raids. Two weeks later followed targets on Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Kobe which inflected extensive damage.The Americans then landed on Okinawa for the final and last battle.

The long endurance raids called for a special air-sea rescue service for downed crew. B-29s were converted to carry airborne lifeboats for this role. The B-29 years later made its next debut over Korea with bombing strikes during which it had to defend itself from Russian made jets, the MiG 15s.

Other variants of the B-29s continued to evlove which included the KB-29M and KB-29P in flight refuelling roles which led the way to present day methow of refuelling. Another variant that evolved from the B-29 was the F-13, a photo reconnaissance aircraft with special camera installations plus standard  bombing equipment.

 Following the end of the Korean War, the B-29 was rapidly retired from service. The last of the USAF's B-29 bombers had been replaced by B-47s by 1954. The KB-29M and KB-29P tankers were all replaced by the KC-97 by 1957. However, a few B-29s were converted to specialized missions and soldiered on for several more years. Sixteen were converted into SB-29 search and rescue aircraft, which carried an A-3 lifeboat underneath the fuselage. Others were modified for weather reconnaissance under the designation WB-29. A few were converted to TB-29 target towing and radar evaluation aircraft, and some became QB-29 target drones. There was even a stripped cargo B-29, the CB-29K. The VB-29 was a VIP transport. The last B-29 (a TB-29 radar evaluation aircraft, serial number 42-65234) was retired from the USAF inventory on June 21, 1960, bringing the era of Superfortress service to an end. However, it seems that a few B-29s were still serving as inflight-refueling tankers as late as 1963.


The Airfix basic kit of the B-29 was used for the conversion into a VB-29 Superfortress which in this form the Superfortress was adopted for long range VIP transport attached to 3rd Air Division, SAC during 1954-55. The kit comes in a sizeable box and comes complete with top and lower gun turrets and a complete bomb load that fits inside the two tandem bomb bays. Fit of parts was good considering that the kit appeared in shops for the first time some 45 years ago.

 Converting the kit into the VIP version was in fact a simple conversion. The VB-29 retained all the top and rear fuselage side astrodomes but lacked all the defensive gun turrets and bomb load fittings inside the bomb bays making way to what one can assume was a VIP converted compartment inside the fuselage and retained the Hamilton type propellers.


 The very first stage of construction is providing 8 semi circular blanking plastic cards to fit in place of the 4 gun turrets, gluing each to the two half fuselage parts before even starting to assemble the model. This is a big model even at the scale of 1/72 and it was worth investing in a set of detailed, accurate metal oleo legs issued by SAC of Texas, set landing gear (AX) 72082 purposely released as a replacement to the crude plastic legs that comes with the Airfix kit. Incidentally SAC also produces the gear suited for the Academy B-29 in the event one is using that other kit for such a conversion.

The kit construction from now on followed the Airfix kit instructions. Cockpit floor, instruments, crew seats, control wheels and bulk heads assembled in their respective place. I had no detail of the VIP passenger compartment which should go aft of the cockpit bulkhead and behind the pilot seats but even so, none of this detail could be visible from the outside once the fuselage halves are joined together. Crew compartment and fuselage interiors were painted cockpit green and crew seats in dark brown. A crew seat at the far end of the fuselage was added, this was made from plastic card. The wings were sub assembled, adding some structural detail to the wheel wells that appeared bare as supplied. This was in the form of cross channels made from strips of plastic card. Fit of engines and nacelles to wings was reasonable requiring little filler at mating parts. Added weight to a closed compartment behind the nose wheel well. Bay doors were closed permanently.


Decal markings for the VB-29 were picked from Xtradecal sheet X032-72. This 72-scale sheet also had markings for a WB-50D and a KB-29P. A sheet intended for the big Boeings enthusiast. The model had all fuselage top in white otherwise overall natural metal including fin and rudder. A fuselage cheat line insignia blue separated the fuselage white and silver finish. De-icing black boots painted to wings, tail plane and fin leading edges. The tail fin top and nose wheel doors were blue FS 15102. Propellers are flat black with yellow tips and the wing walkways were light dull silver grey.


 This was a model of impressive size with an unusual colour scheme. The SAC flash in mid blue continued to decorate the aircraft. On the whole this was a simple conversion and a positive pleasure to complete it into the VIP version of the B-29.

 Carmel J. Attard

May 2014 

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