Cyber-hobby 1/200 XB-35 Flying Wing

KIT #: 2017
PRICE: 100rmb ($15)
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Richard F.

There's a great scene in the original "War of the Worlds" movie (1953) where the Earthlings, desperate to defeat the invading Martians, try to nuke their way out of trouble. To fly over the Martian position and bomb them back to the stone age, they rely on the most advanced bomber they have: The Flying Wing.
Well, in the film, they used archival footage of the YB-49, the jet powered variant of Northrop's remarkable aircraft. But for my money, it's the XB-35 that's somehow the most futuristic looking. With its massive contra-rotating propellers, it seems like just the ticket for an atomic bombing run over a horde of nasty space aliens. 
In reality though, this plane had a lot of problems. Mostly, it was the engines and contra-rotating props that just wouldn't work reliably. Eventually they ditched the contra-rotating props, but with regular propellers the plane's performance suffered considerably.
Imagine how cool this thing would have been if it had had decent engines, perhaps turbo props with contra-rotating propellers like the Soviet Tu-95. The jet version, YB-49, could manage 450 knots; a Tu-95 could do 510. So it's plausible that a XB-35 with decent engines could have managed at least the same speed as the YB-49 if not better. Something for a "what-if" build, perhaps.

Back to the real world again, the combination of disappointing performance, technical challenges, and
 the apocryphal "politics of Northrop", led the XB-35 to wind up as an interesting footnote in the development of the B-2. None survive, nor do any YB-49s.

But it's a damn cool looking aeroplane.

Our Editor ably previewed this kit right here on MM: XB-35 and its sister kit the YB-49.
In a nutshell, this is a lovely kit. Beautifully moulded, clean parts, crystal clear transparencies and a very detailed cabin area that beats a lot of 1/144 kits. 
It's a fine choice for anyone who wants one of these that's easy to build and easy to display. Anigrand do a resin one in 1/144; AMT (and later reboxed by Italeri) had a monster-sized version in 1/72.

I started building the cockpit area, which looks more like the bridge of a starship. It has several parts, and tiny seats, and a little table for the engineer or navigator station. According to someone's build of the 1/72 kit, all this interior was in aluminium, so that's what I went with (I wasn't able to find a colour interior shot of the real thing). The other guy made his seats red but I went for a khaki kind of colour. There is a small cabin to build at the rear of the plane, too. All this goes together very nicely and really looks pretty cool.
Which is a shame, because once the top and bottom halves are joined together, there is practically nothing to see. Before I sealed them up, I put some blue tack inside, everywhere forward of the main wheels. I was pretty sure this would tail sit, even though it's not very long. There's not much distance between front and rear wheels, so you need to be a little creative.  I put on the engine nacelles now. They hang out backwards a long way.
My model does stand on its gear, but it is a very close run thing. It will tail sit on anything other than a perfectly flat surface. On my display shelf, it stands at some angles, and tail-sits at others. I recommend you put some lead weight in amongst the bluetack, just to remove all doubt.
Once this is done, it's almost finished. Don't forget to add the vents on top of the engine nacelles, and the little vents on the underside which go into the holes at the leading edge in the little exhaust fairings. These aren't mentioned on the instructions, but you will find the parts on the sprue that holds the props. The should - apparently - face backwards. Thanks to another builder for reviewing his build on a forum somewhere, otherwise I wouldn't have known what those holes were for. The parts are so small I hardly even noticed them on the sprue.
The undercarriage is sturdy and fairly straightforward. The main wheel bays slot in, complete with doors, or there's an alternative part to use for a gear-up build. No stand, though.

At this point, I did a tiny amount of puttying here and there, just a very little on the underside seams and one a few of the engine nacelles where they join the wing. The way the kit is designed, all the actual major seams are underneath. 
I sprayed the whole thing with Tamiya TS-17 gloss aluminium and then masked off most of the plane, leaving the control surfaces, and a few panels and access hatches free to receive a blast of Tamiya TS-83 metallic silver.
Once that was done, all I needed to do was apply the decals.
I stuffed these up a little bit. For the topside US national insignia, I went in too hard with Mr Mark Softer and there's a bit of a blemish. I then managed to wreck one of the serial numbers on the side of the outboard nacelle. Oh well. Its absence is not too noticeable.
Instead of trying my luck with the black strips of decal provided to do the lines right round the outline of the wing, I just used a very fine marker pen and ran it up the relevant panel lines. To my eye, this looks ok.
I added the awesome-looking contra-rotating propellers and the clear parts, and freehanded the canopy frames with a fine brush and some Tamiya XF-16 aluminium paint. Last of all I put the tiny air data probe onto the wingtip. Now, where are those pesky Martians? Ready for take-off...

A great kit which I really enjoyed building. If I didn't have too many other kits in my stash and clogging up my bench, I'd be keen to go and get the YB-49 kit. Maybe I still will...

Richard F.

April 2013

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