Revell 1/48 B-1B Lancer

KIT #: 5714
PRICE: $56.00 at a prominent online retailer.
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Lyle
NOTES: Two Bobs Decals #48-204, B-1B Dakota Backbone


 A case study in the difficulty of successfully introducing a large, expensive weapons platform during peacetime, the B-1 bomber was initially as controversial as its gestation period was long.  A victim of all manner of politics, the B-1 very nearly joined the long list of US Air Force bomber projects never to make it into service.  Once in service however it quickly proved its worth, and has served well in every conflict the United States has been involved in since the mid 1990s. 

            The B-1 began life in 1965 when the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA) study was commenced by the Air Force to find a new bomber to replace the cancelled B-70 Valkyrie project.  An exhaustive study, AMSA was completed in 1969 with Request for Proposals to which Boeing, General Dynamics (formerly Convair), and Rockwell (formerly North American) responded.  In June 1970 Rockwell was awarded the contract, which called for five flying prototypes and a production run of 244 to begin in 1975.

            The B-1A went through exhaustive tests and studies before it first flew, and development was proceeding relatively on schedule through the early 1970s.  The first B-1A rolled out of the Palmdale, California plant in October 1974 with the first flight following two months later.  The flight test program began in January 1975, but during that year the political climate began to change.  In November 1976 Jimmy Carter was elected, partly on a platform of reducing wasteful defense spending.  During his campaign he used the B-1 program as an example of an expensive, unnecessary defense program, and in June 1977 he eliminated funding for the production of any B-1 bombers, keeping alive only the testing part of the program.  Rockwell, stunned and furious, immediately laid off 16,000 workers.

            While testing continued for the next four years, the political winds changed yet again.  With the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 came a massive surge in spending on weapons systems as he made the modernization of the military a high priority.  In October 1981 he resurrected the B-1 program with an order for 100 bombers, the first of which was produced in September 1984 and the last of which rolled out in May 1988. 

            Since its acceptance into service in 1986 the B-1B has broken several flight records, including some held for decades by the Soviet Union.  While it was not used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it has been used in every conflict in which the U.S. has been involved since.  In 1998 it took part in Operation Desert Fox, the strike against the rather uncooperative regime of Saddam Hussein.  It followed that by participating in Operation Allied Force against hostile forces in Kosovo in 1999.  After the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 it saw action against terrorist sites in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and in 2003 it was called into duty again against the now extremely uncooperative regime of Saddam Hussein.

            One of the most famous actions in which a B-1B was involved was the famous “head shot” attempt that occurred during Operation Iraqi Freedom on April 7, 2003.  B-1B #86-138 was in the air on a loiter mission and engaged in midair refueling when it was called and told that Saddam Hussein and his two sons were dining in a restaurant in the suburbs of Baghdad.  Streaking to the target area, the bomber put four bombs on the target in just twelve minutes, a remarkable feat.  Unfortunately the despots had just left, but the dramatic attempt made headlines around the world.  Unfazed, the bomber went on to attack more targets during the same mission – all in a day’s work for the B-1B.  I had the big Revell kit in my stash for some time, and when I found a TwoBobs decal sheet with the markings for the above bomber, I decided to go at it.


Molded back in the 1980’s, I’m pretty sure this kit still holds the title of “biggest” injection molded 1/48 scale kit ever made.  Opening up the box one is greeted with lots of light gray plastic - including some truly large molded parts.  Although the crispness of the molding isn’t up to today’s standards, Revell didn’t skimp on what they included in the box.  Starting at the nose cone, you can build the bomber’s radar set, a nicely detailed rendition of the four-man cockpit, all three wheels wells, and all three bomb bay interiors.  The huge variable geometry wings can be left free to swing back and forth, although there is no mechanism to tie them together.  Surprisingly for an 80’s-vintage kit, the panel lines are recessed.  Much has been made over the years of the size of those recessed lines, and scale-wise they are in fact too big.  Still, given the size of the model, I don’t think they visually detract from its overall appearance.

            Revell provides enough nuclear cruise missiles to fill up two of the bomb bays and an auxiliary fuel tank to fill up the third.  This load-out is representative of what the bomber flew with in the late 80s and early 90s when it was still nuclear-capable, but now it is strictly a conventionally-armed bird, and no conventional munitions are included in the kit.  An online search for 1/48 versions of the JDAM munitions it frequently used during Operation Iraqi Freedom came up empty, so I decided to build the model with the bomb bays empty and closed.  I knew I’d be doing my fair share of filing and sanding on this one, so I figured I could save some time and effort by essentially blowing off the bomb bays.

            I purchased a couple of aftermarket items to spruce up the kit; a set of cast metal landing gear from Scale Aircraft Conversions to take the weight of all that plastic, and Eduard’s photo etch engine nozzle set.  The kit’s engine nozzles represent the B-1A versions, and Eduard’s set is a neat upgrade.  Many online builders remarked that their kit came with rubber tires, but in my boxing the tires were plastic.


The instructions start off with the cockpit, and that’s where I began.  In the real thing the pilot and co-pilot sit side by side, followed by the Offensive Systems Operator and the Defensive Systems Operator, also sitting side by side.  Revell replicated these stations nicely.  There’s certainly room to add more detail if desired, but very little of it is going to be visible through the smoky-colored canopy sections.  I airbrushed the panels, bulkheads, ejection seats, and inner surfaces of the nose sections Testors Acrylic Dark Gull Gray (FS36231) and then picked out the various instrument panels by hand in black and white.  Parts of the ACES II ejection seats were picked out in red and green, and then the cockpit stations were assembled.  Revell engineered the cockpit to mount on top of the nose wheel well, forming a sort of cockpit/nose wheel well module.  That module is then trapped between the two nose section halves.  I held off on gluing the nose section halves together however in an attempt to employ some model building strategy, as follows:

The big bomber is basically broken into three sections; the nose section, the tail section, and the center section.  Having read online reviews of the kit, I knew I wanted to pay careful attention to how those sections attach to each other or I’d have a seam Armageddon on my hands.  It seemed logical to assemble the center section first and then carefully attach the nose and tail sections to it with the hopes of being able to minimize the seam work.  That was my strategy.  As it turned out it didn’t matter.  I spent the next three months filing, sanding, and puttying seams anyway, so if my so-called strategy was successful, it was a Pyrrhic victory at best.

So I set the completed cockpit aside and began work on the center section, which not only consists of the three bomb bays and the main landing gear wells, but also the wings.  I started with the wings, which ended up presenting the first of many seam challenges.  Each wing consists of a top half and a bottom half, but the seam on the trailing edge of each wing is about a 1/2” inboard on the underside, and it’s big.  A few nights of filling and sanding were needed before that seam was in a state I could live with.  Turning the wings over to the top side, there was a large sink mark running the length of the wing directly over the seam on the underside, so that had to be dealt with as well.  The sanding and puttying was already tedious, and I was only on the wings! 

With the wings complete I built up the main landing gear wheel well, which consists of several large plates that are glued together to form a large box-like structure.  The size of the landing gear bay alone rivals some 1/48 WW1 aircraft models I’ve built!  There are some nasty knockout pin marks on the exposed surfaces of the plates, but I judged it easier to live with them than try to fill them.  I knew I wasn’t yet that far into the kit and I wanted to conserve my reserves of patience for the seams yet to come.

I attached the bay to the lower fuselage section, and once that was dry I positioned the wings on their large support pins.  I then used masking tape to secure the two fuselage sections together, and then went crazy with my CA glue.  With the wings posed in their fully spread position, I drenched the pin joint of each wing with CA glue as well as I could – the joint is hard to get at with the fuselage halves closed up.  I then did the same to the inside seams of the fuselage sections.  Once it was all dry it seemed strong, but to this day I remain worried about the overall strength of the assembly.  It’s a lot of plastic held together by just a few joints, none of which are tremendously confidence-inspiring.

The next step was to finish the seams on the center section, and here’s where my Dremel was called into duty.  The seams on the leading edges of the aircraft’s center section were fairly mismatched, but a few passes with the Dremel took care of that.  The final step on the center section was to add the inflatable bladders that the wings swing into.  Revell provides a piece for each area, but it’s not very accurate.  I added some plastic card to the area to try to make it look more authentic.

Up next were the engine nacelles.  Intake trunks are provided in the form of upper and lower halves, and once joined there is a nasty seam on the inside of those trunks.  That wasn’t going to be dealt with.  When you’re in a tough battle, you’re going to take some losses!  I closed up the engine nacelles with the trunks inside and then glued on the front intake sections.  There were seams to be dealt with again – oh yes, there were seams.  Again with the Dremel.  Bumps on the rear of the nacelles, apparently holdovers from the B-1A era, also had to be Dremeled off.  Finally I used some plastic card to recreate the vertical vanes inside each intake and set the engine nacelles aside.

Continuing on to the tail section, the elevator upper and lower halves went together easily, and the seams of the two tail halves were also manageable.  It was time to tackle another small issue with the kit however, the missing Tow Decoy System housings.  I scratch-built those as best I could from parts in my spares box and a healthy dose of Squadron Green Putty.  They’re not perfect, but they’ll do – any aftermarket resin companies reading this, here is an opportunity!  I also added the small vortex generator fins on each side of the lower tail from plastic card.

At this point I decided it would be wise to start priming and pre-shading the subassemblies before joining them all together.  I used Tamiya’s Light Gray Primer sprayed directly out of the can, and then pre-shaded all of the panel lines on the subassemblies using Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black.

Two months into the project and only about halfway through the assembly stage!  It was now time to start joining some of the subassemblies together.  My heart sank as I test-fitted the engine nacelles to the center section – more big gaps, and hard to get to at that.  Someone needs to make a miniature caulking gun with a long, narrow snout for models like these.  A couple more nights of work was required to get the nacelles squared away, and then it was on to fastening the tail section to the center section.  Here at least the joint was pretty good, with not much seam-work required.  The horizontal stabilizers went on next, and they also cooperated. 

The next step required joining the nose section to the model, but I knew some serious weight would have to be added to the nose to prevent the model from becoming a tail sitter.  In order to figure out how much I started assembling the two main landing gear strut assemblies, as the model would essentially pivot forwards or backwards on them.  The Scale Aircraft Conversions landing gear set I bought for the kit was the first product of theirs that I’ve used, and I was very impressed.  The sturdy metal parts are nicely cast, finely detailed and go together nicely.  The B-1’s main landing gear are complicated structures, but once completed they look very robust.

There are some small clear windows to be added to each nose section half, and I attached them using Testors Clear Cement.  Then I glued the cockpit/nose wheel well assembly into one of the nose section halves, and then closed up the two halves.  I used Tamiya masking tape to temporarily attach the nose section to the rest of the bomber and then placed the whole model on a large, flat surface (i.e. the dining room table – don’t tell my wife).  With the nose cone left off there is a convenient hole through which to add nose weights.  I used ¼ ounce fishing sinkers and attached them to the area forward of the cockpit with CA glue.  I ended up inserting eight of them to make the bomber nose-heavy instead of tail-heavy!  With that finished I detached the nose section and worked on its seams, which took a couple of nights.  I carefully added the clear (but smoky) windscreen, and then masked all of the windows off to give them some protection from scratches and fingerprints.  I then used CA glue to attach the nose section to the rest of the model.  The good news was that the assembly stage was now largely complete and the hugeness of the model was fun to revel in.  The bad news was that the joint between the nose section and the rest of the model was very nasty, and required a fair amount of work with the usual instruments, including the Dremel, to fix.  With that done I glued a couple more fishing sinkers in the nose cone for good measure, and then attached it to the model.  Finally, the heavy lifting part of the model assembly was finished.  I added the nose landing gear and the nose canards, and declared the model ready for paint.


 With the model already primed and pre-shaded, it was time to start applying color.  Since the early 1990’s the B-1 fleet has been painted in overall Gunship Gray (FS36118), so I chose Tamiya’s AS-27 Gunship Gray 2 spray paint.  Misting on the coats lightly so the pre-shading would show through, the Tamiya spray paint performed very well, creating a very fine spray with no spattering.  I was able to paint the whole model in a couple of sessions whereas trying to do that with an airbrush would have taken much longer.  The paint also dried with a slightly glossy sheen, which helped with the upcoming Future stage.

            At this point I had a giant dark gray bomber on my hands, so I lightened some Testors Acrylic Gunship Gray with Flat White and airbrushed some random splotches all over the upper surfaces of the model to represent random fading.  This is a step I’m rapidly coming to enjoy; to my eye it really makes the model start to come to life.   

            Next I masked the areas around the wheel wells and airbrushed them, the landing gear, the wheels, and the inner surfaces of the gear doors Tamiya Flat White.  I then glued the gear doors in place before spraying the ever-present coat of Future, after which the model was set aside for a few days.

            I applied the TwoBobs decals next, which went on just fine with Walthers Solvaset solution.  I used the wing stripes from the kit’s decals, and then sealed all the decals with another coat of Future.  While that cured I airbrushed the tires flat black, dry-brushed them Testors Neutral Gray, and then assembled them onto the wheel hubs.  The next weathering step was to apply a wash of Mig Productions “Dark Wash” to all of the model’s panel lines, as well as the wheel wells, landing gear, and wheels.  With a model this size, it took me about a week just to apply that wash!

            A coat of Testors Model Master Flat Finish was airbrushed on next, and then it was time to paint a few remaining areas.  I brush-painted the nose cone with a very dark gray mix of Vallejo paints and then brush-painted the inflatable wing bladders white and dark gray.  The next weathering step was to airbrush a very thin mix of 50/50 Tamiya XF1 Black and Tamiya XF64 Red Brown over the panel lines, keeping it subtle and focusing on the wing flap areas.

            At this point I was finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  I removed the masking from the canopy, and then brush-painted the wingtip lights Testors Chrome followed by Tamiya Clear Red and Clear Green.  With most models I add some paint chipping effects at this point, but on this modern bomber I skipped that step.  I’ve seen photos of B-1s with fairly extensive paint chipping on the leading edges of the wings, but I didn’t think that would look right on this model.


Nearing the end of this exhausting build I had two steps left: add the last few remaining small parts (pitot tubes, antenna fins, boarding ladder, and landing gear lights) and build the Eduard photo etch exhaust nozzles.  The Eduard nozzle set uses the kit’s aft exhaust part (not the nozzle, but the round piece that serves as the back face of the nozzle) as a base, on top of which the photo etch parts are added.  Each nozzle is very intricate and it took me a few nights to build all four of them, but when finished my patience was rewarded with very busy and detailed looking exhaust nozzles.  Test fitting them to the engine nacelles resulted in problems however – they wouldn’t fit.  I ended up popping the base part off and that gave me the flexibility I needed to fit them into the nacelles.  I painted them by first priming them with Tamiya XF69 NATO Black and then misting on a custom mix of “dirty steel”; basically Testors Steel and Raw Umber mixed together.  A Dark Brown MIG Productions wash toned them down and then they were glued in place.

With that done I scratch-built six pitot tubes (the kit only supplies two, and the B-1 has six prominently arrayed on its nose), and then carefully glued all the final small parts to the model.  And finally, the model was finished.


  Well it took me a good five months, but it’s done.  This was a challenging model, testing the limits of my patience and at times, my interest.  Some of my lack of enthusiasm for the kit is a result of the subject - somehow modern aircraft just don’t have the same allure to me that WW2-era aircraft have. 

Am I glad I built it?  Absolutely yes.  It’s a massive model, instantly taking center stage in my collection and drawing the most interest from those who generally have no interest in models.  Plus the B-1 is a cool looking aircraft; very sleek with lots of sweeping curves and a very purposeful appearance.  Would I build another one?  Not anytime soon.  Perhaps if a brand new kit appeared that promised flawless kit engineering and a whole slew of current munitions options I could be enticed, but that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

            If you choose to build this one, be ready for a long slog, with lots of tedious filling and sanding.  At the end of the day it’s a 25 year old model that presents some challenges due to its size.  Whether or not you build it depends on your individual modeling capacities and tastes.  If you enjoy long projects entailing the use of scratch-building and lots of modeling skills, this could be the one for you.  If you prefer “quick kills”, think twice about tackling it.  I tend to fall more towards the latter side of the spectrum with occasional forays into big, long builds.  Now that I’ve finished this one, I need something fast and clean!


-  Osprey Publications, Combat Aircraft #60, “B-1B Lancer Units in Combat”

-  Squadron/Signal Publications, Aircraft in Action #179, “B-1 Lancer in Action”

- Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia

 Scott Lyle

May 2011

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