Aircraft In Miniature 1/72 Tu-95 'Bear'






One aircraft


Sébastien Privat


Kit is vacuform with white metal



When Cold War was on the verge of getting rather hot, USAF maintained an impressive force of bombers, ready to take off and strike the Soviet Union as soon as the order was given. But Soviets had their own strategic bombers, fast and long legged. Powered by four 15,000 shp turboprops, fast enough as to force British interceptors to go on burners if the pilots wanted to stay along them, with a respectable bomb load, they answered to NATO codename of Bear.

Designed by Tupolev Design Bureau, this machine was incredibly polyvalent: from a strategic bomber, it became a VIP transport aircraft, maritime patroller, and anti-ship bomber. A civilian aircraft was derived of it, as well as Soviet first AEW platform.

It's birth was a surprising process. With very little imagination (okay, maybe more than that), one could say it's the grandson of the B-29! Three B-29s, back from a raid on Japan, landed in Soviet Union. Like the good and trustworthy ally he was, he eventually gave the crews back to the USAAF, but kept the aircraft. Tupolev copied with the utmost accuracy the Superfortress, changing the engines for locally produced ones, giving birth to the Tu 4 (NATO codename: Bull). As the former allies seemed closer every day to blast each other to kingdom come, Soviet aircraft designers were ordered to design strategic bombers capable of bombing targets in the heart of the USA and coming back.

Tupolev designed the Tu 85, which was abandoned, but derived from that very aircraft the Tu 95. With its four Kuznetsov 15,000shp turbines, each moving two four-blade contrarotating propellers, its huge swept wing, its 550 mph max speed and its impressive range, the Tu 95 became the standard Soviet strategic bomber, and the equivalent to the fabulous B-52.

I saw a Bear, as many Westerners, for the first time in 1993, at the Royal International Air Tattoo. And I was awestruck by this aircraft, its elegance, its noise, and the vibration generated! So I was waiting for a model, not in my favorite scale (1/48th), but at least 1/72nd.


When I saw the English company Aircraft In Miniatures was going to release a 1/72nd Bear, I was rather excited. I knew it was vacform, but there were a lot of resin and metal parts, so I told myself I should be able to have a go at it. So I ordered it, directly from AIM.

And I received it. Wow! or was it Ouch?

What do you get when you open the 32" by 8" box? Two fuselage halves (some 28 inches long), four wing halves (upper/lower, right/left) and the cabin floor in vacuformed plastic, thick and rather soft. You get vacuformed transparencies for the nose cone, the canopy, and the rear gunner blisters and turret. A fret of photoetch is included for detailing (a little bit at least) the cockpit. Tailplanes are resin, as are the engine nacelles. You'll have an idea of the size of the beast with the picture of an inner engine nacelle placed along my 1/48th Airfix Spitfire 22. As the VIP transport version is included in the box, you have a new tail end, and everything that goes with the access ramp in resin.

Then you find some 2 lbs of metal, including all the landing gear, doors, strakes, the gun turrets, the eight four bladed propellers and their spinners.

The decal sheet is for a generic Tu 95M, and for one of the two Tu116 VIP transport aircraft, with the windows figured on the decal sheet.

The vac parts are pre-cut. A vac-rookie like me should find that rather "modeler-friendly", but not quite. You have to remove some 3 millimeters from every vac part to get something nice. All the panel lines are there, but are very soft, a bit like a Matchbox trench made in jelly... And all vac parts are covered in those relief dots, unavoidable when you're dealing with vacuform.

Metal parts are good, but molding points are thick, and there's heavy filing/sanding/polishing work to be done here. Resin parts are quite nice, though with a little bit of flash.

Last but not least, all interior detailing is to be done.


If Dynavector models are vac equivalent to Tamiya/Hasegawa/Accurate Miniatures, we have some HiPM there. It sure looks like a Bear, it seems to be rather accurate shape-wise, but there's heavy work to do. All detailing, puttying all panel lines, and then rescribing them all, before starting to build a 28" by 28" vac model! Then, as the Bear wore NMF, there's the painting, on perfectly smooth surfaces!

Had I known all that beforehand, and as I'm a total newbie in vacuform modeling, I would not have dared spending $90 for this beast. But, with a little help from my modeling friends, patience, more patience, and even more patience, I should be able to get a real show stopper. I really think that a modeler with some experience in vacs should get, painfully maybe, an absolute jewel.


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