Great Wall Hobby 1/48 P-61A Black Widow

KIT #: L4802
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken

New tool multi-media kit with photo etch fret


The Northrop P-61 Black Widow was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during World War II. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.

Although not produced in the large numbers of its contemporaries, the Black Widow was effectively operated as a night-fighter by United States Army Air Forces squadrons in the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the China Burma India Theater and the Mediterranean Theater during World War II. It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available. After the war, the F-61 served in the United States Air Force as a long-range, all weather, day/night interceptor for Air Defense Command until 1948, and Far East Air Force until 1950.

On the night of 14 August 1945, a P-61B of the 548th Night Fight Squadron named "Lady in the Dark" was unofficially credited with the last Allied air victory before VJ Day. The P-61 was also modified to create the F-15 Reporter photo-reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Air Force.

I found it interesting when reading the rest of the history at the reference link that it was thought that the aircraft was not fast enough!


 The kit looks to be absolutely superb and may well cause many Monogram kits to be seen on e-bay or at swap meets. Great Wall listened to input and the fabric rudders have real fabric representations on them, not the underlying framework as on the FW-189. The instructions also include interior color info.

No mass of sunken rivets/fasteners on this and what few are there are quite understated. Detailing is crisp and clear, just what we'd expect from Great Wall. The few parts I've test fit have gone together beautifully. The interior and gun package areas are fully detailed with decals for the separate instruments and for placards on the side walls.

I particularly liked that Great Wall packaged the clear nose cone separately in its own sturdy package. You get a full radar to view through that clear nose. As many of you know, these were not completely clear, but a spray of a matte clear should make it closer to the opaque it should be. Of course, this all makes finding room for nose weight to be rather difficult, but those who want to find the room will. There seems to be a bit of room between the back of the radar antenna bulkhead and the back of the instrument panel. But I'm sure more will be needed than what can fit there. One other thing I should mention at this time is that the wings are reinforced on the inside. This should take care of any issues when it comes to warping and should make the wing stronger as well. Fortunately, none of the reinforcements results in a sunken area on the opposite side, an issue one often runs into with thick moldings.

 There is a photo etch fret that has things like seat harnesses, entrance door detailing, air brakes, engine harness, rudder pedals and a few other bits. The kit has separate control surfaces and flaps so you can pose them as you wish. Speaking of the air brakes, these can be modeled open or closed. There are indentations in the upper wing to accept these items. The kit also includes a set of drop tanks but the early P-61A was not plumbed for tanks so they are not appropriate. Great Wall has already opened slots in the lower wing for two per side so you'll have to fill them. Those hoping that this boxing also includes the upper turret will be disappointed as it is missing from the sprues but will be included in the B model kit. Actually, only the first few P-61As had the turret. It wasn't incorporated back into the airframe until P-61B production was well underway. Another feature is that the wheels have a flat spot on the bottom so no need for aftermarket in this regard.

You get full engine detail as well as open and closed cowl flap options. All of the entrance hatches can be left open should one desire and this includes leaving off the radome to show the radar array. Options are for two planes, one is 'Lady Gen' in Belgium, December 1944 in OD/Neutral Grey with D-Day stripes on the booms. This is the box art plane. I'm not sure why there is an addendum decal for this marking as they both look OK to me. The other is in black as 'Sweatin Wally' at Myikyina Burma in 1944. This one is in overall black. Now I have to admit that I thought the serials on OD planes were yellow, but you get red ones for both. I'm sure a P-61 fan can chime in on this. The instruction book is the same superbly drawn type we have come to expect from Great Wall, complete with color references using Gunze paints. Probably the only thing one could wish for would be masks for the canopies, but based on all the trimming I had to do with the FW-189 set, perhaps that is not such a bad thing.


Great Wall Hobbies has gone through a lot of work and research on this one and has produced the most accurate P-61 yet available in kit form.  I'm not sure what the MSRP is going to be but  it is well worth it. Not only that, but there are a lot of decals made for the Monogram kit that will fit this one if you don't like the schemes offered. It probably won't surprise you that I've got this one started so stay tuned. It won't be a fast build with all that detail, but it will be a lot of fun.


August 2011

Thanks to Great Wall Hobby/Lion Roar for the preview kit. 

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