Great Wall Hobby 1/48 P-61B Black Widow "Last Shootdown"

KIT #: L4810
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken

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 initial boxing of this kit opened to a lot of very pleased comments as well as the usual wailing about things not being spot on. To the uninitiated, the original kit looked fine, but there were areas where improvement could be made. Unlike many companies, Great Wall (now GWH) listened to the commentary on the glitches and has, from what I can see, taken care of several of those issues. Not surprisingly, this kit is pretty much the same as the previous boxing. The lone difference that I could see is that this one has a longer clear nose section. Unfortunately, the casing for the radome opened up during shipment and not only did the radome break free of its sprue, but the pitot tube broke away. I could not find it in the box. Suggest to GWH that they tape the protective case closed as it is not good if it easily pops open during shipping.

Here is a look at the basic kit, repeating what I stated last time. 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. I have been told that the air brakes are not accurate, but it matters little as these were rarely deployed on the ground. 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, something that is appropriate for the P-61B.  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.

Now for things the have been updated/added from the initial boxing. First of all, the initial production kit did not have a clear nose, though the review sample sent in did have one. This one is now slightly frosted as was the case. Next, the engine cowling openings have been made wider. New props have been included as the initial offering ones were a bit off in shape. There was commentary that the cockpit glass was not the proper shape and it looks as if that has been taken care of as well. As this is a turreted version, the kit includes a new turret and though it will be nearly invisible, a turret housing is included. Also part of the addition are the gun sights. Also included in this kit are a set of canopy masks.

 Options are for two planes, one is the box art plane "Lady in the Dark" which is unofficially credited for the last aerial victory of WWII. The other is an equally all black P-61B "Anonymous II/The Spook". Both are from the 548 NFS based on Iwo Jima in the last months of the war. Instructions are quite well done with color information provided using Gunze and Vallejo paint references. The decals are also nicely printed and should provide no issues. I built the initial boxing and found it to be an excellent kit. It will take careful building thanks to the large number of parts, but it is well worth it.


Great Wall Hobbies has listened to those who found errors with the initial boxing and has gone through a lot of work to not only correct those errors, but to add more to the kit. About the only thing the builder will have to supply is the patience to put it together and a weight to keep it from tail-sitting. For those interested in reading about how your editor did on his build of the initial boxing, here is a link.


February 2013

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

If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.

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