Hobby Boss 1/32 P-61B Black Widow
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||New tool kit|
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.
As a modeler, I have always found it to be pretty amazing that for years/decades, we get nothing, then all in a short time we get almost more than some can handle. So it is with the P-61 Black Widow. After pining for a good quality modern kit to replace the older, though still nice Monogram kit, we get several variants from GWH and now this one in 1/32 from Hobby Boss.
It is pretty obvious that Hobby Boss has done their homework on this one, taking clues from the various build article of the GWH kit on areas in which things could be improved. Now I do not believe that GWH/Lion Roar has any ties with HobbyBoss, however, there are a lot of similarities between the kits. This is undoubtedly due to the simple fact that when one designs a kit with a lot of detail, there are only so many ways to do thing.
With a kit like this it is difficult to know just where to begin, so I'll start with a couple things I really like. Hobby Boss realizes that there are modelers who like to have a full radar set, so have included some pretty hefty weights to help keep this one on its nose gear. These large weights fit behind the pilot instrument panel and between the cockpit floor and the nose wheel well. They have also realized that this will be a heavy kit so have provided metal landing gear legs. Metal is also used for a couple of large components of the radar system, which will undoubtedly be required to prevent tail sitting so if you are not going to build this one with the full radar, at least include these part.
Another nice addition is vinyl parts for the various ducting and hoses that are found in the cockpit. This material is also used for the tires (so no seams) and for the shell links for the guns. In addition to the obvious parts, there are quite a few additional clear parts. These are used for the engine cowlings, the nose radome, and for the upper turret housing. I would guess that is so the work you put into these area can be seen. Many of us will simply paint them, but it is a nice thought. While on the subject of clear bits, it appears that even though the upper cockpit piece is separate, it is designed to be molded closed as there is no linkage to keep it open.
Photo etch is an integral part of the kit and you are provided with two frets. This is used for the wing spoilers (which are nicely done and appear to be a lot more accurate than those with the GWH kit), the grills in the intake ducting, the vents under the engine cowlings, and other pieces for the interior like seat harnesses. I am so glad that regular plastic is used for the nose gear mud guard and some other bits that GWH had us use p.e. when I though plastic would have been a better choice.
As you have probably surmised, the cockpit, gunner's station, and radar operator's station are superbly molded with all of the appropriate black boxes, the gun sight arms, detailed chairs, and the aforementioned ducting and cables. Decals are available to use on instruments if you so desire.
You also get a very detailed lower gun area that includes vinyl shell belts. The upper turret is quite complete with the housing and optional gun barrels. There are also vinyl gun belts for this area. The lower aft gun doors can be displayed open as well as the rear entrance hatch and the entrance hatch in the nose well (no p.e. ladder; Yay!).
You get two very detailed engines complete with push rods and a rear engine accessory section. Motor mounts are also part of the package. I noticed that each of the rocker arm covers are separate pieces as the brace connecting the cylinders. The cowlings are, as mentioned, clear plastic and you have optional open or closed cowl flaps. The props have separate blades. There is good detail in both the nose and main gear wells.
This kit includes the ducting for the leading edges of the wings. These are upper and lower sections with a small lip section into which the photo etched grill pieces are inserted. The upper wing spoilers are also p.e. and will need to be curved to fit atop the actuating rockers. I guess you could also fit these against the surface as they were rarely seen open on the ground. The kit also comes with separate elevator, rudders, flaps and ailerons. You get four nicely done fuel tanks to hang under the wings.
Markings are included for two late war all black aircraft. First is the box art plane' Lady in the Dark and is noted as being with the 547th NFS based in the Philippines. The other is 'Sleepy Time Gal' with the 6th NFS in March of 1945. The decal sheet is nicely printed with the expected thin blue surround to the insignia and only the most basic wing walk markings. I would assume that aftermarket decals will soon be available. A full color exterior painting and markings guide is offered. Now for my biggest gripe about the kit. Aside from a note to paint a couple of the radio boxes black, there is no color information in the rest of the instruction sheet. If you did not have a good knowledge of the color of the cockpit, gear wells, gear legs, etc, you would be at a loss to know what shade these things were. I fully realize that this is a kit for experienced modelers, but the lack of color information during construction is inexcusable.
I know a lot of folks will be very pleased with this kit. It should sell fairly well and while the asking price seems high, you get a great deal for your money. Besides these kits are rarely actually sold at SRP anyway. If you like big scale kits and are a fan of the Black Widow, this one is for you. With a fuselage length of 18+ inches and a wing span of a bit over two feet, you'll need to clear a lot of space on your shelf.
Late Note: I have been informed that the Lady in the Dark markings are not accurate and that the serial number for this plane is incorrect. It was also brought up that the wing spoilers were connected to the ailerons so would never both be raised at the same time.
Thanks to Squadron Products for the preview kit. You can find this kit at your favorite hobby shop or on-line retailer.
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