|KIT:||Dragon 1/144 B-1B Lancer 'Air Combat Command'|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Upgraded 'Panda' kit|
Those of us who have been around for a while can remember the major fuss created by the B-1. It was designed in the late/post Vietnam war era and was to be the best in the world as a low level penetration bomber. It was designed to basically be a bigger and better FB-111A, able to travel at twice the speed of sound and carry its load of ALCMs (Air Launched Cruise Missiles) to a point near its target. After launching the missiles, it was to hurry back at break-neck speed to reload for the next mission. Naturally, the cruise missiles were armed with nuclear warheads, a fact not missed by one of the James Bond 007 movies of the time!
However, the aircraft got caught up in political turmoil. It wasn't needed; it was too expensive and so on. Four prototype B-1As were built and the administration at the time put the entire project on hold. Meanwhile the prototypes were thoroughly wrung out and modified to meet some of the upgraded demands. One of those was the elimination of the crew escape module of the prototypes and the redesign of the engine intakes to produce a simpler design that cut about 500 knots off the top speed of the plane. No longer was it double supersonic.
Eventually the planes were built, but production was limited to 100 examples. Near ten years was gone between the prototypes and the first production planes that entered service around 1984/5. These planes replaced a few B-52 wings, however, all was not rosy. The planes had problems with a number of different systems and so tenuous was their reliability that they did not participate in Desert Storm during 1991. Not a problem for the ever aging B-52, that continued to function well, proving that older does not mean less capable.
The plane finally got into action in the Balkan conflict near the turn of the century, however, the die had been cast. The plane continued to have problems and, thanks to the low number produced, was becoming even more expensive to operate. After less than 20 years of service, the first of the production B-1Bs (83-xxx serials) are being withdrawn to be used as gate guards at various bases. The ANG is no longer flying the type with those planes either going to the boneyard or being disseminated to other B-1B units. However, I have been told that the B-1 itself is scheduled to stay in service until at least 2028.
If this kit looks familiar to some, it should. What Dragon has done, is to take the very nice Panda kit, and upgrade it with some additional sprues and parts.
You will still find the very nicely engraved details, the single piece movable wings, and the somewhat basic landing gear of the original. What is different is that the fuselage no longer has the molded in bomb bay. In its place is an empty bomb bay into which you put two JDAM rotary launchers. The launchers have all but one JDAM molded in place and the additional sprues offer a two-piece assembly to put on the top. This will effectively hide the ejector pin mark as well. Four new bomb bay doors are supplied to show the bay in the open position. I'm, not sure if you can close the bay or not, but that does not seem to be the intent. Also new are four exhaust nozzles minus the 'turkey feathers'. These are in resin and are very nicely molded. One must sand off the old mounting posts to install these, but it is a simple operation.
The instructions are quite well done in Dragon's typical form with some color included and has the paint references in Gunze and Model Master as well as generic tie-ins. Markings are for two overall FS 36375 aircraft. That color information is wrong and carried over from the Panda instructions. They should be in 36118 Gunship Grey. Decals are quite well done and have to be better than those produced by Panda, which I found to be less than satisfactory when I didmy build of that kit.
This sheet has markings for the34th BS/28th BW at Ellsworth AFB in 2005 and is shown on the box art. The other is from the 9th BS/7th BW at Dyess AFB in 2002. Both aircraft carry nose art.
Dragon should be congratulated on upgrading this kit. It was a nice one in the Panda box and now it is even nicer. For those of you wondering if any other updates in terms of antennas and such have been done, they have not. However, those that want them can add them with epoxy filler and plastic card. The rest of us will be pleased with this one.
My thanks to Dragon USA,www.dragonmodels.usa.com for the review kit. Get yours at your local hobby dealer.
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