Kit: VEB 1/100 Tupelov 'Bear'
Media: Injected plastic
Decals: One version; generic Russian
Date of Review: 3 August 1997
The Tupelov 'Bear' was and is Russia's most used maritime patrol bomber. Using gigantic Kuznetsov turboprops paired in each nacelle and each driving one propeller of the two in the contra rotating configuration, the Bear is one of the fastest propeller driven aircraft in the sky. Having basically eight engines makes it a natural for long-range surveillance where several of the engines can be shut down to conserve fuel and extend range. The Bear has been in continuous production longer than any other aircraft except the seemingly ageless C-130, and produced in nearly as many variants.
The VEB kit is typical of early Eastern European kits in the crudeness of its parts, and the vagueness of its airframe. Exactly what variant of the Bear VEB intended to model will never be known, but the kit is not really any of the various types. It comes closest to being a Bear B, and lacking any other real options, that is what I eventually built.
First thing you notice upon opening the box is just how huge this kit is. As you can see by the photo, it is takes up a lot of space. Molded in two colors of plastic, white and black with clear transparencies, the VEB kit is basically very simple to build, as is. All the propellers and wheels are in black plastic and a tube of silver paint is included with the kit. I did not use the paint.
The initial construction consisted of gluing the fuselage together with sufficient weight in the nose. There is no interior of any kind. Next comes the job of modifying the fuselage radome to something close to what was with the Bear B. No mean feat and it resulted in a lot of filing and filling. It also resulted in frustration, resulting in a two year 'resting' period. Once I got back to it, there was more problems. The wings fit reasonably well, but the engine nacelles were a joke. They fit very poorly and had no real exhaust. More filing and filling and the addition of some aluminum tubing for the exhaust made the kit more presentable. There were other trials and tribulations concerning turrets, the filling of gaps where the wing, horizontal stabilizer, and tail turret assembly fit.
Once the airframe was basically finished, it was time to paint. Every Bear I have seen photos of was in Natural Metal, so it was out with the Metallizer. Actually, almost two bottles of Aluminum non-buffing Metallizer. Once that was done, the landing gear was assembled, the props installed and some decent decals scrounged from my spares collection.
Voila! A Bear B...sort of. Actually a sane person would have relegated the kit to the trash many years before, but I have only given up on one kit in my life (a Heller P-36) so it was more a matter of honor than of actually wanting the kit. It now takes up a huge amount of room atop one of my bookcases where it gets dusted every few months and is a trophy to tenacity.
Not recommended unless you are desperate for a challenge!!
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