|KIT:||Italeri 1/72 B-26K Counter Invader|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Alright! A new mold A/B-26.|
Back in the late 1950s, there was a need for an effective light/COIN bomber for countries that couldn't handle either the cost or the maintenance of a jet aircraft, but had the infrastructure for a reciprocating engined aircraft. Looking through the boneyard, it was noticed that there were quite a few A/B-26 Invaders in there, many with relatively low airframe hours. The decision was made to refurbish many of these, some of them being further modified with wing tip tanks and plumbed for additional drop tanks. Different square-tip props and a larger fin or rudder were part of the package as well as newer avionics systems. These were all modified by On-Mark Aviation who received a contract to rework 40 aircraft.
These were to be used by various air commando units, mostly working in southeast Asia (Laos and Vietnam), while mostly working out of Thailand, whom the US had provided much assistance in terms of equipment and payoffs to be able to operate in the relative safety of a non-war torn nation. From what I've read, all the B-26Ks were gun nose versions without any dorsal or ventral guns. They were basically used by the USAF Air Commando squadrons and by the CIA in the Congo. Of the forty built, 30 of them saw action overseas with the remaining 10 staying in the US with the training squadron at Hurlburt Field in Florida. Some were later converted to air tankers, though most of them were broken up.
By now, most of you are aware of this kit and some of you in Europe already have it. It is a new tool kit and the first new tool aircraft kit by Italeri in some time. Was it worth the wait? Judging by the sprues, I'd have to say yes. The detailing is very good indeed. Not quite as petite and crisp as Hasegawa, but darn close.
It is nearly totally flash free (I found a tiny bit inside one wheel), and while I did find ejector pin marks inside gear doors and the such, no sink areas. The interior is superbly done with most of it a single casting that includes the bombardier's compartment for the upcoming A-26 and B-26 versions. The instrument panel is a decal and the underside of the cockpit floor is the nose gear well (good luck getting out the ejector pin marks). A full bomb bay with racks and 8 500 pounders is included. I'm not sure how many B-26Ks actually carried bombs, but they are there for you.
This kit includes the 8 gun nose and provides a place to put weight (20 grams) as it will need it. The wings come with guns that will need to be cut off and the builder will open the holes for the wing pylons. A variety of stores includes fuel tanks, napalm, M117 bombs and rocket pods. The wing tip tanks are separate and slip on the tip of the wing. The tires and wheels one one half are separate to make it easier to paint. The tires have been flattened and bulged as well so they look low on air.
Couple of other things. There is no detail in the main gear wells and it seems the bomb bay doors are to be kept open as no closed option is shown. I also cannot tell if this kit has the broader fin/rudder so I'll leave that to the Invader freaks to judge. It does seem to have the proper canopy used on just about every Invader aside from the very early one. One thing for sure, if the fin/rudder is right for this kit, it will be too narrow for all the other variants, assuming that Italeri doesn't mold a new fuselage for the other boxings. A last comment is that this one does have the vortex generators nicely molded on the right fuselage half with none on the left, which is correct.
Instructions are excellent and provide all the info you need to build the kit. Five options are provided. Three are USAF from the 600 SOS in standard SEA camo with black undersides. The other two are from the CIA operated aircraft in the Congo during 1966/67. These are in a Field Green upper (FS 34097) with Light Grey (FS 36375) undersides. Though the colors listed for the Congolese planes are matte, photos in the reference clearly show that they are gloss. The decals are well printed and should work without too much trauma. A nice touch is that the upper wing walk areas are provided so you don't have to sweat painting them. One other note on the USAF planes. Photos in the reference do show that some had insignia on the upper and lower wings, though they were not on the fuselage. I suggest checking references to see if they apply to your choice.
I don't know about you, but I find that this is an excellent-looking kit. I know that many of us would have wanted a Korean War or French version, but those will be coming. No need to hoard those Airfix kits, we now have a modern replacement and I'm thinking we'll see them flying off the shelves!
Foreign Invaders, by Hagedorn and Hellström, 1994
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