Matchbox 1/72 PB4Y-2 Privateer

KIT #:
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard


The Privateer entered Navy service during late 1944, Patrol Bomber Squadrons 118 and 119 (VPB-118 and VPB-119) being the first Fleet squadrons to equip with the aircraft. The first overseas deployment began on 6 January 1945, when VPB-118 left for operations in the Marianas. On 2 March 1945 VPB-119 began "offensive search" missions out of Clark Field, Luzon in the Philippines, flying sectored searches of the seas and coastlines extending from the Gulf of Tonkin in the south, along the Chinese coast, and beyond Okinawa in the north.

The Privateer was used as a typhoon/ hurricane hunter from 1945 to the mid-1950s. One aircraft, designated BuNo 59415 of VPB-119, went down when it experienced mechanical trouble while investigating a Category 1 typhoon near Batan Island in the Philippines. It attempted to land on the island, but was unable to do so and crashed. It was one of only six hurricane hunter flights that were ever lost, and the only one found.

Privateers were also used during the Korean War to fly "Firefly" night illumination missions dropping parachute flares to detect North Korean and Chinese seaborne infiltrators. In addition, Privateers were used by the US Navy for signals intelligence (SIGINT) flights off of the coast of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. On 8 April 1950, Soviet La-11 fighters shot down a US Navy PB4Y-2 Privateer (BuNo 59645) over the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Liepāja, Latvia. Named the Turbulent Turtle, the aircraft was assigned to Patrol Squadron VP-26 Det A. The French also used Privateers as bombers during the Indochina War.

All Navy PB4Y-2s were retired by 1954, though unarmed PB4Y-2G Privateers served until 1958 with the Coast Guard before being auctioned off for salvage.

The U.S. Navy dropped the patrol-bomber designation in 1951 and the remaining PB4Y-2s were re-designated P4Y-2 Privateer. The earlier XP4Y-I Corrigidor was a completely different design, based on the Consolidated Model 31, twin-engine flying boat. PB4Y-2s were still being used as drones in the 1950s/early 1960s, designated PB4Y-2K, and P4Y-2K after 1951. They were then re-designated QP-4B under the 1962 United States Tri-Service aircraft designation system, part of the new patrol series, between the Lockheed P-3 Orion and the Martin P-5 Merlin.

A number of PB4Ys were supplied to the Republic of China Air Force for use in missions over the People's Republic of China. One was shot down by ground fire on 12 September 1954, near Xiamen, People's Republic of China. The crew of nine were killed. Another was shot down on 15 February 1961 by Burmese Hawker Sea Fury fighter aircraft, near the Thai-Burmese border, killing the crew of five. Two other crew members were taken prisoner. This aircraft was carrying supplies for Chinese Kuomintang forces fighting in northern Burma.

A limited number of refitted PB4Ys continued in civilian service as air tankers, dropping fire retardant on forest fires throughout the western United States. On 18 July 2002, one such refitted PB4Y, BuNo 66260 (seen in picture to right) operated by Hawkins and Powers Aviation of Greybull Wyoming, broke up in flight while fighting a wildfire near Rocky Mountain National Park crew members were killed in the accident, and the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded all large air tankers in the region. Following the accident, all remaining Privateers were retired.



 Matchbox kit comes in light blue and dark grey plastic having good fit of parts though lacking interior and outside surface detail. The kit had first appeared on the market back in 1983 but had since been re-issued by Revell. A welcome feature is that one can build it as a PB4Y-2 Patrol Bomber or as a R3Y which is a cargo/transport version. In the latter form it has a faired over nose and tail with all the defensive armaments removed. A blanking piece is also provided that will fit exactly in place of the side-blistered turrets.

 For those going for the PB4Y-2 version will find that the turrets are well represented so that they can also be made rotating and the gun arrangement swivel. A certain amount of ballast weight will also be required so that the model will balance on its nose wheel. Instructions come in folding 8 pages; these are clear and well illustrated containing several stages of construction. There are markings for three different aircraft: the tri-colour scheme from patrol squadron VPB-106 based in the Philippines, an overall sea blue French Navy one from 28 Flotille in Tunisia circa 1858 and the transport version R3Y in the markings of post war Canada. 1948, which is overall metal finish and carried a pretty nose artwork.


 Noted from an early stage is that one can produce a more accurate Privateer by use of replacement cowlings with resin corrected ones ‘FTA-171’ under the brand name, ‘The Final Touch’. I am thankful to Frank Cuden of Minnesota who gently provided me with a set for this build.

The kit nacelles themselves are narrow and these needed a strip of 1/16” thick that is sandwiched between halves on assembling of each nacelle. This also meant that the moulding plinths to the rear of the nacelles needed to be sanded and the nacelles complete with the new resin cowlings were ready for fitting ensuring that the small intakes at front is located at the top in each case.

Scale Aircraft Conversions produces a white metal landing gear set 72-026 custom built for the Matchbox/Revell kit. The set is nicely produced and well packed and from my past experience with the C-121, B-29, YC-97, B-50, F-15 Reporters and so on and so forth these kind of sets definitely add strength to the kit to withstand handling during airbrushing and adding details to the kit as well as for transportation if kit is entered for a competition or display at meetings. In this regard alone it is already a significant benefit while the detail finish and making a good base for further adding detail if desired is also a positive factor.

I followed the kit instruction stage by stage. The kit interior parts were first painted interior green, namely fuselage, and turrets and wheel wells. Assembly of each of the turrets followed this. Practically almost all of the guns snapped. These were replaced with cut lengths of hypodermic needles of same diameter as the guns, taking advantage of the hollow nature of the guns made in this form. The guns fitted inside a predrilled hole at the root of each turret part, which previously had the broken kit guns. Port holes all needed slight reshaping and custom made Perspex replaced the kit transparent parts.

My fancy fell on a version attached to the Seattle Naval Reserve Facilities in post war colorscheme. This had an additional astrodome right at the rear of the forward top turret and the kit part was used after a round hole was drilled. Other details as VHF aerial and wireless under fuselage were added during final stage.


 Like most reserve aircraft of same era the Privateer was overall sea blue with an international orange band at the rear of fuselage sides with base legend decorating the area. I used Compucolor Sea blue and Modelmaster acrylic Italian red as substitute for the orange band. Locating the required white lettering and numbers decals was a headache as they were of different size. Perhaps one-day decal manufacturers will issue a decal sheet devoted to Navy reserve types that can be picked from Ginter Naval series books.


 The kit was easy to assemble and add improvements to it and the final results appear good and, worth the extra effort spent to locate markings for it. I sure hope that SAC will continue to pick more subjects to provide the metal legs that are so useful and make kits so robust.


Wikipedia encyclopaedia.

Carmel J. Attard

Novermber 2014

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