Planet Models 1/72 Martin-Baker MB.2

KIT #: 252
PRICE: $24.99 on sale ($61.95 SRP)
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: Resin kit with vacuform canopy


The Martin-Baker MB2 was a British private-venture fighter prototype based on a simple basic structure that had been developed in the earlier MB1 civil aircraft. Although briefly evaluated as a fighter by the Royal Air Force, the MB2 was limited in design potential and never entered series production.

James Martin, broadly responding to Specification F.5/34 for a fighter using an air-cooled engine for hot climates, designed a fighter using the simple basic structure employed and developed in his earlier MB1. Constructed of steel tubing, the MB2 incorporated many detailed improvements which further simplified production as well as repair and maintenance. Powered by a special Napier Dagger III HIM 24-cylinder H-type engine of 805 nominal bhp, but capable of operation at 13 lb boost to give over 1,000 hp for takeoff, driving a fixed-pitch, two-blade propeller, the MB2 was capable of 300+ mph (480 km/h) speeds "on paper." The undercarriage was fixed but cleanly faired in two trouser-type fairings, the port one carrying the oil-cooler. A retractable undercarriage to improve performance was "in the works" when the design was abandoned.

The fuselage lines were square cut and exceptionally clean, with almost constant depth from nose to tail. An unusual feature, at that time, was that the fuselage was slightly longer than the wingspan, a feature retained in later Martin-Baker designs, which contributed to good stability and control in yaw. The MB2 was the first British fighter to carry eight wing-mounted .303 Browning machine guns.

One of the hallmarks of Martin-Baker designs was the simple but efficient installation of main systems. The clean and orderly cockpit was set well back, allowing a good view downwards behind the wing. A crash post was fitted, which automatically extended to minimise structure damage and injury to the pilot in the event of a nose-over landing. A small, tapered tailplane was mounted on the top of the fuselage well forward of the stern post, while the fin and rudder combination was roughly triangular in side elevation. This arrangement placed most of the effective rudder area below the tailplane, thus providing an adequate balance to the keel surface and assuring good recovery from spins. In initial MB2 configurations, there was no fin and the rudder was mounted on the fuselage but lateral stability was unsatisfactory, with the fixed fin added later.

The MB2 was first flown by Captain Valentine Baker at Harwell on 3 August 1938 and initially tested with markings M-B-1 (G-AEZD not carried). "The Aeroplane" stated, "in spite of its fixed undercarriage, the MB2 had a performance as good as that of contemporary fighters and a capacity for quick and cheap production by the simplicity of its structure and easy assembly". Repair and maintenance were also simple, and these factors might have influenced the authorities towards putting the MB2 into production when the country's fighter strength was disproportionately low.

The MB.2 was subsequently acquired by the Air Ministry in June 1939 as P9594 and returned to A&AEE for a second assessment after modifications were made to tail control surfaces. The MB2 also spent some time at the AFDU, RAF Northolt, before returning to Martin-Baker late in 1939, where it still survived in December 1941, although probably flown little or not at all after the outbreak of war.

Around this time Martin was considering various other ideas, both for complete aircraft and for certain components. The aircraft designs included a twin-engined 12-gun fighter and a twin-engined multi-seat transport, both featuring the finless layout of the early MB2 airframe. In the fighter design, the trailing edge of the engine nacelles provided additional vertical control surfaces, and also incorporated the patented ducting system evolved by Martin to reduce drag caused by the engine exhaust. The most promising of the concepts became the MB 3 which would eventually spawn the superlative MB 5 prototype.


Planet Models is, I believe, part of the CMK family of products. They started out doing Luft '46 and have expanded into other venues. They are not inexpensive as you can see by the SRP of this admittedly rather small kit. However, if you can find one on sale or if funds are not that tight, you will find a vey nicely molded resin kit that is provided in a segregated polyethylene bag.

This one comes with two fuselage halves complete with cockpit sidewall detail. The wing is a single molding onto which the two wheel pants are attached. Only enough wheel is provided that juts out of the gear pants. The cockpit consists of a floor, seat, stick and rudder pedals. Belts would have been nice, even as decals. There are separate  tail planes and to do the early and mid versions some saw work will be needed. For the fin-less early version the fin/rudder will need to be cut away. For the mid section with the smaller fin, the fusleage will need to be cut  and the new tail added on. The instructions would have you use the replacement tail to do the fin-less version. Most of us will do the version that is easiest.

There is a prop and spinner as well as a small intake on both sides of the engine. Two nicely molded vacuform canopies and a small tail wheel complete the bits.

Instructions are the photo variety that have eight construction steps, six of which are photos. The other two are drawings that show how to do the tail variants and where to drill holes for the wing guns. No interior painting information is provided so I am unsure if this should be unpainted metal or British Interior Green. Regardless of tail configuration, the markings are the same with the aircraft in overall Nivo with bare aluminum walkways on the wing and bare aluminum around the engine exhausts. Based on past experience, the decals are superb and very thin so caution will be required during application. The color and markings diagram is in full color. No paint references are provided due to the simple nature of the colors used.

First step was to remove parts from the pour stubs. The seat and control stick were glued in place on the floor section. A set of belts was made from tape for the seat. The instrument panel was glued in one fuselage half, with the interior painted RAF Interior Green from the AK line and the instrument panel in flat black from the Tamiya line. That and the engine front were installed in one fuselage half. Note that you have to put the engine face back a bit farther than shown in the instructions so you can fit the forward cowling.

With those in place, the roll bar was removed and glued in place. Then the fuselage halves were cemented together. Note that with these sorts of kits, a lot of test fitting needs to be done prior to applying cement. I then attached the wheel pants to the wing. It wasn't until after the glue had firmly set that I realized I'd gotten them on the wrong side. One side has what looks like a radiator on the leading edge. Oh well.

After the fuselage had been  done, the tailplanes were added. Note that it is quite easy to put them on backwards so check the instructions closely when attaching these. I then glued on the wing assembly. The fuselage at the back of the wing needed to be trimmed to get a good fit. The wing should be test fit as often as needed to accomplish this. With the wings in place, I had pretty much a complete airframe. The vac canopy was cut out. I made a mess of it so used the second, which was also goofed up in the front (too high). With no other option, I added a piece of strip plastic to the forward cockpit area and sanded on it until the canopy fit fairly well. This was then masked and attached using Cementine clear cement. Unfortunately, it slid a bit while drying so isn't completely straight. Wanting to actually finish this one, I decided to move on.

This one is fairly easy to paint. It is overall Nivo, which is a fairly dark green. It is also a WWI shade used on night bombers. Fortunately, I had a bottle of this shade in the Mr. Kit acrylic line that was still viable. I first sprayed on a coat of Stylinrez dark grey primer. This stuff is really nice, though it is fairly thick so much be sprayed on at a fairly high pressure with a fairly large needle. It looks terrible when it first goes on but later smooths out nicely. It also dries fairly quickly. It is water based acrylic and seems to stick quite well. It also needs to be cleaned out of one's airbrush ASAP as once dry it is difficult to remove.

Anyway, once the aircraft was painted, I used Bare Metal Foil for the area around the exhaust and the wing walk areas. The wheels were then painted and installed, though I left off what looks to be a fairly fragile tail wheel until the very end. The kit was then given a coat of clear gloss acrylic (Future) in preparation for decals. I also took the time to paint the prop.

With the clear gloss dry, I attached the decals. These are superb. Nice and thin as well as being quite opaque. I chose the option with the most decals. As sometimes happens, the last decal, a serial number, folded on itself and I was only able to rescue two of the numbers. Fortunately, I have an old ModelDecal sheet of RAF serial numbers that I used to fill in the blanks. The kit was then provided with a coat of Tamiya clear matte. The last steps were the installation of the prop and the tail gear after which the masking was removed.

Whether you are into prototypes or just like something a bit different from the norm, this is a kit you should consider. Due to the fairly simple construction, it is one that would be perfect for a first resin kit. 

9 December 2021 

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