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Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion

Cutting Edge 1/72 Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review June 2006 Manufacturer Cutting Edge
Subject Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion Scale 1/72
Kit Number CEC72032 Primary Media Resin
Pros Very detailed conversion of this unique subject Cons  
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) OOP

First Look

Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion
Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion
Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion
Tu-4 Bull (B-29) AWACS Conversion

Now here is a subject that you won't see everyday! Cutting Edge has released a conversion for the Chinese AWACS. Chinese AWACS? Well, the story starts with three B-29s that made an emergency landing in the Soviet Union during World War Two.

The crews of these three aircraft were eventually returned to the US, but the aircraft found their way to the Tupolev OKB and to NII for study. At that point in the war, the Soviets did not have a heavy bomber in production. If plagiarism is a sincere form of flattery, the US was seriously flattered by having the B-29 put into full-scale production as the Tu-4 (NATO Codename: Bull).

During one of the periods where Soviet and Chinese relations were in good standing, the Soviets provided the Chinese with surplus Tu-4s for their own bomber fleet (the Soviets had since moved on to more modern aircraft). The Chinese operated the Tu-4s and applied their own improvements to the type.

One such improvement was the creation of an Airborne Surveillance And Control System (AWACS) aircraft using the Tu-4 airframe. To improve reliability and payload, the huge radial engines were replaced by four turboprop engines. The radome 'Frisbee' is mounted to the top of the fuselage in a similar manner as the E-2 Hawkeye or E-3 Sentry. This created a variant of the B-29 even more unique than the KB-29.

Meteor Productions has released a conversion for the Tu-4 AWACS in 1/72 scale for the Academy/Minicraft B-29 or KB-29 kits. This set comes in a sizable box that contains a wealth of resin parts. The only part of the conversion that is not resin are the two radome strut arrays that are cast in white metal.

While there are lots of parts in this set, the conversion is actually not too difficult. The existing engine fairings are removed from the lower wing surfaces and replaces with the hollow-cast resin plugs. These provide the main wheel wells and the portals for the turbine exhaust ducts. The turboprop engines mount to the new firewalls, and these engines are solid resin to provide the counterbalance to the hollow-cast radome that mouted to the top of the fuselage.

You'll need to make a propeller jig from your kit B-29 prop to help align the angle, pitch, and position of these replacement propellers. The four prop blades insert into the prop hub, and the hub installs inside the two-piece hollow-cast spinner. Repeat this assembly four times.

Replace the tail gun fairing with a solid dome, add vertical plates to the horizontal stabilizers, add paint and you've got a Chinese AWACS!

This kit also includes the decals to replicate the aircraft on display at the Chinese Air Force Museum. The instructions provide step-by-step instructions with nice color photos of the conversion process and photos of key details from the actual aircraft.

If you're wanting to model this aircraft in a larger scale, check out the 1/48 version of this conversion here.

My sincere thanks to Meteor Productions for this review sample!