Academy 1/48 B-25B Mitchell 'Doolittle Raid' Kit First Look
|Date of Review||October 2015||Manufacturer||Academy|
|Subject||B-25B Mitchell 'Doolittle Raid'||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||12302||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Best kit of the B-25B in any scale||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$64.00|
Major James Doolittle proposed a daring strike against the seemingly invincible Japanese. He would take a squadron of light bombers aboard an aircraft carrier and launch a raid against the Japanese homeland. In 1942, the US was still reeling from the surprise attack against Pearl Harbor as well as from subsequent defeats throughout the Pacific. Morale at home was suffering. Such a raid may not cause a devastating strategic blow against Japan, but it would let the Japanese know that they were not invincible and it would serve as a major morale-booster at home.
Of course, you've probably seen the great movie, '30 Seconds Over Tokyo' and read a few articles about Doolittle's raid. What you may not have read is just how dangerous it really was. Doolittle considered a number of aircraft for the mission. One runner-up was the Martin B-26, which had the range and payload, but its greater wingspan would be more of a factor on the narrow confines of a carrier deck, and its takeoff requirements were too high (airspeed/takeoff roll) to be feasible.
Another factor; pilots are taught a number of techniques to get the aircraft off the ground. You have the standard takeoff roll, you have the short field takeoff, and you have the soft field takeoff. The deck of the Hornet was too short for even the short field take-off, which simply involves a normal acceleration down the runway and a brisk initial climbout at a safe speed to clear an obstacle at the end of the runway. The soft field (taking off from soft dirt/grass) involves lofting the aircraft into the air at the shortest possible distance since the grass/dirt is a major drag against your wheels and impedes takeoff acceleration.
It is fairly easy to coax the aircraft into the air at minimal airspeed, but you are usually too slow to control the aircraft safely. This technique also assumes that you don't have to climb immediately, as you'll need to remain in ground effect while you accelerate to the aircraft's actual safe flying speed. The Doolittle Raiders had no obstacles to climb over on takeoff, but the 'ground effect' ended at the end of the carrier deck, so they had little margin for error in getting these fully-loaded B-25s into the air.
The USS Hornet was selected as the carrier to get Doolittle within striking range of Japan. The Hornet was also in significant danger up until the B-25s were off the deck - her entire air wing was trapped below decks while the B-25s were on the deck. Had the Hornet encountered Japanese air opposition, there was no way to get her fighters into the air for protection Enterprise was along to provide needed air cover. On April 18th, 1942, Admiral Halsey insisted on launching the B-25s early after they were spotted by a Japanese boat. He wisely assumed that the Japanese would respond immediately to their presence so close to the Japanese homeland. Once the B-25s were gone, he could get his fighters on deck and get the Hornet out of Dodge!
It is hard to believe that Accurate Miniatures first released this kit ten years ago. This version represented the B-25B which did see service during World War II though the most notable use was during the Doolittle Raid. Accurate Miniatures followed this with the B-25C/D and B-25G kits and all of these remain the best B-25s of their particular models in any scale today. Many of us were disappointed that Accurate Miniatures didn't follow up with the B-25H or B-25J versions as these would have been awesome alternatives to the venerable Monogram kits. While Accurate Miniatures no longer exists as a company, the brand and the molds are continued by Academy. As I recall, the MSRP of this kit ten years ago was $55 USD, so $64 USD ten years later isn't anywhere as bad as some of the price increases we've seen with other brands.
The kit is still molded in light gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. The clear tree also contains the transparencies for the B-25C/D and B-25G releases as well. The molds remain sharp and flash-free and the clear parts are still nice and clear.
Among the features and options in this kit:
- Detailed flight deck (just needs crew restraints on the seats)
- Detailed bombardier nose compartment
- Detailed dorsal gun turret
- Detailed bomb bay compartment
- Weighted landing gear tires
- Positionable bomb bay doors
- Positionable crew entry doors
Two types of bombs are provided for the bomb bay though the instructions call out only one of them for the Doolitte Raid loadouts.
Markings are provided for all 16 of the raiders:
- Acft #1, B-25B, 40-2344, Pilot Lt.Col. James Doolittle
- Acft #2, B-25B, 40-2292, Pilot Lt. T. Hoover
- Acft #3, B-25B, 40-2270, 'Whiskey Pete', Pilot Lt. Robert Gray
- Acft #4, B-25B, 40-2282, Pilot Lt. Everett Holstrom
- Acft #5, B-25B, 40-2283, Pilot Capt David Jones
- Acft #6, B-25B, 40-2298, Pilot Lt. Dean Hallmark
- Acft #7, B-25B, 40-2261, 'Ruptured Duck', Pilot Lt. Ted Lawson
- Acft #8, B-25B, 40-2242, '3', Pilot Capt. Edward York
- Acft #9, B-25B, 40-2303, 'Whirling Dervish', Pilot Lt. Harold Watson
- Acft #10, B-25B, 40-2250, Pilot Lt. Richard Joyce
- Acft #11, B-25B, 40-2249, 'Hari Carrier', Pilot Capt. Charles Greening
- Acft #12, B-25B, 40-2278, Pilot Lt. William Bower
- Acft #13, B-25B, 40-2247, Pilot Lt. Edgar McElroy
- Acft #14, B-25B, 40-2297, Pilot Major John Hilger
- Acft #15, B-25B, 40-2267, 'TNT', Pilot Lt. Donald Smith
- Acft #16, B-25B, 40-2268, Pilot Lt. William Farrow
The kit and decal sheet are essentially the same as the original release ten years ago. The only difference today is that the nose ballast that was included in the original release is no longer provided. These kit instructions do not show the need for ballast though you will definitely need ballast in the nose to keep this model from becoming a tail-sitter.
I remember hearing from one reader who pointed out that the openings in the cowling faces were too narrow (30 scale inches) and the real aircraft has a 36 scale inch opening. I made the mistake of asking how he knew and he kindly sent a photo of his son sitting on his shoulders and holding up a yardstick in the cowling face of a B-25. Yep, 36 inches it is. While many won't notice the difference, there are aftermarket cowlings for these Accurate Miniatures B-25s that provide the 36 scale inch cowling face.
When I built this kit a decade ago, I also learned what one aspect of over-engineering was - putting nice details where nobody will ever see them after assembly. Such is the case with the interior of this B-25 as there are some great details inside the fuselage behind the cockpit and in the fuselage aft of the bomb bay. I had fun painting those details, but it was pointless once the fuselage halves were together.
As I said previously, this kit as well as the other versions from the old Accurate Miniatures are the best B-25s in 1/48 scale and are the best of there particular models in any scale to date. I wish Academy would pick up where Accurate Miniatures left off and do the B-25J.
My sincere thanks to MRC for the review sample.