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B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit

Academy 1/72 B-29 Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2014 Manufacturer Academy
Subject B-29 Superfortress 'Old Battler' Scale 1/72
Kit Number 12517 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Easy construction, nice detailing Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $65.00

First Look

B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit
B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit
B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit
B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit
B-29A Superfortress 'Old Battler' Kit

Boeing approached the Army Air Corp to propose an improved version of their capable B-17 Flying Fortress. At the time, the USAAC was still getting acquainted with the B-17 and didn't have a requirement for an aircraft with the capabilities outlined by Boeing. The year was 1938. By 1940 however, the storm clouds of war were gathering on the horizon and Boeing was contracted for three prototype aircraft (Consolidated also received a contract for three prototypes of their B-32 Dominator). Designed to fly above and faster than the threats of the day, the first B-29 flew in September, 1942. By the time the B-29 did get into full production, the decision had been made to focus the aircraft's capabilities in the Pacific where bomb load and range were critical. B-29s operated out of China as well as operating from island runways as the allied forces pushed their way toward Japan.

Most people associate the B-29 with the atomic bomb, and indeed the B-29 was the only US bomber with the capacity to loft the early bombs (the British Lancaster had also been considered), though this capability was limited to the modified aircraft of the 509th Bomb Group. The B-29 also served in Korea as the fledgling USAF's principal heavy bomber. During its career, some B-29s were modified into the USAF's first operational air refueling aircraft, the KB-29. Confiscated B-29s were reverse engineered by the Soviets and produced as the Tupolev Tu-4 Bull. Even the Chinese operated the aircraft, producing the Tu-4 themselves.

I periodically read where modelers are confused by kits released by Minicraft versus Academy. Minicraft is a US hobby company that has been around for many years and initially imported kits from Japan that were sold in Minicraft boxes. Those kits were from a (then) relatively new company called Hasegawa. After that arrangement dissolved, Minicraft released kits from Korea that were also sold in Minicraft boxes. Those kits were from another relatively new company called Academy. Today Hasegawa and Academy kits are exported under their own logos, but sometimes folks may be confused by a given kit with two different logos depending upon when/where it was released.

During that relationship between Minicraft and Academy, a number of significant toolings were produced in 1/72 which were mostly four-engined USAAF bombers from World War II. Academy had produced a number of variants of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and the subject of today's first-look - the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. In those days, Monogram was producing similar subjects in 1/48th scale but 1/72 scale modelers were limited to the Airfix kits. Academy offered great details, scribed surfaces, and a wider range of variants than had been available to that point. Academy has certainly kept up with the state of the art in model making, but even with the number of new kit manufacturers on the market, few have attempted to tackle these same subjects.

Academy has periodically reissued the B-29 with special releases of Enola Gay and Bockscar from the 509th Bomb Group. While these are good kits, they required the modeler to use parts to fair over the gun turrets (removed from the atomic bombers) and of course these were finished in bare metal which tends to intimidate less-experienced modelers.

Here is a nice reissue that takes the kit back to its basics. This release depicts the early versions of the B-29 in World War 2 which also includes green over gray camouflage. We don't have just one choice of subjects, but five! Before we go there, let's look at the basics of the kit. The model is molded in light gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees (duplicate trees not shown) plus one small tree of clear parts.

Among the features and options in each kit:

  • Nicely detailed flight deck and bombardier's station
  • Nicely detailed rear compartment (though you can't really see this after assembly)
  • Nice bomb bays with interconnecting crew pressure tunnel
  • Movable dorsal and ventral turrets
  • 32 bombs for optional bomb load
  • Positionable landing flaps
  • Positionable bomb bay doors
  • Positionable landing gear

The kit provides markings for the following five aircraft:

  • B-29-1-BA, 42-6251, 478 BS/444 BG/58 BW, India, 1944, 'Old Battler'
  • B-29A-1-BN, 42-93828, 794 BS/468 BG/58 BW, India, 1944, 'Monsoon Goon'
  • B-29-1-BW, 42-6242, 794 BS/468 BG/58 BW, India, 1944, 'Esso Express' (converted to fuel hauler over the 'Hump')
  • B-29-1-BW, 42-6223, 770 BS/462 BG, 58 BW, India, 1944, 'Lady Boomerang'
  • B-29-1-BW, 42-6254, 45 BS/40 BG/58 BW, India, 1944, 'Hump Happy Pappy' (converted to fuel hauler over the 'Hump')

As you can see in the images above, the kit provides a nice array of markings and even bomb markings for all 32 weapons. Whether you opt for one of the bombers or one of the fuel haulers, these aircraft of the 58th Bomb Wing were good examples of the B-29 when it still wore camouflage and provides you with some less intimidating prospects.

Have some fun and give one a try!

My sincere thanks to MRC for this sample!