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P-38J Kit

Academy 1/48 P-38J 'Droop Snoot' Lightning Kit First Look

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review June 2009 Manufacturer Academy
Subject P-38J 'Droop Snoot' Lightning Scale 1/48
Kit Number 2158 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed P-38J variant Cons Control surfaces molded solid; only one marking option
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $25.95

First Look

P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit
P-38J Kit

The P-38 Droop Snoot was the brainchild of Col. Cass Hough and Col. Don Ostrander of the 8th Air Force Headquarters. The load-carrying capacity of the P-38 made it a natural for use as a fighter-bomber. The later P-38 variants (P-38H/J/L) had the capacity of carrying up to 4000 pounds of ordinance – the same as a B-17 bomber! Col.s Hough and Ostrander came up with the idea of using some type of a “leader” P-38 for level bombing missions. The advantages of using a fighter in the strategic bomber role were obvious: a much higher speed to and from the target, one tenth as many crew members involved in the mission, and fighter escort during the withdrawal phase was not required. What they proposed was the installation of a Norden bombsight in the modified P-38, one housing a qualified bombardier/navigator in the aircraft’s empty nose gun-bay.

The project, given the code name DROut of Production SNOOT, was formulated at Lockheed’s Langford Lodge modification center in Northern Ireland. A P-38H was modified by removal of the armament section in the nose, including the gun port nose cap. In it’s place, was a solid wood nose cap, cut and shaped like the proposed bombardier nose. With some ballast added, the modified P-38H was flight tested to determine if there were any flaws in it’s flight characteristics. After successfully completing the flight tests, Lockheed modified a new production P-38J to full Droop Snoot prototype specifications.

The wooden nose of the P-38H test aircraft was used to construct a Plexiglas bubble bombardier nose. Armor plate was added to the sidewalls and floor of the bombardier compartment, along with the Norden bombsight, related bombing equipment, oxygen and navigational equipment. During late February of 1944, the P-38J Droop Snoot was rolled out at Langford Lodge.

The concept was so successful that the 8th AF immediately ordered first three, then fifteen Droop Snoot conversions. The total number built lies somewhere between 23 (those P-38J’s converted at Langford Lodge) and 100 (the number of Droop Snoot conversion kits ordered by the AAF). The first combat mission was flown by the 20th Fighter Group on 10 April 1944, when a Droop Snoot led 42 other 20th Fighter Group P-38J’s on an attack against the Luftwaffe base at Gutersloh, Germany. Droop Snoot missions were not confined to just P-38 units. Col. Hub Zemke used a Droop Snoot P-38J to lead his 56th Fighter Group Thunderbolts on at least one bombing mission. Additionally, more than one Droop Snoot was built as a plush VIP aircraft without bombing equipment. An example of one of these was the personal aircraft of Gen. Stratemeyer in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Academy is a model company based in Seoul, Korea. This kit has a copyright date of 1995 and at that time was being distributed in the USA by Minicraft of Torrance, California.

The kit comes in a large tray and lid type box. The boxart shows a P-38J Droop Snoot with the nickname Trail Blazer in red letters on the nose. The angle that the artist did this painting of only shows that the aircraft is in overall bare metal with olive drab spinners, anti-glare panel in front of the cockpit and olive drab anti-glare panels inboard on the engine nacelles. It carries two drop tanks.

One side panel of the box gives Minicraft’s address, next to some general information about the kit in 6 languages marked by the flags of the countries that speak that language. The kit is not suitable for kids under 36 months and is for modelers of 10 years to adult. The other side panel has three color photos of the model made up.

Inside the box are 8 medium gray parts trees, 2 trees of clear parts, vinyl tires, the decal sheet and the instructions. The box is 3 inches too long and 2 inches too wide for what’s in it, creating a letter L void in the tray.

Parts are packaged in 4 sealed cello bags.

The instructions consist of a single sheet that accordion folds out into 6 pages of 7 ½” x 10 ¾” format.

Page one begins with a repeat of the boxart in black and white, this is followed by the history of the P-38J Droop Snoot in English only.

Pages two through four give a total of 7 assembly steps. Colors to paint some of the parts are called out in each step. In step 6 you can opt for either bombs or drop tank installation. The canopy can be posed open or shut also.

Page 5 begins with a head-on line drawing showing the underwing locations for either the 227kg bombs or the drop tanks. This is followed by a 5-view drawing of Trail Blazer, which was an aircraft assigned to the 393rd Fighter Squadron, 367th Fighter Group based at Frankfurt, Germany during 1945. The kit does not tell you this. I had to find it in the Squadron in Action book on the P-38’s.

The aircraft is overall bare metal, with olive drab anti-glare panels in front of the windscreen and also on the inboard halves of the engine nacelles. Trail Blazer is only shown on the left side of the nose, which is opposite of what’s on the boxart. US stars with bars are on the fuselage sides and above the left wing and below the right one. The fuselage code is Z4N on the left tail boom and 4NZ on the right one. The serial number 423507 is on the side of the rudders. The code and serial numbers are in black. Forward part of the propeller spinners are also olive drab. This is the only marking option in the kit and it would have been nice if some others had been included.

Page 6 has the parts tree illustrations and Academy’s address in Korea, next to the copyright date of 1995. Some parts shown on these trees are listed as being excess and not necessary to complete the kit.

Large medium gray letter A parts tree holds the upper and lower wing halves. These are full span and include the central fuselage pod.

There are 2 identical medium gray letter B parts trees. These hold the halves of the two tail booms.

Small medium gray letter C tree holds: engine nacelles, machine gun nose cap (excess) and tail boom air intake forward edges (7 parts).

Large medium gray letter D tree has been cut in two. The long narrow half of this tree holds: rocket launchers (excess) engine air intakes, two alternate nose gear doors (one is excess) and engine superchargers (14 parts here) The larger halve of letter D tree holds: drop tank halves, horizontal tail surface, wing balance weights, pitot tube, front cockpit combing, boarding ladder, rounded outer edges of the horizontal tail surface and the main wheel compartment doors (18 parts)

Large medium gray letter E tree holds: the cockpit floor, consoles and bulkhead, rocket projectiles (excess), main wheel hubs, propeller blades, propeller spinners and blades, Main landing gear legs, pilot seat, tail wheel hub, bulkheads etc. (52 parts, of which 9 are excess)

Large medium gray letter F tree holds: main wheel compartment walls and floor and plumbing, bomb halves, pilot seat cushion, steering column and yoke, etc. (45 parts, of which 12 are excess)

Letter G tree is clear parts. This tree holds the cockpit transparencies. These are separate windscreen, rear section, side doors, central roof section and a wing light lens (7 parts). The parts tree illustration shows this tree having 9 parts, but two of them are not on the tree and are not needed to complete the kit. There is one part on the tree that is excess.

Letter H tree is also clear parts. This tree holds the clear bombardier’s nose window and sides of the bombardier compartment, which will be painted all but the windows on them. The Norden bomb sight completes the tree. (4 parts).

The final parts are the three black vinyl tires, for the main gear and tail wheel.

The decal sheet completes the kits contents. In addition to the Trail Blazer marks already described above, there are stencil markings for the aircraft and the propeller blades. The instrument dials are also offered as a decal.

Panel lines are all of the engraved type. However, control surfaces are molded solid and will tank surgery to re-position. No crew figures are provided. The bombardier nose section only has the Norden gun sight provided and can use some more detail in there. However, I think that photos of the inside of this area are thin on the ground and probably hard to find.

This is a neat variant of the Lockheed P-38J. I recommend it to modelers of all skills.