Accurate Miniatures 1/48 B-25B Mitchell Kit First Look
|Date of Review||July 2005 (Updated July 2011)||Manufacturer||Accurate Miniatures|
|Subject||North American B-25B Mitchell||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||3430||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Nice detail and lots of options||Cons||Front cowl openings slightly too small|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The B-25 series started life as a drawing board concept at North American Aviation, designated NA-40. Developed as a light bomber for the 'peacetime' Army Air Corps, the NA-40 was a twin-engine, twin-tailed aircraft that was competing for limited funding. The NA-40 was adopted, with some changes, as the B-25. The B-25 and B-25A were both procured in small numbers and used for training, as these aircraft were not configured with self-sealing fuel tanks and other combat necessities. The B-25B would be the first version that was combat-ready, and the RAF dubbed the aircraft as Mitchell Mk.I.
The aircraft was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, whose maverick style tended to get him into political trouble, but his message was belatedly understood loud and clear. Airpower was a force to be reckoned with, and aircraft can be used to sink even the most powerful battleships. Mitchell foresaw the future of aviation, and like many outspoken visionaries, he was court-martialed and stripped of his military career. Japanese planners also recognized the truth in Mitchell's vision and proved him correct on December 7, 1941. The B-25 was going to war.
The Tokyo Raid
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. Remember, while the last aircraft to depart the Hornet had the whole deck to take off from, Doolittle's aircraft was at the front of the pack, almost mid-way on the deck - he had only half the deck to take off from!
Another factor; pilots are taught a number of techniques to get the aircraft off the ground. You have your standard takeoff roll, you have your short field takeoff profile, and you have your soft field profile. 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!
This is Accurate Miniatures' first installment in the B-25 series - the B-model. As described above, this was the version that went to Tokyo only four months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The kit goes together relatively easy (see our build-up review) and the few issues that did crop up have been addressed in some tooling modifications.
This kit is molded in light gray injection molded plastic, and sports finely engraved panel lines and details throughout. The parts are all flash-free and there are no injector pin marks in any visible locations.
The kit features a completely detailed interior, and while I thoroughly enjoyed detailing the inside of the kit, I was equally disappointed that little of that work was visible from the outside. Bear that in mind before you go hog wild inside your fuselage. This isn't a ding against Accurate Miniatures, quite the opposite. Kudos on them for the great work. But until they release the kit with a transparent fuselage, you simply can't see inside not enough windows. The instructions are very thorough with clear diagrams and description on how to assemble your model.
The nose of the aircraft houses the navigator/bombardier. on the left side is an aisleway to access the rest of the aircraft, on the right, an avionics/equipment bay. In this kit, the bay is filled with brass weights (included) to provide enough ballast in the nose to allow the model to sit naturally on its landing gear. Without that weight, the model would be a dedicated tail-sitter.
The kit also features weighted tires, so no resin wheels will be required to make the model look right sitting on its landing gear.
The bomb bay can be displayed open or closed. The interior of the bomb bay is fully detailed and comes with a variety of weapons. If you're modeling a Doolittle Raider, all you'll need are the four 500 lb bombs.
The kit comes with a lower turret in case you're modeling a non-Doolittle Raider aircraft, but for the raid, the lower turret was deleted to save weight. Part J152 is provided to blank off the lower turret hole. The normal B-25B could retain a clear blister or a machine gun position for the tail. Both are provided in the kit. The Doolittle Raiders couldn't afford the weight of a tail gun or the extra gunner, so the clear tail blister was modified with broomsticks to look like machine guns sticking out of the rear of the aircraft to disuade Japanese fighters. These parts are also provided in the kit.
I had heard some rumblings in the community about the accuracy of the engine cowlings in the B-25 kits. The issue turned out to be the size of the opening on the front of the cowls - they are 6 scale inches too narrow in diameter. To be honest, most folks wouldn't notice, but for those who want an option to correct this, Cutting Edge released a set of corrected cowlings for this kit (CEC48184).
A set of window masks are included in the kit, but some of them are too large for the windows. Accurate Miniatures suggests cutting the oversized masks into quarters and overlap the inside edges so that the window silhouette is properly covered. If that doesn't work for you, there are other aftermarket window masks available or you can resort to doing it your 'normal' method.
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
This model builds up into a nicely detailed aircraft and the kit decals provide you with any of the Doolittle Raider aircraft. There are certainly other B-25Bs, pre-war and post Pearl Harbor, to model should you be so interested and all of the parts are in the box to get you there.
I can recommend these kits to anyone with better than beginner modeling skills.
Thanks to Accurate Miniatures for this review sample!