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WB-57F

CollectAire 1/48 WB/RB-57F Canberra Kit First Look

By Fotios Rouch

Date of Review November 2005 Manufacturer CollectAire
Subject General Dynamics WB/RB-57F Canberra Scale 1/48
Kit Number 4861 Primary Media Resin, White Metal, Vacuform
Pros Only 1/48 kit of this unique aircraft that isn't vacuformed Cons Lots of inaccuracies, poor casting on some parts
Skill Level Expert MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look

WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F

In the early 60's there was a need for another high flying reconnaissance platform. Actually, at that time there was the U-2 and the RB-57D available in the fleet but the RB-57D aircraft got grounded in 1962 with wing spar problems. There was something about poor material selection for the wing spars and the resulting stress corrosion cracks after a few short years of service. There is an interesting picture in the B-57 Mikesh book showing an incident with a RB-57D in very compromised position with a wing broken off.

The General Dynamics Corporation was approached by the USAF to see if they could make a better all around performance aircraft with higher payload capacity, and extended fatigue life reconnaissance aircraft out of the B-57s.

In October of 1962, General Dynamics Fort Worth was given the contract for the development of two redesigned aircraft under the designation RB-57F.

A new 122ft wing span aircraft emerged with a honeycomb design structure wing able to carry the aircraft's fuel internally. The wing had a great anhedral dialed into it, mid span ailerons and spoilers and no flaps. It also got a bigger tail but kept the fuselage and horizontal tail wings. GD also gave it bigger 18,000 lb Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-11A turbofans giving the RB-57F more than twice the power compared with the older Canberras. On top of that two small 3300 lb Pratt & Whitney J60-P-9 turbojets housed in a detachable pod underneath each wing became available. These aux jets had no starters and had to be windmilled up to 32,000 feet altitude, where they started becoming effective all the way to altitudes above 40,000 feet. The J60s added 2500 feet to the maximum ceiling. The J60s could be removed for maximum range missions.

The RB-57F could carry high-altitude reconnaissance cameras, ELINT/SIGINT equipment and special air-sampling pods on the leading edge of the wings.

The first operational trials were done in Late in 1963 out of the 7407th Combat Support Wing at Rhein-Main base in Germany. The RB-57Fs carried out high-altitude reconnaissance flights over the East German border and the Baltic sea. In February 1964, after completing the trials they were transferred to the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Kirtland AFB in New Mexico.

After that the USAF asked for 19 more RB-57Fs with production ending by 1967. Most of the RB-57Fs were assigned to the meteorological role with duties involving high altitude atmospheric sampling and radiation detection work in support of nuclear test monitoring. Four of the 19 RB-57Fs were operated as reconnaissance aircraft with two flying out of Yokota and two operating with the 7407th Combat Support Wing at Rhein-Main in Germany (where rumor has it that a certain Bondo Phil Brandt sighted his first one ever!).

In 1968, the Air Weather Service's RB-57Fs were redesignated WB-57F and continued to be used in the atmospheric sampling role on behalf of the US Atomic Energy Commission.

Sadly, after a few years of service stress cracks began appearing in the wing spars and ribs of the RB-57Fs. Some were repaired by General Dynamics at very high cost. Nine were placed in storage at AMARC Davis-Monthan AFB in 1972. The 58th WRS deactivated on July 1, 1974 after placing its WB-57s in storage at Davis-Monthan. Click here to see my photo walk around of the aircraft.

In 1968, NASA contracted with the Air Force for operating a RB-57F (number 925) for NASAs Earth Resources Technology Satellite program. This aircraft retired in 1982. It currently resides in the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ. (Mike add a link to the walk around here if you like).

After the 58th WRS deactivated, NASA 926 went to Ellington Field Houston where it is still flying missions today! More recently, NASA acquired another WB-57F, numbered NASA 928.

NASA 926 and NASA 928 are the only two WB-57s still flying in the world today.

Collect-Aire had announced this kit in their advisor some years ago setting my imagination on fire!

I was so excited that I bought two of them so I could have one USAF and one NASA bird.

Well, the kits came and they just sat in my closet. There was no way I though that I was going to scratch build all the things that were wrong with the kit. Actually, I knew I could redo the cockpit but it was just too much work to redo the nacelles and the aux jets and the sampling pods and the landing gear and straightening the huge but warped wings and the millions of pinholes and so on and so forth. Yes, yes I know we are modelers and not assemblers and all that good stuff but I had spent close to $400 and I had not gotten anything really reflecting the dollars I spent.

The kits languished for years in my closet. In the meantime I had gathered many hundreds of magnificent photos on the subject and many pages were copied from the flight manual.

One fine day in 2003 my good friend and fellow Collect-Aire builder Bondo-Phil Brandt was swinging through Tucson as he was heading to the Reno air races. As you can imagine we hooked up and the resin came out and many stories of glory and horror were told! You see Bondo was quietly cooking away on his WB-57F! He had even figured out ways to scratchbuild the unfixable areas of the kit. The years went by and all of a sudden I got a package a few days ago with some very nicely amateur molded resin parts. Bondo had outdone himself again. The parts will need some care but at least the shapes are close to the real thing.

The Bondo Industries set includes new Engine nacelle shrouds and new fan blades, new aux jets, fan blades and pylons and new vanes for the back of the nacelles - totally missing from the kit.

WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F
WB-57F

I started looking at the beast with renewed interest.

I have included here pictures to compare what is in the Collect-Aire kit and what is offered in the Bondo Industries special kit.

You will note how much better the shroud profiles are especially on the front. You will also note that the length is much better too. Yes, the Bondo parts do not include panel lines but I rather have none instead of having fictitious panel lines. I will scribe my own thank you. One other big improvement with the Bondo nacelles is the thin lip and walls of the shrouds, just like the real thing. If I were to guess I would say that the Collect-Aire maker worked off of the S-3A Viking nacelles.

I will not make comments on the quality of the resin on the Collect-Aire kit because pictures speak volumes.

The Bondo auxiliary J60 jets were also done nicely as far as shapes go. Note the small intake shape under the J60 mouth and see how differently it is shaped. Similarly, I will have to rescribe them and I hope my lines will be of equal depth and straight unlike the Collect-Aire kit's.

The jet exhausts are nicely molded. Pay attention though to the main exhaust and drill out the fictitious fan blade on the rear!

The Collect-Aire kit had some very poorly executed parts that besides being totally riddled with pinholes they were also out of register with the left side being out of whack in relation to the right side. Look at the front view and you will see what I mean.

The cockpit area in the Collect-Aire kit is also totally lacking. Nothing looks like it belongs in a RB-57F and the parts are carry overs from them B-57 kit. They were totally off there as well. The seats are close but I will use aftermarket seats.

The whole cockpit will be a scratchbuild project and this is where I will try to repay Bondo's golden hearted goodness by making him a copy off of mine.

The landing gear is another work of fiction. The wheel patterns do not belong to a B-57 or a WB-57 either. The casting quality is so bad that I am afraid I will have to make my own and this is not an easy thing. Very important note. The main landing gear legs are too tall. Be careful and cut them down to size. The main landing gear wheel doors are totally wrong on the inside surfaces and you need to look at the provided walk arounds to see how they can be built up and corrected.

The fuselage is ok. It is work to get it there but the shape looks good. You can still see the covered up speed brakes from the B-57 donor kit and you need to putty them better so they disappear. It is up to the modeler's brave heart to decide if they can cut off the area under the rear wings as it is a see through area on the real plane.

The noses look ok in shape. The kit provides two noses for the different missions of the aircraft.

The air sampling pods are of no use as they are. The resin is so poor that I cannot make sense of what the master might have looked like. The idea here is to keep the basic shape and rebuild the circumferential screens with metal stock from railroad supplies.

The reconnaissance belly pack is of little use as well. The camera areas are rough, the paneling incomplete and in all likelihood I will sand the whole thing down and lay fresh plastic stock with the correct cutouts.

The tail and tail wings are ok in shape but full of pinholes. They are salvageable and can be made to look ok.

The inner portion of the wings is ok in general shape and has the correct anhedral dialed to them. I will have to fill the fictitious panel lines that the maker scribed for the flaps as the WB/RB-57 had none! Do not forget to add the vent intakes on the leading edge of port wing. The maker forgot it.

Outer wings. Good shapes and the proper wingtip droop is present too. Now if I can unwarp the resin with hot water without ruining the delicate droop....

This is a huge beast of a model. I put the parts close together for a top down view to show how big it is. It practically covers all of the green mat! This model, if done right, will be a great attention grabber.

I just wish that the maker had some idea about the details of it and cared a little more about his work both in mastering and producing the resin for it.

Oh, well you know how it goes when you need something bad enough...

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