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B-52

Monogram 1/72 B-52B Stratofortress with X-15 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2011 Manufacturer Monogram
Subject NB-52B with X-15A-2 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 5716 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Great detail, best B-52 in any scale Cons Steep price
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $69.95

First Look

B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52
B-52

With the Germans proving the viability of fighter aircraft powered by turbine and rocket engines, the United States embarked upon a research race to exploit the engineering data captured from Germany in an attempt to keep ahead of the Russians who had captured their own share of that knowledge base. The Bell X-1 was the first craft purpose-built to attempt to break the sound barrier in level flight. The problem was that the aircraft couldn't carry enough fuel to take-off, reach test altitude, run the acceleration tests and return home. The solution was to carry the X-1 aloft using a Boeing B-29 Superfortress as a mothership and then release it to use its limited fuel supply for the speed tests.

As the test aircraft got faster and heavier, the US Air Force got a bigger Boeing - the B-50 - to take the X-2, X-1A, and other experiments aloft. As the X-15 was nearing completion in the late 1950s, it was clear that they were going to need a bigger Boeing. The last B-52A produced, 52-0003 (also known as 'Balls Three') was modified with a notch removed from its right wing and a cradle mounted under the right wing to accommodate the X-15. Designated NB-52A, Balls Three would support almost half of the 199 X-15 test flights.

A second B-52 was pulled from active duty to augment Balls Three and this was a very close cousin. Built as an RB-52B, 52-0008 was only five airframes younger than Balls Three. Like the NB-52A, the RB-52B was also given the same notch in the wing and the carriage cradle under the wing. Designated NB-52B (and of course called 'Balls Eight'), this aircraft would not only see service through the X-15 program, it would soldier on another 40 years to carry the X-24, HiMAT, the lifting bodies, X-43, and even launch satellites into space lofting the Pegasus rockets. Balls Eight would serve through 2004 and a B-52H currently performs the mothership mission for NASA.

I've got good news and bad news for you. The good news is that Revell has released the long-absent NB-52 w/X-15 kit after many decades. Last seen as kit number 5907 in the 'Young Astronauts' boxing, Monogram had paired up its 1/72 X-15A-2 kit with its classic B-52D which required a new starboard upper wing half, new starboard inboard flap, X-15 cradle, observation blister, tail fairing, and the elimination of all of the bombs, underwing bomb pylons, bomb bay parts, tail gun, and outboard drop tanks. This kit had markings for Balls Eight but for some reason didn't include markings for Balls Three.

Well here is the kit again at long last. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on six parts trees plus a tree of clear parts for the NB-52, and two trees of gray and one clear for the X-15A-2. As I've mentioned in the review for the B-52D (look here), the Monogram B-52 remains the best kit of the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat 'Fella') in any scale. While AMT/ERTL tackled the B-52G and B-52H in 1/72 scale, the plastic was soft and the assembled model would sag unnaturally over time. Some of the better late-model B-52s I've seen were built using the AMT/ERTL key features grafted onto the Monogram airframe along with resin corrections to fix some of AMT/ERTL's bugs. The Monogram kit has never had the soft-plastic sag problem and is an easy build.

The cockpit is rather simple, though the completed flight deck doesn't look bad. The instrument panel is represented by decal as are the side consoles. Don't waste your time dressing up the flight deck as you really won't see much detail once the fuselage halves are assembled and the windscreen is installed. Crew figures are provided for the pilot and copilot.

The kit comes with several movable features:

  • Bomb Bay Doors
  • Flaps

You'll definitely want to glue the bomb bay doors closed as the NB-52A/B had several other modifications including a set of fuel tanks in the bomb bay that could fuel/top off the X-15 prior to launch. Since the kit doesn't provide the internal structure for the bomb bay nor these fuel tanks, you can do some scratch-building or keep the doors closed.

The kit also had a number of options:

  • Positionable spoilers
  • Positionable landing gear
  • Optional exposed engine (number one)
  • Optional crew boarding door/ladder

The kit does simplify some details such as the main landing gear wells, but you can scratch-build deeper wells if you want to or perhaps one of the resin aftermarket companies will turn out a conversion for the NB-52B and B-52D. Most modelers will be happy with those compromises, but the model does offer the AMS modeler with an opportunity to have some fun.

Markings are provided for one aircraft:

  • NB-52B, 52-0008, Balls Eight mothership

While these are the same markings as the previous release, they have been updated and look nice. Too bad they didn't add the Balls Three markings.

As I mentioned above, I have good news and bad news. The good news once again is that this kit is finally back on the market. The bad news is the price - a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price of $69.95. I know this kit was commanding some interesting prices on eBay in the last few years but why charge eBay prices for this reissue? The last reissue of the B-52D a few years ago was already pretty high at $43.50. While I know new tooling costs are expensive, this tooling is older than my sister (that's saying alot).

Despite the rather steep pricing of this kit, I'm still happy to see it again and had to get one for myself. Whether the kit is worth the price is up to you. Street prices are lower but only you can be the judge of the value of having this kit (back) in your stash.

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