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B-17F

Revell 1/48 B-17F Flying Fortress Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2006 Manufacturer Revell
Subject Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress Scale 1/48
Kit Number H-197 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nicely detailed exterior Cons Very minimal interior details
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) Out of Production

 

 

First Look

B-17F
B-17F
B-17F
B-17F

In the mid-1930s, the US Army Air Corps had seen the vision of airpower as demonstrated by 'Billy' Mitchell, but were frustrated at the lack of funding and support from their superiors. Despite this, they managed to get a small order of YB-17 aircraft into the budget in 1936.

Meanwhile, Boeing had developed the Model 299 as a private venture to apply the latest technologies into a strategic bomber in the hopes of gaining a contract. Their hopes were dashed when the prototype crashed on take-off, but were later somewhat relieved to learn that the cause of the crash wasn't the aircraft but pilot error - the flight control lock had not been removed before flight.

The first production version was the B-17B, which entered service in 1940. The versions that followed, the B-17C, B-17D, and B-17E, were incremental improvements to make the aircraft more effective and survivable in combat. Some of these aircraft found their way into the RAF as the UK was already deep into war with Nazi Germany.

The B-17F was first major production version which incorporated the hundreds of engineering changes identified from operation of the B-17E. Up until the B-17F, Boeing had been the sole producer of the Flying Fortress, but with the US entry into the war and with the B-17 being the only strategic bomber available to the USAAC in the first years of World War Two, the War Department arranged for co-production of the aircraft to get more aircraft into the war sooner. In addition to Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed/Vega also opened production lines for the B-17F, all of which would later transition to production of the B-17G.

The defensive firepower of the B-17E/F gave the Luftwaffe pause, but through combat experience and exploitation of a captured Flying Fortress, the Germans realized that the B-17 lacked defensive firepower in the forward quadrant. When the short range escort fighters would leave the B-17 formations to fly alone to the target, the Luftwaffe shifted to head-on attacks against the unescorted bomber formations. The results were devastating.

It didn't take the USAAC long to see what the Luftwaffe was up to and soon depots in the UK were modifying Flying Fortresses with a variety of frontal gun installations to deter the Germans. One concept aircraft developed to protect B-17 formations was dubbed the YB-40 and it replaced its bomb load with lots of guns - two top turrets, twin 50s in each gun position, and a new remote control chin turret. The YB-40 would serve as a heavy escort 'fighter' to protect the bombers to/from the target, but the YB-40 concept didn't go far. What did come from the YB-40 experiment was the chin turret, which was adopted into the later production blocks of the B-17F to give EVERY bomber serious head-on protection.

WAY back in the 1950s, Revell was a pioneer in the fledgling plastic model industry releasing numerous subjects that were not available from other early manufacturers, some of which have never reappeared since then. Revell developed simple kits that had reasonable details outside and didn't waste much time or energy on the inside. That kit design philosophy continued for almost 50 years.

Sometime in the early 1970s, Mattel purchased Revell and Monogram, though for a while they kept the two companies working in parallel. Revell continued with their exterior-only philosophy while Monogram became the super-detailer's dream (of those days) providing interior detailing as well as equivalent exterior details.

When Revell released their 1/48 B-17F, it was the first time this aircraft had been rendered in styrene in such a large scale. The exterior detailing was very nicely done, but as with other Revell releases, the interior was very limited.

Out of the box, this kit represents a very early block of the B-17F with the positions of the windows in the nose. It would not be difficult to backdate this kit to a B-17E. This kit is presented on four parts trees. Three of the trees are molded in olive drab styrene and one tree contains all of the clear transparencies for the windows and turrets.

When Monogram released their B-17G in 1975, it is evident that their tooling was based upon the same engineering drawings used for the Revell B-17F.

Aside from the lack of interior and the obvious differences between the B-17F and B-17G, this kit was essentially identical to the later Monogram kit. If you look at the two fuselage halves taped together, even the panel lines line up though the alignment pins are in different locations. The B-17F half is just a hair shorter than the B-17G half though in full-scale the two aircraft were equal in length.

B-17F
B-17F

The openings for the cockpit windscreen, outlines for the bomb bay doors, opening for the ball turret, all line up. Even the raised panel lines align, but the two kits clearly come from different tooling. There are several distinctive differences in engineering:

  1. B-17F The cockpit overhead structure was molded as a separate piece with the Revell B-17F whereas it was integral to the fuselage of the Monogram B-17G
  2. The cowl flaps are molded 'open' on the Revell kit whereas they are closed on the Monogram kit. I say 'open' because they are positioned like they are open, but the thickness of the cowl flaps prevents any viewing inside the rear of the engines
  3. The B-17G has rib and stringer details molded on the inside of the fuselage halves, the B-17F is smooth plastic inside

So what's the bottom line here? If you're an AMS modeler, the Revell kit is barren and needs help. The Monogram kit has nice interior detailing, but will require some serious patching and alterations to backdate the kit to an B-17F. One solution is to remove the nose from the Revell B-17F and graft it onto the Monogram kit. That sounds a little extreme, especially for a kit that is commanding some respectable prices on eBay, but I found this Revell kit at a recent hobby contest for $18.00 still sealed in its bags. If I do the math, I can bash this with the $25.00 Monogram B-17G and still spend another $50.00 on photo-etch and resin detail sets, and still have a super-detailed B-17F cheaper than anything Tamiya or Trumpeter could possibly turn out. And that is exactly what I plan to do.

If you'd like a close look at the Monogram B-17G, you can see the review here.

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