Tamiya 1/48 Lancaster B.III 'Dam Buster' Kit First Look
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||January 2008||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Subject||Lancaster B.III 'Dam Buster'||Scale||1/48|
|Kit Number||61021||Primary Media||Styrene, Metal|
|Pros||Only Grand Slam Lanc in 1/48||Cons||Only current kit available now is expensive and motorized|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The Avro Lancaster was a British four-engined WWII bomber aircraft, initially by Avro for the British Royal Air Force (RAF). It first saw service in 1942, and together with the Handley-Page Halifax it was one of the main heavy bombers of the RAF, the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within RAF Bomber Command.
The “Lanc” or “Lankie”, as it became affectionately known, became the most famous and successful of the WWII night bombers. It delivered 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties. Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles including daylight precision bombing, and gained worldwide renown as the “Dam Buster” used in the 1943 Operation Chastise raids on Germany’s Ruhr Valley dams with bouncing bombs.
The bouncing bomb was a variety of depth charge style of bomb, designed by Barnes Wallis of Vickers-Armstrong at Brooklands, Surrey, England. It was used in the famous Dam Busters Raid to attack major dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley during WWII. The mechanical difference analyzer analogue computer used in its design is preserved in New Zealand at MOTAT.
Before and during WWII, the RAF identified German hydro-electric dams as targets. However, dams were pretty much immune to conventional attack because of their size. An immense amount of explosive would be required to breach them because then-current bomb aiming techniques would not allow the placing of a bomb with the required accuracy to avoid the cushioning effect of water. The other possibility, a torpedo attack, had been foreseen by the Germans, who had guarded against this by placing heavy nets upstream from the dams. Barnes Wallis observed that a larger version of the bouncing anti-shipping weapon would skip over the anti-torpedo nets and sink in contact with the dam, where the water would act as a natural ramming medium, directing the explosion on to the dam, instead of protecting it, and greatly reducing the explosive power needed.
Owing to time constraints, set by the RAF, the final version of the anti-dam weapon, codenamed UPKEEP (also know as the Vickers Type 464), was different from Barnes Wallis’s initial intentions. It dispensed with the spherical metal shell and the “dimples” It became canister in shape. It weighed 4,200 kg (9,250 lb) including 3,000 kg (6,600 lb) of Torpex explosive. The bomb was designed to be spun backwards at high velocity (500 rpm) before being released. It then bounced over the water (avoiding the anti-torpedo nets) in the same way as a flat stone would skip. However, to achieve this effect the bomb had to be released from a very low altitude (60 ft), at a speed of 240-250 mph, and a distance of 400-500 yards from the target. On striking the dam the bomb would sink to a prescribed depth of 30 ft before detonation by a hydrostatic fuse. As a back-up, a chemical time fuse would detonate the bomb if the hydrostatic fuse failed.
The “Grand Slam” or “Earthquake” bomb was a very large, free-fall bomb developed by the British aeronautical engineer Barnes Wallis also. It was a development of, and at a weight of 10 tons (22,000 lb), almost twice the weight of the previous large bomb, the 5 ton (12,000 lb) “Tallboy”. Both weapons were intended for use against large and protected buildings, structures against which smaller bombs would be ineffective. The name Grand Slam comes from the card game of bridge, where it is a term that means winning all the tricks and cleaning the table.
My kit comes in a very large tray and lid type box. The box has gotten a little beat up, over the years of sitting in my stash down the basement. The box art shows two Lancasters making a run on one of the Ruhr Valley dams. A side panel has two full color profiles of a Lancaster carrying the Grand Slam bomb and one of the Dam Buster aircraft. The one carrying the Grand Slam has the fuselage code of YZ (roundel) P in red letters with yellow outlines. The Dam Buster one carries the code AJ (roundel)G in all red letters. There is also a color illustration of a pilot figure and two paragraphs in Japanese, that are probably histories of the Lancaster.
Inside the box are eight large jet black trees of parts, two loose jet black fuselage halves, a loose bomb-bay interior roof part, a tree of clear parts and a tree of medium gray parts. Two decal sheets, instructions, and a sheet of full color illustrations of profiles of the Grand Slam and Dam Buster type aircrafts and a illustration of the pilot figure complete the kit’s contents. The parts trees are in stapled shut cello bags as well as the 2 decal sheets. Some are doubled up in these bags.
Up front, I must say that I am not too fond of model parts molded in jet black. This color of styrene tends to want to bleed through whatever paint you put over it, which usually means more coats to keep it from darkening the surface color. However, the Dam Buster aircraft had all black undersurfaces which came up about 2/3rds of the height of the fuselage, so maybe not too bad. The Grand Slam aircraft didn’t have any black to it’s camouflage scheme, and the black plastic may create a problem there.
The instructions consists of a single sheet that accordion folds out into eight pages of 8” x 11 ¾” format. It is all in Japanese. I wish I could find some English language ones.
Page one begins with a black and white illustration of the model made up, followed by what I assume is the history of the aircraft in Japanese only.
Pages two through 5 give a grand total of 15 assembly steps.
In steps numbered 7 and 8 you have to decide whether to mount the Grand Slam or the bouncing bombs.
The kit provides two nicely done engines to go inside two of the cowlings. It’s just too bad you don’t get four or these. Step number 12 is devoted to the assembly of it.
There are four crew member figures in the kit. Assembly of them is shown in step number 1.
Page six has a two-view (top and side) drawing for doing a Lancaster carrying the Grand Slam bomb. It carries the fuselage code YP (roundel) P and the serial no. PD133. Since the instructions are all in Japanese I cannot tell you what colors are called out here…sorry. You will have to consult your references on the Lancaster.
Below this is a side profile of one of the Dam Buster aircrafts. I carries the fuselage code YZ (roundel) S and the serial no. PD112. There is an illustration of the Grand Slam bomb showing a stencil that goes on it and it’s color…again called out in only Japanese…sigh.
Page seven has a bottom view (this I KNOW is all in black) of a Dam Buster Lancaster and a side view of another aircraft of the Dam Buster Squadron. It carries the fuselage code of AJ (roundel) G and the serial no. ED932/G.
The bottom of the page is calling out something, again in only Japanese that has the listings of a bunch of fuselage codes and serial numbers. I assume it is talking about all the aircrafts that ever carried these two types of bombs??
Page eight ends the instructions with parts tree illustrations and a list, in Japanese, of what the parts are.
There are two identical letter A, large black parts trees: These hold: propellers, propeller spinners (one spinner is missing in my kit), two engines with their bearers, cowling and nacelles, main wheels with their legs etc. (45 parts per tree) This tree was in a cello with large letter E tree and 3 parts got rubbed off due to friction against the trees.
Large black letter B tree holds many internal parts, the tail wheel etc. Too many things to try and name…sorry. Some parts are shaded out as being excess on the parts tree drawings, like the dorsal gun blister fairing. (83 parts) At least eight (possibly more) are excess. This tree was in a cello along with letter F and Z trees. Friction knocked three parts off it.
Black letter C tree is the two upper wing halves. This tree is not illustrated on the instructions.
Black letter D tree is the two lower wing halves. (when assembled these will give the kit a wingspan of around 27 ½”. This tree, also, is not illustrated on the instructions.
Large black letter E tree holds: more nacelle parts, the rudders and horizontal tail surfaces. The rudder flaps and the horizontal tail flaps are molded solid. (13 parts) Seven parts were broke of the tree due to friction against the letter A tree, which was in the same cello bag with it.
Letter F tree is the clear parts for the cockpit transparencies, fuselage cabin windows, wing tip light lenses etc. (39 parts) A few are shaded out on the parts tree drawings as being excess and not needed to complete the kit. It had 4 parts broken off it due to friction against letters B and Z trees in the same cello bag with it.
Large black letter G parts tree holds: the bouncing bomb with its chain driven trapeze and bomb bay roof parts (7 parts) One part was broke off the tree due to friction with the letter H tree in the same cello bag with it.
Large black letter H parts tree holds: the parts for the Grand Slam bomb and the different bomb bay roof piece for it (10 parts) Two parts broke off this tree because of friction with tree letter G in the same cello bag.
Lettering now jumps to the gray letter Z tree. This tree holds the parts for the crew figures. One appears to be a seated pilot, one is the seated co-pilot. One of them is molded with a separate right arm and the other with a separate left arm. This is so they could reach the levers on the console between them. The third figure is prone. This is because he is the bomb-aimer. The last figure is standing. He has his right arm raised and his left hand on his hip. I assume he is a ground-crewman, waving good bye, and not to go into the plane. There is a base plate part to glue him to and a separate parachute part that I think will go on the back of the bomb-aimer guy. (8 parts) This tree is not illustrated on the parts tree drawings.
The two decal sheets are next. One holds fuselage code letters in either all red or red with a yellow outline. There are also several serial numbers too. The second sheet has the British roundels on it. The fuselage ones have the red center printed separately. This is good idea, to facilitate getting the mark all in register. It also holds the fin flashes, cockpit instrument panel, radio dials and stenciling.
This is a really neat kit. Very highly recommended to modelers that have a few other aircraft kits with large amounts of parts under their belt. It is not for the novice or a weekend project by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just too bad that the only way you can get this kit anymore is with the 4 electric motors, for a rather high price. Also, I cannot see where that one includes the Grand Slam or bouncing bomb.