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B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit

Academy 1/144 B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2021 Manufacturer Academy
Subject B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Scale 1/144
Kit Number 12622 Primary Media Styrene
Pros First new-tool kit of a current B-52H Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $54.95

First Look

B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit
B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit
B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit
B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit
B-52H Stratofortress 20th BS 'Buccaneers' Kit

The B-52 Stratofortress is an eight-engined strategic bomber that was designed to replace the B-36 Peacemaker. Where the B-36 was a compound aircraft powered by six huge piston engines (and later with an additional four jet engines), the B-52 was a pure jet aircraft. Where the B-36 was not air refuelable, the B-52 can air refuel. Where the B-36 was designed as a long-range conventional bomber that was adapted to the nuclear deterrence mission, the B-52 was designed for the nuclear deterrence mission and was adapted to the conventional bombing mission. Nicknamed the BUFF (for Big Ugly Fat 'Fellow'), the B-52 was first flown in 1952, with the last B-52 coming off the production line by 1962. The XB-70 that was to become the high-speed replacement for the B-52 was cancelled. The Mach 2 B-1A Lancer was also cancelled. The Mach 1+ B-1B Lancer did eventually enter production, but not in sufficient quantities to replace the B-52. The stealth B-2 Spirit also entered production, but again in small quantities, leaving the B-52 to soldier on. Over Vietnam, one B-52 could carry up to 105 500lb and 750lb bombs in a single load, more bombs than a squadron of World War II B-17s. In the Gulf War, the B-52 was a key component in the 'shock and awe' that cleared entire minefields as well as any hidden enemy tanks on the front lines. Even today, the B-52 performs 'close air support' using precision guided weapons released when needed. Unlike all previous B-52 variants, the B-52H was powered by eight TF-33 turbofan engines. Like the previous variants, the B-52H was equipped with a tailgun, though the tailgunner was relocated to the flight deck on the B-52G/H variants. During one of its many updates, the tailgun and gunner were removed from the aircraft and replaced by a variety of electronic warfare systems.

Here is Academy's new-tool B-52H Stratofortress in 1/144th scale. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on eight parts trees plus one tree of clear parts (two duplicate trees not shown). The kit offers some nice detailing and molding technology such as using slide molds to create nacelles that are each one hollow part. Note that the B-52H has larger nacelles on the front of the engine for the compressors' fan sections while the rear of the nacelles house the rest of each engine. The slide molds create one hollow front and one hollow rear for each twin-engine pod. Among the features and options in this kit:

  • Nice detailing in the flight deck for this scale
  • Bomb bay doors can be positioned open of closed
  • Nice details inside the bomb bays (see notes)
  • Landing gear can be posed raised or lowered
  • Flaps are molded separately (see notes)
  • Underwing weapons pylons can be displayed empty or with JDAMS
  • Sniper XR targeting pod provided for under starboard wing
  • Window masks are provided for the clear flight deck transparency

Markings are provided on one decal sheet for three aircraft:

  • B-52H, 60-0001, 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, 2018, 'Memphis Belle IV'
  • B-52H, 61-0012, 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, 2018, 2018, 'Loko'
  • B-52H, 60-0012, 69 Bomb Sqn, Minot AFB, 2018

In addition to the distinctive markings, the decals also include maintenance stenciling.

Notes:

  • The kit is designed to be able to swap out parts to render other older version(s) of the B-52H or other B-52 variants
  • The flaps are molded separately, but there isn't any detail molded to either the inside of the flap wells nor upper sides of the flaps. You can pose them down with a little work, but remember that these are Fowler flaps, so they're going to need mounting help to hang off the trailing edges of the wing.
  • The flight deck doesn't have instrument panels or detailed crew consoles simply because you won't see them when the model is assembled. What can be seen is nicely done.
  • While the external stores beams are molded both empty and with JDAMs loaded, the internal weapons bay can be depicted either empty or loaded with M117 750lb bombs. The kit depicts the B-52H prior to the somewhat recent upgrade for the conventional rotary launcher for smart weapons.

This is easily the best kit of the B-52 released in 1/144 to date, though we'll see how Great Wall does with their B-52s (also in 1/144) with their B-52G due out any time. Comparing the Academy and GWH B-52H kits, online photos indicate that the GWH B-52H is also designed as a late version without the tail gun and has the designs and details for extended flaps. The test builds that GWH have online do not show a targeting pod and instead depicts the aircraft armed with cruise missiles on the external stores beams and an empty rotary launcher in the bomb bay. Someone posted on our Facebook page that incorrectly claimed that the Academy and GWH kits have the auxiliary inlets molded open on the engine cowlings, and while I've seen at least one photo with the GWH aux inlets open, the Academy kit's inlets are molded closed as they would be in flight or shut down. For now, the Academy kit is the only option for a current configuration B-52H and I expect we'll see other variants coming in our future.

My sincere thanks to MRC for this review sample!