Airfix 1/48 B-57 Canberra Kit First Look
|Date of Review||April 2009||Manufacturer||Airfix|
|Kit Number||10104||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Lots of possibilities in one box||Cons||Heavy panel lines|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$57.45|
In the early 1950s, the B-26 Invader was the primary air interdiction aircraft for the USAF over Korea, but these aircraft were not available in sufficient quantity to meet the operational needs. The USAF decided to acquire an aircraft with sufficient range and payload to meet the combat needs of Korea and beyond. In order to get such an aircraft quickly, the USAF released the requirement with the stipulation that the aircraft would be based upon an existing design - there wasn't time for a whole new aircraft.
The Air Force considered and rejected the North American B-45 and AJ Savage as well as the Avro CF-100. The only close contenders were the Martin XB-51 and the English Electric Canberra. In a quick fly-off in early February 1951, the Canberra won, but English Electric was already producing the Canberra for the RAF and didn't have the production capacity to handle the USAF order. Martin was granted a license to produce the Canberra for the USAF.
The B-57A was a slightly modified Canberra used for training and evaluation. It was the B-57B that would begin the distinctive USAF Canberra series with a new tandem cockpit, rotary bomb bay (from the XB-51), wing tip tanks, up-rated J65 engine, relocation of the speed brakes from the wings to the fuselage, underwing hard points, cartridge (bang) start capability, and other additions.
While the B-57 arrived too late to fly interdiction missions over Korea, the B-57B was pressed into combat over Vietnam, but the aircraft suffered a string of freak accidents and Viet Cong mortar attacks that resulted in the loss of over 19 aircraft (with another 15 damaged) that overshadowed any operational successes. Some B-57s returned to Vietnam in the early 1970s as the B-57G night interdiction aircraft, but operational experience revealed that the AC-130 Spectre was far superior to that mission.
There was lots of anticipation when Airfix announced that they were producing a whole series of Canberras in 1/48 scale, but a number of business issues delayed the project for several years. This delay allowed Classic Airframes to release their own series of 1/48 scale Canberras, including a B-57B. With its business challenges behind it, Airfix has stepped back to the plate and released their Canberras. Here is a look at their Martin B-57 release:
You've probably noticed that the title on the kit box is B-57B Canberra but that isn't a B-57B on the box art. Well technically, the aircraft depicted on the box art started life as a B-57B before receiving mods to become a B-57G. At any rate, this kit has parts to render three variants, the B-57B, 'Patricia Lynn' RB-57E, and B-57G.
The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. While the detailing is scribed on the model, the panel lines a somewhat on the heavy side. While that may not bother some modelers, especially if you're painting your aircraft up in dark colors, others will find these thick panel lines detract from an otherwise nice kit.
AMS modeler will want to fill these lines and rescribe them. Check with your photo references as the wing's panel lines may be correct for the English Electric-built Canberras and the early B-57A, but the later Martin-build aircraft look like they used a different pattern to apply the sheet metal to the wings. You can look at our different B-57 walk arounds we have to see some of the differences.
The one part you'll definitely want to fill in is the rudder. The mad panel scriber must have mistaken the rivet lines in the rudder for panel lines and scribed these canyons accordingly. This is simple enough to fix, but it definitely catches the eye when you open the box!
The cockpit is simple and reasonably laid out with two different ejection seat types provided, one for the B-57B/E and the other for the B-57G. Whichever version you choose, the cockpit will look nicer when Eduard releases a set of color photo-etched details for this kit.
There are a number of nice details and options in this kit, many of which have not been available in previous Canberra kits:
- Three different noses (B-57B, RB-57E, B-57G)
- Two sets of engine cowlings with correct chin scoops
- Two ejection seat types provided
- Correct B-57 nose gear
- Optional crew figures (2)
- Weapons bay with four suspension points
- Positionable canopy
- Positionable bomb bay door
- Positionable ailerons
- Positionable elevators
- Positionable rudder
- Positionable flaps
- Positionable speed brakes
- 8 x Mk.117
- 4 x LGB
Pay attention to the note in the instructions about ballast - you'll need 100 grams (or more) to keep this B-57 from becoming a tail dragger. Don't worry, the kit also includes a tail stand to help out - just in case.
Markings are provided on one huge sheet for three examples:
- B-57B, 52-1577, 822 BS/38 BG(T), Laon, France, 1966
- RB-57E, 55-4243, 6250 CSG/2 AD, Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam, 1963
- B-57G, 53-3865, 13 BS/8 TFW, Ubon RTAFB, Thailand, 1971s
This is a very nice kit from Airfix and it offers some interesting possibilities straight out of this box. You have a number of nice options in this kit which also offers some details that were overlooked in previous B-57 kits. While this is the nicest B-57 kit in any scale, the heavy panel lines do detract from the overall quality of the model. Despite this one bug, this kit is still definitely recommended!