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Accurate Miniatures 1/48 SB2U-3 Vindicator Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review July 2005 (Updated July 2011) Manufacturer Accurate Miniatures
Subject Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator Scale 1/48
Kit Number 480202 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Sink marks corrected Cons Poor instructions
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


The SB2U Vindicator was one of several designs for scout bombers that the US Navy procured in mid-1934 to transition the Navy's combat aircraft from biplane to low-wing monoplane. In addition to the SB2U, two other notable aircraft in this category were the TBD Devastator and Northrop's BT-1.

The XSB2U-3 Vindicator first flew in January 1936 and delivered to the US Navy in July of that year. The prototype was lost a month later when the crew maneuvered into a high speed stall at low altitude and spun into the ground. In spite of the accident, the Navy awarded Vought a contract for 54 SB2U-1 aircraft in October 1936.

The SB2U-3 was developed to fulfill the US Marine Corps' requirement for a longer range dive bomber. An SB2U-3 was modified with a larger horizontal stabilizer, a 50 caliber machine gun to replace the rear gunner's 30 caliber, increase in fuel capacity, and a change of engine. A total of 27 aircraft were procured for USMC service.

On 5 June 1942, USMC aircraft based at Midway island were scrambled to attack two damaged Japanese battleships. These two ships turned out to be the heavy cruisers Mikuma and Mogami. Captain Richard E. Fleming led the Vindicators of VMSB-241 into action against the Mikuma. Captain Fleming's aircraft was hit in the attack and he crashed into the cruiser's afterdeck. The resulting fire disabled the Mikuma long enough for SBDs from Enterprise to send it to the bottom. Captain Fleming was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.

The long awaited Accurate Miniatures 1/48 SB2U Vindicator is here! The first release is the SB2U-3 which is molded in light gray styrene and feature the usual Accurate Miniatures' exquisite detailing. The fabric covering on the wings and tail feathers is well done. The only problem that can be seen in the kit are some sink marks around the rear fuselage, but most modelers were able to remove these using Mr. Surfacer and a little sanding/shaping. Later releases of the kit have this problem fixed.

The cockpit interior detailing is very nice. Starting with the rib and stringer detailing inside the fuselage halves, there is some very nice molding done here. There are naturally ejector pin marks inside the fuselage halves (how else could they get these parts off the molds?) but they are placed in areas not visible after assembly. Very nice engineering here.

Over the top of the molded-in fuselage detailing, the cockpit interior is replicated very thoroughly, right down to the curved pilot's floor that is actually the top of the wing. The side framing in the front and rear cockpits with all of the associated detailing is also well done. Take your time here as you'll need to do lots of dry-fitting to understand where everything goes and how it fits together. Eduard photo-etched seat belts are included for the front and rear cockpits.

Which brings me to one of my concerns about the kit. As I said above, the instructions in this kit will require some study and you'll need to do some dry-fitting of parts to understand how the assemblies are supposed to fit together. The exploded views for the cockpit assembly are marginal, though an experienced modeler can work through the challenge. The drawings for the landing gear assembly are next to useless. Accurate Miniatures needs to improve the quality of their instructions.

Externally, the kit features your choice of open or closed cowl flaps, raised or lowered landing gear, open or closed canopies, and your choice of training or full-sized bombs or even a centerline fuel tank.

The ignition harness on the engine is a bit on the thick side and would be best replaced with photo-etch.

One minor mystery is the wing fold option. Accurate Miniatures mentioned during the kit's development that you'll have the option to fold the wings and indeed, the wing fold parts are included in the kit. The trouble is that there is no cut line in the wings nor is there mention of this option in the instructions. If you want to fold the wings, you're on your own.

Another nice touch in this release is a complete set of transparency paint masks for the canopy.

Markings are included to replicate any of the Midway Island VMSB-241 Vindicators, including the aircraft flown by Medal of Honor pilot Captain Richard Fleming.

One last caution. The painting instructions are not very well done either. The bottom view of the aircraft shows the fuselage and inboard wing panels underside gray while the outboard wing panels are the same color blue-gray as the upper surfaces of the aircraft. The side views show the outboard wing panels as underside gray. This is incorrect! The undersides of the outboard wing panels are the topside blue-gray.

This is another excellent release from Accurate Miniatures. I raised the skill level for this kit to 'Experienced' due to the issues with the kit's instructions. This aircraft will definitely look nice on your shelf.

Thanks to Accurate Miniatures for this review sample!