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P6M Seamaster

Atlantis Model Company 1/136 P6M Seamaster Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2020 Manufacturer Atlantis Model Company
Subject P6M Seamaster Scale 1/136
Kit Number H244 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Welcome return of a classic subject Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $19.95

First Look

P6M Seamaster
P6M Seamaster

In the early 1950s, the U.S. Navy was fighting a political battle within the Pentagon to have a part of the nuclear strike mission and the associated budget that went with that mission. While the USAF was growing Strategic Air Command, the Navy had lost the USS United States supercarrier funding which was supposed to serve as their nuclear strike platform. Since the existing fleet of Essex-class carriers could not support long-range bombers, the Navy turned to a seaplane platform for its strategic strike capability. The Glenn L. Martin Company had developed a long history of heavy seaplanes and took on the development of this new aircraft. What they developed would become the P6M Seamaster, a four-engine heavy seaplane that had a rotary bomb bay in the lower hull for carriage of nuclear weapons. Powered by four J71 afterburning turbojets, the XP6M-1 demonstrated a top speed faster than any of SAC's bombers (at the time), both at altitude and on the deck.

While the XP6M-1 offered some impressive performance once in the air, the J71 engines lacked sufficient thrust and reliability, and even these were not the first choice of Martin's engineers as they had intended the Seamaster to be powered by a revolutionary Curtiss turbo-ramjet that never materialized. To complicate things further, the turbulence from the inboard engines in afterburner damaged the rear fuselage structure, so take-off power was limited to the inboard engines at military thrust and the outboards at afterburner, which caused the P6M to have painfully long take-off runs. After the two XP6M-1 prototypes crashed due to control problems in the elevators, the Navy and Martin turned to the P6M-2. While the P6M-2 was re-engined with J75 engines and additional improvements, a number of new deficiencies led to the program being cancelled in 1959.

Revell produced a kit of the P6M Seamaster in 1/136 scale back in the 1950s and remains the only injection-molded kit of the P6M-1 design ever produced (Mach 2 did produce the P6M-2 in 1/72). When Hobbico (owners of Revell-Monogram and Revell/Germany) went bankrupt a few years ago, the molds that remained in storage in the U.S were acquired by Atlantis Models and they have been reissuing kits that haven't been available in years, if not decades. In the case of this kit, it was last released by Revell over 20 years ago. Molded in gray styrene, this kit is presented as you see it to the right along with a clear display stand and windscreen part.

Before you ask "why 1/136 scale?", remember that kits produced in the 1950/60s were produced in box scale. The concept of standardized model scales like 1/72 had not happened yet, and kits were made to fit within the constraints of standard retail box sizes. Standard box sizes made it easier for retailers to stock and display these kits on their limited shelf spaces.

The kit was designed to be displayed in-flight, so flaps are up, flight control surfaces are neutral, and the standard ball/socket was used to mount the model on its clear display stand. The P6M was a seaplane, so it never had landing gear. Like other seaplanes, it used beaching gear that was attached near shore before it could roll up the ramp. Another example of this was the PBY Catalina which could not get ashore without beaching gear until they produced an amphibious version like the PBY-5A which did have its own landing gear.

The box art depicts the P6M-1 in gull gray over white which would be accurate had the program survived long enough. The decals include markings for the first prototype, BuNo 138408 with markings compatible with gull gray over white should you want to display this as a what-if. The XP6M-1s were initially overall dark sea blue before being repainted dark sea blue over white. Decals are provided for these colors as well, including the extra markings that were applied when this aircraft first rolled off the production line.

It is nice to see these kits back on the market. Not only are they priced right and simple enough for beginning modelers, but they are great for experienced modelers who want an easy project to clear their creative cobwebs.

My sincere thanks to Atlantis Model Company for this review sample!