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RB-36 Kit

Hobbycraft 1/144 RB-36 SAC 'Big Eye' Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review February 2009 Manufacturer Hobbycraft
Subject RB-36 SAC 'Big Eye' Scale 1/144
Kit Number HC1274 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Interesting subject, nice detailing Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $52.00

First Look

RB-36 Kit
RB-36 Kit
RB-36 Kit
RB-36 Kit
RB-36 Kit
RB-36 Kit

The first prototype B-36 flew in mid-1946 and was the largest aircraft ever flown. Powered by six R4360 Wasp Major engines rated at roughly 3000 horsepower apiece. Later versions were rated at 3800 horsepower. Designed as a conventional strategic bomber, the B-36 could carry 86,000 pounds of bombs (the B-52 can carry roughly 70,000 pounds of bombs). The early prototypes struggled with the best way to move the aircraft on the ground without collapsing the existing runway/taxiway structures. The XB-36 had single-wheel main landing gears, but the tires were enormous. Experiments were undertaken with tracked landing gear to improve the ground footprint of the huge bomber, but ultimately a four-wheel main gear was adopted to provide the ideal footprint and a measure of safety should one of the tires go flat during take-off or landing.

Production B-36s entered service with the new Strategic Air Command, a branch of the new USAF charged with strategic bombing and delivery of nuclear weapons anywhere on the globe should the US be attacked. The B-36 would be the mainstay of the Strategic Aiir Command until two Boeing bombers, the B-47 and B-52 would come online and maintain the deterrence of aggression with the ability to fly non-stop anywhere in the world at higher airspeeds and with the help of air refuelling, both capabilities beyond the reach of the behemoth B-36. The B-36 was phased out of the USAF by 1959.

Hobbycraft Canada has re-released several of their B-36 Peacemaker variants including this one of the RB-36 'Big Eye'. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on sevel parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The detailing is engraved and nicely done.

The tooling was designed to render as many variants as possible with the least variations in parts, so some minor details (in this scale) such as tail gun layout might need to be corrected.

The kit has a rather nice cockpit for this scale and provides the pilot and copilot stations as well as the huge console for the flight engineer's station. Many of these details will be somewhat visible through the multitude of tiny windows on the cockpit dome.

This model depicts one of the RB-36 configurations with the four supplemental J47 turbine engines mounted in two outboard wing pods.

The kit has the various bumps and bulges that are unique to this reconnaissance variant. The instructions have you seal up the bomb bay and fill in a number of the panel lines that surround the bomb bay area. This is because the forward bomb bays were modified into a pressurized manned chamber where the reconnaissance gear was operated. These reconnaissance variants preceded the U-2 for clandestine over flight missions.

In this release, Hobbycraft has provided markings for three aircraft:

  • RB-36D-10-CF, 49-2688, acceptance flight markings
  • RB-36D-20-CF, 49-2701, 91 SRW

The kit also has markings for what is identified as RB-36E-10-CF '49-2020', which is a non-existent tail number. Interesting though that I've seen the photos of this aircraft with that very tail number. How can this be? SAC had an interesting practice years ago of changing the tail numbers of reconnaissance aircraft to confuse the air forces that would fly up to meet the aircraft as if flies along their borders.

The kit is nicely done and while it isn't a weekend project with the various mods required, it isn't a difficult project either and will make into a nice model of the B-36. If you want a distinctive variant, there's nothing like a good recce bird to fill that requirement.

My sincere thanks to Hobbycraft Canada for this review sample!