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YB-49 Kit

Italeri 1/72 YB-49 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2009 Manufacturer Italeri
Subject YB-49 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 1280 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Reissue better than original Cons
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $71.95

First Look

YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit
YB-49 Kit

Aviation pioneer Jack Northrop had a vision - to create aircraft that were simply flying wings, eliminating the fuselage and tail. Inspired by the research of the Horten brothers in Germany before the US entered World War Two, Northrop designed and flew the N-1M.

After the US entered the war, military planners were concerned that they would lose the forward operating bases in the UK should Britain fall to the Germans. Contracts were let to Consolidated for the B-36, and extended to Northrop for the B-35. Both bombers were to have a 10,000 mile range to allow for strategic bombing missions to be flown from the US. Before Northrop could proceed with the B-35, he built and flew the N-9M scale prototype to prove that the flying wing concept was feasible.

When the B-35 did fly, it was plagued with a number of technical problems not the least of which were the aircraft's inability to meet the airspeed and range requirements. Furthermore, the counter-rotating propellers were causing vibration problems and the complex exhaust plumbing was even more troublesome. With the approaching jet age nearly upon them, the B-35 program was cancelled, but the concept was recycled into the B-49.

Two B-35s were re-engined and updated into the jet-powered B-49. Powered by the Allison J35, the B-49 experienced numerous engine problems that other development aircraft also experienced with this engine. Nevertheless, the jet-powered flying wing had more promise than its piston-powered cousin and flight testing continued until a fatal crash of the second prototype during spin testing. By that time, it was apparent that the bomb bay would not accommodate the new atomic bombs and its thick wing would preclude higher-speed flight. The program was cancelled in favor of the B-36. It wasn't until many decades later that the concept would return and the Northrop flying wing would finally reach operational status with the production of the B-2 Spirit.

Here is Italeri's re-release of the AMT/ERTL YB-49 kit in 1/72nd scale. For those of us who remember the YB-35 and YB-49 kits released by AMT/ERTL, these were really nicely molded kits with scribed panel lines and nice detailing.

The only real problem with these kits also plagued most of AMT/ERTL's other releases - their styrene. While smaller models didn't have a problem with AMT/ERTL's soft plastic, larger subjects like the 1/72 KC-135, B-52, and these flying wings would experience wing sag as the completed models would succumb to gravity over time. With the Italeri release of this kit, Italeri ran their own brand of styrene through these molds and the result should be far more resistant to sagging.

This kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on 10 parts trees, plus a single tree of clear parts. The kit really has some nice details in this box.

The cockpit tub is a complete flight deck with stations for the pilot, copilot, flight engineer, bombardier, and forward gunner. A smaller section is also set up for the rear gunner's station. You may not see all of that detail through the various domed canopies, but it is there.

The instructions have you assemble the outer wing sections and then slide them onto large stubs on either side of the center section. Even with the stronger styrene in this kit, I think I might assemble the wing bottom as one complete unit and run longer spars of Plastruct or Evergreen styrene shapes to make for a stronger wing, then repeat the process for the upper wing sections before assembling the top and bottom halves together.

Before you do assemble the wing halves, you might want to put some ballast on either side of the cockpit as it looks like the model will be close to being tail-heavy (if it had a tail).

The landing gear and small vertical stabilizers round out the assembly process.

I remember seeing one of these models at the IPMS/USA contest in Albuquerque 1995 at the Alclad table where someone had painted different shades of Alclad into the various wing panels. The results were stunning!

The kit has markings for one of the two YB-49 prototypes which include a nice set of walkway lines and selected stencils.

I really like these unique subjects and while the MSRP gave me pause given the age of this tooling, it has been on the street long enough that you can find some bargains out there. Of course you could simply acquire one of the original AMT/ERTL releases at the kit swaps, but good luck with that soft plastic.