Minicraft 1/144 B-1A Bomber Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||July 2010||Manufacturer||Minicraft|
|Kit Number||14595||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Simple build, nice details||Cons||Nothing noted|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||$29.95|
In the early 1960s, US strategic bombardment was centered around the B-52 Stratofortress for long-range options, the B-58 Hustler for medium-range supersonic delivery, and the B-47 Stratojet. In those days, high-speed/high altitude bombers were the focus of development and the subsonic B-52 was destined to be replaced with the Mach 3 B-70 Valkyrie. When Francis Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union from his previously impervious perch on the edge of space, the surface-to-air missile became THE game-changer for strategic bombardment. The Strategic Air Command was re-tooled for high-speed/low altitude penetration of enemy defenses.
At low altitude, the Mach 2 B-58 was a subsonic bomber with limited range. The B-70 was also impractical for low level operations, so it was cancelled. The B-52 would soldier on until another replacement could be fielded. Development was started on a new tactical bomber that could operate above Mach 2 at altitude and could fly safely at very low levels above Mach 1. This new bomber was the B-1A. By this time, the B-58 had been replaced by the FB-111A which could also operate at very low altitudes above Mach 1.
Rockwell developed a variable geometry winged platform that featured advanced flight control systems that not only could perform automatic terrain following like the FB-111A, it could also dampen out turbulence to make low-level flight more comfortable for the crew. Powered by four F101 engines, the B-1A could easily penetrate enemy defenses at low-level speeds that enemy interceptors of the day could not achieve. In the event of an emergency, the entire four-place cockpit would rocket away from the aircraft before the crew capsule would be lowered safely by parachute to the ground, similar to the FB-111 (and F-111 series). While development of the B-1A was progressing well in most aspects, then-president Jimmy Carter cancelled the B-1A program as a unilateral disarmament gesture to the Soviets.
Minicraft has reissued their B-1A kit in 1/144 scale. Molded in light gray styrene, this kit is presented on two parts trees plus a single tree of clear parts.
Construction of the kit is simple, though the AMS modeler will want to tweak up some of the details. The main fuselage is molded in upper and lower halves with the movable wings trapped in-between.
The engine nacelles have engine faces at the end of each duct though there is no ramp detail inside.
The kit has positionable landing gear as well as a crew entry door and ladder.
The kit does provide a basic front cockpit (crew seats) as you won't see the rear crew stations when the model is assembled. The cockpit enclosure is molded as a clear part so you can mask the windows and blend the crew capsule into the fuselage without worrying about the windows.
Markings are provided for two examples:
- B-1A, 76-0174, B-1B test program, AFFTC, 1982
- B-1A, 76-0174 as it currently appears at the US Air Force Museum
This is a nice kit that will go together nicely and provide a quick project to add to your scale flightline. This is another nice installment in Minicraft's growing line of 1/144 scale aircraft.
My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!