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Ju 88

Minicraft 1/144 KC-97G Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review May 2010 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject KC-97G Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14610 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple build, nice details Cons See text
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $24.95

First Look

Ju 88
Ju 88
Ju 88
Ju 88

It was becoming obvious that the fuel-hungry turbine engines would not allow these first generations of fighters and bombers to venture far from home base without a means to refuel them. In order for the new Strategic Air Command to get its jet fighters and jet bombers to support its global reach strategy, they turned to aerial refueling.

One technique, the 'probe and drogue,' involves reeling out a hose from the tanker and having the receiving aircraft 'plug' into a coupler at the end of the hose with a refueling probe mounted on the receiver. This technique was adopted initially by the USAF, universally by the USN and USMC, and is the most common type of air refueling around the world today.

The technique adopted by the USAF reversed the probe and drogue process. Instead of the probe being mounted on the receiving aircraft, it is mounted on the tanker. The receiver has a receptacle installed on the airframe that opens to allow the boom operator on the tanker to 'fly' the probe (or boom) to the receptacle and 'plug in'.

While many early USAF jet fighters were capable of boom or probe and drogue refueling, the bombers were dedicated to the boom. Supplementing the early KB-29 tankers, the Boeing KC-97 became the mainstay tanker for the USAF. One problem this early tanker faced was fuel. It had to carry sufficient gasoline to power its thirsty radial engines out to a designated refueling point somewhere in the world, loiter out there for however long it took to refuel a planned mission, then return to base. This doesn't sound too difficult for a long-range transport, but some of its fuel tanks had to be cut off and dedicated for JP4 (jet fuel) storage. If the tanker couldn't deliver sufficient fuel to cover all of the planned receivers (fighters and/or bombers), then there was no point in its existence. In addition to converting some of its internal fuel tanks for JP4 storage, additional cells were added to the cargo bay and in two external fuel tanks.

The KC-97G was a successful platform, but as the fighter aircraft becme supersonic, they were less tolerant of slow-speed flight and air refueling behind the KC-97G required some skillful slow-speed flight. Sometimes the tanker crew would have to toboggan the tanker (push over into a dive) to fly fast enough to allow some of the more challenging fighters to receive fuel.

Minicraft has reissued the KC-97 kit in 1/144th scale. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on five parts trees plus a clear transparent dome for the nose. This kit is engineered like most 1/144 airliner kits - no interior detail (not that you would see it if any was there), and ease of assembly. That said, this kit brings some features to make the model more flexible for different modeling projects.

Among the highlights of this kit:

  • Choice of gear-up and gear down
  • Positionable air refueling boom

The kit doesn't provide an interior so build-up of this will go faster, but you'll want to decide how to paint the blanked-out interior plates (black, dark blue, whatever).

The one minor bug with this kit was the blanks where the engines would be visible in the cowling openings. The other bug was the lack of de-icer boots on the propellers which make them visibly thicker nearer the hubs. Both of these bugs can be fixed with a detail set produced by Cobra Company.

Another issue is with the clear dome flight deck enclosure, it will need some work to fit correctly.

Profiles are provided for two examples:

  • KC-97G, 52-2728, MO ANG, mid-1060s
  • KC-97G, 53-0272, CA ANG, 1969

This is a simple kit that will provide a nice addition to your 1/144 scale flightline.

My sincere thanks to Minicraft Models for this review sample!