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P-38 Kit

Minicraft 1/144 P-38J/L Lightning Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review March 2010 Manufacturer Minicraft
Subject P-38J/L Lightning Scale 1/144
Kit Number 14617 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple kit Cons Nothing noted
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $8.95

First Look

P-38 Kit
P-38 Kit
P-38 Kit
P-38 Kit

The P-38 Lightning started life as the Lockheed Model 22, the inspiration of a young engineer by the name of Clarence "Kelly" Johnson, who would later become Lockheed's chief engineer. The Army issued a 1935 requirement for an interceptor aircraft that could fly over 360 mph at 20,000 feet, fly at full throttle for over an hour, carry twice the armament of current aircraft, and still operate from relatively short runways. Johnson's XP-38 had a top speed of 417 mph at 20,000 feet, a range of almost 1,400 miles, and could climb to 20,000 feet in an impressive (for that time) 4.5 minutes.

The P-38 would grow and improve through operational experience. The Luftwaffe dubbed the aircraft "The Fork-Tailed Devil" due to their encounters with the Lightning. The Lightning was so fast that compressibility flaps had to be added to late-model Lightnings to counter the adverse affects of approaching the speed of sound during dives.

With its twin engines and long range, the P-38 was a natural for the Pacific theater. The P-38J would become the high-altitude workhorse of both theaters. Carrying a wide variety of air-to-ground armament, the P-38J Lightning was a true 'swing fighter' able to sweep the skies of enemy aircraft and tackle ground targets as well. The P-38L was the final production version of the Lightning that standardized rocket loads with Lockheed's new five-round "Rocket Tree" in addition to other avionics updates. A total of 3,924 P-38Ls were produced before production was halted with the end of the war.

Minicraft has released the P-38J/L Lightning in 1/144 scale with this release being a reissue of the Crown tooling. The kit is molded in light gray styrene and presented on three parts trees plus one clear canopy.

The tooling is laid out to be a quick and easy build with no cockpit underneath the canopy. You ave a choice of building the kit gear down or gear up. If you do build the kit gear down, you will need to add ballast to the nose to keep the model from sitting on its tail.

Two sets of spinners are provided, one set with propeller blades for a parked aircraft, the other with no propeller blades should you want your aircraft posed with its engines running.

A pair of external tanks are provided.

Markings are provided three examples:

  • P-38L, 42, 49 FG, Philippines, 1944
  • P-38J, R-MC, 20 FG, England, 1944, 'Gentle Annie'
  • P-38L, 15, 24 FS, Panama, 1944

This is a nice kit that will go together quickly and provide a colorful addition 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!