Tamiya 1/48 P-38F/G Lightning Kit First Look
|Date of Review||October 2019||Manufacturer||Tamiya|
|Kit Number||61120||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Beautiful engineering, nice details||Cons||See text|
|Skill Level||Experienced||MSRP (USD)||$80.00|
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 effects of approaching the speed of sound during dives.
The new reality of our hobby industry is secrecy, and for good reason. A decade or so ago, several kit manufacturers announced upcoming projects which meant that they were developing tooling and kits would follow some six or more months later. This was not only used to gauge how the market would react to such a kit subject, but to let other kit manufacturers know as it was still a courtesy not to step on one-another's projects. As kit manufacturers from China came online, they'd view such a kit announcement as an opportunity and strive to get their kit to market first. Unfortunately, some of these quick-response projects involved little or no time for any research and while those kits would indeed arrive on store shelves first, they were awful enough to keep buyers away from the quality release originally announced. While western kit manufacturers began to keep their kit release plans quiet, we began to see different Chinese companies racing one another to market while we grabbed the popcorn and watched.
Needless to say, Tamiya is one of those companies that went quiet with their projects until it was really too late for any competitor to respond. This was the case of their early P-38 Lightning project - rumors started to flow before this year's IPMS/USA National Convention and Tamiya USA had the kit on display at the show for all to gaze upon. The excitement hasn't diminished since the show and for very good reason - this is going to be the best P-38 kit available in any scale. The level of detail and attention to that detail is evident when you look inside the box. The kit is molded in gray styrene and presented on seven parts trees plus one tree of clear parts. While this isn't a multi-media kit, there are three hefty metal balls included in the box which Tamiya has engineered to fit inside the nose and at the front of both cowlings to allow this model to sit on its nosegear. As I was examining these metal balls, I could still hear my USAF drill instructor yelling at us during basic training about how we lacked military bearing, and now I have a complete set of military bearings on-hand for this project!
Among the features and options in this kit:
- Choice of P-38F or P-38G out of the box
- Beautifully detailed cockpit with instrument panel differences provided between the F and G models
- One-piece upper wing and nose is similar to other manufacturers' layouts, but this includes a large main spar to provide strength and alignment for the twin tail booms
- Molded-in cradles for the included ballast metal balls in the nose and nacelles
- Choice of F or G cockpit enclosures
- Choice of open or closed cockpit enclosures
- Paint masks included for the windscreen and enclosure segments
- Optional pilot figure
- Pilot's seat has restraint details molded in place
- Detailed avionics shelf behind the pilot
- Positional boarding steps
- Choice of F or G superchargers
- Nicely detailed wheel wells
- Detailed landing gear
- Interior and exterior surfaces of gear doors molded separately to provide nice detail without ejector pin marks and a nicely engineered method to attach the doors without the usual frustrations
- Choice of 150 and 300 gallon external tank loadouts
Markings are provided for two subjects:
- P-38G, 43-2264, 339 FS/347 FG/13 AF, 'Miss Virginia', Operation Vengeance attack on Admiral Yamamoto's aircraft, April 1943
- P-38F, unknown, 39 FS/35 FG/5 AF, Port Moresby, 1942
This is a beautiful kit and I pre-ordered two of them after what I saw at IPMS Nationals. I expect we'll be seeing a variety of aftermarket decal options coming soon, but I honestly like the two subjects in the box. Painting instructions are all rendered using Tamiya paints, which brings me to my only criticism of this release. While Tamiya produces paints to go with their kits and given the number of US WWII subjects that they've produced, I am surprised that they have not produced US camouflage colors in their acrylic line. They have these colors available - in spray cans! There are some small details with paint callouts that are only in spray cans. Really? Our WWII ANA colors are available here to find other options, if you wish.
This is going to be a great project, and given the layout of the kit, it will be a relatively easy model to prepare for bare metal whenever Tamiya released the later version(s) of the Lightning. Enjoy!
Here is a list of paints Tamiya identifies for use with this kit and the equivalent colors from other brands (Note: the first two colors are matches to the early war colors applied to USAAF aircraft, the remainder are the Tamiya-recommended colors):