by: Darren Baker [ ]
IntroductionThe P-61 Black Widow was one of the largest fighter aircraft to see service during World War 2, a twin engine fighter of a size more akin to a medium bomber of the period. Designed at the request of the British for a twin engine night fighter; twin engine to allow the nose to be filled with a radar. The P-61 as far as I can ascertain never actually got into the hands of the Royal Air Force, but it did see service in the UK to intercept and shoot down the V-1 flying bombs with the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron.
When HobbyBoss announced they were getting ready to release a P-61 model a number of people said why? What’s wrong with the P-61’s available from Great Wall Hobby? Well I do not see any issue with this, and I am more than happy to see another company tackle the P-61. A big plus with HobbyBoss tackling this aircraft for me, is their habit of releasing all of the various versions of the aircraft that flew and so more P-61’s are likely in the pipe line from HobbyBoss.
ContentsThis impressive sized model from HobbyBoss is packaged in a small box for its size, about 16inches long. The box has a cardboard tray and lid which should protect the model parts against reasonable handling by the postal services, an important consideration in these days of internet shopping rather than using the local model shop. Inside the box you will find;
9 light grey sprues
2 engine cowlings
A clear sprue
A clear nose cone
6 white metal parts
2 decal sheets
A painting and decal application sheet
An instruction booklet
First ImpressionsFirst impressions are good as all of the injection moulded plastic parts are very cleanly cast with no obvious issues that I can see, there are some areas where detail has been removed from the moulds, and these reworked areas show on the castings as they don’t have the same texture as the surrounding area. I am also pleased to see white metal parts included in order to prevent the model from being a tail sitter and this also removes the guess work when it comes to weighting the aircraft via other means. I do have some concerns about the decals and finishing options which I will cover in more detail later.
CockpitThe cockpit is very good as it matches up with my reference very well. Details such as the main instrument panel are very accurately depicted as is the general layout of the area. The side wall panel and radar operators station are missing a lot of detail that should be there, but these areas will meet the needs and expectations of the general modeller. The control columns are quite nicely depicted as at the seats, but there is no harness detail present.
UndercarriageThe wheel wells have some nice rib detail present which will give the super detailers amongst us a basis to improve upon. The wheels are nicely detailed and will look the part, but the tyres do not have any weighted detail provided. The wheel struts are also quite good on the detail front, but brake line detail has been left up to the modeller to add. The detail provided on the inside faces of the wheel bay doors will again meet the needs of many modellers and could be further enhanced by those that like to get the extra mile.
CanopyThe various clear parts provided for canopies are excellent when it comes to both clarity and accuracy, I checked the canopy detail against my reference and while I am no expert I did not find any accuracy problems.
EnginesThe engine detail provided only really consists of the radial piston detail on a disc; however the detail is very good in my opinion. The propellers look to accurately match my reference and I see no issues of note.
FuselageThe fuselage general shape and major panel details are for the most part well replicated, the panel lines being finely engraved. There is unfortunately a lot of detail missing such as the two furthest back spent ammunition port. The fuselage has a light texture present making the finish appear silky, this has highlighted areas of the moulds that have been worked on and so resulting in a finish that may show after paint has been applied. The omitted turret shows no sign on the body where the hole would be sealed, the P-61 A versions I have looked at indicated that the turret hole would have a circular disc placed over it and that disc is clearly visible on the aircraft, that is not the case for later aircraft versions that were built with the hole removed. I have to admit to being a little disappointed in this aspect of the model however if you build without checking reference you will never know.
The booms are much better than the fuselage detail wise which is for the most part only missing the finer rivet detail of the real aircraft. There are a couple of major panel details missing but you will need to look very closely to point them out, they are between the wing root and engine cowlings. I would have liked to have had some say over the position of the flight surfaces which are fixed, I do not mean workable but as separate parts.
Flight SurfacesThe wing have quite good detail overall, with the recessed panel lines where the engines join with the wing being the only inaccurate detail I was able to find. The wing profile looks to match my reference well including the ailerons on the trailing edge of the wing tip, which if I have got my understanding correct is an identifier for early P-61 aircraft. The two radiators in the leading edge of both wings are a nice detail supplied as separate parts in this model and are a nice touch. The horizontal tail plane suffers from some questionable panel line detail at least that is the case when compared to my reference material.
WeaponsIn addition to the cannons in the belly of the P-61 you get some interesting options with this kit. There is the option of bombs and rockets with this model, which is a little unusual in that I have not seen these mounted on the P-61 in my reference. Regardless the detail of the rocket pods is very good and will likely catch the eye. The bombs will be all but hidden if used as they are mounted between the fuselage and the booms. The drop tanks supplied with the kit do look good, but I will say I prefer the look of the P-61 with clean lines.
DecalsHobbyBoss have supplied decals for two aircraft with this model, they are;
US Air Force, 422nd Night Fighter Squadron, P-61 A-5-NO ‘Jukin Judy’ 25564(42-5564)
US Air Force, 421st Night Fighter Squadron, P-61 A-1-NO ‘Skippy/Nocturnal Nemesis, 25502(42-5502)
I have two problems with the decals in this offering; firstly the colour register of the US stars is way out, unless you know something I don’t. Secondly ‘Skippy’ in my reference is shown as a turreted P-61 which this kit cannot depict.
InstructionsThe instruction booklet supplied with this kit is pretty much idiot proof. None of the stages are complicated and so should not catch anybody out as you follow through the 18 stages construction. The low number of stages tells you that parts count is relatively low for such a large model.
ConclusionLooking at this model from my own point of view I am happy with the finish I can expect to achieve. None of the low points of the model deter me and I would happily pay the £36.99 price of this kit, but the decals are a big disappointment to me. I really approve of the white metal parts included in the model in order that the aircraft sits correctly when finished.
Reference usedNorthrop P-61 Black Widow by MBI
P-61 Black Widow in Action by Squadron
P-61 Black Widow Units of World War Two