|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Short run kit|
The Bell P-39 Airacobra was one of the principal American fighter aircraft in service when the United States entered World War II. The P-39 was used with great success by the Soviet Air Force, which scored the highest number of kills per pilot attributed to any U.S. fighter type. Other major users of the type include the Free French, the Royal Air Force, the United States Army Air Forces, and Co-belligerent Italian Air Force.
Designed by Bell Aircraft, it had an innovative layout, with the engine installed in the center fuselage, behind the pilot, and driving a tractor propeller via a long shaft. It was also the first fighter fitted with a tricycle undercarriage. Although its mid-engine placement was innovative, the P-39 design was handicapped by the absence of an efficient turbo-supercharger, limiting it to low-altitude work. Together with the derivative P-63 Kingcobra, the P-39 was one of the most successful fixed-wing aircraft manufactured by Bell.
In September 1940, Britain ordered 386 P-39Ds (Model 14), with a 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano-Suiza HS.404 and six .303 in (7.7 mm), instead of a 37 mm (1.46 in) cannon and six 0.30 in (7.62 in) guns. The RAF eventually ordered a total of 675 P-39s. However, after the first Airacobras arrived at 601 Squadron RAF in September 1941, they were promptly recognized as having an inadequate rate of climb and performance at altitude for Western European conditions. Only 80 were adopted, all of them with 601 Squadron. Britain transferred about 200 P-39s to the Soviet Union.
Another 200 examples intended for the RAF were taken up by the USAAF after the attack on Pearl Harbor as the P-400, and were sent to the Fifth Air Force in Australia, for service in the South West Pacific Theatre.
RS continues to produce some very welcome kits, though they have been doing aircraft that have already been kitted in the past. However, RS seems to have decided to do most of the variants not done by others, which makes these kits desirable to builders.
This one is a case in point. To my knowledge, no other injected kit of the P-400 has been done in this scale. The kit is a short run offering with finely engraved external detailing, somewhat excessive mold seams on all parts, ejector towers in large parts and sink areas in those bits that are thick. I also found several of the part mounting holes to be filled or too small so a set of drills will be required. As such, it is important to test fit every part prior to applying cement.
The kit comes with a very nicely done cockpit that includes a seat, control stick, rudder pedals, instrument panel, gun sight and nose gun breeches. The rear bulkhead with its clear window is included as is the shelf aft of the cockpit that usually has radios on it, but not in this case. This all fits atop the nose gear well. There is plenty of room in the nose for weight and I recommend packing it in as the Airacobra normally sits a bit tail low. As you would expect, there are clear doors, both with some interior detail. As a note, when you see period photos with the door open, it is usually the right side.
The kit provides separate wheel well inserts and I found it interesting that there are also wing intake sections to fit into the wing before closing these up. A note is that you are to open up a hole in the wing leading edge for the gun, but the aircraft has two guns in the wings and only one slot per side is provided in the moldings. Landing gear are well detailed and the instructions call for them to be painted chromate green. I think that the nose gear may have normally been painted the underside color. Two of the painting options apparently did not have the large main gear doors attached. The kit comes with ten propeller blades, but for this version, only three of them are used. For those wanting to do a later P-39 with the kit, well, RS has only included the P-400 type exhaust stacks with twelve per side. I assume that for other variants, those bits are on another sprue.
Instructions are well done with generic paint references. Six different schemes are provided, so there should be something for everyone. Data placement info is in the instructions with paint and other markings shown on the back of the box. First up is 'Hell's Bells' with the 67thy FS on Guadalcanal in 1942. This one is in RAF equivalent colors with white outer wing tips. In the same scheme is 'Pat' with the 35th FG in New Guinea during 1942. A Soviet version, also in RAF colors is from the 19th GIAP aircraft of Cpt. P. Kutakhov with a goodly number of kill markings on the rear fuselage. A rather anonymous aircraft based in Australia in 1943 is the third option. The second sharkmouth aircraft with a blue spinner and fin tip is an 80th FS plane in New Guinea in 1943. This and the overdone 'Airacutie' are in standard USAAF OD/Grey. The decals are very nicely done and should work quite well. A nice touch is the inclusion of the black wing walking markings.
I have built the Revell, Heller and Academy P-39s in this scale and found them all to be fairly good builds. This one seems to offer a slightly higher level of detail than the newest of the three from Academy and builds into a version that the others do not seem to have offered.
Thanks to me for picking this one up.
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