Hobbycraft 1/144 GRB-36 'Ficon'




$39.95 MSRP


One aircraft


Scott Van Aken


Includes RF-84K and XF-85


Undoubtedly the most impressive bomber ever produced by the US was the B-36. It not only was huge, but the sound of six prop and (on later models) four jet engines was something that just had to be heard to be believed. When nearing the end of its usefulness as a bomber (that job taken over by the B-52), many B-36s were put into the reconnaissance role. Surely one of the more unusual recce versions was the GRB-36. This plane was host to a specially modified RF-84F that had downward canted horizontal tail surfaces (like an F-4 Phantom IIs) and a special hook in the upper nose. This aircraft was to be carried aloft by the B-36 and when within range, was to dash over the enemy lines, snapping pictures all the way. Upon completion of the mission, the RF-84K (as the modified RF-84F was called) then returned to the B-36 that was flying circles well out of interception range. The duo then was to return to base where the photos would be analyzed.

Today we'd think that this was a bit of a hare-brained idea, but in the 50's it was a solution to long range reconnaissance. In fact, the combination was operational with the348 SRS/99 SRW for a time until deemed obsolete as the U-2 was able to perform a similar task with its high flights and excellent cameras. Those RF-84Ks that were surplus were passed along to the ANG, with many of them serving with the 107 TRS of the Michigan ANG. Your editor modified a Heller 1/48 RF-84F  as one of these planes many years ago.


 What you have here is your basic Hobbycraft B-36 minus some bits and with a few added on. What is missing are the gun turrets that were on the earlier bomber versions of this kit. What is new with this kit from the first one are the jet engines and pods. The bits different from the other two releases are the F-84K, XF-85 and trapeze mechanism. Down side is that unless you build the kit wheels up, you can't extend the trapeze. Unfortunately, no display stand is provided so you are sort of out of luck right from the box. You can do this kit wheels down with the aircraft snuggled into the bomb bay, but that sort of defeats most of the cool of this boxing. If you do build it wheels down, make sure you fill the nose with as much weight as you can stuff in there. The kit instructions don't even mention weights, but I'll bet it is a heck of a tail-sitter without it!

The kit itself is typical of newer Hobbycraft kits. It is well designed and offers a lot of detail for a plane of this size. There is a pretty well detailed cockpit with crew stations for the pilot, navigator and flight engineer. As I've already mentioned, you can build the plane gear up if you wish. The trapeze can also be built raised or lowered. Interestingly, the rudder is a separate part, though I'm not really sure just why that is the case. Of course, you also get a nice RF-84K, which can be built wheels up or down as you choose. An XF-85 is also included. This plane never flew from a B-36, but it was originally designed as a parasite fighter for this aircraft. A ground handling trolley is provided. It has to be one of the smallest 1/144 jet aircraft ever molded. One thing missing from the F-85 is folding wings. It was planned that the wings would be folded and then they'd extend when the plane was lowered out of the bomb bay on the trapeze. Nonetheless, it is nice that this plane was included with the kit. There is also a full bomb bay door provided should you wish to do a 'normal' B-36.

Instructions are still the weakest portion of a Hobbycraft kit. They are improved over the earlier ones, but still have a bit to go. One improvement in this sheet is that there are a couple of photos of the completed trapeze in the raised and lowered position. No color info is given other than aluminum (duh!!). There are 17 construction steps with four of them for the fighters. Decals are provided for generic aircraft. No special unit markings other than a SAC badge for the B-36. This isn't unusual as the 71st SRW was a rather bland unit with no real color to their aircraft. The decal sheet is large and should work well. Much of the sheet is taken up with wing walk stripes for the B-36 and a separate placement sheet is provided for those. The rest of the decal and painting guide is on the back of the box. This gives me a chance to talk about the box. It sucks. Though made of nice strong cardboard, it is a giant version of the much hated end-opening boxes. That means that once you take parts out of the bag, they are free to drift around in the box and disappear out the small cracks and openings in the end. A kit of this size and complexity needs a normal box with a top and a bottom. I do hope Hobbycraft/Academy is paying attention to this as the current trend is not appreciated at all.



OK, I've whined a bit about some things regarding the kit. However, I don't want that to overshadow that fact that this is a nice kit of an important aircraft and in a scale that has a better chance of being built than Monogram's 1/72 version! The real bonus is the ability to do the very interesting Ficon version. This must be a popular kit as it took nearly three months from the time I ordered (and paid) for it until it arrived at my door. It is a kit that I seriously hope I'll be able to find the time and opportunity to build. kit courtesy of my kit collection.

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