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Valom B-45A Tornado

FineScale Modeler reviews the 1/72 scale plastic model aircraft kit

Never heard of the B-45 Tornado? You’re probably not alone. North American Aviation’s B-45 was the first U.S. Air Force jet bomber, entering service in 1948. Only 139 of them were built. They saw limited service, but a few reconnaissance RB-45Cs saw action in the Korean War.

Valom’s kit is a vast improvement over previous limited-run and vacuum-formed versions, but it is not state of the art either. The plastic parts have good recessed panel lines. Engine nacelles are molded to the upper and lower wing halves. The clear parts are nicely done but have raised framing to represent what is really interior bracing. Photo-etched (PE) details include slightly oversized control wheels, rudder pedals, oleo scissors, seat harnesses, and fins for the wingtip tanks. The decal sheet provides colorful markings for two B-45As.

The kit looks good in the box, but every plastic part needed cleanup along the mating surfaces. Even after cleanup, the fit was poor, a problem compounded by the assembly illustrations. The rough drawings don’t adequately illustrate the shape and positioning of most cockpit parts. With the lack of positive locating devices on the parts, I had to guess the locations of the pilot and copilot consoles and how they would fit to the floor and the fuselage side. Be prepared for a lot of trial and error.

I like the combination PE and photo-film instrument panels, but you won’t see them once the model is finished. The PE rudder pedals are nice, but I couldn’t figure out where they would attach. The worst part of assembly was wings. I liked the resin engine intake cones and exhaust pipes, but they must be super glued to the front and rear nacelle fairings. These fairings do not fit well to the main nacelles, so there was a lot of filling and sanding to smooth things over.

Then the wings fit poorly to the fuselage. I had to open the seams between the upper and lower wing halves at the root to get the wings to fit over the shallow tabs on the fuselage fairings. After gap-filling super glue and plenty of sanding, the wings’ fit was OK.

The kit includes several parts for other versions, but the instructions do not explain this. Wingtip fuel tanks are included, but few reference photos show B-45s with them. There’s an alternate pair of main landing-gear wheel faces, along with optional faired-over nose glazing and tail-turret compartment canopy. There is no tail turret or guns, just a solid fairing as seen in most photos.

The last hurdle was fitting the landing gear. Each main strut has a pair of support struts mounted to it. The instructions show this, but do not show how these support struts fit into the wheel wells. The kit designers forgot to mold a small nose-gear door, but the instructions provide a drawing for making the door out of sheet styrene.

I painted the model first with Tamiya gloss black spray can, then with several shades of Alclad II for the natural-metal finish. I masked around the canopy framing with Bare-Metal Foil and painted the reinforcements white.

The kit decals are well printed but tricky to handle — extremely thin and floppy, so use lots of water to keep them from stretching and tangling as you apply them. The national insignia on the wings are way too big, and the fuselage insignia have the wrong proportions.

So, not a smooth project — but it looks fine after a lot of work. I spent 42 hours on it. Valom has announced two more versions coming: The virtually identical B-45C and the reconnaissance RB-45C.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the November 2017 issue.
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