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Modelcollect B-52H Stratofortress

Problems plague the build of this 1/72 scale aircraft kit

Modelcollect’s sophomore aircraft effort is the much-anticipated B-52 Stratofortress. The model maker’s initial kit in the BUFF family was the B-52G. It had some obvious shape and detail problems that the manufacturer partially rectified with a correction kit. But let’s look at the follow-on H model.

Molded in soft gray styrene, the kit features improved forward and aft fuselage sections, a moderately detailed bomb bay with rotary weapons launcher, detailed crew compartments, and external pylons with AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles.

You can choose to open or close the gear and weapons bays, and separate parts are provided for raised or lowered flaps. Photo-etched (PE) parts provide the instrument panel and flight-deck consoles, and for the fins on the cruise missiles. Decals are provided for one aircraft.

Confession time: Workbench Review models are supposed to be built straight from the box, but I stretched that rule a bit by adding scratchbuilt antennas, doing minor surgeries, and by replacing decals.

Why? What was so wrong?

Where to begin . . . well, I’ll explain by going through the instructions step by step.

First, the 20-page, instruction booklet is tiny, just 8½- by 5-inches, with poor illustrations, tiny parts maps, tinier decal placement drawings, and it’s missing some major assembly steps. The description of the B-52 is a word-for-word lift from Wikipedia, including “disambiguation” remarks, and the uncensored F-word in BUFF.

The first seven steps concern the crew stations. The kit provides six ACES II seats, which are wrong for the B-52. You can save much time and effort by leaving out everything aft of the pilot and co-pilot’s seats, and the stations below deck; all of that will be invisible when the fuselage is closed. The PE panels are painted black with no detail. There are no positioning aids for installing the cockpit into the forward fuselage.

Step 8 has you install the cockpit windows. The main windscreen fits great, but the overhead windows need sanding to fit into the recesses. There are no panel lines to indicate the doors of the refueling receptacle just behind these windows. And there are no panel lines to define the late BUFF’s one-piece hinged nose cone.

Step 9 covers the landing gear. The poor illustrations and lack of positive locator devices on the complicated fuselage frames and bogies make alignment difficult.

Step 10 is the bomb bay. The fit of the individual rails on the rotary launcher is sloppy. You must bore holes in the bay’s ceiling to fit the pins on the launcher pylons (A21, A22). No weapons are provided for the launcher.

Steps 11-16 details the bays. Dry-fit the main gear doors and hinges for alignment.

Closing the fuselage in Step 17 revealed the scoops and vents on the right fuselage ahead of the gear bays weren’t right — missing were two NACA-style scoops. After painting, I “faked” them with “shadows” cut from black trim decal.

Step 18 doesn’t clearly show the position of the rear bomb-bay door retractor arms and there are no slots or holes for them.

Step 19 builds the rear fuselage. There is no rear bulkhead for the landing gear bay, and no locators for box E22. Don’t attach the gun (U15) as the weapon was removed from B-52Hs in the early 1990s.

Step 20 is the buildup of the 12 AGM-129 cruise missiles. Each of six identical sprues holds two missiles for the external pylon, plus a bonus missile that has plastic wings and fins that can be built in the deployed position. However, there is no way to display these in-flight missiles.

The missiles for the pylons have PE fins to be attached in the folded position. However, the fins are for AGM-86 missiles included in a separately available cruise-missile set from Modelcollect. Oops. Faced with no alternative, I attached the incorrect fins to the missiles. You have to look closely to see them anyway.

Steps 21-23 build up the engines and pylons. Caution: the sprues also provide nacelles and pylons for the engines on the B-52G. Don’t mix them up! Alternate open-nacelle detailed engines (two) are provided, but I chose to close all nacelles. The kit’s intakes are misshapen, so I used a grinding wheel on a motor tool to reduce the center bodies between the intakes. Keep track of the pylons; each is “handed” to fit the nacelles to the right or left wing.

Also, in Step 23 is the mounting of the wingtip tanks. An online video review of Modelcollect’s B-52s by Nigel’s Modelling Bench shows that the tanks are way too large — by my rough calculations, somewhere between 20% and 30% too big.

There are no directions to join the upper and lower wing halves in Steps 25 and 28, but naturally you’ll know to do this. Before you do, you’ll have to open holes in the lower wing halves for the missile pylons and tanks. While you are at it, you might want to open the missing rectangular vents in the leading edges at the roots.

The real trouble now is fitting the engine pylons to the wings. Each pylon has a tiny hole at the leading edge to fit the tiny pin on the pylon ridges molded to the upper wing halves. There are no other pins, tabs, or even lines to position the pylons. Tip: Point the trailing edge of each pylon at the third internal rib from outboard edge in the open-flap structures in the wings.

Steps 26 and 29 deal with the outrigger gear. The wheels don’t have the spoked-disc look of the real thing, the struts don’t fit cleanly in the wings, and the long strut doors (and bay openings) are too narrow.

Steps 27 and 30 show the flap installation. The kit provides lowered flaps with attachment arms. Molded with the flaps these arms are easily broken. When I attached the lowered flaps, I found the middle arm of each of the smaller outboard flaps interfered with one of the internal wing ribs. I just shaved the rib down to make ’em fit. Also included in the kit (but not mentioned in the instructions) is a set of raised flaps. Dry-fitting revealed they’ll need trimming on the edges to fit.

Step 31 joins the major subassemblies. The four fuselage pieces fit together OK, but the depth and breadth of the engraved panel lines varied among the segments.

Modelcollect attempted to reproduce the vortex generators on the wings’ inboard section. There should be 50 on each wing, but only 28 were molded, and many were chipped off in packaging. The “fingers” on the spoilers are molded too short and too far aft of the spoilers.

You add the fin and tailplanes in Step 32. The positioning of the separate electronics blisters on the fin are poorly shown in the ½-inch-square sub-panel illustrations. The tailplanes fit well to the stubs molded to the fuselage, but the fin was a bit wider than the stub it mounts on.

The wings did not fit well to the fuselage, requiring filling and sanding. There’s a little droop to the wings, but not enough to bring the outriggers to the ground.

Four small blade antennas are surreptitiously molded on Sprue V, but not shown in the instructions. I figured they are some of the belly antennas forward of the landing gear. Several other obvious antennas and electronic bumps are not provided and I felt they needed to be added. So, I drifted outside of the review guidelines. For these and more improvements, check out my article in Modeling Aircraft, a book coming soon from FSM.

I painted the bay interiors with Tamiya spray can white primer, and the exterior with Tamiya gunship gray 2 (FS36118). There’s little painting info in the instructions besides those colors. They have small labels for two Ammo by Mig Jimenez paints, one pointing to the exterior color diagram, the other just floating there.

The decals were printed by Cartograf, but all the insignias, wing-walk lines, and stenciling were printed in medium gray. All of my references showed these as black.

A small supplemental sheet provides codes, serials, and two versions of nose art for SAC Time. The decal’s BD tail codes are huge, measuring 75 scale inches tall, but should be 42 scale inches. These errors made me give up on the kit decals and use Caracal sheet No. 72058 with markings for the same SAC Time airframe.

So, is this the long-anticipated savior for those pining for the ultimate kit of the current BUFF? No. Beginners will be frustrated by the poor instructions and assembly problems. BUFF aficionados will see the accuracy troubles, and experienced modelers will find a way to make the necessary improvements. I spent better than 50 hours at it, a lot of time I shouldn’t have had to spend.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the July 2019 issue.
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