The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, named for the American spider, was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during World War II. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.
Although not produced in the large numbers of its contemporaries, the Black Widow was effectively operated as a night-fighter by United States Army Air Forces squadrons in the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the China Burma India Theater and the Mediterranean Theatre during World War II. It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available. After the war, the P-61 served in the United States Air Force as a long-range, all weather, day/night interceptor for Air Defense Command until 1948, and Fifth Air Force until 1950.
On the night of 14 August 1945, a P-61B of the 548th Night Fight Squadron named "Lady in the Dark" was unofficially credited with the last Allied air victory before VJ Day.
History adapted from Wikipedia
Although the box had been damaged in transit, the sprues in their bags were still pristine. The moulding is very crisp, corners are sharp and the relief in the cockpit parts such as radio boxes is nice and deep. There is no need to resort to aftermarket detail for this kit. I couldn't find one bit of flash on any of the numerous sprues and the surfaces are highly polished.
The fuselage pod is moulded in left and right halves. The cockpits are nice and busy, with sharp detail. Seat belts are provided on the brass etched fret, a nice detail. Details which were moulded in bas-relief in the classic Monogram kit are provided separately, as is the “dustbin” portion of the upper turret, even though it will be almost impossible to see once the fuselage is closed up. The 20mm cannon are nicely detailed and will look good in place, but the gun bay is a trifle bare if the door(s) are left open. Some extra detailing will go a long way in there. The radar is provided in 6 parts plus its mounting brackets, and ought to be visible behind the frosted radome except for the fact that both of the marking options offered have painted over radomes. The cockpit details are nicely busy, and topped off by the instrument panel which gets 26 separate instrument decals to set it off. A certain amount of care here will pay off once everything is finished. The canopies remain unchanged from the second issue of the kit, retaining their inaccurate 'kinked' upper line in plan view. Vector offers accurately shaped clear resin replacements
meant for the Monogram kit but which will fit this one. Paper masks are provided for the canopy. Reports from builders using these for the Devastator
suggest that the adhesive is not sufficient to hold them in place over highly-curved areas. They might better be replaced by masking tape.
The wings are provided in the traditional top and bottom halves. Each half has some nice ribs moulded into the inside to keep the wings from drooping. Even though the plastic is rather thick, there are no traces of sink marks to be seen. Each upper half has recesses provided for the unique spoilerons which the Black Widow used, but unhappily they are not accurate as provided. They were actually curved perforated scoops which rotated up out of the wing, not spoilers as the kit provides. Given that they were hardly ever extended on the ground, gluing them flush solves the problem. They might even be replaced with plastic card for better effect. Separate ailerons are provided, but since they were hardly ever seen deflected they might as well ought to be glued in the neutral position. The fabric detail is a trifle overstated, but can be cured by a little sanding. The flaps are separate and are designed to be movable if the builder so wishes.
After the errors of their first release, GWH corrected the reduction gear housings by adding the parts to the fuselage sprue. Each housing is provided in halves, with separate magneto housings to glue onto the upper surface. Two complete engines are provided, with brass ignition harnesses. Separate cowl flaps are offered, for open or closed flaps. The exhaust manifolds are incorrect, and the cowl flaps should have supplemental flaps behind each gap. The simplest way to avoid these problems is to fit the closed flaps. There is an etched grille which covers a vent behind and below the engine which ought to have its inner third covered by a moulded cover which is not provided in the kit. They are well illustrated by this image
. The picture also shows another inaccuracy. The partially open flap which Great Wall provide behind the grille does not exist. Instead, the area has an oval access panel. The flap ought to be sanded flush and the access panel scribed in its place.
Separate control surfaces are provided for both rudders and elevator. The fabric detail is again a little heavy-handed, but it's easy enough to sand down to a more realistic profile. Care should be taken to ensure that the stabiliser is glued squarely to the booms to prevent the model from twisting.
The main wheels have moulded in flats to show the weight of the aircraft. The nose wheel does not, but it will be a simple matter to sand a flat in once the wheel is glued together. The mud flap is supported only by a piece of photoetch. It may be quite fragile, so it ought to be left to the last possible moment before gluing. The main gear wells could use a little extra detailing, such as a bulkhead to close off the aft end, and perhaps some hydraulic piping, control boxes and the like.
I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like a Black Widow.
Decals and Markings
Markings are provided for “Lady in the Dark”, the last allied aircraft to score an air-to-air victory in the Second World War. Also provided is “Anonymous III/The Spook” from the same squadron, 548th NFS based on Iwo Jima in the summer of 1945. The painting guide shows that both of these aircraft were looking very tired and faded, which will be a challenge to reproduce convincingly.
Kit No. L4802
Kit No. L4806. This kit corrects the first issue's shortcomings and provides different marking options.
Kit No. 4810 unboxing video.
Kit No. 4802 build feature.
Replacement propellers and cowlings
by True Details (A second review of this set
Eduard's colour photo-etched upgrades
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