by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The P-40, in its various incarnations, served the many Air Forces throughout the Second World War and after. The P-40 saw action fighting in Europe, across Asia and in the deserts of North Africa. The first model to see active service, the P-40B proved to be an effective and tough low level fighter, the early versions single stage supercharger meant that as the aircraft flew higher, its power output diminished significantly. While not as manoeuvrable as the Japanese Zero, or as fast as the German Messerschmitt Bf109, the P-40 still prove a tough opponent. The P-40’s range was almost twice as much as the Spitfire and the Bf 109. Pilots liked the fact it could often get them home after sustaining heavy damage, as well as being able to inflict significant damage with its armament of six machine guns.
The’ Flying Tigers’, known officially as the 1st American Volunteer Group (AVG), were a unit of the Chinese Air Force, recruited from U.S. aviators. From late 1941, the P-40B was used by the’ Flying Tigers’ to support the Chinese when the Japanese invades China. They were divided into three pursuit squadrons, the "Adam & Eves", the "Panda Bears" and the "Hell's Angels".
Compared to opposing Japanese fighters, the P-40B's strengths were that it was sturdy, was extremely well armed, was faster in a dive, had a good range and possessed an excellent rate of roll. While the P-40s could not match the manoeuvrability of the Japanese Army air arm's Nakajima Ki-27s and Ki-43s, nor the much more famous Zero naval fighter in a slow speed turning dogfight, at higher speeds the P-40s were more than a match. AVG leader Claire Chennault trained his pilots to use the P-40's particular performance advantages. The P-40 had a higher dive speed than any Japanese fighter aircraft of the early war years, for example, and could be used to exploit so-called "boom-and-zoom" tactics. The AVG was highly successful, and its feats were widely-published, to boost sagging public morale at home, by an active cadre of international journalists. According to their official records, in just 6 1/2 months, the Flying Tigers destroyed 297 enemy aircraft for the loss of just four of their own (in air-to-air combat).
Airfix have hinted that this new tooling is based on the P-40B based at the Imperial War Museum [IWM] Duxford and regularly features at the Flying Legends Shows.
The box is end opening with a rather evocative image of two P-40’s strafing a Japanese airfield, while a pilot of a Zero is gallantly taking off amongst the explosions in hot pursuit. The rear of the box has colour views of the port and starboard side profiles and upper and lower plan views of the subject of this kit. There is also a head on view of the prop and spinner.
Inside the box is:
-2 x light grey plastic sprues.
-1 x transparent sprue.
-1 x A3 double sided sheet of instruction.
-1 x small sheet of decals.
The plastic grey sprues are contained in a thick clear plastic bag and the transparent sprue is wrapped separately.
Cockpit: features very good low relief details on the side walls of the cockpit, including cables, fuse boxes and a throttle lever. The cockpit floor attaches to the lower wing, which means the fuselage halves can be assembled before attaching the floor. Airfix have captured the shape of the floor very well, in that rather than being flat, the floor is slightly curved, following the shape of the aerofoil section that the floor rests on. The walls of the pilot’s seat would benefit with some thinning of the plastic. There are no harnesses to go with the seat. The control stick looks the job and I like the fact that the rudder pedals have been incorporated with the instrument panel. The instruments themselves are represented by a decal. The rear bulkhead behind the pilot’s seat is partly moulded in both fuselage halves. This will leave a bit of a seam showing once the fuselage halves are join. The seam will be partially covered by the seat and the head rest. Interior is painted mainly interior green. A pilot figure is included.
Glazing: the windscreen and canopy are one piece. There is a deep recess between the canopy and the windscreen giving the impression that the canopy is very slightly open. The two rear glazed areas are separate, the port side glazing correctly features two holes for accessing the fuel tanks. There is a slight stress fracture around one of the holes. The clarity of the plastic is superb and the frames have very good definition. Also on the clear plastic sprue is a landing light lense.
Fuselage: When I first saw the parts to build up the fuselage on the sprues I thought hmmm that looks a bit fiddly. But no, Airfix have looked at the quiet complex contours of the upper nose and the radiator chin and quiet rightly decided to produce them as separate pieces. They have done a great job recreating the appearance of these areas. The ducting for the glycol coolant and the oil radiators on the chin are very nicely done. For the rear of the radiator chin Airfix have supplied two sets of radiator flaps, one open, and the other closed. The single stage supercharger air inlet on top of the nose also looks good with the hollow entrance. The two machine gun fairings flanking the supercharger air inlet are also nicely shaped. There is a bit of a seam that runs radially across the gun and air inlet fairings that needs cleaning up. The guns nozzles don’t appear to match on my sample, there is a loss of detail on the starboard nozzle. If you have a steady hand, the nozzles would benefit from drilling out. On the subject of drilling out the two separate rows exhaust pipes would also benefit.
The fuselage is split vertically, the whole of the fin is attached to the starboard fuselage and the rudder is separate. The rudder has very delicate detail suggesting that it is fabric covered. The washout around the wing roots looks very good. I also like the appearance of the canopy rails and the two fuel filler caps which are located inside the rear glazing on the port side. The recessed panel lines look good, some may be a bit unhappy about their depth. Not sure about the moulded radio aerial, it looks like an excellent candidate to be the first thing to be broken off.
Wings: come in three parts, a one piece lower wing with the dihedral angle set. The upper wing comes in two parts. The one piece lower wing has the four wing mounted guns moulded onto it. Again the clever design of this kit comes to the fore in that the duct that runs along the lower fuselage is moulded onto the lower wing and fits beautifully into the rear of the radiator chin. The rear of the duct partially covers the seam of the lower rear fuselage. The main undercarriage bays and fairings are nicely done, as is the roof of the bays. The roof detail is formed on the inside of the upper wings displaying some nice low relief detail. The lower wings don’t have any tips or ailerons on them; these are moulded entirely on the upper wings. The ailerons like the rudder have a slight hint that they are fabric covered. As with the fuselage the recessed panel lines are very well done.
The stabilisers are both one piece with a decent stub on both parts that will make for a very positive fit.
Undercarriage: there are different parts on the sprues for displaying the undercarriage either up or down. For displaying the undercarriage down, there are separate oleos and doors for the main undercarriage. The oleos have moulded on torque links as well as some unusually shaped rectangular axels, not that you will see the shape of the axles once the wheels are attached. The wheels have separate hubs on their outer surfaces. The tyres are flattened to simulate the weight of the aircraft on the tyres. The tail wheel and the oleo are one piece and have good definition and will look good with some careful painting and highlighting. The open doors come in one piece and include the roof of the tail wheel bay.
For wheels retracted Airfix have simplified things by having each of the main oleos and undercarriage doors moulded in one piece. Also there is only half of the main wheels and they are unweighted. Nice touch. As the tail wheel retracts all you need to do is fit the one piece doors in the closed position.
Props: the three bladed propeller unit is moulded in one piece. The spinner and spinner rear plate are separate items. The blades of the props look very thin to my eyes. The tip of the spinner could do with sharpening a little as it appears a bit blunt.
Markings: Just the one set with this release, that of the mount of Flight Leader Charles L Older, of the Third Squadron, American Volunteer Group based at Kumming, China, 1942. The aircraft is painted camouflage grey on the under surfaces, while the upper surfaces have a disruptive camouflage scheme of US dark green and US light earth. Although the colour references are for Humbrol paints, Airfix supply the approximate Du Pont reference numbers for the three camouflage colours.
Decals: look excellent, colour depth and definition look spot on. There is minimal carrier film around each decal. There are some tiny stencils featured on the sheet and signs such as ‘hands off’, ‘no step’ and ‘jack here’ are perfectly legible despite their size. This particular aircraft is numbered 68 and features a red band around the fuselage just forward of the stabilisers. Also featured on both sides of the fuselage is ‘the flying tiger’ motif and a red painted female figure just in front of the windscreen. Of course this would not be a ‘Flying Tigers’ aircraft without their trade mark sharks teeth and eyes around the radiator fairing. The wheel hubs have some distinctive pattern work on them. There are decals for the manufacturer labels on the propeller blades.
Dry fit: as you can see from the images the fit is very good. I used Tamiya tape to hold the kit together, so some of the gaps are exaggerated. I suspect when glue and clamps are used very little filler will be required. I am very impressed with the fit and the overall appearance of the kit, Airfix seem to have captured the lines very well. I will leave the P-40 experts to knick pick over the details.
As I say I am very impressed with this brand new tooling from Airfix. A lot of thought has gone into the design and fit of the parts and they have come up with an excellent. Kit. Construction looks very straight forward and the small number of parts, 47 in total, will see this kit completed very quickly. This will be a good kit for both novice and experienced modellers alike. Nicely done Airfix, nicely done.