North American B-45 Tornado by Valom
Kit No. 72120
Decals: Two versions – both U.S. Air Force
Comments: Engraved panel lines, highly detailed cockpit, photo-etch details, film insert for main instrument panel, resin detail parts for jet intakes and exhausts, injection molded canopy and nose glazing
North American Aviation’s B-45 Tornado was the first American jet bomber to enter service with the U.S. Air Force, a distinction often mistakenly attributed to the Boeing B-47. It was also the first jet bomber capable of carrying an atomic bomb, and the first multi-jet reconnaissance aircraft to refuel in mid-air. Design of the Tornado began in 1944, spurred by reports of Nazi Germany’s development of such aircraft as the Arado Ar 234 jet bomber. Development of the XB-45 lost its urgency with the Allied victory in World War II, but it soon become a priority again as the Cold War began to take shape.
The straight wing design was basically a conventional WWII-era airframe, with the exception of twin jet engines beneath each wing in a single nacelle. The original J35 turbojets were replaced by more reliable J47 powerplants in production versions. The Plexigas nose featured a greenhouse frame, not too different from that of North American’s earlier B-25 Mitchell bomber.
The B-45 made its first flight on February 24, 1947. Entering service in 1948, it became an important part of America’s nuclear deterrent for several years, seeing front-line service with the Strategic Air Command from 1950 until its retirement in 1959. (Editor’s Note: The Boeing B-47 did not enter service until 1951).
The B-45A had a crew of four, was fitted with ejection seats and featured two .50 caliber machine guns as its only defensive armament in the tail. It was equipped with bombing navigation radar and an auto-pilot. The B-45B never entered production. The B-45C was a long-range variant fitted with wing tip tanks and an aerial refueling probe, making it the first multi-engine jet to be refueled in mid-air. The RB-45C was a dedicated photo-reconnaissance platform based on a modified B-45C. The bombardier’s compartment was faired over, and the plane was fitted with four cameras, extra fuel tanks, and an option for jet-assisted take-off rockets (JATO).
B-45’s saw action during the Korean War as both bombers and reconnaissance aircraft. During Operation Fandango, B-45’s were modified for potential nuclear strike missions. Despite the magnitude of the modifications project, plus ongoing problems with the early jet engines, nuclear-capable B-45s were sent to the United Kingdom in May 1952, with 40 aircraft deployed by mid-June. RB-45s of the 323rd Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron were also sent to in Japan to fly alongside the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, supplementing the World War II-era piston-engine RB-29s which had proved to be easy targets for North Korean MiGs. The RB-45s provided valuable intelligence throughout the remainder of the Korean War. RB-45Cs flew many daylight missions until early 1952, when they switched to night operations after an RB-45 was almost lost to a MiG-15.
Under Operation Ju-jitsu, in July 1951 four aircraft were leased to Britain from the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing to form a Royal Air Force (RAF) Special Duties Flight commanded by Squadron Leader John Crampton. Stripped of all USAF markings and painted with RAF markings, the four aircraft were attached to a USAF squadron based in RAF Sculthorpe, Norfolk in eastern England. These aircraft flew deep-penetration reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union to gather electronic and photographic intelligence. The Special Duties Flight conducted missions during the period 1952–54, until one aircraft piloted by Crampton was nearly lost over Russia on April 12, 1954 due to a combination of anti-aircraft fire and MiGs that had been scrambled to intercept. North American built 142 B-45s, including 10 long-range B-45Cs with wingtip fuel tanks and 33 RB-45Cs configured for high-altitude photo reconnaissance and aerial refueling.
Armament: Two .50-cal. machine guns in the tail and 22,000 lbs. of bombs
Engines: Four General Electric J47s of 6,000 lbs. thrust each
Maximum speed: 570 mph
Range: 1,000 miles
Ceiling: 37,550 ft.
Span: 89 ft.
Length: 75 ft. 4 in.
Height: 25 ft. 2 in.
Weight: 110,000 lbs. maximum
Valom’s North American B-45 Tornado is injection molded in light tan and consists of 105 injection molded parts, including 11 clear parts for the cockpit, nose glazing, and wingtip lights. There are also 8 resin detail parts for the jet intakes and exhausts. The most noticeable thing about the kit at first glance is its sheer size, for at 1/72 scale it is larger than expected – the fuselage is nearly a foot long at 11 7/8″, and you realize it was a significantly bigger airplane than its predecessor, the World War II era B-25.
There are engraved panel lines throughout the airframe, but the lines for the control surfaces are a bit heavy, reminescent of but not as pronounced as what you might find on a Matchbox kit. The larger clear parts feature crisply rendered raised framing, which should facilitate both masking and painting. The cockpit is very detailed with multi-part ejection seats, photo-etched seat belts and bomber-style control wheels, a photo-etched instrument panel with film insert, separate instrument panel hood, and separate sidewall parts featuring raised details. The cockpit and bombardier’s station form a single, arather detailed assembly, complete with bulkheads, a crawl space, sidewall details, and multiple levels of flooring. The detail makes one wonder if Valom got hold of an actual set of B-45 schematics, because the illustration of this assembly in the instructions looks like it’s for an Accurate Miniatures kit.
To top it off, illustrations are provided of the pilot’s and co-pilot’s views of their stations. This kit may not need a nose weight, since the weight of the assembly for the cockpit and forward bombardier’s cabin may be sufficient ballast, but if you can figure a way to sneak a weight under the bombardier’s floor, it may be a good idea as insurance.
There is no bomb bay, so the rest of the fuselage interior is bare. A large, central wing spar is cemented in vertically when the fuselage halves are joined, in what may be another nod to Accurate Miniatures. The upper and lower wing halves are molded with the nacelles as an integral part of the wing, which will save significant time as it avoids the need to break out the putty for seam-hiding. Some work along these lines may be needed for the jet intakes and exhausts, which are separate, well-molded parts with resin inserts that must be cemented onto the fore and aft sectons of the nacelles. The landing gear detail is fair, with well-detailed wheels, accompanied by tires devoid of tread of any kind. I am not sufficiently familiar with the B-45 to know whether this is accurate.
The decals are apparently in-house by Valom and are perfectly in register with realistic color and a professional, glossy finish. Markings are provided for two aircraft in an overall natural metal finish, the first being Serial No. 47-008 based at China Lake Naval Weapons Center in Nevada (no date provided). This aircraft has a red flash on the tail and the number “08,” with the bottom half of its nose directly beneath the glazing painted Insignia White, and dark grey anti-glare panels painted over the top of the engine nacelles with an Insignia White flash at the top of the tail. The second aircraft, Serial No. 47-009, is a machine of the 84th Bombardment Squadron, 47th Bomb Wing in 1952, and features black anti-glare panels with Trainer Yellow wingtips and a thin flash of the same color at the top of the vertical tail.
This is a long awaited updated version of the first jet bomber to serve with the U.S. Air Force and the Strategic Air Command, and looks clearly superior to the B-45 kit marketed by Mach 2. Highly recommended for its historical interest.