Northrop N-3PB by MPM

1/72 scale
Kit No. 72038
Cost: $24.99
Decals: Two versions, both of No. 330 Squadron RAF (Norwegian), based at Iceland
Comments: Injection molded plastic with engraved panel lines, detailed radial engine; photo-etch details and film instruments; vacuform canopy

History

The Northrop N-3PB floatplane patrol-bomber was the first aircraft to be produced by the independent Northrop Aircraft Inc. after its foundation in 1939. It was a single-engine low-wing monoplane, with a pair of Edo floats attached to the wings. The three crewmen sat in a row, with the pilot and gunner-observer under the main canopy and the ventral gunner/radio operator/bombardier in a position in the lower-rear of the fuselage. When it entered service in early 1941, it was the fastest military seaplane in the world.

Although American-designed and built, the N-3PB saw service with only one air force — the Royal Norwegian Air Service. Jack Northrop had formed his new company with La Motte T. Cohu, a TWA official, as General Manager, and it was three of Cohu’s friends who first drew the attention of the Norwegian government to the new company (having themselves flow earlier Northrop designed aircraft). As a result, Northrop’s first production aircraft was built to fullfill a Norwegian coastal patrol requirement.

The Norwegian Government placed an order for twenty-four N-3PBs on March 12, 1940. Less than a month later, on April 9, 1940, the Germans invaded, and the county was soon overrun. The Norwegian government escaped the country, as did elements of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force. Work on the N-3PB continued and progressed rapidly, until on November 1, 1940 the new aircraft made its maiden flight, from Lake Elsinore, California. In late 1940 its top speed of 257mph made it the fastest military sea plane yet built.

The N-3PBs were delivered to the Norwegians early in 1941. The surviving members of the RNAF were formed into No.330 Squadron, RAF, and based at Reykjavik, Iceland. The first operational sortie by the N-3PB was flown out of Reykjavik on June 23, 1941. For nineteen months 330 Squadron operated their Northrop patrol bombers as anti-submarine and convoy protection aircraft. Long-range German Condor bombers were capable of reaching the seas off Iceland, often flying on long sweeps between France and Norway. Contact between the N-3PBs and the German aircraft was rare, and the type’s first aerial combat did not come until May 3, 1942, when a German bomber was attacked and forced to retire. Ten N-3PBs were lost during their time on Iceland, nine of them while attempting to land in the dangerous Icelandic waters.

The last patrol was flown on 30 December 30, 1942. The Northrops were thereafter replaced with larger aircraft able to operate with greater safety in rough waters such as Consolidated Catalinas, and later the Short Sunderland.

Specifications

Engine: Wright GR-1820-G205A Cylcone
Power: 1,200hp
Crew: Three
Span: 48ft 11in
Length: 38ft
Height: 12ft
Take-off Weight: 10,600lb
Max Speed: 257mph at sea level
Service Ceiling: 24,000ft
Range: 1,400 miles
Armament: Four 0.5in fixed forward firing guns in the wings, one 0.3in gun in rear cockpit, one 0.3in gun in rear ventral tunnel
Bomb load: 2,000lb, either bombs or one torpedo

The Kit

MPM’s Northrop N-3 PB is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 41 plastic parts, 18 photo-etched parts, a single vacuform canopy and film insert for the instrument panels. Some light sanding may be necessary, particularly on the major airframe parts, as their surface has a rather grainy quality which may also require some clean-up or reinforcement of the panel lines.

The cockpit is well-detailed with photo-etch parts for the instrument panel and seat straps. and separately mounted rudders for the two floats. There is a crude-looking rear machine gun which the instructions indicate should be mounted on the cockpit floor — this may be an error, but it is hard to be certain as this is not one of the more well-known aircraft of WWII. The gun appears to be a rough rendition of an American .30 Browning machine gun, and modelers may want to replace it, as well as re-think its positioning in the rear cockpit, possibly by omitting it. Neither the instructions nor the few available archival photos reference an opening in the rear canopy to bring this gun to bear. However, relatively rare footage of an N-3PB on operations in Iceland shows the next to last panel toward the rear of the greenhouse canopy removed, and this would allow room for a rear gun to operate.

Overall, construction appears to be straightforward based on the illustrations in the instructions. The wing consists of five parts with a separate center section for the underside of the wing. The engine cowling is in two halves, so seam-hiding skills will be especially helpful.

Conclusion

An interesting kit of a lesser known WWII patrol floatplane. Highly recommended.

References

  • Rickard, J., “Northrop N-3PB” published October 26, 2008 ~ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_northrop_N-3PB.html
  • Western Museum of Flight ~ http://www.wmof.com/n3pb-2.htm
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