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The subject
The P-40B can easily be considered to be one of the most famous aircraft in history. Although not as manoeuvrable as the Mitsubishi A6M Zero or as fast as the Messerschmitt Bf-109, it stood its ground as a rugged and dependable low level fighter aircraft with an exceptional ability to absorb battle damage. The P-40 saw service throughout the war in pretty much every theater from North Africa to the Eastern front and the Pacific theatre, serving with many operators all over the world.

In fact, the P-40 is so known that I doubt anyone reading this will not know about it’s history, especially when it comes to the B-series. As such I will skip right to the kit’s review.

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The kit

  • Subject: Curtiss P-40B Warhawk
  • Manufacturer: Airfix
  • Scale: 1/48
  • Parts count: 106 parts (94 styrene, 12 clear)
  • Serial: A05130
  • Price: 25EUR – 30USD
  • Personal rating: ✭✭✭✭ ✭✭✭

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The kit
The P-40B has always been a much discussed topic in 1/48 scale. We have various options of manufacturers ranging from Revell, Academy, Trumpeter to Bronco, who all have their own smaller and bigger flaws, considering who you’re asking. Combined with the popularity of the subject there has been much debate on which kit is the best. Now Airfix comes around with their own kit of the P-40B, but how does it compare against all the other kits out there? Let’s find out.

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Contents
Airfix fanboys who pick up this kit will notice several unusual things about it. First of all the box is no longer printed in a glossy coating and more matte, feeling a bit more sturdy to the previous type. Also the plastic is different, as the frames are now created by a firm in Great Britain again as opposite to previous frames produced elsewhere.

The kit provides us with three styrene frames and one clear frame, providing a total of 94 styrene parts and 12 clear pieces. These all feature recessed panel line details and also some raised rivets on a few parts. It also provides an A4 sized instructions booklet and a small decal sheet providing markings for an US Army and AVG airframe.

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Frame A
The first of the three frames holds all the smaller parts of the model, like the cockpit, the tires and rims, exhausts, landing gear and the guns amongst other bits. There even is a seated pilot figure included which is spilt up into three parts. Also notable are the option of two different pilot seats and also two different sets of landing gear legs and wheels which provide you the choice to build the aircraft wheels up (as if it were flying) or wheels down.

The cockpit build is the same as those found with many Japanese model kits, where you build the cockpit and then slide in into place after the two fuselage halves have been put together. There is not much I can point out here except that I really like the fact that the wheels and rims are molded separately, making them easy to paint and no sanding will be needed with the tires.

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Frame B
The B frame holds some of the bigger parts of the kit, being the two fuselage halves, the upper wing halves, the wheel wells and the intake parts. The detail is very fine and can be found on both sides of the frame.

The only drawback on this frame is that the wheel wells suffer from what seems to me as a design flaw. Not only are there ejector pin marks in the middle of the wheel well, we can also find what seems to be a deformation of the plastic due to the bar connecting the two wheels wells together. Luckily most P-40B wheel wells were covered with textile and this can be somewhat worked around and hidden as such, maybe it was even what the designer was going for, although in that case I don’t think the desired effect was achieved. Either way once build this will also be hidden by either the tires when build wheels up, or by the fact that the wheels well are naturally found on the underside of the aircraft.

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Frame C
The final styrene sprue is the C frame. It holds the lower wing half, the horizontal and vertical stabilisers, rudder, propeller, wing roots and some engine cowling panels. On the rudder and the wing roots we can find some raised rivets besides the recessed panel lines.

However, on this sprue we can also find some imperfections. On the front panel of the wing section we can see that some of the panel lines are a bit weird, as if they there placed onto the part later on. The other can be found on the lower half of the left stabiliser, where some of the panel lines are not fully engraved all the way through. Luckily the latter is very easy to fix yourself with an engraving tool.

Also notable is the ventral fairing. There has been some discussion around the internet on the shape and wether or not it is accurate. Here and here you can take a look and decide for yourself wether or not it kills the kit for you.

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Clear sprue
The clear sprue is separately bagged and packaged together with all the frames. Sadly it seems to not have protected the first canopy frame, although judging from other reviews it seems that I just got unlucky. Thankfully, the kit provides two different canopies and two different front windshields.

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Decals
The decals seem to be of great quality, but at the same time they are a little bit of a let down if you wish to build the AVG version. To explain further , the decals are printed in register and there is no silvering whatsoever, which is something many builders including myself will like. However, the insignia of the Chinese Nationalist air force is completely wrong.

The first thing is that the white circle in the middle of the insignia is too small. Next is the fact that the real insignia consists of twelve triangles places separately around this circle, on the decal however there are only eleven and they meet each other at the base. I took the liberty of looking through my personal photo library and could not find any similar insignia. I can’t feel but really disappointed about this mistake, as it is a stupid one with quite big consequences. A bit sad considering how amazing the kit is and since the print seems to be of very high quality. Luckily decals are the most easy thing to fix in a kit.

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But what if you are someone who really wants this kit and build a Flying Tiger , but you don’t want to use the inaccurate insignia? I’d recommend you to try and get your hands on one of the many aftermarket decal sheets out there. You could also option to buy the cheap Academy or Revell P-40B kit and use those decals instead.

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Markings
If you have read the previous parts of the review you already know we have two marking options to choose from. The first is an US Army machine which defended Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack. The other is an AVG Flying Tiger from June 1942.

  • P-40B, 47th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group, US Army
    Wheeler Field, Oahu, Hawaii, December 7, 1941.
    2nd Lt. George Welch
  • Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2, 3rd Squadron AVG
    Kunming, China, June 1942.
    Robert ‘R.T.’ Smith

To be honest, this is where Airfix disappoints the most to me. Airfix produces such a fine kit of a much discussed subject, but then goes on to play it safe and provide us with a Pearl Harbor and AVG version as pretty much every other 1/48 P-40B kit we get nowadays (aside from the Trumpeter version). Understandably these versions sells like hot pockets, but knowing Airfix I would have hoped for an RAF or more unique Soviet Lend Lease version (maybe this is an option for the future Airfix?). Thankfully there are dozens of aftermarket decal sheets for builders to address this, and in short it is the last thing to really be upset about.

The two aircraft that Airfix did decide to go with are two airframes who were piloted by famous aces. For those interested about them I tried to compose a short history of each pilot.

The first machine is that flown by 2nd Lt. George Welch on the raid of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  He and another pilot, 2nd Lt. Ken Taylor, were coming back from a Christmas dinner and dance party as they were surprised by the Japanese raid. Nonetheless Welch was able to take off and shoot down several aircraft, a few Val dive bombers and a Zero. They were both awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions. Welch later went on to have a successful aviation career, which you can read on the dedicated Wikipedia page. These actions also proved as inspiration for the Disney ‘Pearl Harbor’ movie.

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The AVG machine represents that of Robert R.T. Smith, who was a Flying Tiger ace credited with 8.9 Japanese aircraft while fighting with the AVG. He joined the Claire Lee Chennault fighting force in July 1941. After the disbandment of the AVG he was drafted by the US Air force as a private. If you’d like to know more you can also check his dedicated Wikipedia page.

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Instructions
The instructions are printed as a colour printed A4 sized booklet. The building process is divided into 51 steps with a few subassemblies. The illustrations are computer generated, mostly in black and white but uses red highlights to lay focus on certain parts. To me the instructions are very clear and I’m certain they should not prove troublesome, even to a beginner.

Conclusion
Airfix knocks another one out of the park with this kit. Every 1/48 P-40B kit released thus far has received much criticism from the modelling world for their accuracy (or rather lack thereof). Airfix might be the first one to provide a kit that can stand up to much of that criticism with a great cockpit and beautifully detailled kit.

However that does not mean that the kit is completely free of flaws as noted in the review. The decals are great but the Chinese insignia are as good as useless, the wheel wells are not perfectly molded like the rest of the kit, partly due to the way it was designed, there are some doubts about the ventral fairing and somepanel lines underneath the aircraft are incomplete. Luckily some of these things are easily fixable and all are on the bottom and won’t stand out once the kit is build.

The one thing where I personally feel the kit falls really short is the markings options and the messed up AVG insignia. Luckily this is easily fixed with a set of after market decals, and hopefully we will get another P-40B kit from Airfix with some cool marking options!

In the end the price is right, detail is great and the frame layout seems pretty much spot on. I can’t wait to build this kit and I feel like we finally have a P-40B that is worthy of being crowned as the best P-40B in 1/48 scale.