Monogram’s outstanding 1/72nd scale B-36
1: The Aircraft:
During the period prior to the U.S. entering the war, in 1941, a watchful eye was kept on England as Germany underwent the “blitz”. Knowing that if England fell, there would be no bases available to launch bomber aircraft against targets in Germany. As the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC)was woefully under prepared with aircraft with global mission capabilities. in April of 1941, the USAAC issued a request for an aircraft with intercontinental capabilities with specifications for speed, ceiling etc. These requirements proved too demanding for any short-term design—far exceeding the technology of the day— so on 19 August 1941, they were reduced to a maximum range of 10,000 mi (16,000 km), an effective combat radius of 4,000 mi (6,400 km) with a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) bombload, a cruising speed between 240 and 300 mph (390 and 480 km/h), and a service ceiling of 40,000 ft (12,000 m), above the maximum effective altitude of all of Nazi Germany’s antiaircraft flak guns, save for the rarely deployed 12.8 cm FlaK 40 heavy flak cannon. [Wikipedia.]
As the war in the Pacific continued it became clear the US Army Air Force (USAAF) needed a long range bomber to operate out of bases in Hawaii, capable of striking targets in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) and Japan itself. Due to this need the development of the B-36 began in earnest. The USAAF initial request was for 100 bombers before the completion and testing of the two prototypes. However Convair, as it was known after it’s merger in 1943 with Vultee, delayed production due to the production of the B-24 Liberator and later the B-32 Dominator, so it wasn’t until 20 August 1945 that the aircraft was unveiled and flew for the first time, almost a year later on 8 August 1946.
After the establishment of an independent United States Air Force in 1947, the beginning in earnest of the Cold War with the 1948 Berlin Airlift, and the 1949 atmospheric test of the first Soviet atomic bomb, American military planners sought bombers capable of delivering the very large and heavy first-generation atomic bombs.[Wikipedia]
The B-36 was the only American aircraft with the range and payload to carry such bombs from airfields on American soil to targets in the USSR. The modification to allow the use of larger atomic weapons on the B-36 was called the “Grand Slam Installation”.
On 12 February 1959, the last B-36J built, AF Ser. No. 52-2827, left Biggs AFB, Texas, where it had been on duty with the 95th Heavy Bombardment Wing, and was flown to Amon Carter Field in Fort Worth, where it was put on display. Within two years, all B-36s, except five used for museum display, had been scrapped at Davis–Monthan AFB.
The B-36 was the largest Piston driven aircraft ever built. With a wingspan of 230’ it was longer than the C-5 galaxy. It had a wing chord of 7’ 6” to allow crew to service engines and landing gear whilst in flight, This large wing area allowed it fly at over 40,000 ft. It was 162’ long, 2/3rds longer than the then super bomber the B-29. It had a range of almost 10,000 miles and had a top speed of 435 mph. At altitude no enemy fighter of the day could engage it effectively.
2: The Model:
Monogram dropped a real bombshell on the modeling world in 1980 with the release of their 1/72nd B-36 Kit #5703.. It was marketed as the Largest Plastic Scale Aircraft Model kit, surpassing the record held by Monogram’s B-52 which had sole claim to that title up to that time. Prior to Monogram releasing the B-36, the only other injection molded kits were the Revell 1/184 kit with no landing gear, which hadn’t been re-issued for some time, and the Aurora boxing about the same scale but with landing gear. Contrail released a 1/72nd Vacuform kit, of which I only ever saw one built. Upon hearing that the local hobby shop had these in stock, I rushed down and bought and excitedly built one.. The model is quite large. The fuselage is 27 ¾ inches long, wing span is 38 ¼ “ and the tip of the tail rises to dizzying height 7 ¾ “. Naturally it’s size makes it unwieldly to work with, and it requires a lot of shelf space.
I managed to score a 1980 release off the Scale Model Graveyard for a decent price as two propeller blades had broken of their hubs; an easy fix as the break was clean and easy to repair. I started the kit per instructions. It takes a lot of nose weight that I superglued into the void behind the radio room bulkhead. There was a slight warp in the fuselage that I tried to work by fixing small areas of the fuselage at a time until the entire fuselage was buttoned up. I even used some brass tubes to replace a couple of broken locator pins. This worked fine for the main part but required a fair amount of sanding and filling. The wings went together well, no fit issues, just some sanding to eliminate the seam on the leading edge and sanding around the engine nacelles.. Monogram could have saved the modeler a lot of sanding time had they molded the nacelle rings where the props fit into as a separate ring. Minimal sanding took care of the seam none the less.
Painting was a bit of a challenge as to color, shades etc., and the amount of tape it takes. I used an entire roll plus of Tamiya tape. I was modeling the Photo/Reconnaissance version which used part of the bomb bay as a crew station, so being pressurized the magnesium portions were a little different. Painting Natural Metal Finishes is always a challenge and this was no exception. I used Testors Aerosol Silver Metallic for the overall base paint. I left the wings off for ease of masking, handling and painting the fuselage and wings. I used Testors Model Master Anodonic Grey for the Magnesium areas, Alclad Dark Aluminum for the wing walk areas, Alclad Duralum for the control surfaces and Alclad White aluminum for the trim tabs. Naturally, when I pulled the tape off there were tape marks in the paint, but these were corrected with some vigorous rubbing with a tissue and a micro fiber cloth. For sealing the decals and paint I brushed on Pledges/Future acrylic floor finish. Markings are from Warbird sheet #72-002 for the aircraft marking and 72-003 for the stenciling and and wing walk lines. Canopy masks are from “New Ware” from the Czek republic. The model represents an RB-36E from the 5th SRW, 72nd BS, 15th Air Force, stationed at Travis AFB in 1952.
Large models like the B-36 and others offer unique challenges to the modeler, not ordinarily encountered in smaller kits. Just trying to figure out how to paint it and decal it. How to handle it without busting something off, where to build it and finally where to put it? All require planning a fore thought. I would highly recommend it; if you have the room. Not a contest winner, but I like it and will enter it in the display category.
24 additional images. Click to enlarge.