- Published on Sunday, 30 September 2012 00:00 David Johnson
1/32 B-25J Mitchell "The Strafer"
Catalogue # 01E02
Available from HK Model stockists in Late September/Early October
With the first half of 1942 looking grim for the Allies, after losing Philippines, Dutch Indies and Singapore to the Japanese Forces. The Allied forces in the South West Pacific fell back to Australia to regroup. Australia would soon become the base of operations for General MacArthur's South Pacific offensive with fresh supplies and troops arriving, to retake the islands that were lost. The decision to intensify Strafing and Bombing missions in the various island campaigns was made by General George Kenney, now the head of the Thirteenth Air Force, due to the low-level attack virtues of the Douglas A-20 Havoc and North American B-25 Mitchells. Roles both aircraft weren't originally designed for. This would be the start of the development of some of the most lethal aircraft fielded against Japanese forces in the South Pacific.
Skip bombing tactics were developed which involved a low level approach against the heavy defensive fire of the Japanese ships. General Kenney was dissatisfied with the armament and bombs of the two attack aircraft, as they weren't completely suited to how he wanted to employ them. This is were Captain Paul "Pappy" Gunn came in, one of the brains behind developing Strafer-bombers. Captain Gunn developed a field modification for the A-20 Havoc that put an extra four .50 cal machine guns in the nose, as a bombardier wasn't required on these low level attack runs. This way skip bombing and strafing could be combined in a single aircraft. These modifications were better, but extra fuel tanks had to be installed in the Havoc's bomb bay to increase its range, which in turn reduced its bomb load. By the summer of 1942 A-20s were in short supply as orders for the A-20's were increasing from the Russians.
The B-25 Mitchell became the ideal replacement as it had already proved its role. The B-25 had a longer range and could carry a heavier bomb load than the A-20. Gunn came up with field modification for the B-25, with the help of North American Aviation field representative Jack Fox. This field mod put four extra .50 cal's in the nose section of B-25C serial #41-12437 and additional two pairs of .50 cals on external blisters on each side of the forward fuselage. By the summer 1942 Jack Fox issued a memo to all the other North American field reps in the South Pacific Theatre on how to modify the B-25 into a Strafer-bomber.
Tactics were worked out and crews trained on a wrecked ship off the coast of Port Moresby, the final result would include a pair of B-25s approaching enemy ships at 1,000-1,500 feet and then drop to 500 feet or lower on the final run in to the target. One Mitchell would open up with its gun battery to suppress the defensive fire while the other Mitchell would drop a string of bombs in a skip bomb attack. After the first pass, the pair returned for a second run, this time switching roles. During the first half of 1943 Strafer-bombers wreaked havoc on Japanese shipping that supported the Imperial war machine. Soon airfields also came under attack by the Strafer-bombers dropping 23-lb fragmentation bombs slowed by parachutes.
The Strafer concept was so successful that by September 1943, 175 B-25Cs and Ds had been converted. By that time, five squadrons had been so equipped in the South West Pacific. The Strafer modifications to the B-25C/D led to the B-25G, which was a dedicated factory-built strafer that was succeeded by the more efficient B-25H. However, it was not until the solid-nosed B-25J that the Strafer received the full fire power that brought Havoc on Japanese Shipping.
The Kit –
Back in May 2012, SPAR's Matt McDougall took a look at the Glass Nose B-25 from HK Model. Most of the Strafer kit is unchanged from the Glass nose version, so we will take a look at the new items within the Strafer kit. If you haven't seen Matt's review please check it out here, so you can familiarise yourself with the common parts that are shared between these kits - Click THIS link for the review.
Most of the new parts are located on two new sprues, The first noticeable one is the new solid nose, which is located on its own separate sprue. Some of the rivet detail is very faint compared to the rest on the nose, this is most likely due the limits of the tool and the plastic injection molding process. It will be a easy task to deepen them with a pin to match rivets to the rest on the rest of the nose.
The second new sprue contains the components for the nose area. The nose can be either built with the gun bays fully open to display all the firepower contained within the nose or bays closed. The sprue contains the two gun bay doors and the interior framing as separate parts. The framing parts do have some injector pin marks on areas that are easily seen, but these will clean up without any difficulty. Also on the sprue are the eight .50 cal bodies and ammunition cases/tins. One item that is missing are the ammo feed belts to each of the .50 cal's from the ammunition cases/tins. These are quite noticeable in period photographs. These would have to be scratched built or I am sure that a aftermarket company will come to the rescue, if you wish to display the bays open..
The printing of the decals are unchanged from the Glass Nose release, they thick and glossy. Reports from other modellers that I have seen on the internet, that they do go down nicely, but do require some aid from a sol solution. I didn't use the decal on my Glass nose build. so I cannot comment from my own experience. Again no airframe stencils markings are included on the sheet, but the Hamilton Standard prop logo's and data are suppliedon the sheet. However there is an aftermarket offering from Kitsworld decals for Stencils, if you do wish to add them to your build. The sheet only carries one marking option for B-25J, 498th Bombardment Squadron (Falcons), 345th Bomb Group, Okinawa, 1945.
So What Do We Think?
As Matt stated in his review of the Glass Nose B-25J... "There can be only one word to describe this kit .... Epic!" This is indeed correct!
It's a huge amount of plastic that you get for the price tag and it does build very easily. I enjoyed my build of the Glass Nose kit (appearing in the October issue of Military Illustrated Modeller magazine) that instantly stuck my hand up for this one... Some AM supplies will aid and improve some areas that are lacking detail. And just remember... This builds in to a big kit!
We are in the process of gathering a few aftermarket items that are upcoming and currently on the market for B-25...And we will be bring you a full build review in the near future!
Our sincere thanks to HK Models for the review sample used here.
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