Revell/Germany 1/72 P-47M Thunderbolt
Republic Aircraft saw the writing on the wall early on: the jet engine would quickly make its P-47 Thunderbolt obsolete. Even as production of the P-47D continued, attention turned to developing a jet fighter, an effort that would ultimately yield the P-84 Thunderjet. But in response to the threat posed by the V-1 'Buzz Bomb', the P-47 received another lease on life.
To cope with these low-flying, speedy weapons, the U.S. Army Air Forces requested a 'sprint' version of the Thunderbolt. Republic replaced the earlier Pratt & Whitney R-2800-21 engine with the R-2800-59C equipped with water injection and the CH-5 turbosupercharger. This powerplant combination produced the fastest propeller-driven fighter of World War II, with a top speed of 450 mph. Outside of this, the P-47M was identical to other late-model 'D' Thunderbolts, with compressibility flaps just behind the landing gear bays. In the field, the 'M's' received the same retrofitted dorsal fin fillet that the 'D' models were receiving.
The P-47M served with one unit: the vaunted 56th Fighter Group of the Eighth Air Force. Teething troubles were extensive, however; the group started receiving P-47Ms in January, 1945, but only started flying combat missions with the type during the war's last two months. However, the P-47M proved itself a worthy fighter, claiming several Me262s in air-to-air combat and extending the abilities of the proven Thunderbolt line. Only 130 P-47Ms were built, but they contributed greatly to the next generation of Thunderbolts, the P-47N, which would see extensive late-war service in the Pacific.
Lately, we've seen an explosion of 1/72 WWII-era fighters. Hasegawa blazed the trail in the mid- to late-'80s, and now Academy and Revell/Germany are racing to up the ante in this scale. This is the third time that Revell has taken on Academy head-to-head (the Hurricane and P-51B came first), but in this case they've picked a variant rare enough to ensure them a market for this initial release. And it deserves a market this is the best bubbletop P-47 in this scale, edging out the Academy kit and pushing the Hasegawa kit into obsolescence.
The cockpit starts with a reasonably nice but inaccurate cockpit floor and a seat with British-pattern seat belts, but the control panel, control column and armored headrest are very nice, and provide a good start for an out of the box build.
The control panel includes a gunsight, and the fuselage sides have sidewall detail molded in that is a cut above the usual token effort put in by most manufacturers.
The surface detail is mostly recessed, and it is exquisite. The panel lines match the drawings I have to a tee, and although the wings are 1.5mm too long in chord at their roots, they look the part. The machine gun blast tubes are parallel to the ground, not the wing a first! and the supercharger air exhaust doors on the fuselage sides are provided as separate parts. The compressibility flaps are depicted accurately as a raised, plate-like addition to the wing. The waste gate is where it should be, and it's blanked off on the inside of the fuselage. There are provisions for centerline storage another first in the scale! The spine antenna is provided as a separate piece, at long last! The extended fillet is also a separate piece, allowing the modeler to build a P-47M as delivered or as modified in the field. This piece suffers from sink marks that will take a bit of work to remedy. The tail wheel bay and doors are a single drop-in piece, complete with canvas boot detail.
The wheel wells are boxed in and have detail molded in place, although the trailing end of the bays are inaccurately portrayed with flat bulkheads; in reality, this bulkhead followed the curved cut-out shape of the gear bay. The wing joins the fuselage so tightly that careful builders will find no seam problems in the wheel wells.
The engine area is handled wonderfully. There's a rear 'firewall', which includes the air filters; this mounts against the open front of the fuselage. Over this goes a three-piece engine consisting of two banks of cylinders and pushrods and the flat, heavily-riveted crankcase cover of the later R-2800 engine. Below the engine goes the intake scoop section, correctly depicted with a curved lip and two support vanes. The cowling comes next; this is depicted with opened cowl flaps, which are very thin. However, the chin of the cowling looks rather pinched, and this affects the final appearance of the model. Die-hards may steal a cowling from their now-outdated Hasegawa kits for this part of the model. The propeller is the big 14-foot asymmetrical Curtiss Electric propeller, which is depicted accurately for the first time in this scale.
The landing gear doors are molded as a single piece and must be cut apart. They also suffer from some sink marks and ejector pin marks in inconvenient locations. The wheels depict units without the covering plate that many P-47s had, but it captures them accurately, and the tail wheel assembly is beautifully detailed.
The weapons pylons are separate pieces, and the kit comes with 10 rockets and two 165-gallon tanks. The canopy and windscreen are beautifully clear. Unfortunately, although the instructions show the model with the 200-gallon flat-sided drop tank on the centerline, this is not included in the kit. There is provision in the kit for the canopy to slide, but most modelers will resist this temptation since the sliding part is so delicate.
Decals are for two plum Polish planes. By that, I mean that they depict the familiar 'Pengie V' of Mike Gladych and the equally familiar mount of Witold Lanowski, with its Polish gauntlet crushing a Bf109. The planes have the same schemes: natural metal lower surfaces and wing leading edges, red cowling lips and rudders, and plum automotive paint on the upper surfaces. Both planes flew with the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, in 1945, not 1944 as stated in the instructions. The decals are well printed and there are ample small data markings, including the gun numbers, hoist point labels and 'no step' blocks on the inner flaps.
With a new engine crankcase, this kit will also produce an accurate P-47D-25-RE or later, and the fin fillet, flawed as it may be, allows modelers to build late-war Thunderbolts in 1:72 for the first time without scratchbuilding. The 'M'-specific parts are on a separate tree, indicating an earlier 'D' is on its way.
This is a terrific kit, and it will thrill all fans of the Jug, especially those who have grown up with the Hasegawa kit. This kit is the new state of the art for the bubbletop Jug. Keep it up, Revell!
Academy M-12SP Gun