Sword 1/48 Northrop N-9MA

By Chris Banyai-Riepl


Northrop and flying wings go hand in hand, and the N-9MA was one of the first experiments developed by Jack Northrop. Built as a test platform for the upcoming B-35 flying wing, the N-9M serieswas designed as a midget B-35 to discover all the aerodynamic personalities of that huge bomber. Three N-9Ms were built, with the first being the N-9M, the second being the N-9M2 and the final one being the subject of this kit, the N-9MA. A fourth N-9M was built to replace the first N-9M, which had crashed, and this one was referred to as the N-9MB. All of the N-9M series flew and provided countless amounts of research data on the subject of flying wings, with the culmination in today's B-2 Stealth bomber.

The Kit

Sword announced this kit a while back, after their release of their 1/72 kit.  As such it was pretty apparent that what we'd get would be a scaled up example of the 1/72 example.  While this is basically true, it's not a direct scale-up and there are several differences between the two in terms of parts breakdown and construction.  Like most recent Sword releases, this kit comes molded in a gray plastic, with a vacuformed canopy and three resin pieces making up part of the spinners and the tail wheel well.

Starting with the cockpit, this is a fairly complicated assembly made up of the sidewalls, floor, and a two-piece rear bulkhead.  Rudder blocks, instrument panel, a two-piece control yoke, and the seat round out the rest of the cockpit.  Some of the detailing on the sidewalls is a bit soft, but overall it should really look nice painted up.

Once the cockpit is built up, you'll move to the rest of the 'fuselage' innards.  The wing is split into six pieces with a center section and outer wing panels.  The center section incorporates the intakes, wheel wells, and cockpit.  Inserts are provided for the nose wheel and tail wheel, while the intakes are blanked off with separate pieces for the splitters.  No main wheel wells are provided, resulting in a very large opening underneath.  Not being sure of what the real thing looks like, I wouldn't know what the fix here is, but I'm sure at the very least there would be something between the wells.  The upper 'fuselage' gets a headrest piece and the back half of the engine nacelles.  These are split into right and left halves and match up to the forward fairings, so you'll want to be careful in cleaning these parts up so you don't end up with them being too small and not matching up.

The landing gear is sturdy, with the main gear struts featuring separate oleo scissors and retraction arms.  The main wheels are split into right and left halves and feature nice hub detail and tread.  The nose gear strut also has separate oleo scissors and retraction arm, and the nose wheel is molded as one piece to fit between the forks of the strut.  The last piece of undercarriage is the tail wheel, made up of a separate wheel and a one-piece arm/door.  The wheel doors are fairly thin, but could probably be thinned down some.

Once the center section is finished, the rest of the assembly is very straightforward.  The wing outer panels are split into upper and lower halves and fit onto tabs in the center section.  There are a couple of problems with the outer wings, though.  The first is the tip washout.  Since there are no vertical control surfaces, the N-9MA had a twist put into the wing to improve stability.  This should be fairly easy to fix with some hot water, but the challenge will be in getting the two sides to match.  The second problem is with the fixed slats.  On the 1/72 kit these are featured as indents in the upper wing.  On this kit scribed lines represent them.  In this scale this is a very noticeable omission and you definitely will want to fix this. 

The propellers are made up of the resin hub, a one-piece prop, and a separate spinner.  Two scoops on the underside are made up from right and left halves, fitting on the outboard side of the main intakes.  The last step is to add the canopy.  You'll want to find some photos of the canopy in the open position if you want to display your kit that way, as it doesn't just hinge open.

The decals are simplistic, but then again the real thing didn't have much on it.  You get two stars & bars and the Northrop logo.  The paint job is trainer yellow over trainer blue, a very striking scheme that will be simple to paint.


This is very likely going to be the only choice for a 1/48 N-9MA available in injection plastic, and for the most part it's a very nice kit.  While there are some trouble spots, it should build up fairly quickly and will really be quite striking in that yellow and blue scheme.

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