Italeri 1/48 B-25 Mitchell

By Gerry Nilles

History

The North American B-25 Mitchell can definitely be said to be one of the best known and most successful medium bombers of WWII. Used by the US Army Air Force and Navy, as well as a number of other allied nations, its capabilities as both a medium bomber and gunship were outstanding. During its life, which began in 1938 and lasted well into the 1950s, B-25s performed countless and untold combat missions in about every WWII theater of operation. However, and without a doubt, the single and best known B-25 mission has got to be the Doolittle raid on the Japanese home islands in April of 1942. Flying from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, 16 B-25Bs were all able to successfully take off, in bad weather no less, and bomb Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Flying at wave top level the raid totally caught the Japanese by surprise. Although the actual physical damage of the bombing was not major, the negative psychological impact on the Japanese people was considerable. Conversely the boost to American morale, created by the versatile operating capability of this twin engine, twin tailed little bomber, was extremely significant.

Initial design work, on what eventually would become the B-25, began in early 1936. Although the North American Company had no experience with the design and development of a medium twin engine bomber they responded to an Army Air Corps request for designs. However, their efforts in this competition were unsuccessful despite several design attempts. Not deterred they kept at it and when a design request was issued in January1939 for a light twin engine attack aircraft, they were ready with their prototype NA 40. Although the NA 40 did differ from the very familiar shape of the production B-25 it did have all the significant design elements that are the Mitchell. This included tricycle landing gear that fully retracted and was completely inclosed by doors, mid fuselage positioned wings with under wing mounted engines, and twin vertical stabilizers.

Again North American was unsuccessful, losing out to Douglas Aircraft and their A-20 Havoc. But 3 month later (March 1939) another USAAC proposal request for a medium bomber, accommodating a crew of five, was issued. This time they responded with their model 62, which was the very familiar design we know as the B-25. As they say the rest is history. A contract for an initial production run of 184 NA model 62s (newly designated the B-25) was issued in August 1939. Growing fears of war caused the military to dispense with the traditional, and time consuming XB and YB model development approach. Instead the first production B-25 was used as the test aircraft.

During it production history a number of B-25 variants were built. The first group of 25 were simply designated B-25. The second group, 40 aircraft in total, became B-25As and included the addition of Armor protection and self sealing gas tanks. The “B” was soon to follow with its increased defensive capabilities by the addition of a manned dorsal turret and a remote electrically operated retractable ventral turret. It should be noted here that the remote ventral turret was not very successful and subsequently eliminated on the “D” model. The “C” came next and incorporated lessons learned from combat including the addition of an autopilot, greater fuel capacity and the use of R-2600-13 engines. The “D” model was very similar to the “C” but, as noted above had no ventral turret. Probably the most obvious visual distinction of the “D” was the individual exhaust ports on the engine cowlings.

The next B-25 production variant is the “G” model (gunship) which was very distinguishable because of its sold blunt style nose which sported a 75mm cannon. This was followed by the “H”, also a blunt nosed 75mm cannon gunship. However the “H” also included four nose-mounted 50 caliber machine guns which previously had been a field mod to the “G”. Other significant defensive armament changes to the “H” included the relocation of the dorsal turret further forward, the addition of both port and starboard rear fuselage waist guns as well as a true tail gun. It should be noted that the ‘H” was the last version to have a 75mm cannon in that its combat usefulness was limited at best. The final B-25 version was the “J” which was produced in greater quantities than any of the previous models. The “J” had all the features of the “H” model, but is probably most recognizable for the further addition of factory installed dual exterior “cheek” mounted, 50 caliber machine guns.

The Kit

The Italeri 1/48th scale B-25C/D kit gives the modeler a choice of building one of four slightly different configurations of this aircraft. They include a B-25C and Mitchell II which are identical, a B-25C with a slightly different nose gun arrangement, a B-25D bomber version, and a field modified B-25D bomber/gunship. Individual markings for all five of these aircraft are provided as well. After reviewing the instruction it becomes very obvious that prior to starting this model it would be advisable to pre-select the aircraft color scheme and associated configuration that you want to do in order to establish correct part selection and sequence of assembly.

Cast in dark gray and clear plastic this is a highly detailed model with a complete interior, including the fuselage frames and stringers which are cast into the sides of the kits fuselage halves. Aside from the visible cockpit area this kit also seems to include all of the various parts (electrical boxes, miscellaneous equipment, etc.) that make up the crew positions, such as the navigators station, the radio operator desk, the turrets (both dorsal and ventral) and the bomb bay.

Other subassembly details such as the engines, landing gear, wheel wells, etc. are also above average. It should be noted that at the time of its original release it was said to be the definitive 1/48th scale kit of a B-25 and I believe that fact remains true to this day. The molding looks to be very crisp with little if any flash or sink holes. Of course being a first look, and having not built this particular kit myself, I cannot comment on its fit. However, I have it on reliable authority that it is very well engineered and that the fit is excellent.

Likewise, judging from the straightforward instructions, assembly of the kit doesn’t appear to be overly complicated. But, considering the number of optional configurations and related part choices, I can’t emphasize enough the need to actually read the instruction. That being said, I would still recommend that anyone attempting to build this kit have a bit of experience under their belt (so to speak) just because of the level of detail involved.

Markings

Upon initial inspection the decals sheet looks to be of good quality and registration. As I stated in the kit review section, it contains five different sets of markings. Starting in order of presentation, the first set, (and subject of the kits box art), is for an O/D and gray USAAF B-25D assigned to the 17th RS (bomb), 71st TRG based out of Linsayen (the Philippines) in May of 1945. The second scheme is also for an O/D and gray USAAF B-25D but this time with a very colorful shark mouth nose art. This particular aircraft was a bomber/gunship assigned to the 500th BS, 345th BG based in New Guinea in May of 1944. The third set is for a USAAF B-25C based in Sicily in 1943 and assigned to 488th BS, 340th BG. This aircraft has a two tone upper surfaces camouflage pattern of O/D and sand with the standard medium gray undersides. Of particular interest is that this aircraft carries both US “Operation Torch” style national insignias in six positions as well as British fin flashes on both sides of the vertical stabilizers. The fourth scheme is for a RAF Mitchell II (B-25C), again in standard O/D and gray assigned to No. 180 Squadron Foulsham (UK) July 1943. The fifth and final scheme is for a Royal Dutch Air Force O/D and gray B-25C that operated with the 18th Squadron out of Batchelor Australia in 1942.

Conclusion

This 1/48 B-25 remains the best kit, of this subject, to be produced to date. Italeri’s choice of releasing the B-25C/D version was very smart in that it lends itself to so many interesting configurations and color schemes. The markings supplied with the kit are equally excellent from the standpoint of variety in that they include a choice of five individual schemes, representing three different nations. Well done Italeri!

Our thanks to MRC for the review sample.

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