Rockwell B-1B Bomber Airfix 1/72 Build:
Motivated to reclaim some garage space, so I can work on my car, I know I know, what a concept, I’ll be building several of my larger model kits. First on the list was the Airfix 1/72 scale B-1B bomber used by the USAF.
This kit dates back to 1982, so while not covered in 1960’s rivets, it is not a precision “shake and bake” standard of some modern kits. If you insist on engraved panel lines, you’ve got your work cut out for you, but I prefer to sand most of the raised surface detail off.
As often happens with early kits of an aircraft type, they are based on the prototype. I suspect this started as a B1, and was modified to represent a B-1B with a rounded tail cone. The engine exhausts represent those of a B1-A, when it was still a high altitude bomber. Checking photos of the B1-B bomb bays, the kit’s single long bomb bay is wrong. I’m not a B1 expert, but I suspect this represents the planning phase to use the bomber as a standoff launch platform for cruise missiles.
The kit is large, but relatively simple, so I decided to assemble the major components on a Saturday afternoon. The components are the cockpit, wings, tail section, tailcone, engine pods and fuselage. The major parts come on three sprues. The surface details are raised, and dry fitting of parts suggested parts fit would not be great.
I started with the wings, to allow maximum glue curing time before assembly into the fuselage.
The wings are very simple, comprising just an upper and lower half, but a plastic bar joins the wings together to operate the counterpart wing, when one of them is moved. Before gluing the wings together, make sure you have lots of clamps ready, the fit is not terrible, but it’s not great either.
The wings are very simple, comprising just an upper and lower half, but a plastic bar joins the wings together to operate the counterpart wing, when one of them is moved. Note the notch in the bar where it connects to the right wing. This was to presumably clear the raised bomb bay detail, which also has a small amount of corner removed, but on my example the bar would have cleared the bomb bay without these precautions.
The simple cockpit has just six parts, seven if you include the instrument decal. A quick check of B1 cockpit photos show a medium grey colour. I painted the floor, bulkhead grey. The seat frames were painted grey with red seat cushions. The flat space after the instrument panel was painted matt black, as was the center panel. Once dry, the center panel was scrapped with a craft knife to pick out the raised instrument detail. The instrument decal was applied, but after a dry fit of the cockpit assembly into the fuselage, this started to come away, so I settled it back down with some watered down white glue. After all was dry, the whole cockpit assembly go a single coat of Testors matt varnish.
The rounded tail cone, looking correct for a B1-1 (The B-1A came to a sharp point) was glued together and set aside. I’ve included shots of filler to give an idea of parts fit and filler required to blend parts smoothly together.
The horizontal stabilizers are designed to move together, so a spindle is fitted between the two halves of the vertical stabilizer, for the horizontal ones to attach to.
Dry fitting the horizontal stabilizers in palce, they move a little too freely, so these will probably need to be glued in position, but I’ll wait and make that decision closer to completion of the kit.
The engine pods are comprised of seven parts. The two main engine halves and the interior airflow deflectors. Gluing the interior deflectors in place, I painted the back half of the pods in matt black, and the front section matt white (looking at photos after assembling my pods show the front should probably be a dark grey).
As soon as the engine pod halves are jointed together, make sure the airflow deflectors are perpendicular to the upper and lower halves of the pod. The one on the right is correct, the one on the left need to be moved using tweezers to straighten it up.
A mass of blened curves this join like used a lot of filler on the first pass as the upper and lower fuselage halves do not line up well on this forward section of the kit. When joining the upper and lower fuselage, make sure the cockpit bulkhead lines up with the slots designed to hold it in place.
During it’s long development life, the B1 Cold War strategy went from fast high altitude bomber, to a stand-off platform for cruise missiles. Eventually it became a low level, radar avoiding concept delivering more traditional free fall & ‘smart’ bombs. The kit represents what I think is a fuel tank, just ahead of the rotary bomb bay, with two cruise missiles molded in place. A third cruise missile is included to be placed inbetween the ones molded to the fuselage. This would have probably been correct when the kit research was done (the kit is dated 1982), but is now out of date.
Considering the work that would be involved in modifying the interior, I’m going to close the doors and scribe the door hatches according to available B-1B photos and drawings.
Tail cone and fueselage after second sesson of filling and sanding.
After sanding filler, the whole aircraft was sprayed a medium grey. The engine pods were painted sperately, then fixed into place once dry. Wheel wells were painted white, then details were picked out with a dark-grey loaded dry brush.
The canopy was cemented into place, clear parts were masked and filler and paint used until it was blended with the fuselage. Decals were applied, and the whole model was given a coat of Testors Dull Cote.
The horizontal stabilizers are designed to move and are attached to pegs pass through the vertical stabilizer, allowing them to pivot.
After a dry fit test, a peg broke off, so I had to break off the other side, and then drill out the plastic that pivots in the vertical stabilizer. A paper clip supplied the steel to mount the horizontal stabilizers.
The decals proved to be very difficult. Possibly the age of them,when soaked the glue on them tends to clump into a white mess, leaving nothing to keep them on the kit. When dried the decals tended to just fall off, but applying diluting white glue with a paint brush, I was able to get them to adhere. Most difficult was the black anti-dazzle area with the in-flight refueling probe guide as this has a lot of complicated curves to deal with.
Undercarriage and doors/covers were glued into place. A very light dry brushing of grey was used, as these areas see oil and brake dust and so don’t stay pristine for long.
Finished model with wings forward
Finished model with wings swept back
The model sits on the wheels when the wings are forward, but I did not weight the nose and it ‘tail-sits’ when the wings are swept back.
This kit captures the overall look of the B1, but the nose is wrong in having a pinched nose cone, instead of one with a rounder cross-section. I think the contoured lines that are more usually found on a fighter, make the B1 look smaller than it is, even in 1/72 scale this is a large model and I now have a better appreciation of just how big this bomber is.
The parts fit is OK considering the age of the kit, but it took a long time to get all the seems filled. If you wanted to modify the nose for a more accurate kit, it would probably be a good idea to look for after-market decals. The ones supplied with the kit required diluted white glue to get them to adhere to even glossy surfaces. The walk-demarcation line decals kept breaking and I gave up on them in the end. I was glad to be done with it, I usually prefer the size of fighter in 1/72 scale. but it makes a nice looking aircraft when finished.