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KIT REVIEW


Eduard Riders in the Sky 1944 Limited Edition Set
1:72 Scale



The B-24 Liberator was one of the most famous heavy bombers of WWII.  USAAF Liberators flew tens of thousands of sorties in all theaters of the war.  According to some, its impact on the strategic bombing campaign in Europe was perhaps greater than the B-17, and its most notable mission may have been the raid on Ploesti.  A good number of Liberators flew with RAF Coastal Command as the Liberator GR. Mk.III and Mk.V and were optimized for the anti-submarine role.  In this limited edition kit set, Eduard pulls out the stops with their re-boxing of the 1:72 scale Hasegawa Liberator kit that also includes two new injection molded sprues with Liberator GR parts, photoetched metal detail parts, a masking set, a large decal sheet with lots of markings options, a book on the RAF Coastal Command Liberator, and ready-to-frame print of the box art.  Let’s take a look.   

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The origins of the B-24 are found in a U.S. Army Air Corps proposal for an advanced long-range bomber.  Consolidated’s Model 32 combined a high and high-efficiency long-span airfoil wing with a twin tail and twin high capacity bomb bays, tricycle landing gear, four Pratt and Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp powerplants, and a crew of 10.  The contract was awarded for a prototype XB-24 in March 1939.  Early flight tests found the XB-24 failed to meet its top speed requirements of 311 MPH, but the addition of turbosupercharged R-1830s solved this problem.  The tail was widened while other smaller changes were carried out, and the first production model, the B-24C, finally went into production.

In RAF Coastal Command service, Liberators made a key contribution to the Allied victory in the Battle of the Atlantic against German U-boats.  Their Liberator B Mk.III was essentially a B-24D with a single .303 Browning machine gun in the nose, two in each waist position, and four in a Boulton Paul tail turret.  The Gr. Mk.III and V were B-24D airframes modified by RAF Coastal Command with Mark II surface radars and the Leigh search light.  Some were also fitted with cheek-mounted sponsons, each sporting a quartet of unguided rockets.

Beginning in 1941 and through to the end of the war, Liberator GR. IIIs and GR. Vs hunted subs and closed the mid-Atlantic Gap, where previously, U-boats could operate quite freely.  Liberators could find and kill subs with their Mark II radars and the Leigh Light, day or night.  Initially, the Liberators operated in a pure offensive mode, but the risk increased as more and more U-boats were armed with additional anti-aircraft guns and stayed on the surface to fight, rather than submerging.  Liberators were credited with sinking some 93 U-boats and indeed helped turn the tide in the Atlantic.

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Eduard’s limited edition Riders in the Sky kit set is based on the 2007-era 1:72 scale Hasegawa B-24D kit, but also features a range of new parts and other items, too (described below).  The kit comes on 14 gray injection-molded polystyrene sprues containing 269 parts by my count.  There’s also an additional 59 parts on two clear sprues.  Out of all of these parts, about 95 will go unused in this version of the Liberator.  One photoetched metal fret contains 70 parts (some pre-painted) while another seven photoetched parts come on an additional small fret.  There is also an extensive pre-cut self-adhesive masking set for the clear parts.  Four poly-cap parts are also in the box, along with a 76-page soft cover book on the Liberator in Coastal Command service.  The full color instruction booklet guides the build over some 19 numbered steps.  The single decal sheet provides markings for no less than 13 airplanes:

Strengths:  Overall, this is one impressive offering.  To start, the Hasegawa B-24 is the best Liberator in any scale.  The tooling, while now 11 years old, remains excellent by today’s standards.  Of course, this tooling was the basis for about a dozen issues of the kit so far, from the B-24D to the F-7A reconnaissance variant, so there are plenty of parts in the base kit that you don’t need, but Eduard provides two new sprues of their own for the GR. Mk.III and GR Mk. V.

Regarding the plastic:  Eduard not only made a logical choice in reboxing the Hasegawa B-24 as the basis for this kit, but they made the best choice as well.  Hasegawa did a fine job in accurately representing the shape, size, and configuration options for the B-24.  Panel lines, rivets, and fasteners are all delicately represented by finely engraved, recessed details.  While I’ve not built the kit myself, I know plenty of scale modelers who have, and they all commented on how enjoyable the build was and that the fit was excellent.
 Engineering is fairly conventional (left and right fuselage halves, upper and lower wing halves, and so forth) but straightforward.  However, a good portion of the nose is represented in clear parts, including an extended fairing for the windscreen and all you have to do is mask off the windows with no worries about the often-deadly combination of small clear parts, glue, and seam filling.  The kit also features a respectable, though relatively basic, interior, from the cockpit to the bomb bay and waist gunner positions.

The new Eduard plastic consists of two sprues that are of equal standing and technical quality to the Hasegawa molding.  The first dark grey sprue features all the GR. Mk.III and GR Mk.V parts you’ll need.  These include the variant-specific props, nose radar, the underwing pod containing the Leigh Light, machine guns, and rocket sponsons, rocket rails, rockets, and other associated detail parts.  Parts for three styles of Boulton Paul tail turrets are provided.  The second Eduard sprue is has all the clear parts for that tail turret.

The photoetched metal parts are outstanding as is expected from Eduard.  While it’s not the most extensive set Eduard has ever done, the parts themselves bring fundamentally important details to the kit.  They include gorgeous pre-painted instrument dial faces and instrument panel, the control yokes, pilot and co-pilot harnesses, lap belts for everyone else in the Liberator who had a seat, ultra-fine sights for the machine guns, antennas, radio equipment faces, and other fine details.  The small fret of unpainted parts also features the nose quadpole radar antenna, which if I recall, was the distance-finding gear used on the airplane.  Also, the pre-cut masking set is a very valuable element of the kit; not only does it provide more precisely cut masks than most of us can do on our own, they will save a TON of time fabricating masks for all the clear parts, from the nose glazing to the tail turret.

The instructions are rendered with Eduard’s typical clarity.  This includes the multiple airframe variants among the 13 markings options, so once you commit to a specific scheme, follow its assembly carefully making sure you have the right combination, positions, and types of radomes, turrets, antennas, and so forth for that specific airplane.  The markings options are awesome and quite distinctive, including RAF, Czech RAF squadrons, and one Canadian example.  The decals were printed by Catrograf and appear technically flawless.  Everything is in register, colors look great, carrier film is thin and tightly restrained, and there’s a ton of maintenance stencils (enough for just one airplane, though).

Other extras in the box include a 74-page book:  Riders in the Sky: Liberatory GR. MK.III a MK.V ve službách RAF Coastal Command by Pavel Türk and Pavel Vančata.  This volume was produced and printed by Eduard, and it is of the highest quality, from the binding and paper to the diversity and fidelity of images.  While the text is in Czech, it is still deeply informative to those who don’t read Czech.  The illustrations – a combination of excellent archival images and great illustrations of the Coastal Command Liberators – are immensely useful references.  The contents of the box are capped off by a ready-to-frame poster of the box art depicting Liberator GR Mk.V (BZ796) from No. 311 Squadron attacking a German surface ship.  It’s a great image and is impressively rendered, and while the Liberator looks great, the artist did a particularly effective job capturing moody and forbidding late afternoon atmosphere of the north Atlantic.           

Weaknesses:  Only a few tiny observations can be offered.  Many of today’s kits often have separate control surfaces, but the Hasegawa plastic does not.  Also, all the Hasegawa parts were bagged together, and some parts (wing halves) had just a little superficial scuffing.  If you’re painting with a very thin paint (e.g., Mr. Paint), you might want to just buff out those scuffs with 3200+ grit Micromesh or whatever you have.  And while the excellent book by Türk and Vančata might not be in English, Eduard DOES provide an English translation of the text available here: https://www.eduard.com/store/out/media/riders_in_the_sky_1944_english.pdf

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Eduard has taken a great kit of the B-24 and made it better with their plastic and detail parts, book, and printed artwork.  This is an immensely appealing set, and I am very impressed its quality and scope.  It also allows the scale modeler to build a rather unique B-24 variant involved in a unique part of WWII history in the Battle of the Atlantic.  For those interested in adding even more detail, Eduard produces a range of photoetched and aftermarket sets to for the engines, wheels, bomb bay, and more.

Sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Eduard for the review sample.  You can visit them on the web at http://www.eduard.com and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EduardCompany.

 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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** Click on the thumbnails below to view a larger image.**


 

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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