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KIT REVIEW


Revell B-1B Lancer Platinum Limited Edition
1:48 Scale



The B-1B was born from the Cold War requirement for a supersonic strategic nuclear bomber capable of penetrating Soviet airspace.  Following the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, it evolved into one of the most consequential and capable conventional USAF ground attack aircraft and today serves as a pillar of the U.S. bomber triad.  The B-1B has long been a favorite subject for scale modelers.  In 1983, the first and only 1:48 scale B-1B kit made its debut.  Made by Revell, a second issue of this kit came out in 1985 and then was reissued periodically in 1998, 2006, 2009, and 2015 by Revell of Germany.  The big B-1B has emerged again in 2019 as a Platinum Limited Edition release by Revell that features two photoetched metal detail sets by Eduard.  The kit just landed on our review bench (with not a lot of room to spare) so let’s take a look at what we got.         

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The story of the B-1 bomber is long and complicated.  It can be argued that the origins of the B-1B go all the way back to a 1955 requirement to produce a strategic bomber that would fuse the Mach 2 capability of the B-58 Hustler with the range and payload of the B-52.  This produced the XB-70 Valkyrie.  Upon the cancellation of the XB-70 program, a series of design studies led to the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA) program which was ultimately killed by SECDEF MacNamara in 1968.  AMSA was resurrected by the Nixon administration in 1969.  

Following the new request for proposals, Rockwell International (now Boeing) was named the AMSA winner in 1970.  From this emerged the B-1A. The aircraft possessed long range, and could dash into Soviet airspace between Mach 2.2 (at higher altitudes) and Mach 1.2 (on the deck).  The Rockwell design featured variable-sweep wings, a crew-ejection capsule, variable geometry intakes, nose-mounted canards, and other advanced features.  The first B-1A prototype flew on 23 December 1974, and three more B-1A prototypes followed before the program was cancelled by the Carter administration.  This time, the B-1 was killed due to a combination of increasing program costs and inflation, the development of the AGM-86 ALCM, and the overly-optimistic projections of the ATB program to produce an operational stealth bomber fleet by the early 1980s.

By 1982, however, the B-1 arose once again, resuscitated by the Reagan administration as the ATB continued to face delays.  The Air Force awarded Rockwell $2.2 billion for the development and production of 100 B-1B bombers.  These aircraft would feature new avionics including an advanced ECM suite to defend against the newest and anticipated Soviet threats, various reductions to radar cross-section including serpentine air intakes with fixed radar wave-reflecting/absorbing baffles, and a mission refocused on high subsonic, low-altitude penetration of Russian airspace where new weapons such as the nuclear-tipped AGM-69 SRAM could be employed. 

The first B-1B was delivered from Rockwell’s Palmdale facility on 4 September 1984, and by 20 January 1988, the final and 100th B-1B was rolled out and delivered to the Strategic Air Command later that year.  Formally named “Lancer” it is often unofficially referred to as the “BONE” (or B-ONE).  B-1Bs sat on alert until SAC was disestablished 1992.  By then, B-1Bs already had started to develop conventional weapons capabilities.  This was again necessary for the B-1B’s survival:  following the implementation of the START treaty, the B-1B fleet was progressively modified between 1995 and 2011 to prohibit nuclear weapons carriage and employment.  From 1998 onward, the B-1B fleet has received continuous upgrades, including the Sniper XR targeting pod, the ALE-50 towed decoy system, Link 16 networking, new weapons such as JDAMs, AGM-154 JSOW, and the AGM-158 JASSM, wide-ranging avionic upgrades, modern cockpit displays, and AESA radar technology.

The combat record of the B-1B is very extensive, beginning with its first use in Operation ALLIED FORCE to DESERT FOX, ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM, ODDESSY DAWN, and INHERENT RESOLVE.  It has become a true workhorse, providing everything from strategic bombing of high-value targets to heavy close air support for troops on the ground.  This continuously high tempo of operations and the sequester put a lot of pressure on the fleet.  As of this writing, the B-1B fleet is emerging from a safety stand-down that took effect in early 2019 involving inspection of the egress systems that also produced a window to accomplish other maintenance tasks.  Today, 66 B-1Bs remain in service as the airplane is more potent than ever.  Plans envision the BONE serving until the mid-2030s when the B-21 Raider is scheduled to achieve full operational strength.      

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Revell’s 1:48 scale Platinum Limited Edition B-1B kit consists of 268 light gray injection molded kits on nine sprues (but see below).  Nine tinted clear parts come on one clear sprue.  Two Eduard photoetched metal detail sets are also included.  The Interior Detail Set contains three frets with 78 parts between them.  The Exterior Detail Set contains another 172 parts on two unpainted frets.  The 32-page instruction manual guides the build over 90 steps.  Markings are provided for two B-1Bs:

Strengths:  The 1:48 scale Revell B-1B is a classic kit from the 1980s.  I have particularly vivid memories as a kid being mesmerized by the No. 4 B-1A at the U.S. Air Force Museum and the subsequent trip to the local hobby shop when the 1985 issue of the kit came home with me.  Moreover, this kit harkens back to a time when American kit manufacturers dominated the hobby and their kits were big and bold – seemingly as inspired as the 1:1 aircraft they represented.

Today, the 1983 tooling in the current Revell re-issue of the BONE still represents the one and only B-1B kit produced in 1:48 scale.  On one hand, fans of the B-1B are all eternally grateful to see another issue of the giant B-1B (a little over three feet long when completed).  On the other hand, the tooling has not been updated since 1983.  More on that later.  Note that the four primary sprues here (Sprues A thru D) have been cut and snipped up in the production process.  This box is a bit smaller than the original Revell issue, so they’ve been reduced in size (see review photo gallery).  For an old set of molds, there’s not all that much flash and the parts look as good as they did when the kit was first released 36 years ago.  Fortunately, the vinyl rubber tires of the 1980s have been replaced by new injection molded parts.  Those were prone to cracking and could not be painted.

The kit contains a relatively complete cockpit spanning the pilot and copilot’s positions and the OSO and DSO (Offensive Systems Operator and Defensive Systems Operator) stations.  The ACES II seats generally do represent the B-1B configuration, depicting the arm rests added to the seats as well as the ejection seat rails.  The cockpit itself features “okay” detail and represents the B-1B’s interior until about the mid-2000s.  Still, some details are missing or simplified (see below).  The kit allows for the option of an open or closed crew access ladder.  There’s also a representation of the radar in the nose, though there’s really no provision to swing it open (but that’s not terribly hard to do on your own).

The gear wells feature a relatively accurate layout of the major components such as drag braces and linkages, and the landing gear is fairly accurate overall.  The three weapons bays are provided with basic detail, and they can be outfitted with two sets of AGM-69 SRAMs mounted to rotary launchers and one internal fuel tank (despite the color call-out as green, all the internal bomb bay-mounted tanks I’ve seen over the last several years are white).  The internal tank also is almost always carried in the forward bomb bay to insure the aircraft’s center-of-gravity is properly balanced.

The wings, of course, swing from a single pivot point just inside the aft section of wing glove.  If you position your wings forward at 15 degrees, do note that B-1B wings sport a pretty noticeable anhedral in that position when sitting on the ground.  The chaff and flare dispensers atop the forward fuselage are provided as very nicely printed decals.  And speaking of decals, the markings appear to have been printed by Cartograf and look absolutely top notch in terms of color, register, restrained carrier film, detail, and print quality.   

The factor that really changes the game with this classic kit are the Eduard photoetched parts.  The Interior set for the flight deck will elevate the level of detail in very meaningful ways through the use of the pre-painted photoetched parts.  They are also quite accurate.  Eduard did an impressive job with the instrument panels and side console.  There’s also some great shoulder restraint, shoulder harness, and lap belt details provided, and include even pre-painted stitching and shading details.  The work here is subtle and really precise.  Other details include ejection handles, rudder pedals, and side console sidewalls.  It all adds up to an impressive and satisfying level of detail that does justice to the BONE.

The Exterior set provides some great additional touches for around the jet.  These include a much better (replacement) boarding ladder, various gear well details, some additional parts for the main gear, afterburner flame holders, and items missing or omitted in the Revell kit:  the correct number and size of pitot tubes, the prominent AN/ALQ-161 antennas, and the multiple vortex generators beneath the horizontal stabilizers.        
   
 Weaknesses:   Revell designed and tooled the molds for this kit more than a year before the first B-1B rolled off the production line.  So… the model represents what an early production B-1B was supposed to look like.  In other words, the kit does a decent job in capturing the shape, size, and proportions of the early B-1B, but various simplified details and inaccuracies exist, from the arrangement of the intakes, gear wells, weapons bays, and location of various panel lines.  There’s been a lot said over the years on its quirks and issues, so here, I’ll only provide a basic rundown.

The Revell B-1B has not aged entirely well when compared to today’s standards in quality and fit.  As someone who has relatively recently built this kit, there are indeed some tricky fits, including the forward fuselage and tail sections.  Take your time and test fit.  Sanding and putty/filler will be part of your playbook.  The panel lines are deep and wide – definitely over-sized for 1:48 scale.  They are also simplified, with a good number of missing panel details, including an inaccurate single-piece OSO/DSO compartment topside hatch.  Further, the B-1B’s skin is covered with a few thousand rivets/fasteners.  The number of rivets/fasteners depicted on the surface of this kit equals the number zero.

The bomb bays and gear wells are significantly over-simplified.  The ordnance in this kit has never been updated since 1983, and for the two markings options in the kits, it is not appropriate.  The AGM-69 was retired in 1993.  The rotary launchers in the kit are not used in the carriage of convention weapons such as today’s JDAMs.  Also – I do believe that Georgia ANG jet would have likely been updated with the Block D external configuration by that time which features the prominent AN/ALE-50 housings on the tail.  To solve that problem, check out the BarracudaStudios update set that we reviewed some years back HERE

Also, note that the overall configuration of the intakes is inaccurate, from the missing hinged side panels to the missing intake baffles.  The engine exhausts are also wrong for these two jets, as the B-1B’s F101 engines had been flying without “turkey feathers” for many years.  To address these issues, take a look at the BarracudaStudios B-1B intakes and featherless exhausts available HERE along with the Bone Fragments B-1B intakes which also, in fact, serve as adaptors for the Barracuda intakes (see our review HERE). 

Royale Resin produced some great cast resin B-1B wheels that you can see HERE.  Bone Fragments (https://bone-fragments.com) also does a few other B-1B sets, including a very good Sniper pod pylon adaptor.  For the true maniac, ArmyCast provides a cast resin set to extend the slats and drop the flaps.  I have one, and it is as complex a conversion as it is insanely cool.  The B-1B “Wing Mechanics Set” from ArmyCast is available from avationmegastore.com in The Netherlands HERE.  There are also aftermarket weapons bays in the works, so says the rumor mill...

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It’s always good to see Revell’s big 1:48 scale B-1B surface again, and this time, the addition of the Eduard detail parts really offers a great deal of enhanced detail and improvements in accuracy.  This is a great temptation for ANY fan of the BONE, and as usual, get it while you can.  Revell B-1Bs tend to get bought up pretty quickly, and this was not a huge production run as a limited-edition re-issue.  It’s expensive, but the value of the kit and aftermarket parts indeed adds up.  It holds plenty of fun and “wow-factor” for the average builder (be patient with some of those major assembly fit issues).  More advanced builders will enjoy the kit as a worthwhile jumping off point to build an accurate B-1B, particularly in its current configuration.         

Sincere thanks to Revell for the review sample.  You can find them on the web at http://www.revell.com/germany.  Thanks to Jarrad Bradley are owed for useful and enjoyable B-1B technical discussions. 

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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