Tuesday, June 14

Construction review Pt I: ICM's 48th scale Douglas B-26K Counter Invader (& crew)

Like a lot of people, Alister Curnow was pretty excited to see ICM's 48th scale Counter Invader hit the market. He has now built the kit, but stopped halfway to show us how it builds. See his progress so far in his build article...

Construction review Pt I: ICM's 48th scale Douglas B-26K Counter Invader 
ICM Model 
Kit number 48280
1/48th scale
Four marking choices in the box:
В-26К 64-17651, 56th SOW, 609th Special Operations Squadron, Nakhon Phanom, 1969
В-26К 64-17649, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, 1970
В-26К 64-17645, 56th SOW, 609th Special Operations Squadron, Nakhon Phanom, 1969
В-26К 64-17679, 1st Special Operations Wing, USAF, late 1960s
Model Dimensions: 325 x 455 mm
344 Parts + 48 parts to make 5 figures
Price: $76 USD from Hobbylink Japan
The Subject: The Douglas B-26K Counter Invader
It goes without saying that an aircraft that was operated in three major wars over the course of twenty-five years must be something pretty special, and the Douglas A-26 Invader certainly ticked that box for the USAAF in WW2, and into the 50s and 60s with the USAF. Originally operated as a light bomber in WW2, during the Korean War these aircraft flew again with a new lease on life, as a ground attack aircraft, heavily armed with machine guns, rockets and bombs. 
By the 1960s, the USAF need for a counter insurgency aircraft resulted in the air force awarding a contract to On Mark Engineering in California to modify 40 airframes to a new standard for counter insurgency and ground attached work, to be designated the B-26K. Only 30 were completed, so this really shows the small production run for these chosen airframes, compared to the numbers built for the generation of pilots flying them in the second world war. On Mark overhauled many aspects of the aircraft including increasing the size of the rudder/tail section, strengthening the wings for increased payload, adding 8 underwing hardpoints, wingtip fuel tanks, more powerful engines, replacing the propellers, adding a second set of pilot controls, and deleting the air defence armament. 
The Kit: ICM's 48th scale Douglas B-26K Counter Invader (& crew) 
ICM have done a tremendous job modelling these changes and upgrades to their kit of the B-26K, with all these changes coming through into their kitset. Of the 11 sprue trees in the box, four are dedicated to the new parts required to build this model. As per all the new release ICM kits I have seen and built in the last couple of years, the plastic in the box is of a very nice quality, with sharp surface details. The included decal set in the box includes a high quality set for displaying your model as one of four different aircraft. Gary Wickham has already reviewed this kit here on TMN, and his review was invaluable for this build.

The cover image of Gary's review...
Also included in this boxing from ICM is a US Pilots and Ground Personnel (Vietnam War) set (part no 48087) (reviewed here on TMN), and US Aviation Armament set (part no 48406). This aircraft really needs to be displayed loaded for a mission, so this is an excellent addition. The ground crew personnel look to be beautifully molded for this small scale, and I’ll attempt to build these up for you to have a closer look at near the end.

But setting the build into motion, we start out with the interior, with steps 1 to 4 detailing the bomb bay. As I have elected to keep my bomb bay doors closed, this interior detail will be left unpainted. ICM supply bomb bay doors in both the open and closed position in the box. Pictured below are the first steps completed for the left side of the fuselage to step 4 and I’ve added part E21 from step 11 at the same time. The interior details supplied are nice for an out of the box build, and in future we can expect aftermarket parts for those who want to super detail these areas. And as always, there is room to add your own details to these parts, such as wiring looms, etc.
The right side of the fuselage is a little less interesting than the left, but shown here to complete your view of the interior.
Steps 5 to 10 follow this up by building the radio and camera operator station for the rear of the fuselage. In a position once manned by the defensive armament gunner, on this aircraft, this operator now has had his seat moved closer to the left side of the fuselage, to line up with the camera controls installed there. As such I have filled in the hole from ICM which places the seat in the centre of this space, and drilled my own to the left. The seat looks very basic, so I have experimented this build with adding a textured seat cover, and will paint it khaki green.
After the quick process of the rear section, I moved onto building the cockpit in order to paint both at the same time. As this had a second set of pilot controls added by On Mark, these parts are supplied on one of the new sprues just for this kit. The control columns are a slight miss on the part of ICM, they are control columns from an earlier model Invader, but perhaps in future a resin replacement will be available for those wanting exacting realism with their builds. To the untrained eye, these will do just fine. The seats again are very basic.
I decided to add some side bars to the seats as per the real aircraft photo, made from plasticard. I also added some Eduard PE lap belts from my stash (as I didn’t see over shoulder belts in my photo reference). Pictured for you here is the cockpit dry fitted and ready for painting.
The painting consisted of my usual steps, applying a black primer first. I then applied a patchy finish of rubber black, with highlights in dark grey. I dry brushed some areas (particularly the seat base) with silver scratches/ wear. The instrument decal from ICM was used, and this filled the empty gauges on the main panel nicely. Once all this was done, I applied a dark earth modelling pigment (Ammo Mig) onto the areas the dirty boots of the flight crew would be, and a lighter dusting of this on other flat areas, such as on the dashboard. 
This same method was used for the rear compartment. In that area, I discovered my relocation of the rear seat wasn’t allowing for the seat to fit inside the fuselage, so I had to drill a new hole for this. I will not be able to see the first hole when it's fully assembled. The rear fuselage wall was completed at the same time as the crew compartments. The panel for the camera controls was completely devoid of any details, so I’ve used a decal for this (a side console panel from an AH64 Apache actually!)
The cockpit and rear sections fitted very nicely into the fuselage. No issues at all with this process were encountered.
The fuselage alignment and joining also went very well, with the only issue encountered being that the joining pins on one half of the fuselage didn’t fit into the holes awaiting them on the other fuselage half. This was an easy fix though, just making the holes a little larger. The fuselage was then joined slowly and inch by inch with Tamiya's extra thin cement. The segments were secured in place with tape and clamps for 24 hours until it had dried.
In the image below, the cockpit has been installed, the fuselage joined, and seams filled and sanded. The roof above the bomb bay has also been installed.
The rear compartment now fitted (I have accidentally knocked the side window out of place here, to be rescued after the photo)
Where the fuselage halves joined nicely, the parts required for a counter invader didn’t fit into it quite so well. 
As shown below, the panel fitted for the deleted lower machine gun was left with some gaps, and the piece for the bomb bay doors also has gaps at both ends, as pictured. The bomb bay gap wouldn’t be an issue if you model your Invader with the doors open. I have filled these gaps with a water based filler (Vallejo), and cleaned off any excess, but leaving the panel lines visible.
Other parts of the fit are complete perfection, such as the fit of the front canopy section. This was excellent. The manual includes on page 24 a template for creating your own canopy painting masks, which I think is a fantastic feature ICM have introduced on their kits. I photocopied mine a couple of times (just in case of errors) before cutting the masks and applying them to the model. The excellent fit of the front canopy glass, and the beginning of the canopy masking process is pictured below:
The rear canopy glass had a small 0.5mm gap at one end, so I made a small shim for this out of plasti-card, and sanded it into shape before gluing the rear glass into place. The clear plastic parts are crystal clear without any visual flaws that I noticed. The fuselage at this point is about 90% completed, just missing the elevators and the nose cone.
The nose cone is a little difficult to build as it is made from four parts. I fitted into the nose 1.5oz (42gms) of lead fishing weight, held in place with blue tack before gluing the nose on (apologies for no photos of this step). I think future builders might want to consider an aftermarket resin part for this nose cone, which will likely improve the result of this model in this area.
With the majority of the fuselage done, I could move onto the wings and engines. The details and fit of the wings is excellent. There is really not a lot to add to this sentiment. Flaps and ailerons fit perfectly, and the wing is also a new part for this B-26K model, featuring the steel strap reinforcing that was added by On Mark Engineering for strength of the wing under the high-"G" work the aircraft would be performing, and to allow installation of four underwing hardpoints for each wing. The wingtip tanks fit beautifully also. 
The tanks, however, don’t include details for the two fuel filler caps. I have scribed this detail myself. I’ve drilled a hole into the tip tanks mounting point to permit handling for painting before fitting.
Wings complete, time to move onto the engines and nacelles. These too are as nicely detailed as the rest of the kit and also fit together very well. Unlike the nose gear doors, the gear doors for the rear wheels can be left until later in the build to be fitted, and this is how I have approached this.
And once tidied up I have painted all these and weathered with Ammo Silver dry brush paint, and some Ammo Engine Grime wash, and Tamiya Black panel line wash. I have worked on the assumption here that these internals might not have been given a fresh coat of paint by On Mark when rebuilding the aircraft, so I’ve made them as dirty and worn as they might have been after 25 years of military use (and time spent in the boneyard!). Either way, as they are a dark enclosed space when finished, I felt an over emphasis of wear here might show up better in this space.
Completion of the wings. The nacelles fit nicely onto the wings, but once fitted I spent quite a bit of time filling and sanding joins, and in a couple of places needed a second attempt at smoothing things out. 
Wingtip tanks now have fuel filler caps scribed also.
ICM have supplied some really nicely detailed engines, and they have also taken the opportunity to model these accurately in fitting with the type of aircraft we are building. On Mark fitted uprated R-2800 engines to the Counter Invader, fitting a later “C” series of engines from Pratt & Whitney, and to ICMs credit, these have been supplied in this kit. I have tidied up all the parts and set them aside for painting all at the same time. I have elected to install my own wiring to these as I think it adds a nice bit of detail for these types of engines, so the start of this process is visible below with my engine wires added to the plastic from the kit. The details from ICM here in the engine allow the builder to fit an engine on their model without an engine cowl cover, so the detail can be shown. As I’ll be fitting my engine cowls, this means I can skip a certain amount of attention to detail in this area. Only a small view of the front of the engines is visible, with engine covers on. Parts like the exhaust piping and engine mount framing won’t be seen, so I’ll just leave these in black primer.
The engines really come to life with some painting and some wiring. The engine was primed in black, and all the cylinders were then dry brushed in Ammo’s light metal dry brush paint (A.Mig-0621). The gear reduction housing on the front of the engine was painted in Tamiya XF-82 (Ocean Grey 2- RAF). The wiring was all lined up and super glued in place and then painted in Tamiya XF-64 (Red Brown). The engines then received some weathering from various washes, mostly Ammo Mig “Engine Grime” (A.Mig-1407). Finished engines are pictured here with the propellers in primer finish. The propellers themselves chosen by On Mark during the upgrade process were DC-6 blades, with 10 inches cut off the tips.
With an engine cover fitted, you can see how little of the engine is actually visible!
The engine covers unfortunately have some sink marks at the leading edge of the cowling that need to be filled and sanded, as can be seen from the image below. (I have rectified this issue on the engine cover picture above.). The sharp edging at the start of the intake also needs to be sanded smooth, as this ridge is not visible on real aircraft.
To complete the engines, the exhausts need to be built and painted, and engine mounting frames fitted. As mentioned above, a lot of this won’t be visible. Ideally, the exhausts should have holes drilled in them, but there are approximately 70 holes needing to be drilled in all of these. I currently don’t own a set of micro drills, so I couldn’t face trying to drill all these out with a scalpel blade, so I skipped this. I did paint them, however, using my usual method of painting these Vallejo Burnt Iron, and then coating them in a mix of Tamiya brown panel liner with some brown artist pastel dust mixed into it. A quick and easy approach to rusted engine exhausts. The engines look excellent fitted to the engine nacelles and would look excellent for any diorama builders to model these as open and on display. The engine cowl remedial work is now also completed, and I painted the interiors of these with the green I had used inside the gear bays, Tamiya XF-71 (Cockpit green)
With the engines built, I decided to complete this part of the build by also finishing the propellers. After the black primer, I airbrushed these in silver, and applied a coat of hairspray, before applying Tamiya’s Rubber Black (LP-65). Once dry I used an old toothbrush and water on the leading edges of the blades to reveal the silver underneath for chipping. The yellow tips were also painted prior to this chipping, with a white by SMS, and then Tamiya Yellow LP-80. This combo proved too much for hairspray chipping (note to self, use acrylics next time!) so I used my Light Metal dry brush paint to “chip” the yellow tips.
The engines in their cowling could be fitted to the wing nacelles, and masked for painting with some tape and foam cut to size and inserted into place. The wings in this next photo are just dry fitted in place, a testament to how good the fit is here. I will leave the wings off until all the painting is done, to provide easier access to the airbrush painting the engine nacelles and fuselage under the wings. 
My homemade canopy masks were starting to peel by this time, so some extra help was needed in that area. Things are looking very rough at this point! But just like the B26s arriving at On Mark Engineering from the boneyard, a new coat of paint will see my B-26 come to life again. Painting, decals, weathering, weapons, ground crew and final touches will all be detailed in part two of this build review, watch this space for the next update.

The kit's second part will be along shortly. See then how Alister finished the kit to such a high standard int he second part of the article...
Alister Curnow

Thanks to ICM for sending this kit to Alister to build and review for us. You can see more about their kits on their website...

PS: I’d like to credit Gary Wickham’s Counter Invader dry fit review he posted on TMN. It’s been invaluable as a reference for me during my build, and for writing this article. 

Kit Instructions: