by: Eirik Sandaas [ ]
Dive bombing is for many today synonymous with Germany and it’s infamous Stuka. But in fact it was the British who started to experiment with using diving as a way to ensure greater accuracy when delivering a bomb load. During WW1 they realized that the tactic would necessitate dedicated aircrafts. The first was the Sopwith Salamander. Even though the concept of dive brakes was not introduced it had heavier armor to protect the air men from ground fire, and a more robust construction. Only two examples were ever delivered to the west front.
In the interwar years America took over as the main innovator in the field of dive bombing, and it was seen as particularly useful at sea, where attacks would often be against smaller, moving, targets, in the form of enemy ships. At the outbreak of the second world war the main American dive bomber was the Douglas SBD Dauntless, but from December 1942 they were replaced by the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was the main US Navy carrier based dive-bomber during WW2. This kit by Academy focuses on Helldivers used during the battle of Okinawa and includes PE-parts for the distinctive dive flaps.
The SB2C was much faster than the SBD, but also much more complex. Neither pilots nor aircraft carrier captains seemed to like it. Crews often referred to the SB2C as “The Big-tailed Beast” or “Son-of-a-Bitch 2.Class” for its difficult handling characteristics.
Poor handling and other teething problems was a factor that hampered its service introductions; both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force cancelled substantial orders.
In operational experience, it was found that the U.S. Navy's Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters were able to carry an equally heavy bomb load against ground targets while being vastly more capable of defending themselves against enemy fighters. The Helldiver, however, could still deliver its ordnance with greater precision against specific targets and its two-seat configuration permitted a second set of eyes. It also has a significant advantage in range when fully loaded compared to the fighter-bombers, extremely important in naval operations.
But the subsequent introduction of air-to-ground rockets made it clear that the SB2C was to be the last purpose-built dive bomber produced in America. Rockets allowed the same precision attack against surface targets, while avoiding the stresses of near-vertical dives and the demanding performance requirements this placed on dive bombers.
This boxing from Academy is an “Operation Iceberg Special Edition” released in July 2016. Operation Iceberg was the code name for the battles fought in the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, centered on the island of Okinawa. This means that all three profiles covered by the decals in the kit are of aircraft deployed on carriers involved in these battles. I think this is quite a clever way to reissue a kit, first released by Academy in 2005.
SB2C-4E, 15, VB-16, USS Randolph, 1945 - All over Navy Blue (FS15042).
SB2C-4E, 205, VB-84, USS Bunker Hill, 1945 - All over Navy Blue (FS15042).
SB2C-4, 110, VB-3, USS Yorktown, 1945 - Navy Blue(FS15042), Intermediate Blue (FS35164), White (FS17875).
Note that the outer, folding, part of the wing of the tricolor plane is painted Intermediate Blue.
The box is of the tray and lid-type made in thin cardboard. What strikes me though is the design. Most of all it reminds me of the box of a board game with its stylized illustration and the name “Operation Iceberg” so prominent. I like it, but it must be said some traditionalist might disagree.
The large decal sheet is printed by Cartograf. This means that the traditional Achilles heel of Academy kits, the thick and stubborn decals, are absent. The large number of stencils are supplied both in white and black, but there is no note on which color is meant to be used on the different color schemes, so I would suggest finding some reference photos. Worth noting is that it is a separate instruction for the stencils, and yes they are legible even as small as they are. I also think it is a nice gesture to supply a decal for the striped arresting hook. The bomb load is not forgotten either, a series of decals should make it look the part.
The kit itself comes on three sprues: Two large in middle grey plastic and one smaller transparent. The sprues are all packed in a single plastic bag, which risk them being chaffed or damaged. I think the intention was to pack the transparent sprue in a separate bag inside the larger bag, but this smaller bag was not heat sealed, so the sprue had slid out in my example. Peculiar, and might be an one-off mistake.
The transparent parts are commendably thin and crystal clear, but there is significant optical distortion in the curved panes. In all there are 79 plastic parts and none are marked "not for use".
Instructions are in the form of two folding brochures printed in black and white. The main instructions shows the build in 14 steps. Illustrations are good, and there are color call outs throughout linked to a color chart where the 15 colors used are keyed to paints from a whole range of producers: Humbrol, GSI Creos, Lifecolor, Testors, Revell and Vallejo, as well as generic names and FS-number where applicable. Other manufactures take note: This is how you make a user friendly painting instruction.
Level of molded detail is very nice, with thin and subdued panel lines throughout. The parts are crisply cast, with no flash, sink marks or other blemished I could find. There are a few ejection marks, but they are mostly hidden away. The only ones that might pose a problem are inside the covers for the landing wheels. I doubt they will be visible, but in any case a quick swipe with extra thin cement before priming should blend them in. There are also some marks on the inside structure of the bomb bay walls that I’m unsure is actually part of the structure or an ejection mark.
My previous experience with Academy is that their kits are well designed and have good fit. I don’t expect anything else here. Note that as usual for Academy the kit is tooled to be built wheels down. The bomb bay is meant to be built open, and you would have to do some modifications if you want it closed up. Not that I can see why you would want to, as it looks to be a very nice depiction of the internal bomb bay.
The SB2C-4 had a very distinct perforated dive brake at the rear end of the wing. This is something plastic cannot accurately reproduce in this small scale, so you would normally either live with a dimpled effect, drill out the holes yourself, a un-enviable task, or turn to aftermarket replacements. But in this Special Edition boxing the PE parts for these comes included.
28 PE-parts make up the dive brake, that can build opened or closed, flaps down. The former necessitate the addition of a small piece of plastic rod for the actuator, Academy suggests using stretched sprue. To fit the PE parts you will have to remove the molded fully closed dive flap from the wing parts. Using a razor-saw, a dremel or similar tool it should not be very difficult. Just mind the old adage: “Measure twice, cut once!” The PE sub-assembly get its own instruction sheet, and look quite complex, but there are just straight folds, no curved surfaces, so I think it should be well within the abilities for most builders with some PE-experience.
The inside of the dive flap was famously painted red, so this kit should be a real eye catcher built out of the box, especially the tricolor scheme, which I’ll opt for when I will build this kit.
It is also no provision made to build the kit with wings folded, and with the addition of the PE-dive flap this would mean major surgery! The instructions explain how the leading edge slats can either be built extended or modified to sit retracted. But remember they were mechanically linked with the landing gear actuators to deploy when the undercarriage were lowered.
The cockpit area looks suitably busy, and the instrument panel and radio assembly are supplied with decals for the dial faces. Use enough decal solution so the decals sink into the molding and the result should be fine. The rear turtle deck is molded up, with guns stowed. The guns are somewhat simplified, but should look okay for this scale. As far as I can tell you can mount the cockpit hoods retracted without modifications to the parts.
The one omission in this area is the lack of harnesses for the pilot and gunner. Because, despite that the box promise “Dive-flaps and other photo-etched parts included” the PE-sheet is just dive brakes. So no additional parts to dress up the cockpit or engine or harness for the seats. This, in my view, is a missed opportunity.
Nevertheless. Academy delivers a very solid kit here, that should satisfy even the most picky customer. If you plan to build the SB2C in this scale the only real alternative is the kits from Cyber Hobby, which carry a significantly higher price. Revell and Airfix have both also SB2Cs on offer, but those are reissued kits using "ancient" molds,