New Year and a New Tooling Announcement
Welcome to the latest edition of Workbench and the first of 2017. There has been no let up in activity at Airfix over the festive season and we begin the year with some exciting news regarding a new model tooling in 1/72nd scale. Before we move on to this, on behalf of the entire Airfix Workbench team may we wish all our readers a very Happy New Year – may your days be filled with plenty of modelling activities over the coming months.
In the previous edition of Workbench we looked back at some of the highlights of a busy year for Airfix during 2016 and at the new model toolings announced over the past twelve months. With plenty to look forward to in 2017, we thought that the best way to start a new year was to bring you news of yet another new tooling announcement, although readers of the Airfix Club magazine will already be aware of this model, as it was exclusively revealed in their Winter Edition. The latest addition to the Airfix 1/72nd scale kit range is one of the most successful and versatile medium bombers of all time – the magnificent North American B-25C/D Mitchell. Let’s take a closer look at this project and why this particular aircraft proved so important to the Allied war effort during WWII.
North American’s Magnificent Medium
One of the most significant factors in determining the outcome of the Second World War was the industrial might of America and the sheer volume of military hardware they could produce. Crucially, much of this equipment was made available to nations battling the Axis powers even before America had entered the war, but following the devastating Pearl Harbor raid the US war machine went into overdrive. From the first military actions of WWII it was clear that air power would dominate the battlefields of the world, and America would need to equip her air forces with fighting machines that could match the highly advanced aircraft in service with their enemies and spearhead them to eventual victory. Of the many American built aircraft that made significant contributions to the Allied war effort during WWII, one of the most successful was the North American B-25 Mitchell – a twin engined medium bomber which was produced in greater numbers than any other American aircraft of its type during WWII and was amongst the most adaptable aircraft to ever see combat.
The B-25 Mitchell was a rugged and effective war machine
Originally developed in response to an Air Corps requirement for a high performance attack bomber, North American Aviation produced their NA-40 which first flew in January 1939, but failed to impress in trials. Losing out to the rival Douglas DB-7 (A-20 Havoc), North American designers continued to work on improving their aircraft, certain that it had all the qualities to succeed as a strike bomber and following the Air Corps issuing a further requirement for a medium bomber in March 1939, the revised NA-62 was ordered into production. Even though the aircraft was now destined for USAAF use, the aircraft was continually developed throughout production as the North American engineers were convinced their aircraft could be even better. The most significant improvement came ten aircraft into the production run, when stability issues forced a redesign of the outer wing panels – rather than continuing with the constant dihedral of the earlier machines, designers incorporated a slight wing anhedral angle outboard of the engine nacelles, which gave the aircraft a distinctive gull-winged appearance. With a number of other improvements added to these early production aircraft, the B-25 soon began to show great potential as a highly effective medium bomber.
Given the name ‘Mitchell’, the B-25 was named in honour of Major General William ‘Billy’ Mitchell who was a great champion of air power and a significant figure in the history of the US Air Force. As an airman serving on the Western Front in WWI, Mitchell had witnessed the rise of aviation first hand and was convinced that the aeroplane would play a significant role in any future conflict. This conviction would bring him into conflict with senior officials in both the US Army and Navy as he vociferously argued against continued spending on battleships, as the aeroplane had rendered them almost obsolete. He famously arranged demonstrations where bomber aircraft would attack obsolete warships to prove the vulnerability of these floating leviathans and followed this by proclaiming that all investment that would have been spent on battleships should instead be diverted to aircraft carrier production. He would certainly be vindicated in his vision for the future importance of military air power.
The role of the Medium Bomber was to prove essential during the Second World War, with aircraft often required to operate at lower altitudes and in support of ground operations. The effectiveness of the B-25 design had not escaped the attentions of the Royal Air Force who became an early customer for the bomber, securing significant numbers of aircraft via the critically important Lend-Lease agreement. The first RAF B-25B Mitchells were delivered in August 1941 and were given the British service name Mitchell I and served with No.111 Operational Training Unit, based in the Bahamas. These first aircraft were used exclusively for flight training and crew familiarisation and never actually achieved operational status, but the RAF were keen to secure as many B-25s as possible to replace their ageing Wellingtons and less effective Douglas Bostons. In total, The RAF would receive almost 900 Mitchells in total, the vast majority of which saw service during the last two years of the war, particularly in the period around the D-Day landings. Mitchells of the Second Tactical Air Force were amongst the first strike units to be moved to forward operating bases in France and Belgium, as these rugged and capable bombers continued to fly close air support missions for advancing Allied Ground units. The most heavily used variant of the Mitchell to see service with the RAF was the B-25C/D, of which 538 were received and were referred to as the Mitchell II.
The North American Mitchell comes of age
Image C – USAAF B-25C’s in formation with RAF Martin Baltimore bombers
Despite the undoubted potential displayed by the B-25 Mitchell design, it was not until the introduction of the C and D models that the aircraft truly began to come of age. A number of additions and alterations transformed the Mitchell into a superlative fighting aircraft and one which quickly revealed its flair for adaptability. The strength of the basic design allowed a growing number of modifications to support the aircraft being used in many more roles than it was originally intended for. The difference between the C and D models was basically only the factory that produced the aircraft – C models were manufactured in the existing Inglewood California plant, whilst D model aircraft were produced in a new facility in Kansas City. Almost four thousand examples of this version of the aircraft were built, which went on to see service in the Pacific theatre, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Italy, Russia, China and with home based US squadrons.
The WWII working environment of the B-25 Mitchell medium bomber
The rugged and reliable Mitchell proved to be extremely popular with the pilots and crews who flew the aircraft in combat, who trusted the B-25 to get them home safely. Able to withstand a significant amount of battle damage, the Mitchell was regarded as something of a warhorse, an aircraft that could be relied upon to get the job done. Equipped with the advanced Norden bombsight, Mitchell squadrons could be relied upon to mount accurate, strategic strike operations in support of ground forces that came across particularly stubborn enemy opposition. With its strong tricycle undercarriage, the B-25 could also operate from roughly prepared airfields so it was never stationed too far away from where it was needed. It would see service in most theatres of operation during WWII and proved to be one of the most adaptable aircraft available to the Allied powers – later models of the Mitchell were the most heavily armed aircraft of the Second World War and wreaked havoc with Japanese supply lines in some of the most inhospitable operating environments of the conflict.
Airfix to produce another WWII classic
A computer rendered 3D image of the impressive new B-25 Mitchell
It is highly probable that many Workbench readers will have built a 1/72nd scale Airfix example of the North American B-25 Mitchell at some time in the past, as this model has been in the range since 1965. Always a pleasurable modelling experience, the B-25 was definitely one of the most interesting aircraft subjects of the Second World War, with the kit mirroring the real aircraft in producing an extremely rugged and durable model, which was capable of surviving even the most robust shelf cleaning. Although this classic model was well loved by modellers all over the world, it was beginning to show its age and was certainly one of the kits that enthusiasts were suggesting would benefit from an upgrade. We are pleased to confirm that the latest 1/72nd scale New Tooling announcement from Airfix is the North American B-25C/D Mitchell, one of the most important Allied bombers of the Second World War.
Workbench readers will be well versed in the processes involved in producing a new model tooling by now, so we will not cover the same ground during this review, particularly as we have announced several new models over the course of the past few weeks.
A robust research file would be needed for the new B-25 Mitchell project
As one of the most successful medium bombers of the Second World War, the B-25 Mitchell will be familiar to modellers and aviation enthusiasts alike, with the aircraft possessing a number of highly distinctive features in its design. In order to ensure that every aspect of the aircraft is accurately represented in the new Airfix tooling, the design team produced a robust research file at the outset of this project, containing highly detailed information on the construction and development of the Mitchell. This included technical drawings used in the construction of the actual aircraft, a huge amount of information from the extensive Airfix library and the opportunity for our research team to inspect a preserved example of a very rare B-25. The version Airfix are producing is the C/D variant, which was a much improved aircraft over the machines which took part in the famous ‘Doolittle Raid’ of April 1942 and included upgraded powerplants, better armament and a host of operating improvements. This was also the first mass produced version of the Mitchell with examples not only operating with US units, but also with the RAF (as the Mitchell II) and the air forces of Canada, China, the Soviet Union and the Netherlands.
As explained earlier, the C and D variants of the Mitchell were basically identical, with the mark letter simply confirming which factory built the aircraft – the ‘C’ models were produced at the North American facility at Inglewood, California, whilst the ‘D’ models were built at a new plant in Kansas City.
The research team had access to a rare B-25D at the National War and Resistance Museum in Holland
As well as having access to an impressive array of research material, the Airfix development team were extremely fortunate to be allowed access to a preserved example of the B-25, but had to travel overseas for the opportunity to inspect it. North American B-25D Mitchell FR193 (41-30792) is an incredibly rare example of this WWII medium bomber and the only example of this variant on display in Europe. Originally delivered to the RAF in April 1944, the bomber served with No.320 (Dutch) Squadron at Dunsfold and was involved in operations in advance of the D-Day landings. This included specifically targeting railway infrastructure, such as junctions and marshalling yards, which would prevent the Germans from reinforcing the invasion area in the critical days following the Allied landings in Normandy. Following the end of WWII, the aircraft went on to serve with the Dutch Navy at NAS Valkenburg and is now on public display in the National War and Resistance Museum in Overloon, Holland. The Airfix team would like to thank the museum for their kind assistance with this exciting project.
Computer rendered 3D Mitchell images
Central to the production of any new model tooling is the creation of the CAD model, which is used to check every aspect of the new design for shape and accuracy, allowing even the most intricate of detail to be perfected. Always conscious of the scale in which the new model will be produced, these digital files allow designers to create model components that are as accurate as current injection moulding tolerances will allow, but always challenging themselves to push these manufacturing boundaries to their limits. As important as these files are in producing the model tooling itself, there is another aspect of the CAD model file data that consistently fascinates the modelling world and helps them to visualise what the new model will look like when it is eventually released – the computer rendered 3D images. Used extensively to promote the new model in catalogue and magazine features, these images help to fuel the interest levels of the enthusiast and reassure them that the project is real and advancing nicely towards eventual release. As you can see from the selection of rendered 3D images below, the new North American B-25C/D tooling is looking particularly impressive and will make a fantastic addition to the Airfix range.
A selection of computer rendered 3D B-25 Mitchell images
As one of the most successful medium bombers of WWII, the North American B-25 Mitchell will clearly be of great interest to the modeller, who will have numerous scheme choices in which to finish their example. With well over 9,500 aircraft produced, the Mitchell served with the US and several overseas air forces and in many theatres of operation during WWII, making this an ideal choice to further swell the Airfix range. Available to pre-order now, and with a scheduled release date currently set as November 2017, we look forward to bringing you regular updates from this exciting project as it progresses towards its arrival in model shops all over the world – for the time being, we hope the images displayed above have suitably whetted your appetite.
A Victorious endeavour
As one of the latest 1/72nd scale new tooling releases to arrive in model stores at the back end of 2016, the new Airfix Handley Page Victor B.2 proved to be unbelievably popular over the festive period and will have been a popular gift for many a modeller. This hugely impressive model incorporates all the detail and accuracy associated with Airfix releases and has re-kindled interest in Britain’s mighty V-Bombers and the uncertain period in world history known as the Cold War. As modellers were opening their Victor boxes and excitedly inspecting the contents, many will have noticed a little additional treat that supported the Victor release – posted on the Airfix YouTube channel over the Christmas holiday period was a magnificent stop motion animation build of the model. Built and filmed by regular contributor Tom Grigat and his friends from the Modellschmiede-Haemelerwald near Hanover in Germany, this fantastic piece of work only served to increase our excitement – if you have yet to see the film, feast your eyes on this:
Tom kindly sent us some details regarding this impressive project, which we thought you might like to read.
"Our native English modelling mate Pete Domm wrote a little description of our work for you. If you like, you may use it as some sort of documentation for the movie.
With the pending release of the 1/72 scale Handley Page Victor B.2 Bomber from Airfix, Tom Grigat was once again asked if he could do another Stop-motion film for this year’s Airfix online Advent Calendar, which he readily agreed to. However, Tom had only three weeks to complete the project, so asked for help from his friends at the Modellschmiede-Hämelerwald (Haemelerwald-Modellforge). To be part of a project for a reputable company like Airfix was an offer we could not refuse.
After a day between us on Facebook messenger, discussing on how to go about the task, it became clear that we would need to have two models of the aircraft if we were to complete it all within the deadline of three weeks. Airfix kindly gave the go ahead and sent the two kits.
After the package contents were served out, checked and the instructions read, a final plan was laid out. Tom would need a complete kit for his part on the project of his own. Tom's job would be to show the complete animated sequences of the construction of the model which he would film. Then the completed model would be used later in the film for his idea in this short movie.
Most aircraft need runways and the Victor was going to be no exception. The runway was quickly constructed by Lars Gotzhein and Sascha Ziegler, who luckily for us, enjoy building terrain. Having spent less than five days of their own time a runway of 200 x 100 cm divided into four sections equally, for transporting around, was built. The runway was made up of hardboard, plaster for the concrete and static grass. The diorama was then duly painted up to represent a runway."
The completed runway is ready to receive its V-Bomber
A blue screen background would be needed in the production of this impressive stop-motion production
"The second Victor for the filming was to be constructed by Dirk Mennigke and myself. Because of the time limit, it was decided the emphasis on the painting would be mainly on the outer parts of the model, sadly leaving the interior painted in black, except for the airbrake system and undercarriage bays.
Airfix has made this model a gem to build I think. The body of the model and the wings are two main components which are fitted together. Whilst Dirk built up the wing section, I was giving the task of preparing the fuselage. After the airbrake system was painted up by me, Dirk took over the body parts of the model I had, built it all together and cleaned it up for painting. This left me enough time to quickly deal with the undercarriage. Airfix ask us to paint the second model in "Anti-Flash-White" and in a couple of days, Dirk managed to achieve this. So it was all finished to have the undercarriage fitted plus decaling.
After two weeks or so, of mega planning and building, it was time to do the filming of the two models come together. Under the direction of Tom in his firms professional photo studio, Dirk and me helped him with the photo shooting of the two models against a blue screen. After about six hours, everything was computerised and in the next few days, made into the short film by Tom in his own special way.
On behalf of the "forge", I would like to thank Airfix for giving us the opportunity in being able to make this short film of one of their new releases. And hopefully to you, the viewer, will enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it." Pete Domm
‘Schmiedeboys’ - the talented team who produced the Victor stop-motion film
We are privileged to include this magnificent piece of work in the latest edition of Workbench, which will enthral and inspire modellers in equal measure. The image above shows the Victor project team and even though their shirts carry their names, we have from left to right, Pete Domm (Figures, Aircraft), Sascha Ziegler (military vehicles, Dioramas), Tom Grigat (Aircraft, vehicles, Film/photos), Dirk Mennigke (ships, aircraft) and Lars Gotzhein (Dioramas, tabletop, scratch houses). Great work guys and thank you from everyone at Airfix!
‘Flash your Stash’
Announced in our previous 2016 review edition of Workbench, we are looking to start 2017 with a little light-hearted feature entitled ‘Flash your Stash’. We are hoping to prove that modellers around the world are not alone in stockpiling future modelling projects and even though this can sometimes lead to our sanity being questioned, it is a perfectly normal phenomenon. In a measure intended to reassure our legions, we are looking to share pictures of the most impressive model stockpiles, although under the circumstances fully understand if modellers wish to remain anonymous with their submissions. Don’t let the dust gather on these plastic pyramids of delights, let’s come out of the modelling room and embrace our beloved hobby – ‘Flash your Stash!’ Please send your pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org or post to the Airfix Facebook page. With submissions already coming in, we will feature our first stash pictures in the next edition of Workbench.
That’s all we have for you in this first Workbench of 2017, although we are very much looking forward to bringing you plenty of modelling news over the coming months.
There are now many ways for our readers to get involved in all the latest Airfix modelling chat and sharing ideas with other modellers. You can always e-mail us directly by using our email@example.com address, or there is our dedicated Workbench thread on the Airfix Forum. If social media is more your style, you could either access the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modellers.
Don’t forget that all the very latest model release information can be found by checking the New Arrivals and New for 2017 sections of the Airfix website, which can be accessed by clicking the shop section at the top of the webpage. As work on the website is a constant process, a quick search through all the Airfix web pages will usually reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections, so this is always a rewarding way to spend a few minutes.
Until next time, we hope you enjoy the Victor build video and news of the new 1/72nd scale North American B-25C/D Mitchell.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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