B-45C

The B-45 Tornado holds a number of firsts. It was the first American four engined jet to fly, it was the first operational jet bomber to be used by the US Air Force, the first jet aircraft to be refueled in the air and it was the first jet bomber to drop a nuclear weapon. The B-45 was designed as a result of a War Department request in 1944 for a family of jet powered bombers which came about as a result of the War Department's concern about the advances in German jet technology. In September of 1944 a developmental contract was given to North American for three aircraft designated the XB-45. Three other contractors were given similar contracts, Convair for the XB-46, Boeing for the XB-47 and Martin for the XB-48. As a result of the increasing tensions with the Soviet Union in 1946, the Air Force decided to forgo the competition that would normally be held between the four entries and opted to review the designs to determine which one could be produced first. By mid 1946 the XB-45 and XB-46 were nearing completion but the XB-47 and XB-48 were still at least two years away. The Air Force concluded that the XB-46 would likely be inferior in performance and that its thin fuselage would not be able to hold all of the required radar equipment. As a result a contract was signed to produce 96 B-45A's in January of 1947. The first XB-45 made its maiden flight in March of 1947. The three XB-45's produced flew a total of 131 test flights with the loss of one aircraft killing the crew of two. The other two were eventually turned over to the Air Force.

The B-45A, the first production B-45 flew in February of 1948 and differed for the XB-45 in having improved ejection seats and communications equipment, an E-4 autopilot and a bombing navigation radar. The first batch of 22 was powered by J35 turbojets and was not considered combat ready and was assigned to training duties. The next batch was equipped with J47 turbojets. The first B-45A's entered service in November of 1948 with the 47th Bombardment Group. The initial order of 96 planes was completed in March of 1950. At the outbreak of the Korean War it was decided to convert the B-45A to a tactical nuclear bomber. The B-45 could not carry the early nuclear weapons due to their large size and even with the development of smaller bombs, the aircraft required extensive modifications. Fifty-five nuclear capable B-45's arrived in the United Kingdom in 1952. These were equipped with a 1200-gallon fuel tank in the aft bomb bay and despite technical problems was the USAF's first line deterrent in Europe.

The B-45B was a proposed variant of the A model with improved radar and fire control systems. None were built.

The B-45C was the first jet aircraft capable of aerial refueling. It carried two 1200 gallon wingtip fuel tanks, had a strengthened canopy and an in flight refueling receptacle. The first B-45C was flown in May of 1949. Only ten were built and the remaining 33 under construction were converted to RB-45C's. On the RB-45C the bombardiers canopy was faired over and replaced with an oblique camera system. The RB-45C first flew in April of 1950 with the last one being delivered in October of 1951. RB-45C's flew with SAC during the Korean War, as B-29's could no longer fly these missions safely. They flew many missions until early in 1952, when they were converted to night operations. Their service ended shortly there after. RB-45C's also flew several long-range missions over the Soviet Union during the middle 50's. On July 29, 1952, an RB-45C made the first non-stop Trans-Pacific flight, having been refueled twice by KB-29's along the way. By 1959 the RB-45C had been replaced by the RB-47E.

The Kit

Collect-Aire was a cottage industry type business that specialized in a variety of subjects that the main stream manufacturers tended to ignore. Their kits and conversion sets were primarily resin. Their kits also have a reputation of being hard to build, especially some of their early kits. Their later kits, which this kit is one, are better as kits of this type go. Collect-Aire shut down a couple years ago so this kit is only available on the used market and maybe rather expensive.

The Collect-Aire B-45 comes in a fairly large hinge top type box and the entire box is corrugated cardboard. Inside the contents is well packed to protect the resin parts. The fuselage halves were taped together and did not show any signs of warping or twisting. The are no casting blocks to be removed, just some light flash. The wings which are solid castings were also taped together and they appeared to be free of warps and twists and also have no casting sprues to be removed but there were some spots of excess resin near the wing tips that will need to be cleaned up. Every thing else was separated in zip lock bags. The fuselage halves, shown immediately below are impressive castings and feature recessed panel lines, finer than those on many injection molded kits. These are for the most part fairly uniform but there were a few places where they nearly fade away and one may want to scribe some of these a bit deeper as they may tend to disappear under your finish. I found no casting flaws on the exterior of these parts. I would recommend that if you do not intend to build your kit near term that you replace the factory masking tape as it tends to deteriorate rather quickly. 



The interior in the area of the cockpit has some nice molded detail as well as structure. The photo below show that as well as the thickness of the fuselage and a couple of surface defects common to resin kits caused by bubbles in the resin. The is one large one on the back panel and several smaller ones near the canopy frame. These for the most part are easy to fill although some of the smallest ones are easier if they are opened up a bit.





Shown below are the vertical tail and the two horizontal stabilizers. These were packed together in a zip lock bag. One of the stabilizers had a slight upturn at the tip that should be fixable with a dip in hot water. What looks like a defect near the top of the vertical tail was actually some dirt. The opposite side though was peppered with a dozen or more small pinholes and some raised spots I suspect were from vents in the mold. The bottom sides of both of the horizontal stabilizers were also like this as can be seen in the next two photos. I'm calling these out to make the buyer aware but they are pretty common with most all resin kits like this and it's just something you learn to deal with.





Another zip lock bag contained the engine pods. molded in three pieces, the center section is hollow cast while the intake and exhaust parts are solid cast. The parts are mostly free of defects, most of what you seeing the photograph that might look like a defect are openings in the nacelle that are supposed to be there. There was a few bubbles along the front edge of one of the center sections and a little light flash and bit of a pour stub to remove but for the most part one will only need to sand the mating surfaces flat before gluing them.



The wings as mentioned earlier are solid cast as one piece and show no sin of warpage. There are a few random pinholes and a couple of rough spots that will need to be cleaned up but for the most part these too are quite impressive and heavy. Collect-Aire  has provided a very large mounting tab to attach these to the fuselage and with their weight they will need it. There is some structural detail in the gear bay.



Next up are the wing tip tanks bagged together in a zip lock bag. These are solid cast. They do have a mold separation seam down the top and bottom that will need to be cleaned up and a mold sprue to be removed, one of them also had a few pinholes and other irregularities to clean up. The tip tanks are only used on the 'C' models and I like the nice deep recess for mounting these rather heavy parts as it will provide a nice sturdy mounting point.



The nose comes separate and will be configured differently depending on which version you want. The solid piece is used for the reconnaissance version, on the bomber version a clear piece is used. The openings are for separate hatches. There is some internal structure molded in as well as a fire extinguisher on the opposite side of the part shown below. Other than some flash there are no surface defects. The areas that look like defects on the part on the left are actually below the surface and unless punctured during assembly won't show when painted.





The balance of the parts were bagged together and this covers a lot of items. Pilot and crew seats, interior bulkheads and panels, control columns, fins for the wing tanks, intake and exhaust detail for the engines, cockpit floor, nose wheel bay, nose and main wheels which have separate hubs on one side, tail cone and a few parts I have yet to identify. The second, third and forth photos provide some close ups of some of the parts. Most are well molded and will only need some light clean up as none are attached to pour blocks.









The landing gear struts and parts are molded in metal, pewter most likely as they don't seem that soft. The is a good thing as this is going to be a very heavy model when completed. Metal parts include torque scissors, retraction struts and other gear parts. Some of the smallest parts will need to be straightened and the larger parts will need the mold parting seams cleaned up.


The clear parts are vacuformed and are quite clear however the frames detail is a bit soft but should look OK when painted. You get two of each in case one come to grief. The balance of the clear parts include two different styles of gunners station and a camera glazing.



The decals are presented on four sheets and include markings for seven aircraft. The decals appear thin and are in register and appear to be quite opaque. The sheets say they are printed by mpd (mini print decal) a new one on me but they look nice on the sheet, time will tell how they work.











The instructions more than anything else about the kit let you know this is a cottage industry kit. The instructions are printed on both sides of 8 1/2" x 11" paper and consist of hand drawn diagrams. What is interesting is that all the parts are numbered but there is no parts map for reference so the numbers are of little use. Assembly starts at the nose and proceeds to the cockpit, from there they jump around from the final assembly to the engines and tip tanks, to the landing gear then the tail gunners position. Interspersed with all this are diagrams which appear to be from a technical manual and the occasional note here and there. There are seven pages of history at the end and all of this stapled together in one corner. Not much to go on but there is a link given to an on line walk around. If you do a search there are some other on line references available as well. Also included in the box are three pages printed front and back in color with profiles for the variants supplied on the decal sheet. The instructions take for granted you can figure out where some of the parts go and after all it does say on the box and the instruction sheet that the kit is intended for experienced modelers and collectors.

Conclusions
OK, this is a quite large fairly complex limited run resin kit aimed at experienced modelers and as such is not for wimps ! Beyond that it is a very nicely done kit from an execution standpoint and with a little care and perseverance should build into a very nice model of an important early jet aircraft that is not likely to be produced by a main stream company in an injection molded format. Recommended for experienced modelers only.

Links to kit build or reviews

None that I have found.

References

There is no definitive book that I could find but there are some on line sources of information and photographs at the following links... here and here.

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Updated 9/20/14