by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
FRROM have taken their civilian Northrop Delta 1C kit and given it some teeth to produce a very neat kit of its military counterpart, the Gamma 2E bomber.
The standard Gamma mailplane shared the same wings as the Delta, but with a much slimmer fuselage, and this military development was fitted with an extended greenhouse canopy and a ventral "dustbin" for the gunner/bomb-aimer. Bomb racks were fitted under the wing's centre-section and a load of up to 1,600 lbs could be carried.
Forty-six Gamma 2E's were purchased by China in 1934 and later saw extensive service against the invading Japanese forces until they were retired to training units, having suffered heavily in combat. Meanwhile, a single machine was tested in Britain at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment.
History hasn't been kind to the Gamma 2E; the sheer pace of change during the 1930s left behind what had been a cutting edge design before it had a chance to prove itself properly. But the shape of greater things to come is there for anyone to see in the Gamma 2E, and if the aircraft itself is largely forgotten nowadays, its historical importance is undeniable; its creator, Jack Northrop, continued to hone the design and ultimately produced the aircraft that many would argue turned the tide of WW2 in the Pacific - the Douglas SBD Dauntless.
The KitFRROM's Gamma 2E arrives in a very attractive and sturdy conventional box and, just like the original aircraft, it shares much in common with their Delta kits. The wings, undercarriage and propeller are carried over to be joined by new-tool sprues for the revised fuselage and transparencies, leaving the bulk of the original parts spare. The new kit comprises:
80 x grey styrene parts (32 not used)
4 x clear styrene parts
14 x etched brass parts
Decals for 4 x colour schemes
The kit is produced for FRROM by Special Hobby and is typical of their high-end semi-limited run output. There's a difference in style between the parts for the airframe and the smaller details, with the latter having a more glossy CAD-produced look about them. I found very little flash and no sign of sink marks. There are a few ejection pin marks to clean up, but the kit is light years ahead of old-style short-run models and should be a very enjoyable build for anyone with a little experience.
The exterior finish is silky smooth and features neatly engraved panel lines and a few raised details. I couldn't find any surface blemishes on the sample kit.
Test FitI've dry-fitted the main airframe components and am impressed by how well everything goes together. Crucially, there's a nice close fit at the wing roots and the chord and airfoil match precisely. The chord is also spot on for the tailplanes, but they do look a bit heavy, so I might try and thin them down a bit (so long as they still match the root fillets).
A Few DetailsFRROM have designed a nicely busy cockpit for a kit in this scale. There's quite extensive sidewall detailing on the insides of the fuselage halves, and then over 20 styrene parts to add. The pilot's seat is a bit "clunky", but some judicious thinning should help. There's a decal provided for the instrument panel, but that must have been a late addition, because it's not mentioned in the instructions. More detail comes courtesy of the etched fret, with a multi-part etched seat harnesses and ring and bead sights for the rear machine gun.
The gun itself is designed to be fitted in the stowed position - if you want to show it ready for use, you'll need to do some careful surgery to open the one-piece canopy. The canopy is thin and crystal clear so, even closed, it should show off the interior nicely. A really nice delicate touch is the inclusion of a tiny etched ring sight for the pilot, which attaches to the inside of the windscreen.
The engine is very crisply moulded and the detail should pop-out nicely with a wash. The propeller looks pretty good, with thin and sharp edges to the blades.
Depending on which colour scheme you opt for, you have a choice of full- or cut-down undercarriage spats. The former look the more straightforward, so would probably be the wisest choice for less experienced modellers.
The instructions show a simple bit of surgery required underneath each wing to remove one of the aileron actuator covers - but I'll actually add another job, because period photos show landing lamps in the wings' leading edges, which will be straightforward enough to replicate with cut off sections of the clear sprue.
Rounding everything off is the raison d'Ítre of the Gamma 2E - its offensive load. FRROM provide a neat set of bomb-racks with separate sway braces to install between the undercarriage spats. No bombs are included - and if that seems disappointing, none of the photos of the original aircraft I've found so far have actually shown it with its bombs loaded. Would Chinese machines have been armed with the same ordnance as the R.A.E. test aircraft? I'd probably go for standard RAF 250 lb bombs for the latter - but for Chinese aircraft?... probably whatever they could lay hands on in the confusion of the Japanese onslaught.
Instructions & DecalsThe construction guide is very neatly presented as a 12-page booklet, printed in colour on good quality glossy paper. The assembly is broken down into 16 stages, with a few "info diagrams" slipped in, and is logical and clear to follow.
Colour call-outs are given for Gunze Sangyo paints throughout.
Decals are included for four aircraft:
1. Gamma 2E, "901", Chinese Air Force, 9th Chungtui, 2nd Tatui, transferred to the 14th Volunteer Sqn., 1937-1938
2. Gamma 2E, K5053, A&AEE, Martlesham Heath, 1937-1938
3. Gamma 2E, "Black 14", Chinese Air Force, 1937-1938
4. Gamma 2E, "Black 1412", transferred to the 14th Volunteer Sqn., 1938
Two of the schemes are natural metal, while the others offer scope for some fun weathering.
The gloss-finish Aviprint decals look very good quality, very thin and printed in perfect register.
ConclusionFRROM's Northrop Gamma 2E looks an irresistible build for me! It just touches all the bases with its Art Deco styling in the run up to WW2. It also promises to be a very enjoyable build for anyone with a little experience under their belt. One the basis of the test fit, this would make a good first choice for anyone who's not tried a "limited-run" kit yet and wants to dip a toe into the wonderful world of subjects that will probably never appear as mainstream models.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.