Academy's release of a 1/48 scale P-47N about 12 years ago was very welcome. About the same time Monogram also released a 1/48 scale P-47N in their Pro Modeler series. The two models' forte's and foibles have been compared and debated to great length since; many articles in print and on the web can be found so I will not touch on them here.
The P-47N was the last Thunderbolt variant to be produced. It was designed as an escort fighter for the B-29 Superfortress bombers flying raids on the Japanese home islands. Increased internal fuel capacity and drop tanks had done much to extend the Thunderbolt's range during its evolution, and the only other way to expand the fuel capacity was to put fuel tanks into the wings. Thus, a new wing was designed with two 50 U.S. gal (190 l) fuel tanks. The second YP-47M with this wing flew in September 1944. The redesign proved successful in extending range to about 2,000 mi (3,200 km), and the squared-off wingtips improved the roll rate. The P-47N entered mass production with the uprated R-2800-77(C) engine, with a total of 1,816 built. The very last Thunderbolt to be built, a P-47N-25, rolled off the production line in October 1945.
With an endurance of around 12 hours, pilot fatigue was a serious problem. The "N" was equipped with a sophisticated autopilot which, combined with the spacious cockpit, made the flights bearable. The P-47N was also one of the fastest production prop fighters to enter squadron service, reaching 467 mph in level flight at 32,000 ft! Only another P-47 could catch it, that being the P-47M, the fastest version was the P-47 (Flown solely by the 8th Air Force 56th Fighter Group, the P-47M could reach 470 mph)!
Flown by 11 squadrons of the 7th and 20th Air Force's 318th, 414th and 507th Fighter Groups, the P-47N arrived too late in the war for the final big air battles. When it did meet the Japanese air forces, the Thunderbolts fared well. LT Oscar Perdomo became an 'ace in a day' in a P-47N.
Academy's P-47N has been offered in at least two releases, kit #2155 Republic P-47N Thunderbolt, and kit #2206 Special "Expected Goose."
In a lightweight two-piece box are six sprues of 111 light-gray styrene pieces, a sprue of 10 blemish-free clear pieces, and a decal sheet. Sixty-eight parts are on twin sprues of wheels, weapons and drop tanks.
The parts are cleanly molded with no flash and a what appears to be a smooth surface (explanation below in Painting and Decaling the Model
.) The minimal seam lines are easy to clean off, and there are no sink holes. What few ejector and molding marks are not visible when assembled. The model has recessed panel lines. However, some access panels are molded in relief above the rest of the airframe. Some of the details are "soft", such as the exhaust vents, which have to be cut open.
Academy engineered good detail into this model. The wheel wells are molded into the wings with reasonable representation of piping and structural members. With separate torque links the landing gear legs are good, as are the gear door interiors. Brake lines you will have to fashion. You also have the gun bays to pose open to display the eight .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns and ammunition feed guides. The barrels of those machine guns are individually molded.
The cockpit, built with 12 pieces, is a reasonable representation, too. Its floor sports basic structural features. The side inserts boast 'soft' basic consoles and apparatus but otherwise are plain. The seat seems generic and the sides are too thick. It also lacks any seat belts. The instrument panel is crisply molded and impressive. The reflector gunsight has a clear lens.
The navigation lights are attached separately.
That big twin-row 18-cylinder Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp air-cooled radial is an adequate representation of the R-2800, but it is based on the engine for the P-47D. It is incorrect for the R-2800-77(C) engine. For what you will be able to see through the cowling it serves its purpose--holding that big propeller! However, that propeller is also incorrect--a Curtiss Asymmetrical Paddle Blade. The P-47N had a Curtiss Symmetrical Paddle Blade.
Eight .50 caliber machine guns are the basic armament. Academy really outshines competitors with plenty of external stores:
* 65 gallon drop tanks
* 108 gallon drop tanks
* 150 gallon drop tanks
* 5-Inch HVAR (High-Velocity Aircraft Rocket)
* 4.5" Rocket Launcher M-10 "Bazooka" clusters
* 500 lb bombs
* 1000 lb bombs
decals, instructions, painting
Kit 2155 has markings for a single aircraft, "Gerry", of the 456th FS, 414th FG.
Kit 2206, Special "Expected Goose," has markings for "Expected Goose" 463rd FS, 507th FG, and "Short Snorter/2 Big And Too Heavy", of the 333rd FS, 318th FG.
The sheet for "Gerry" has the prosaic 'nose art' name, unit markings, basic USAAF markings, and a nice lot of stenciling. The Special "Expected Goose" sheet has unit markings, basic USAAF markings, even more stenciling, and two choices of provocative nose art.
The problem with these decals is that they are Academy decals. The carrier film is adequately thin but it is stiff. A variety of decal softening and setting solutions failed to exert my will upon these markings! This is a shame as Academy decals have good sharpness, opacity, and registration.
The instruction sheet is well illustrated with easily followed schematics in a magazine fold of 8 pages. No paint brand is referenced.
building the model
Assembly was almost "shake the box" easy. The fit was equal to Tamiya. It was almost snap-together in places. Academy did a great job with engineering this model. A complaint with the Pro Modeler kit is that some parts mate together across detail parts, requiring a great deal of effort to clean up--not so with this model! The only noticeable slight gap is in the gun bays where the machine gun insert attaches to the inner bulkhead.
Virtually no filler was needed anywhere. I used CA where the wings and stabilizers joined the fuselage. Only light sanding was required to blend away joint seams.
You have to decide which underwing stores you will use and open the respective holes in the bottom of the wing halves. Academy molded indentations to guide you.
That big canopy and spacious cockpit leaves a lot of room with a view! I am usually build models straight out of the box but I decided to replace the cockpit. True Details kit 48456 P-47N Thunderbolt Cockpit was designed for this Academy model; they say that with a slight amount of trimming that it will fit the Pro Modeler, too. I painted it with Dull Green from Testors US WW2 Cockpit Colors set and painted the details per photographs from the book P-47 Thunderbolt in detail & scale - D&S Vol. 54
I like fighters to be fighters so I loaded the T'bolt with drop tanks for fighter escort.
painting and decaling the model
After masking openings the model was primed with two coats of gloss Krylon Fusion. A NMF (Natural Metal Finish) demands a smooth surface. Inspection and mitigation of surface flaws followed. I have not used Alcad yet. Though I considered it for this model I decided to stick with my tried-and-true: Floquil
. I have used Floquil almost exclusively for NMF--it dries rock hard, does not lift off with tape, enamels can not mar it, and it shines like the sun! The unique thing about it is that when dry, the single color can be buffed and rubbed by different materials and you can get about as many different finishes from the single color as you are willing to create!.
I did try something different: having read that some Alcads require a gloss black undercoat, without doing my homework, I again glossed the Thunderbolt with black.
The surface was glass-smooth. But after I shot the Floquil--problem! Flow marks in plastic, imperceptible to sight and touch, caused very slight surface indentations which created a frosted affect under the silver. This was not a paint interaction as the same blemish appeared on the gear doors which were not primed.
Happily, these were polished away. The Floquil allowed me to fearlessly mask the nose to tail anti-glare panel, yellow empennage, and cowl ring. These were sprayed with Polly Scale
acrylics. The olive drab anti-glare was given a dull coat, the yellows a gloss coat in preparation for decals (I decided to be lazy and use the kit stripes.) Off ripped the tape revealing an undisturbed NMF.
Let the decaling begin! Though I've read the complaints about Academy decals, I tried them. They were as disappointing. Fortunately I found a set of Super Scale sheet 48-490 "2 Big and Too Heavy/Short Snorter". I removed most of the Academy decals and replaced them with the Super Scale decals. This was straightforward. When the decals were dry I washed off any residue and gave the yellow and black striped tail a satin-dull mix. A bit of weathering and you can see the result!
Academy's P-47N is an easy model to build into a good looking P-47N. It goes together very well. Be aware of the minute surface blemishes. The detail runs the gamut from basic to very good. If you are a stickler for accuracy there are several after market sets you should consider, such as the cockpit, engine, tires, and perhaps even armament. The decals are wonderful...until you try to apply them; there are several aftermarket P-47N decals sets available.
P-47 Thunderbolt in detail & scale - Detail & Scale
For further research please see: Thunderbolt Research Centre, P-47 Propeller types