In-Box Review
P-61B Black Widow
P-61B Black Widow
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by: Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]

The Northrop P-61 Black Widow, named for the American spider, was the first operational U.S. military aircraft designed specifically for night interception of opposing aircraft, and was the first aircraft specifically designed to use radar. It was an all-metal, twin-engine, twin-boom design developed during World War II. The first test flight was made on 26 May 1942, with the first production aircraft rolling off the assembly line in October 1943. The last aircraft was retired from government service in 1954.
Although not produced in the large numbers of its contemporaries, the Black Widow was effectively operated as a night-fighter by United States Army Air Forces squadrons in the European Theater, the Pacific Theater, the China Burma India Theater and the Mediterranean Theatre during World War II. It replaced earlier British-designed night-fighter aircraft that had been updated to incorporate radar when it became available. After the war, the P-61 served in the United States Air Force as a long-range, all weather, day/night interceptor for Air Defense Command until 1948, and Fifth Air Force until 1950.
On the night of 14 August 1945, a P-61B of the 548th Night Fight Squadron named "Lady in the Dark" was unofficially credited with the last Allied air victory before VJ Day.

History adapted from Wikipedia

First Impressions
Although the box had been damaged in transit, the sprues in their bags were still pristine. The moulding is very crisp, corners are sharp and the relief in the cockpit parts such as radio boxes is nice and deep. There is no need to resort to aftermarket detail for this kit. I couldn't find one bit of flash on any of the numerous sprues and the surfaces are highly polished.

The fuselage pod is moulded in left and right halves. The cockpits are nice and busy, with sharp detail. Seat belts are provided on the brass etched fret, a nice detail. Details which were moulded in bas-relief in the classic Monogram kit are provided separately, as is the “dustbin” portion of the upper turret, even though it will be almost impossible to see once the fuselage is closed up. The 20mm cannon are nicely detailed and will look good in place, but the gun bay is a trifle bare if the door(s) are left open. Some extra detailing will go a long way in there. The radar is provided in 6 parts plus its mounting brackets, and ought to be visible behind the frosted radome except for the fact that both of the marking options offered have painted over radomes. The cockpit details are nicely busy, and topped off by the instrument panel which gets 26 separate instrument decals to set it off. A certain amount of care here will pay off once everything is finished. The canopies remain unchanged from the second issue of the kit, retaining their inaccurate 'kinked' upper line in plan view. Vector offers accurately shaped clear resin replacements meant for the Monogram kit but which will fit this one. Paper masks are provided for the canopy. Reports from builders using these for the Devastator suggest that the adhesive is not sufficient to hold them in place over highly-curved areas. They might better be replaced by masking tape.

The wings are provided in the traditional top and bottom halves. Each half has some nice ribs moulded into the inside to keep the wings from drooping. Even though the plastic is rather thick, there are no traces of sink marks to be seen. Each upper half has recesses provided for the unique spoilerons which the Black Widow used, but unhappily they are not accurate as provided. They were actually curved perforated scoops which rotated up out of the wing, not spoilers as the kit provides. Given that they were hardly ever extended on the ground, gluing them flush solves the problem. They might even be replaced with plastic card for better effect. Separate ailerons are provided, but since they were hardly ever seen deflected they might as well ought to be glued in the neutral position. The fabric detail is a trifle overstated, but can be cured by a little sanding. The flaps are separate and are designed to be movable if the builder so wishes.

After the errors of their first release, GWH corrected the reduction gear housings by adding the parts to the fuselage sprue. Each housing is provided in halves, with separate magneto housings to glue onto the upper surface. Two complete engines are provided, with brass ignition harnesses. Separate cowl flaps are offered, for open or closed flaps. The exhaust manifolds are incorrect, and the cowl flaps should have supplemental flaps behind each gap. The simplest way to avoid these problems is to fit the closed flaps. There is an etched grille which covers a vent behind and below the engine which ought to have its inner third covered by a moulded cover which is not provided in the kit. They are well illustrated by this image. The picture also shows another inaccuracy. The partially open flap which Great Wall provide behind the grille does not exist. Instead, the area has an oval access panel. The flap ought to be sanded flush and the access panel scribed in its place.

Separate control surfaces are provided for both rudders and elevator. The fabric detail is again a little heavy-handed, but it's easy enough to sand down to a more realistic profile. Care should be taken to ensure that the stabiliser is glued squarely to the booms to prevent the model from twisting.

Landing gear
The main wheels have moulded in flats to show the weight of the aircraft. The nose wheel does not, but it will be a simple matter to sand a flat in once the wheel is glued together. The mud flap is supported only by a piece of photoetch. It may be quite fragile, so it ought to be left to the last possible moment before gluing. The main gear wells could use a little extra detailing, such as a bulkhead to close off the aft end, and perhaps some hydraulic piping, control boxes and the like.


I don't compare models to drawings or published measurements. When assembled it will look like a Black Widow.

Decals and Markings

Markings are provided for “Lady in the Dark”, the last allied aircraft to score an air-to-air victory in the Second World War. Also provided is “Anonymous III/The Spook” from the same squadron, 548th NFS based on Iwo Jima in the summer of 1945. The painting guide shows that both of these aircraft were looking very tired and faded, which will be a challenge to reproduce convincingly.

related articles

P-61A Kit No. L4802
P-61A Kit No. L4806. This kit corrects the first issue's shortcomings and provides different marking options.
P-61B Kit No. 4810 unboxing video.
P-61A Kit No. 4802 build feature.
Replacement propellers and cowlings by True Details (A second review of this set).
Eduard's colour photo-etched upgrades.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Highs: Very nice mouldings and sufficient detail to be a winner right out of the box
Lows: Inaccurate spoilerons and canopy
Verdict: Twin boom aircraft need a certain amount of skill to build, but beyond that this kit is very well done and certain to please.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:48
  Mfg. ID: L4810
  Suggested Retail: C$104.95
  PUBLISHED: Nov 29, 2013
  NATIONALITY: United States

About Is a secret (Jessie_C)

Copyright ©2021 text by Is a secret [ JESSIE_C ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Wow, this one got all the "love" of the parcel service, ey? I am glad it survived! Thanks for the review! Cheers, Guido
NOV 28, 2013 - 06:43 PM
The box is a little worse for wear, but everything inside is pristine so I'll have to say that the box did what it was designed to do: protect the contents.
NOV 28, 2013 - 07:37 PM
Jessica, a very complete review. I was some what surprised that my current build pictures came up when I tied to open the link to the picture of the access door via my Photobucket account. I have absolutely no objection to you linking to my account as is, if it works for you. In my research those wing spoilerons as you noted were never in the open position while the aircraft was parked. It's a shame at GWH went to all that effort with the PE so one can show them in the open position, even though they're not by any means accurate. My current plans are to make them out of .040 sheet, then sanded so that they're level with the wing surface. As far as the flaps, most were left in the neutral position when the plane was parked, but there are references of the flaps in lowered position as well. Since you're reviewing the B version, the kits comes with 4 drop tanks, two for each wing, which is correct for the B version. the A version didn't use them until version A-10, then then only one per wing on the outer wing. The 2nd boxing of the A version, which I'm building has the wing cut outs for the tanks that must be filled. The props and spinner are a one piece molding. The spinner diameter is too wide, hence, the crankcase for the engines are also incorrect. I've ordered the True Details props and spinners, and will be making new crankcases out of plastic rod. The rest of the engines are simply magnificent. Since I plan on cutting open some of the engine access panels, I need to have the cowl flaps in the open position, and will be attempting to fabricate those backside brackets, but not the linkages at this point. While neither you nor I compare the kit to measured drawing, others do, and the kit is basically extremely accurate, which is a good thing. The top machine gun turret on the A version is wrong in how it was molded. Not sure if the fixed unit on the B is or not. A swap with the old Monogram unit works well for the A if one has it. Not sure if a self fix is possible or not. The main landing gear wheel wells lacks the kind of detail that the nose well has. Hence, the hours I've spent trying to add some. Your assessment of the kit being a 95% is pretty accurate in my humble opinion. Joel
NOV 29, 2013 - 02:49 AM
Nice review Jessie - but the clear parts look like the ones from the second edition which were corrected (though not 100% correct because of this "double kink") - do you mean this by unchanged? I dunno if the Vector parts fit the Great Wall kits as they are designed for the Monogram kit, but from what I read the GW kit is very close in dimensions to the Monogram so it probably works without too much trouble. Has anyone tried it? I need to search a bit I think... Rene
NOV 29, 2013 - 03:36 AM
Yes, that's what I meant. Perhaps I should edit that bit to clarify it. The point is that out of the box the clear parts are not correct, but there's a replacement available which will look better.
NOV 29, 2013 - 06:18 AM
That's why I posted a link rather than putting your picture in my review. Anyone following it gets to your page and can immediately see that I don't own the picture. It's a courtesy seldom observed on the interwebs these days.
NOV 29, 2013 - 06:22 AM
Jessica, the original set of pictures were posted by Kosachev Sergeye. I was sent the link to them directly as I was up to that point in my build, and was stuck without some definitive information one way or the other, as all my reference pictures to that point had that area in the shadows, making it rather difficult to see those details. I then reposted those two pictures so that everyone interested could see for themselves. Joel
NOV 30, 2013 - 12:12 PM

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