November 2018

English Electric Canberra B(I).8

Martin B-57B Canberra

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English Electric (BAC) Canberra B(I).8

88 Sqn RAF Wildenrath, 1960.

FROG 1/72

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Background Picture - Commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1

Have a look at many more models  of USAF aircraft on my Friends and Allies pages

Building the Kit:

This was the 2nd FROG kit of the Canberra (the first in 1955), with this mould first issued in 1973 at roughly the same time as the Airfix B(I).6 version. Still available from several sources, I think it is the better of the two, with the Airfix kit having much more detail, but some major shape issues.

This one is typically FROG in style, with a good overall shape but very limited detail. The plastic is surprisingly thin (not normally a FROG trait) which makes the assembled fuselage a little flexible, so that attaching the bomb doors without gaps is difficult. That said, it mostly assembles easily (although I did need filler on seams), with the notable exception of the main wing to fuselage joints that are rather vague, running the risk of uneven or incorrect dihedral. The canopy (which is beautifully clear plastic) also left a surprisingly large gap when attached (despite locating lugs), but this was easily filled with Krystal Kleer PVA.  The nose transparency, on the other hand,  fits perfectly!

The cockpit is entirely empty except for a rather blobby ejector seat and you can see through to the open front wheel bay;  I added several sprue consoles and tidied up the seat with a few extra parts to correct this. After some dry brushing, this was very effective, but annoyingly I then forgot to add the seat belts before attaching the canopy!  

A comparison between this and the Italeri kit shows a big difference in the size of the wingtip fuel tanks - with FROG being much smaller.  I'm not sure if this is correct or an error. The tailplane shape is also different, again I'm not sure if this is a genuine B-57 difference or simply an error. No bomb pylons or bombs are provided for the wing hard points, which is a pity.

Decals worked mostly well despite being 45Yr old FROG originals, although I got a little creasing on the large wing roundels, which also turned out to have a small white border due to printing misalignment. An option for a South African B(I) Mk.12 aircraft in overall aluminium and with different antenna is provided. The kit is definitely a determined tail sitter - you could try to add enough weight to stop this, but we are talking a lot of weight, so I went for an unobtrusive prop under the fuselage instead.  

Paint is hand brushed Humbrol enamel, with panel lines emphasised in light pencil above and silver pencil below. A coat of acrylic Micro Satin finishes off the shiny 1960s high speed finish!

This is clearly an older kit from a different era, but it remains a good build with enough scope to add your own personal touches of simple detail to raise it up the quality scale.

Mine was a late FROG original issue, and I haven’t seen one of the more recent releases so can't say how the mould is holding up after all this time, but FROG originals are still plentiful and easily available online for about £10 even from established secondhand kit dealers.

Designed in the closing years of WW2, the Canberra entered service with the RAF in 1951 as its first jet powered bomber.  During its early years it set several world altitude records and became the first jet aircraft to make a non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

Hugely successful on the export market, Canberras (including Australian and US licence built versions) served with 18 different nations from the early 1950s until recently with almost 1,500 built. The final RAF PR.7 variants were retired in 2006, and a number of specialised research aircraft remain in limited service today.  

Although designed as a high level medium bomber, like the USAF, the RAF quickly realised that the Canberra was ideal for the low level night interdiction role in West Germany. As with the B-57B, the B(I) Mk.8 introduced a fighter style raised canopy, offset to port, replacing the original “goldfish bowl” style  

The crew was reduced to 2, with the navigator sitting in front of the pilot in the glazed nose section. A 4x20mm Hispano Aden gun pack was fitted in place of the rear bomb-bay doors with target illumination flares carried in the forward part.  A single 500lb bomb (or two 250 pounds) on each underwing pylon completed the normal armament of an interdiction Canberra.

Entering RAF service in 1965, Interdictor Canberras also performed the nuclear Strike role in West Germany, armed with dual control US owned Mk7 weapons (from 1960) or B43 weapons (from 1965). Canberra Squadrons in Cyprus and Singapore carried UK owned Red Beard weapons  

The aircraft depicted by this model was issued to 88 Sqn in 1956, remaining at RAFG Wildenrath until 1962 when it was transferred to 16 Sqn at RAFG Laarbruch. WT365 was eventually Struck Off Charge on 8 October 1971 and scrapped in January 1972 when the remaining elements of the RAF's Canberra bomber force were finally withdrawn.

© Crown Copyright IWM (RAF-T 7289)

© Crown Copyright IWM (RAF-T 7283)

Martin B-57B Canberra

8th Bombardment Squadron (Tactical), USAF.

Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam 1969.

Italeri 1/72

During the early years of the Korean war, the limitations of the WW2 era A-26 Invader in the jet age became all too apparent, with limited operational success and a very high attrition rate.  In 1950, the USAF began the search for a more modern replacement, preferably based on an existing aircraft, that could be brought into service quickly and with little development risk.

Although not yet fully in RAF service, the Canberra proved significantly superior to its competitors and was duly selected.  To provide sufficient production capacity and to assuage US political concerns over the purchase of a foreign aircraft, English Electric entered into a licensing arrangement with the US Glenn L Martin company to build Canberras in the US as the Martin B-57 low level night interdictor.

In view of operational urgency, the initial B-57A model was almost identical to UK built Canberras, with the notable exception of the substitution of the original Rolls Royce Avon engines for  the

Have a look at many more RAF models on my Friends and Allies pages

With the immediate operational need fulfilled, Martin began to adapt the aircraft more fully to US needs as the B-57B. A tandem fighter style canopy was introduced, along with internal guns and more external weapon hard-points. Hydraulic air-brakes were fitted to the aft fuselage, along with a modern radar bombing system and radar warning receiver. Engine starting arrangements were also changed to eliminate the need for ground starting carts. However, operational performance was disappointing with frequent engine problems and a number of aircraft lost due to manufacturing errors as well as the poor single engine handling characteristics of the Canberra.

In total 403 B-57s of all marks were produced, seeing service in the US, Europe and South East Asia in a wide variety of roles.  Pakistan became a major user of US built aircraft, operating them from 1965 to 1985 in two major wars with India (also a user of the British built Canberra).  

Although nearing their planned retirement, in 1963 Canberras were one of the first US combat aircraft types deployed to Vietnam, initially as reconnaissance asssets but later in their intended night interdictor role. From 1965, operating out of Bien Hoa, DaNang and finally Phan Rang Air Bases, B-57Bs of the 8th and 13th US Bomb Squadrons began the first US bombing attacks against North Vietnam, followed by high intensity continuous night operations against Viet Cong supplies and weapons being brought south via the Laos border and Ho Chi Min trail.

Flying alongside Royal Australian Air Force Canberra B.20s in the same role, attrition was high; of 94 B-57Bs deployed to Vietnam, 51 were lost in combat and 7 to other causes. Only 9 remained operational by 1969 when they were withdrawn to the US and replaced by other types. Nevertheless, USAF Canberras returned to Vietnam in 1970 for one final tour in the form of the advanced B-57G variant with IR semnsors and laser guided weapons.  

Building the Kit:

This is the Italeri B-57B kit (incidentally, the same base kit that I used for my TT.18 Royal Navy Canberra), built as supplied in the box. First issued in 1985 it's much more refined than the ancient FROG offering and assembles very well with no need for filler, although some sanding is needed.  My only real criticism would be the fact that the engine intakes and exhausts are both blanked - not so much a problem for the intakes, but the tail pipe blanks are very shallow (more so even than FROG) which is a shame. At the moment (2018) this kit has recnetly been re-issued and is widely available.

Options for 3 USAF aircraft are provided - one in overall aluminium finish, one in black (with additional rocket pylons on the wings) and the SEA camouflaged version that I have built. Reasonable M117 750lb GP bombs and M64 500lb (WW2 era) short box-tail GP bombs are provided, with additional underwing unguided rockets for the night intruder version.  The use of these older (effectively surplus and very plentiful) bombs allowed more to be fitted in the rotating internal bomb-bay meant that the Canberra was never short of weaponry even when other munitions were in short supply in-theatre

Colour call-outs in the instructions are a little suspect, especially for the cockpit and the order of the SEA camouflage colours is wrong - check some of the many excellent photographs available on-line for a more accurate representation.

Both pictures © USAF


Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, to be built under licence as the Wright J-65.  This provided slightly higher power and better hot/high performance to meet US operational needs. A smaller but less draggy rotating bomb bay was fitted and the crew reduced from 3 to 2. The first flight of a US built aircraft took place in 1953, with most A models being re-rolled as reconnaissance aircraft to take advantage of the Canberra's remarkable high altitude performance.

My Canberra Fleet (so far!) - B(I).8, B-57 and TT.18

Scottish National Museum of Flight - This is the nose section of the Canberra B.5 that made a record breaking two way transatlantic crossing in 1951, from Northern Ireland to Canada and return in 10 hrs 3 mins and 229.28 seconds.