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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: P-38 Lighting by Battlefront

by Throckmorton

The P-38 is one of those iconic World War 2 fighter aircraft. In design, it clearly comes from that golden age of military aviation. So, when Battlefront came out with their kit for Flames of War I simply had to buy it and paint it.

I grew up loving WW2 military aviation. It's really where my history nerdliness started. Of course, the P-38 is very well known for it's exemplary record in the Pacific Theater of War, and I had forgotten that it was indeed used for a time in the ETO as well.

When the Overlord book came out, I was surprised to see that there were rules  for the plane. And my inner conspiracy theorist thinks that it was a way for them to get the thing in production for later Pacific front supplements. When I think of close air support in Normandy the P-47 and the Typhoon are the 2 most iconic planes. And yet here we have the der Gabelschwanz-Teufel, or Forktailed Devil.

Interestingly, while the P-38 was a smashing success against Japanese fighters it was disastrously bad against the higher performance German counterparts. So much so, that all but one squadron had replaced their P-38's by September of '44 in favor of later model P-51's.

Can you tell that I'm a fighter plane nerd? But you're not here for a history lesson are you dear reader? No. You're here to check out the mostly great new kit from Battlefront.

So on with the review! In game terms the P-38 stacks up well against the other American Overlord air support option option the P-47. In fact, the primary difference is that the Lightning swaps out the 2 to hit AT 6 MG's seen on the Thunderbolt for 3 to hit AT 7 Cannons.

The kit itself is likely the best airplane I've seen so far from Battlefront. Some of their earlier models just didn't have the detail, (see my review of the Stuka here and to see more about that) especially in the recesses that make up the wing and body paneling, to be able to draw a good visual distinction. Here, as you'll see, that's all cleared up. Although, the kit isn't without its foibles.

Front of box. 

Add caption, NO! You add caption!

Here's what you get. The kit itself is only 4 pieces, the Body, the nose cone and 2 engine nacelles. I love that BF gives you magnets with most of the box kits they put out now.  

OK, this is a problem. I do always seem to get the kit with some stupid sort of defect in it. And this is only the first of a couple. But luckily bent resin is easy to fix!
Straitening out bent resin: Invariably, either because of poor QA, over heating during the shipping process or some other random thing some resin will bend. The longer, thinner and flatter the piece the more likely it is to bend. Luckily there's an easy fix.
Step 1: Boil some water

Step 2: Once you've got a boil dip the wing in and count to 5. This should soften it up and you'll even be able to see it straighten out a bit. 

Step 3: Put it between 2 heavy things and let it dry and cool off. 

Step 4: Repeat with the other wing and viola! You've got 2 straight wings. 

OK, let's build it. 

Second problem on the kit. There are some straight up nasty mold lines running along the interior and exterior lengths of both of the tails. Deep enough to have caught a good deal of release agent (that white stuff in the cracks). Shave it down and wash the model thoroughly. 

The nacelles and nose cone fit on nicely.  

So now it's time to prime. Because I'm going for a raw steel look (rather than full olive drab) I really want the metal to shine. So I'm going with a very light, brush on white prime as opposed to the more standard spray on black prime. Why? Because the undercoat tints the paint above it and I want no darkness to the metal except what I put on it. 

Light priming complete with 2 test patches for metal. 

I went with Citadel's Mithril Silver. Water that paint down and do like 5 coats. Metallic paints will show brush strokes much more easily than non-metallics. 

Next I do a pin wash of Secret Weapon Miniatures Soft Body Black. What's a pin wash? Well, rather than slathering wash across the whole thing you take a very light amount of wash on to a fine tipped brush and place the wash only in recesses between panels/rudders etc... 

Invasion stripe time. I block out the stripes using a light opacity white paint (it'll be easier to cover up if I make a mistake) and fill in the whole thing with white. Then, block out the blacks, fill those in and go back over the whites with a much higher pigment count white paint (Citadel Base "Ceramite White" works well for this) to ensure as little bleed through as possible from the under coats. 

The P-38 had invasion strips on the wings and tails. Photo oddity here, something about the settings my camera made the black bleed over into the white on the tails and one of the wings. If you look at the close wing you can see a better representation of what it looks like in reality. 

Adding a bit more detail. Nose cone in blue, engine tips and wing tips in yellow and fuselage color in Brown Violet. Yellow, by the way, is the worst color I've ever had to paint with. To get a nice bright yellow you really need to do an undercoat of a darker version of yellow (some light browns work well) and then layer on yellow above. Most yellow paints I've encountered have a very low pigment ratio (which is why they look more translucent) so multiple layers above a base color is key. 

Last up we add the cockpit and cannons. 

And there she is, all done!


Detail 5/5 Invasion Stripes: Far improved over earlier models in the line. Well done here.

Value 4/5 Invasion Stripes: Currently it's only used as air support in 1 book and the French 2nd Division PDF. But I can envision a world where this plane would show up in many more supplements *Cough* Pacific*Cough Cough*

Build 3/5 Invasion Stripes: For a 4 part model I had to do a good deal of work to get it into fighting shape. Having had to bend the wings back into shape and needing to smooth out the tails really knocked this down a couple of notches for me.

Overall 4/5 Invasion Stripes: If it weren't for the extra work I had to put into this I would have scored it higher, but there were some QA issues here that keep it from getting a perfect score.

Conclusions: It's a good kit... mostly. It certainly required some prep work but the depth of the recesses here are much improved over previous kits I've bought. All in all the P-38 is a sweet airplane and welcome addition to the line.

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