Reviewed: Aug 2020
The latecomer A-26B/C Invader combined the largely eclipsed, but historically important, 'Attack' category in the USAAF inventory with that of medium bomber, and proved a highly capable combat aircraft performing this amalgam of roles.
Initially, the designation A-26C was to have gone to a proposed version which mounted four 20MM cannons in the nose. When this variant was cancelled the designation was assigned to the glass nosed aircraft.
The A-26C paralleled the development of the A-26B and aside from the clear nose with its bombardier's station, the two aircraft were identical. As basic improvements in the A-26B was made (such as the new canopy. more powerful engines, fuel capacity increase and other modifications) they were also made on the A-26C assembly line at the Tulsa plant where the majority were manufactured.
The glass nosed A-26C was designed to supplement the A-26B in the medium to high altitude bombing role. It was anticipated that A-26Cs could be used as lead ships for formations of A-26Bs which would drop their bomb loads on a signal from the lead A-26C. Originally it was intended for both versions of the Invader to be produced on the assembly lines at Long Beach and Tulsa simultaneously. but this was changed, only five A-26Cs being produced at Long Beach before that plant concentrated solely on the gun nosed B-26B. In the event Tulsa produced 1,086 A-26Cs along with 205 A-26Bs.
This is the third boxing of the ICM new tool and brings us the purpose built C "bomber" variant. The C was used during WW2 and Korea and many of them were later converted to civilan use as fire bombers.
I have previously undertaken a pretty extensive review of the first ICM boxing of the B-26B-50 Korean war Invader which can be found here. I then did a 'What's New' review of the second A-26B-15 kit which is here. For this third kit I will once again focus on what has changed in this new boxing and as you can imagine from a kit perspective it's not a whole lot.
ICM once again provide us three marking options in the box, all natural metal as was the norm for USAAF aircraft in the later part of WW2. As most of the Invaders that saw combat in WW2 were based in the ETO (mostly with the 416th BG) it's to be expected that we would see at least one option catering for these aircraft.
As the Invader squadrons moved into Europe following D-Day to provide closer support to the advancing allied ground units, they naturally began operating from bases in France (A55 Melum) and Belgium (A92 St Trond) during early 1945. It's also good to see ICM include an option for the 47th BG who flew the Invader in the MTO out of Italy, also in early 1945. The only markings that are missing are for a PTO based Invader but I note that ICM have reserved those for another boxing coming in 2020.
If none of the markings provided in the box appeal then ICM have also released an additional set of decals for purchase. Sheet D4801 features four WW2 aircraft. There is one glass nose C option on this sheet for the 495th BS/344th BG, Germany Sept 1945.
The A-26C nose was outfitted with a Norden bombsight and related equipment for the bombardier who also doubled as a navigator. The upper and lower halves of the clear plexiglass nose were held in place by screws and the lower portion also contained an optically flat panel for the bomb sight.
Entrance into the nose was either through a small hatch under the nose or through a crawl space which ran along the starboard side of the fuselage from the cockpit. While the bombardier could ride in the nose during takeoffs and landings, this was not encouraged since in a crash, the nose tended to break off with deadly consequences. As a result, he usually rode in a "jump seat" next to the pilot during takeoffs and landings.
Armament for the A-26C was similar to the A-26B model, except tor the nose. Two .50 caliber machine guns were carried on the lower starboard side of the nose for some forward firepower, although these were sometimes removed. In all other respects, the A-26C followed the progressive upgradings instituted with the A-26B with regards to armament and bomb load.
A quick scan of the kit sprues reveals that two new sprues (H1 & G1) are included for the clear nose section of the A-26C. For this early (WW2) era A-26C the marking options provided all use the flat top canopy parts G1/G3. The later clamshell canopy is included on the sprue so you could use it if you made your own decals or masks.
Luckily you don't need to dig too deep to find some excellent period photos of WW2 Invaders. This 386th BG Invader suffered a mishap but shows us the detail of the plexiglass nose and opened canopy. Note that the nose 0.50 cal guns have been removed from this aircraft.
Sprue H1 is the main new grey plastic sprue and it contains all the part needed for the new glass nose, the blanking plates for the wing leading edge, the norden bombsight and the original loop antenna (which would later be faired over).
A quick dry fit using only tape reveals no fit issues, in fact everything aligns very nicely. The general layout of the bombarbier's compartment seems to be generally accurate based on comparison to reference photos.
Entrance to the bombardiers compartment was possible through a small hatch located under the nose. The entrance door, which also formed part of the floor when closed, was hinged at the rear and simply dropped open downwards. It was equipped with a single extendable step on the right to give the crew member a foot hold closer to the ground when boarding.
Unfortunately ICM do not include an option to display the door open. This is a pity as it's one of the distinctive differences between the glass nose C and its gun nosed cousins. It should be possible to cut open the kit door with some minor surgery.
I was happy to find that the clear parts were a good fit, both with the plastic parts and themselves. The optically flat panel in the lower nose (and small perspex door next to it) are nicely done as is the framing.
One unexpected inclusion I found on page 22 of the ICM instructions is a full set of masking templates for each of the clear parts. These are not actual masks but scale drawings of the shape masks would need to be. I have not tested them for accuracy yet but am grateful for the inclusion as I plan to use them as the basis for cutting masks using my Silhouette cutter.
The overall shape of the glass nose seems acceptable to my eye. I have not taken the time to compare it to scale drawings as I see no obvious issues.
The general layout of the nose compartment includes all the major components you would expect. Here you can see the detail for the access hatch has been moulded into the floor and from my research the folding floor panel (which was designed to cover the door) seems to be missing as are a number of other smaller details. However all in all ICM have done a pretty good job here.
Obviously the centrepiece of this compartment is the Norden Bombsight, mounted in the center and extending out over the optically flat panel in the nose. To access the telescope eyepiece the bombardier would kneel forward over the bombsight during the bomb run, making adjustments as needed.
The detail on the ICM parts is actually pretty good given the limitations of injection moulding but the thing that seems off to to me is the position in which ICM wants you to mount the bombsight. As a miniumum it really needs to have a more realistic mount and extend further out over the glass.
You could certainly take the time to scratchbuild your own accurate Norden bombsight but it would be much easier to acquire one of the superb resin replacements from Vector. I expect this would be a drop in part and dramatically enhance the look of your 'C' Invader.
With this third boxing ICM have now rounded out all the main variants of the A/B-26B/C Invaders as used during WW2 and Korea. I note that they are planning a couple of more boxings but these seem to be just different markings.
I know people (myself included) are keen to see a new tooled A-26K Counter Invader in 1:48 but given the significant differences between the K and the earlier models I fear it may not come to pass from this ICM tooling.
As with the previous boxings I have no hesitation in recommending this kit and as the aftermarket folks have started to churn out updates and corrections I think we will start to see some very nice builds of these kits in the near future.
Many thanks to ICM and The Modelling News for a chance to review this kit.