Reviewed: Nov 2022
Before their appearance in Vietnam, the B-26K Counter Invader strike aircraft managed to fight in another part of the world, the Congo. In the 1960s, this Central African country found itself in a state of civil war. The United States of America supported the government of the Congo against the rebels known as the Simba.
With the support of the CIA, a special aviation unit was formed as part of a clandestine operation codename "Anstalt Wigmo". Political considerations did not allow the use of American pilots and so it was decided to use volunteer crews recruited from other countries for this purpose. The B-26K's were mostly flown by Cuban exile pilots, several of whom also flew B-26’s in the Bay of Pigs invasion against the Castro regime. For the most part they were very successful in the newly upgraded aircraft.
The special aviation unit, known as 211 Squadron of the 2nd Congo Air Force Group, consisted of just five B-26K's which performed air support missions for government troops in their battles with the rebels. Since the use of bombs was prohibited, the B-26K Counter Invader inflicted fire damage with heavy machine guns and unguided rockets. Great firepower, long range and the enemy’s lack of anti-aircraft defences made these aircraft effective in the fight against insurgents.
These Congo planes were painted in the same green and white gloss scheme as the American planes, but they lacked any American identifying marks at all. Even their serial numbers were abbreviated and shortened. In early 1965, some B-26K aircraft received original markings, which were used as a sign of squadron identification. The new noseart featured a large black bull on a white background, copied from the label of a popular local beer brand, with the name Makasi. The name was translated as “very strong” or “strong as a bull”.
ICM have followed up their original South East Asia (Vietnam) B-26K Counter Invader release, with a new boxing depicting the early, CIA loan, aircraft deployed to the Congo. The box plastic contents are almost identical to the first (48279) kit, with the only change being the included weapons sprues. New decals and slight modifications to the assembly instructions guide you through the minor differences with the oil radiator intakes for these "early" Counter Invaders.
Four marking options are provided in the box, each finished in the same Deep Green over Offwhite colors applied at the On-Mark factory. Markings, in particular nose art decals are provided and called out for each airframe depending on the time period you choose.
The kit decals are ICM printed as usual and have good opacity and accurate register. Two sheets are provided, the first for the main airframe and the second for the weapons. Stencils, serial codes and Congolese AF insignia are included for the main airframe.
If you are looking for a deep exploration of the ICM B-26K kit, the please check out my earlier article
here. For this review I plan to just focus on whats different, which to be honest is not very much when it comes to the model assembly itself.
The main change from the Vietnam era B-26K is that the "Congo Mod" to the carburettor intakes had not been invented when the B-26K's were first deployed to Africa. The ICM assembly therefore skips the later factory designed Congo intake (which is on the sprues) in favour of the original intake parts (D13/14).
The field modified air intake on top of the engine is clearly visible in the left photo. The original intakes in the front of the engine proved insufficient in the Congo and Wigmo hand-built new ones on all the B-26Ks. The USAF later copied the modification on all its other B-26Ks and it became known as "the Congo mod." Interestingly the photo on the right shows that a blanking plate was fitted over the original intake on the leading edge of the cowling. To me personally, modeling a Congo invader would be far more interesting with that blanking plate and field manufactured intake.
For the pre Congo Mod intakes you will need to fit the original cowlings with the smaller intakes on the leading edge. Both early and late cowlings arr provided in the box.
Since the use of bombs was prohibited im the Congo conflict, the B-26K's had to limit their offensive damage to .50cal heavy machine guns and 2.75in, Mk 4 Folding-Fin Aerial Rocket (FFAR), also known as "Mighty Mouse". The kit includes four of the W2 sprues from the US Aviation Armament set (48406). From these weapons sprues you can build a total of four (two per wing) LAU-69/A 19-Tube 70 mm (2.75”) rocket launchers.
64-17645 on station in the Congo. This plane at Kamina Air Field, Katanga, is equipped with 4x 2.75" rocket pods. A CIA B-26B, 44-35890 is seen in the background. A second CIA B-26B is in barely visible in the hangar where it was used for parts.
Another welcome release from ICM to add to their already extensive Invader family in 1/48.
Although small in number, the Congo Invaders were an important part of the history of this iconic aircraft.
I think the hardest part of this build will be finding a good match for the Deep Green color used on the upper surface. So, if you are looking to build an Invader thats just a bit different then this is the version for you.
Many thanks to The Modelling News and ICM Models for the review kit.