Reviewed: May 2022
In the mid-1950s several B-26B Invaders were modified as drone director aircraft. All guns were removed and special drone mount points were added to the wings to enable special pylons to be added. The aircraft were intended to test new air-to-air missiles by providing a target drone for live fire tests. Additionally, the aircraft was used in support of combat crew training by providing aerial targets for pilot proficiency training.
The Ryan Q-2A Firebee was the standard drone carried on the DB-26B. These director aircraft began service in the late 1950s and continued through the 1960s before being replaced by more modern aircraft capable of carrying larger drones.
ICM have recently released the eighth boxing in their A/B-26B/C/K family. Having supplied us already with all the major WW2, Korean and even Vietnam era Invader variants, the time has come for ICM to turn to the more oddball, but nonetheless interesting, Invader versions.
Having previously kitted up both the KDA-1(Q-2A) Firebee and BQM-34А (Q-2C) Firebee drones in 1:48, it was only natural that ICM would eventually give us a new DB-26 model on which to mount them.
In the box we have all the parts needed to build either a solid nose DB-26B or a glass nose DB-26C. Also provided in the box are two drones, a Q-2A and Q-2C, each with suitable pylons to fit them to the Invader wings. As the drone controllers were stripped of armaments, sprue K is also provided with a blanking plate to use in place of the lower turret housing.
As I have previously reviewed the base ICM B-26B and A-26C kits, I will focus here only on what's new in this particular boxing.
It's worth noting that this is the first (and only) boxing of ICM's Invader that contains all the parts needed to build either a solid (6 gun) or glass nose Invader.
Starting with Sprue H, which was first released in the A-26B-15 Invader (48282) kit, we have the parts to model the 6 gun solid nose DB-26B, the blanking plates for the wing leading edge, the .50 cal barrels (unused in this boxing) and the original loop antenna (also unused as the DB-26 used the faired antenna, part E23).
It's interesting that ICM decided to mold the solid nose for the six gun invader as one piece because the ICM 8 gun nose was made up from no less than four parts. Note that the DB-26B had the guns removed and the open ports faired over. How you do this (putty or plastic) is left upto the modeller.
To model the glass nose DB-26C, ICM have included Sprue H1, which first appeared in the A-26C-15 Invader (48283) kit. This sprue contains the main parts for building the glass nose option whilst Sprue G1 contains the associated clear parts
As the DB-26 drone controller aircraft had all offensive and defensive armament removed, the upper and lower turrets were faired over. Sprue K, which first shipped in the B-26С-50 Invader (48284) kit includes the lower fuselage plug. Based on the panel line detail it seems that you could use this same part for a target tug Invader as well as the drone controller.
Of course a Drone controller aircraft is not much use without some drones. ICM have previously released both the Ryan Q-2A and Q-2C Firebee drones as standalone kits. I built both of these as part of an earlier review, in which I found them to be excellent little models. No doubt ICM created these kits with this DB-26 pairing in mind.
The inclusion of both a Q-2A and Q-2c is a bit odd as I was not able to find any photos of a DB-26 aircraft carrying a mixed load like this. It seems that either two Q-2A's or two Q-2C's were carried, but never one of each. This could be in part due to the need to balance the weight equally between each wing. The Q-2A and Q-2C were of course different weights so carrying one of each would immediately cause an imbalance.
It appears that two syles of pylon were used for mounting the Firebee drones to the Invader wings. The first is an open framework which is the one seen on the majority of photos of the DB-26. It's also the one which is NOT provided by ICM in the kit. The second style is a smaller streamlined pylon which looks more like a standard pylon in most ways. This is the style of pylon included in the kit by ICM and also matches photos of both of the aircraft included in this kit (so well done ICM).
The provided streamlined pylon looks to be a pretty good match to the real thing. The one thing that ICM seem to have gotten wrong is the size (length) of the sway braces. On photos these extend from the pylon down to touch (secure) the drone. As you can see the braces supplied by ICM are very short, looking nothing like the real thing. Some plasticard should be all that is needed to fix these up.
The first of two included marking options is for a DB-26C, 44-35666 assigned to the Air Missile Development Command at Holloman AFB. This aircraft was used extensively in the early testing of the XQ-2C. The pilot was Jim “No Sweat” Wilson on all of these testing missions in triple “6”. Although the USAF usually carried two drones at a time, it was possible to fit a ballast water tank on the opposite wing when only one was needed. Both size of the Q-2C (later designated as the BQM-34A) and its weight would spell the end of the Invader as a Drone Carrier for the USAF. The last Invader Drone Carrier would depart Tyndall AFB in 1961, ending a colorful mission for the B-26. [napoleon130.tripod.com/id401.html]
The second marking option is for DB-26B, 44-34652 assigned to 4756th Drone Squadron even though the tail in this photo displays the 4750th Drone Squadron patch. This aircraft had flown from Tyndall AFB (Florida) to Van Nuys Airport (California) to support an episode of the “Steve Canyon” TV Series. The episode was titled “Operation Firebee” and actually was about a single Q-2A Firebee drone nicknamed “Little Looey”. The 4750th Drone Squadron Decal was placed over the markings of the 4756th Drone Squadron for the tv show. [napoleon130.tripod.com/id401.html]
The decals for the DB-26 aircraft and each of the two drones are supplied on separate sheets. ICM homegrown decals are known to perform well and from my examination of this sheet I saw no blemishes or printing issues. The provided decal sheets for the two drones include all the marking options from the original standalone kits (kits 48400 and 48401). You can download the instruction PDFs, which includes the painting and decal placement for the drones, from the ICM website using the following links:
Yet another interesting and welcome release from ICM which further extends their Invader family. I applaud the inclusion of part options to build both the solid and glass nose options.
Visually these will be striking models as one is overall white and the other silver with hi-vis orange, not to mention the red drones under the wing. From my examination I believe that ICM have once again done their homework, including the right options and markings to build these aircraft accurately out of the box.
For Invader fans, ICM continues to deliver the goods. Highly recommended.