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1/32 Northrop P-61B Black Widow

Dave J

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1/32 Northrop P-61B Black Widow

Hobby Boss
Catalogue # 83209

Available from Creative Models for £119.99




Since I have got back into modelling back in 2005, the P-61 Black Widow has been one of my favourite twin engine aircrafts due to its patchy black paint job and its menacing look... In the past, I have purchased the old 48th offering from Monogram/Revell with all the aftermarket I could source, then I had to sell that to fund the Great Wall Hobby offering that was originally released back in September 2011... Now, Hobby Boss has gone and release the Black Widow in 1/32 scale which is my preferred scale, so when I was asked by our Editor if I would be interested taking a look at this kit... How could I say no to it!





The Northrop P-61 Black Widow became the United States' first aircraft specifically designed from the outset as a platform dedicated to the fine art of night-fighting. Enabled by its complex through highly-effective nose-mounted radar, a distinct overall black paint scheme, its trained crew of three (though sometimes two) specialists and a heavy base armament made up of cannon and heavy machine guns, the "Widow" made its way into all major theatres encompassing World War 2. The P-61 could operate in total darkness, aided by its onboard systems, and move into position to deliver an enemy aircrew's final moments. The Black Widow appeared in quantity during 1944, then under the command of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) and soldiered on well past the war years into 1952, retiring with the newly-minted United States Air Force. The P-61 became one of Northrop's most successful products of all time and essentially put the corporation on the map.









In a way, the P-61 was unofficially credited with the last Allied air kill of World War 2. Unofficial in that the enemy aircraft - a Japanese Nakajima Ki-44 Shoki (Tojo) - was reportedly in evasive manoeuvres after having encountered an American P-61, its guns blazing on the Nakajima fighter. The enemy fighter flew defensively just feet above the waves and eventually crashed itself along the surface of the ocean, ending the life of the pilot and his mount in a fiery explosion. The P-61 in question was a P-61B-2 aptly-named "Lady in the Dark" and under the control of Lieutenant Robert W. Clyde. The event occurred sometime between 14 -15 August 1945. If credited, the kill would have been accomplished without a single shot being fired.


The P-61 (later redesignated to F-15 as a photo reconnaissance aircraft) was no longer in operational service by the time of the Korean War, missing the conflict by small window of opportunity. While replacing the aged Douglas A-20 Havoc and D-70 systems in World War 2, a total of 702 P-61 Black Widows were built when production was halted and the P-61 was replaced by the North American F-82 "Twin Mustang" before the Korean conflict.


The Kit -

Adorned on the large lid of the top opening box is a beautiful artwork by Kostas Kavvathias (www.kostaskavvathias.com) of P-61B "Lady in the Dark" on the prow in a sunset or sunrise (you decide) sky with a Japanese Mitsubishi G4M1 Betty bomber below looking to be the next victim... The artwork surely stands out for itself and will grab anyone's attention or money! So now onto the important part...


What's in the box?

The Hobby Boss kit is molded in light gray styrene plastic as per normal with their past releases. All the parts are laid out across twenty two sprues plus four sprues containing the clear parts, two separate clear cowlings, one set of white metal landing gear struts, one set of white metal ballast, two brass frets of photo etched parts, one sprue of flexible black vinyl parts, and one set of rubber/vinyl tires and of course the Decals, instruction manual and the painting/marking guide. According to Hobby Boss website and outside of the box there is over 550 parts crammed into this kit! Having a quick look over the sprues, its apparent that Hobby Boss has mixed parts to be associated the P-61A variant with this kit which clearly marked as P-61B. While this is not a totally bad thing, as the adjustments to each variant is easy to do, and at least opens more options to us modellers for marking options. We will cover these items while looking at the sprues...


A & C Sprues




A and C sprues carry the main wings. Both wings are molded as a two half affair which is standard practice for modern manufactures these days to reduce sink marks and shortage of material being injected into the mold. The wing spoilers are depicted up and will need some work to mount them closed. The wing spoilers operated in exactly the same manner as normal ailerons, so would have remained flush within the wing surface when the control column was in the in the neutral position. So a bit of filling of the recessed areas and rescribing would be required to correct this small error. The first set of hard points for the external fuel drop tanks are molded on the underside of each wing. If you are planning to build an P-61A or an early B, you will have to file the mounting points away and restore the panel lines and rivets to this area. Rivet detail is very fine and panel lines are crisp.






E & F Sprues




Both sprues mainly carry the tail booms. Again rivet detail is very fine and panel lines are very crisp, but some of the rivet detail is soft (due to tooling limitations) and will be lost around the mating faces when cleaned up. Also on this sprue is the air intake ducts and two rudder half's. The rudders attach onto the tails via the hinges, so you are able to pose them outside of a neutral position, if you wish.









G Sprue




The G sprue carries most of the parts for the main gear bays/wells and landing gear. The wheel bays are constructed from 4 parts to make a pod that fits into each boom. Detail in each of the wheel bay's is minimum and only framing and a couple of fluid tanks/bottles are present. The Main Gear landing struts are offered in plastic and white metal options. The plastic gear struts are solid plastic, which will be able to hold up the completed kit once finished, but personally I would use the white metal option as it designed to fit into the kits locating holes, will give you a bit more piece of mind holding up that weight. The main wheel hubs are nicely done, but are lacking the hose connector on the outside of the hub. True Details has already come to the party are released a wheel set for the Black Widow, which we have reviewed also. The main leg doors are single-piece items which is representative of a P-61A. If building an P-61B scheme you will need to section off the doors to make it into 4 pieces to be correct for an P-61B










H Sprue




H Sprue contains fuselage pod and front gun bay covers/doors, not a huge amount of parts are located on this sprue, as they are large items. The fuselage pod is split vertically into halves. There is no cockpit detail on the sidewalls expect for framing in the rear gunner/radio operator compartment.











J & K Sprue





Both sprues carry a mixture of components for the Cockpit and Radar Dish in the nose. The cockpit panels and radar boxes feature finely detailed knobs, switches and dials. These will really pop out once painted and detailed. K sprue carries the cockpit sidewalls and once these items are built up, you will have a good looking office straight from the box.















L Sprue




The large cockpit floor base plate is molded as single piece, on the underside is the gunbay roof. This area has a few deep injector pin marks that may require a little more than some putty, but it does have some fine rivet lines running next the frames. Nose gear bay builds up to separate component, which includes the crew access hatch.












M Sprue




Inner wings half and flaps are found on this sprue. The second set of hard points are included on the lower surface. You will need to check your references on your chosen scheme, if your building you are planning on a B variant. The first 62 P-61B had no hard points on the lower wings. The following 38 P-61's that were built only had the inboard points fitted. From the B-10 variant onwards all them were fitted with four hard points as per the kit. The upper access panel to the rear of the engine is an separate panel. Hobby Boss has you to fit this panel in the instructions, but looking at the instruction manual you could leave it off and see the rear cylinders and gearbox in the engine bay.








N Sprue




The Horizontal stabilizer and Elevator are the main items are on the sprue. Both items are horizontally split into half's with sturdy internal bracing strips to aid the mating of the half's together. Other parts that are included on this sprue are the Radio Antenna and conventional ailerons. The rear gun bay doors are also on this sprue which feature the internal framing, if you decide to have the gun bay open and display this area.












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PA & PB Sprues







Across these four sprues (two of each sprues), you will find the parts required for the two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engines, the power plant of the "Widow" and the engine mounts. Across the two sprue are the Front and Rear bank of cylinders that are broken down into rings that feature very fine cooling fins. Valve covers are molded as separate parts, which have been molded using a slide tooling to capture all the detail on the top side of the valve cover. Engine mounts are constructed from a 5 piece tubular rods setup, that locate onto the engine mounting ring on the rear of the engine. Looking across all the sprues, I did notice that Hobby Boss has missed something important... The exhaust! There are no exhaust stubs provided in the kit... This isn't a problem if you are planning to use the closed engine cowl flaps as they aren't visible. But if you are using the open set, you will either have make your own, or wait for some resin from the likes of Quickboost or even Eduard perhaps.
















Q Sprue




One of the kits smaller sprues which the carry the Cowl Flap's. The Cowl Flaps are provided on this sprue in opened or closed positions. The retractable aileron arms for both wings can be found on this sprue.






RA Sprue




This smaller sprue carries the four-bladed Curtis Electric propeller. The shape of each prop seems to be a bit to narrow and pointy to my eyes when comparing to photos of the real thing. If they are not to your liking, Relish Resin the UK have already released an prop replacement set. The blanking off plate for the upper turret for the airframes that it wasn't fitted to, is also on this sprue. However there is no surface detail to it. Also there are two squarer bulkhead that is not called out for the instructions, which can only be intended for F- 15 Reporter, as the F-15's had a new centre fuselage pod fitted to it.




RB Sprue




Again, this sprue has another set of the four-bladed Curtis Electric propellers that are intended for an F-15 Reporter. So I would expect to see an 1/32 Reporter coming out of China in the near future! Also found on the sprue is the bulkhead that radar dish mounts too and a small bulkhead for the nose wheel bay. These parts could have been easiest swapped with the not used parts on the RA sprue and this sprue could have been left out.




U Sprue




The U sprue contains the parts for the upper turret. A total of 33 parts comprise the turret. The four .50 calibre machine gun bodies are split into two pieces with separate barrels. You have two options of barrels for you to fit to your machine gun bodies, a perforated or solid options. All the barrel muzzles have the hollow breach molded into them.








V Sprue




V sprue carries the nose gear bay doors, part of the nose strut and the wing support spars. Both nose bay doors have surface detail on both sides, in the way of rivet detail and there are not one injector pins marks on either side of these parts! The upper part of the nose gear strut is split into two half's, and the lower piece (not on this sprue) sandwiches between the upper half's. There is no metal reinforcing rod that is inserted into the plastic part. This does worry me a tad with the weight required to be added to the nose, the plastic strut may not hold up... Not to worry, there is the metal strut option as mention earlier.












Wing support spars are large plastic slabs that get sandwiched between the wing half's, with a tab roughly about 5mm hanging outside the wing to slot into the fuselage pod. Personally, I would like to see the tab to be a little bit longer as it will be supporting that weight. Maybe it is possible to slide the plastic slab out a little bit further to create more on the mounting tab.


W Sprue




Two of these sprues are included and carry common parts for the cockpit, drop tanks and the 20mm Cannons. The common parts are for the Front and Rear gunner seats. You would normally think that WW2 fighter seat would be pretty basic, but both of the Black Widow gunner seats are comprised of 20 plastic parts! The 20mm Cannons are molded as 7 separated parts, which include mounting brackets for each cannon. Using slide mold technology, the cannon barrels have been tooled so muzzle's have an hollowed out ends.









Clear Parts



The clear parts are spread across five sprues and two separate engine cowls. As you are well aware the Widow has a lot of window space on the fuselage pod.






















Clear transparencies have been molded as large single items, so there is no need of trying to fit single glass panels into the fuselage framing. The radome/nose is molded as single piece and unfortunately is incorrect for a P-61B, as it represents an P-61A version. It can be corrected if you fill and sand most of the detail off the radome.


Vinyl/Rubber Parts




Hobby Boss love to supply rubber tyres in their large scale kits..Personally I hate them with a passion, as I am sure most other modellers do. The kit's tyres are made out of a hard rubber that has a very soft tread pattern cast into them. There is a seam line that runs down the middle of each tyre which can be frustrating to remove at times. I think this is really sore point of the kit for me, so an aftermarket resin replacement is the way to go on the kits wheels.










On a separate rubber sprue, the oxygen hoses and ammunition belts are supplied. The ammunition belts could have been injected as plastic items, but I do like how they look with a small gap between each round.


White Metal Parts




As mentioned earlier in this review there are white metal landing strut options included, they are a direct copy of the plastic parts. Personally I think these are better option as they will provide more strength to hold up the kit. There will be a small amount clean up to remove the mold lines with a file and then they would require to be buffed using a Demel or likewise tool.




Also included is a set of ballast weights, which is a great addition and I wish more manufacturers would include in there kitset's to insure your completed build is not a tail sitter. The Transmitter and Receiver cylinders parts are also included as white metal parts, as well as an plastic option.

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Decals and Marking Options




The decal sheet is pretty basic compared to some other manufactures' that provide the works in the way of stencils and full markings. Hobby Boss only supply the national markings, walk way markings, squadron and aircraft markings. The instrument panel dials are also supplied as a decal. The decals are well printed, with thin carrier film, they even supply the hole in the national marking for the underwing where the landing light is located.













Two marking options are supplied with the kit, and they are the following –

  • P-61B, #239713, "Lady in the Dark", 547th NFS Lingayen, Philippines Lt. Arthur Bourque.
  • P-61B, #239414, "Sleepy Time Gal" 6th NFS, Capt. Ernest Thomas, March 1945.



















If this kit is on you're to get list... Then you will want to bookmark Mid-Atlantic Air Museum website ( http://www.maam.org/p61.html ) as they are restoring P-61B #42-39445. This P-61B was crashed on Mount Cyclops on 10th January 1945 two miles off Hollandia airfield, New Guina. Finally in 1991 after number attempts to recover it, it was on its way back to the US to be restored to flying condition. There are many photos taken over from the recovery and the current restoration project that will help anyone that is planning to build a Black Widow.




So what do we think?

This has to be one of Hobby Boss' best 32nd releases. A couple of small shape issues on a couple of components, for the ones that want something 100% accurate. A mix and match of P-61A and B variant parts, along with some F-15 Reporter parts... But, still a fantastic kit straight out of the box.


Highly Recommended


Our sincere thanks to Creative Models for the review sample used here. To purchase this directly, click THIS link.


Dave J





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Bravo Dave!


A great review.  Truly a beautiful kit.  The pit detail is incredible.


These big 1:32 twin engine kits are creating a headache for the modeler...how to display these monsters! 


Would love to see this completed build side by side with ZM's He219.

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Nice review Dave - It is indeed an impressive kit, so thank you for reviewing it. Just out of curiosity, sprue RB - How do you know that the four (poorly shaped I may add) A O Smith Products props are not intended for a P-61C? (It would be a lot easier to produce than the F-15 Reporter!).

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Excellent review Dave! I'd have loved to see a test-fit, but the kit's a complicated enough thing that I could see that being tricky to pull off.


How a bout a build? Going to try to clear a couple of things off the bench and get moving on this! Its just calling me to be built!


Nice review Dave - It is indeed an impressive kit, so thank you for reviewing it. Just out of curiosity, sprue RB - How do you know that the four (poorly shaped I may add) A O Smith Products props are not intended for a P-61C? (It would be a lot easier to produce than the F-15 Reporter!).


From seeing the extra bulk heads that are a different shape that aren't used that are supplied, I figured it could be only for an Reporter. Its my understanding that the Fuse pod was different shape for the Reporter? You are more knowledgeable than me on this subject... Whats your take on it?

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Greetings David, Guys, & Gals;



..... I picked up one of the HB P-61 model kits last month. One of the nice things that I found, was the lack of pouch

holes, of mold separation marks....... :D .  For the most part it is a very nice addition to the 1/32 scale tween

engine aircraft model line.


One main area of concern, that Dav. broth out, is the engine problem. This subject has been highly debated on the 

web lately. At this time I thing we can all agree that the P-61/A & /B used the P&W R-2800/10 and the P&W R-2800/65.

..... At this time the P-61/C engine is still under debate..... :wub:


..... The engine problem as far as the HB P-61 model: The engines are very well done, but they lack any kind of exhales

stacks. also if you plain to show them of, you will have to cut the engine nacelles open or find replacements. For a

experienced builder this should not be that big of a problem. The greater problem is with the cowl flaps open, the

missing exhale stacks will be very evident.


..... Eduard has a engine mod out. This mainly deals with the engine baffles, and a new set of cowl flaps. But again

no exhale pipes........... :wub: ....... the Eduard engine mod .....  0010.jpg .... 0110.jpg ..... .... 0211.jpg ....

.... 0310.jpg.



On Eduard's web site you can get a copy of the instructions in PDF format.



**** The good news *** Eduard is working on a interior add-on for the HB P-61 ...... :D . If it is anywhere as nice as the ones they make

for the 1/4 scale model kits.............. it should be very nice.  The tell me the release date is next month, July, 2013.


..... Like all models...... it has a few problems. But in the hands of a good builder........... :rolleyes:




.... northr11.jpg .... 5-130210.jpg .












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Have you seen these?




They are from Relish Resins, and they also do a couple of other correction/upgrade sets..


Corrected Spinners & Props




Fixed Turret for the B




B Corrected Nose




We have requested samples for review too... Just waiting to hear back.  Also we also have the Avionix Resin Cockpit set being shipped to us for review... and it does fantastic!















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How a bout a build? Going to try to clear a couple of things off the bench and get moving on this! Its just calling me to be built!



From seeing the extra bulk heads that are a different shape that aren't used that are supplied, I figured it could be only for an Reporter. Its my understanding that the Fuse pod was different shape for the Reporter? You are more knowledgeable than me on this subject... Whats your take on it?


Hi Dave,


You are correct that the F-15 Reporter does have a modified crew pod, however, it was developed from the P-61C, which introduced the P & W R-2800-73 turbo supercharged engines coupled with the new wide-chord A O Smith paddle bladed propellers.



P-61C Black Widow



F-15 Reporter





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Greetings Dave, Guys & Gals;



Thank you, for the up-date....... :) . I was unaware of the  Relish Resins up-dates. I will have to get some of these.

The  Avionix Resin Cockpit set is also nice ......  doggyh10.gif . I may get one of these also. It looks very impressive, and

the cost is also not bad.


Two conversion that I am looking at is the P-61/E, and the F-15 Reporter. They would both make nice conversions.


I agree with your thoughts as far as the Engine in the P-61/C. My reference leads me in the same direction, the P&W R-2800/73. 



.... P-61/E ..... p-61-b11.jpg .... LD..... p61w1112.jpg.


.... Something for the rivet counters ......p-61b10.jpg ..... 48419810.jpg .



Thanks Dave,







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Hi Dave,


You are correct that the F-15 Reporter does have a modified crew pod, however, it was developed from the P-61C, which introduced the P & W R-2800-73 turbo supercharged engines coupled with the new wide-chord A O Smith paddle bladed propellers.






I knew they were fitted to some C's but I wasn't sure if it was for the complete production run or not, hence no comment in the review about. I didn't want to provide incorrect information.


Dave...part of me wants to see you crush this thing. Another part of me is all "no I want to build it!" But I'm waiting for 1) the aftermarket to fill out a bit and 2) not summer - I learned last year that the spiders love to set up shop inside big kits.


I know what you mean Matt... It looks like all the Eduard stuff should be out by next month. I could start mine soon as I plan to Resin pit... Maybe it could be the next Lunch time project once the Ki-61 & MIG 3 is done...

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  • 1 month later...

Dear Dave J, hello!!

I just wanted so say a big thank you for the kind words about my box art image in the P-61 32nd scale model kit!! I am working as an illustrator for Trumpeter-Hobby Boss for 3 and half years now, and surely every new commision i get from them is always a new challenge for me in the fields of aviation art!!

Thanks again, and greetings to all here at large scale Modeller!!

                                                                                        Respectfully, Kostas Kavvathias  Corfu-Greece

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 years later...

Thanks for the thorough review Dave.


The P-61 is one of those subjects i tried to build unsuccessfully in my youth but it still holds a lot of interest for me. Interestingly enough, i have met a number of Navy Night Fighter pilots (F4U and F6F Community) who had experience flying the Black Widows based at Vero Beach Florida. Personally i think the prospect of an F2T-1 is interesting, and USAAF pilots really liked the plane but the Navy guys i spoke with were....less than impressed.


Maybe its the prejudice of the single- engine over multi- engine fighter mindset, but i didn't ask em about the F7F Tigercat. Never heard a bad word said about that one.



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