Dragon Models Ltd
1/144 B-1B Lancer
Kit Number: 4587
Reviewed by  Jim Pearsall, IPMS# 2209

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MSRP: $24.95
Website: www.dragonmodelsusa.com

Thanks to Dragon Models USA for providing the review kit.

The Aircraft
The B-1 Lancer has been an on-again-off-again and on-again project. The thought behind its development and refinement was that the B-52 was close to the end of its service life (30+ years) and the B-2 wasn't ready yet. The B-1 has served well in Bosnia, the Gulf War and Iraq/Afghanistan … right beside the B-52s they were going to replace.

Seeing a B-1 fly is certainly impressive. I got to watch one depart from an airshow, which is when the pilots of the static display birds try to make you forget that you ever saw the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, or whoever. The aircraft made a pretty much normal departure, but then circled the field and made a fast low pass down the active runway at about 200-300 feet. The B-1 is fast. And loud. And big. Here's a size comparison between a 1/144 B-52 and the finished Dragon B-1B. We can have a little discussion of "stealth" when it comes up that the B-1 has only 10% of the radar return of the B-52.

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B-1s are called Bones by most of the aircrew. This goes back to the early days, when one of the newspapers kept calling the aircraft the B one. Many folks have never heard of a Lancer.

B-1s are currently based at Ellsworth AFB, near Rapid City, South Dakota, and Dyess AFB, near Abilene Texas. As part of the Air Force's "Total Force" concept, Air National Guard B-1s were previously also based at Dobbins AFB near Atlanta, Georgia, and McConnell AFB, near Wichita, Kansas. With Air Force draw-downs, the ANG B-1s are no longer in service. More on this later.

[review image] The Kit
You get a fairly large box, with a goodly number of parts in there. This also may be counted as a multimedia kit, as there are resin exhausts included in the package with the decals.

The packaging approach, with the decals, clear parts and resin or photoetch parts is a great idea. Dragon includes a piece of printed cardboard with each set of detail parts or decals in its own sealed bag, stapled to the cardboard. This greatly reduces damage and lost parts. Great thinking, Dragon.

Since this was not the first kit of the Bone I own, I thought it would be interesting to contrast the newest kit to the older ones. I got out my Panda, Monogram and Lindberg Bones, and set them up for a photoshoot.

[review image] The Monogram kit (#1) is a little undersized as is the Lindberg (#2). The Panda kit (#3) was a little bit of a surprise. It appears that the Dragon kit (#4) is based on the Panda kit. Also, note that the Panda fuselage bottom has weapons (cruise missiles) molded in, while the Dragon kit has openings for a bomb bay. So the kits are different. The differences, which DO make a difference are: resin engine exhausts, JDAMs instead of cruise missiles, the bomb bay, more accurate bomb bay doors, a corrected nose, and a far superior decal sheet. Most of the Panda parts are included, a good thing, which I will explain later.

Building the Kit
[review image] I started off with the interior. A 1/144 interior has to be seen to be believed. Well, actually, you have trouble seeing it anyway. I thought it would be cool to put in an instrument panel, so I found a photo on the web, resized it, cropped it and printed it.

I glued the result in the area provided by the kit. In addition, there is a floor, rear bulkhead the panel and 2 seats, which are fairly nice. It was only further into the process that I discovered that the instruments are so far back that you can't see them through the side windows.

[review image] The wings are single pieces that mount into the lower fuselage. The wings do swing, and are kept in place by caps which prevent them from moving up and down, and also keeps the wings level. The swing is accomplished with a link arm which moves the opposite wing.

The interior is installed here, along with a rear bulkhead and the bomb bay. A forward bulkhead from the Panda kit is not used.

[review image] If you buy this kit, read this!
When I tried to put the upper fuselage half on the lower half, I screwed up big time. I put on glue, and then tried to attach the top. It wouldn't mate with the lower half. Here's the problem…

The new bomb bay doesn't quite give the upper fuselage clearance. I had to shave the corners of the bomb bay pretty extensively to get a fit. I also had to remove the placement indicators for that unused bulkhead on the inside of the upper fuselage to get clearance.

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I used the grinding accessory on my motor tool at a 45 degree angle on the upper corners of the bomb bay, and quit when I could see light through the cuts when I held it up to my work light.

Completing Assembly
The rest of the build was pretty uneventful. I had to use some putty to make up for my goof with the fuselage halves, but otherwise, it's a level 2 build.

The engine pods have to have the ends ground off so the resin engine parts will fit. The new nose fits fine, the tail needed just a bit of putty, I tried preshading the model, but with the fineness of the panel lines, and the color, it was a wasted effort.

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Painting/Color Scheme
[review image] I started out wanting to do one of the ANG Bones. I also didn't want to do the monotone "all gray" scheme found on current aircraft. So I spent several hours doing a Google image search for ANG aircraft painted in the 3-tone scheme found in the IPMS Quarterly from 1988. Here's the scheme.

[review image] Later came the "Homer Simpson Moment"… D'OH! The Dragon kit has been through the upgrades the 3-color ANG aircraft didn't have! The new engines and the JDAMS weren't there. And that's really too bad, because I discovered the McConnell Bones were tail coded OZ. But they're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

So correct the color info Dragon gives you, and go on. They say the aircraft is painted 35237, but my sources say Euro 1 Gray, 36081, which is much darker. This is why the pre-shading wasn't going to work.

[review image] After an application of Future to provide a gloss base, I was ready for decals. The decals are great. The markings are correct (yeah, I checked) and are printed by Cartograf. I put a drop of MicroSol® where the decals were to go, and they moved nicely to allow some adjustment. Another feature I liked was that it only took about 10 to 15 seconds for the decal to be ready to slide off the backing paper after I dipped it. By the time I put on the solvent, and found the tweezers and toothpick, the decal was ready to apply.

The decal for the air refueling reference was a bit of a surprise. It's NOT all one slab of decal film; each of the side-to-side lines is slightly separated. This gives the klutz in me a chance to really shine. Nevertheless, I was able to get the marking both straight and square.

Overall Assessment
Recommended. It's the best B-1 kit available in 1/144, and possibly better than the 1/48 and 1/72 offerings, which are beginning to show their age. Dragon could have just put the Panda mold out here, with new decals. Instead they took the time and trouble to update the aircraft into the 21st Century.
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This kit is what you want if you're doing Iraq or current aircraft. The updated weapons and engines are nicely done (OK, we know about the bomb bay, but that's fixable.) and the corrected nose is a plus, too.

If you're thinking of going out and buying the Panda kit so you can do an early version B-1, don't bother. This kit has the parts, including the previous engines. You'll just have to figure out how to do the bomb bays. Closed, possibly?

Thanks to John Noack and Dragon for the chance to build a "state of the art" Bone.

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