by: Saúl García [ ]
Originally published on:
The massive Tu-160 was developed as a direct counter to the Rockwell B- 1A. It caused quite a stir when first photographed from a landing commercial airliner on the 25th of November of 1981 at the Zhukovsky flight test center. It was assigned the NATO reporting name of Blackjack. The B identifies it as a bomber and the two syllables as a jet. In appearance, it is similar to the American B-1 but larger. It has a variable sweep wing and the capacity to launch cruise missiles.
While production stopped in 1992 after about 32 examples of the expected 100, many of the completed aircraft which were slated to be transferred to Engels air base were nationalized by Ukraine upon gaining independence. It is still a viable aircraft and Russia is to receive another 2 upgraded examples (storage in the Ukraine did not do the airframes well) later in 2006.
I have been waiting for this kit for a long time. Zvezda announced a Blackjack but I was disappointed to see it was to 1:144th scale. A-Model announced a kit but the fiberglass construction and high price kept me from buying. Happily, Trumpeter has continued their Tupolev trend with the Blackjack.
This box is quite large at 23.375â long, 3.5â tall, and 14.125âwide. It has a nice painting of the Tu-160 name Ilya Muromets which would be suitable for framing had it not been printed on corrugated paper. The sides of the box show both schemes as well as technical data in both English and Chinese. Inside, we find thirteen light gray plastic sprues, upper fuselage, lower fuselage, instructions, decals, and a box. Aside form the box, each item is sealed in a vented cellophane bag and extra care has been taken with the tips of the fuselage with them wrapped in Styrofoam sheet. Inside the box are bags containing the rubber wheels (twelve for the main gear and two nose wheels), a sprue of clear parts, and a photo-etched brass fret, metal skeletons for the main gear, a metal shaft, and film for the instruments.
The sprues start with C. Perhaps the upper and lower fuselage halves are sprues A & B? Sprue C covers the upper and lower nose halves, turbofan faces, and inner engine nacelles. Sprue D is for the vertical tail, bomb bay doors, and nose gear doors, refueling probe and door plus small details. E, of which there are two, are for the stabilators, bomb bay ceilings, nacelle vents, flap rails, H-55MS missiles, rotary launchers, and other small details. F and G are not identical and mainly cover the swing wings. Sprue H is for the flaps and nacelles, Sprue I is skipped and J provides bomb bay walls, main gear compartments, main landing gear, and small details. Cruise missiles and exhaust cones are provided on four sets of sprue K while L is the clear parts and then we skip to sprue P for cockpit parts, nose gear and bomb bay walls.
Examining the sprues shows excellent details and multi part molding. This does result in some seams which must be removed so be ready to deepen the engraved details before sanding the raised areas.
The instructions are a 20 page booklet with a separate full color sheet for the two markings options. Step one has one working on the cockpit and the three part ejection seats seem a little basic. These K-36LM seats are quite similar to the K-36DM used in the MiG-29 and Su-27 so aftermarket sets, such as those from NeOmega may suit the need. Note that the instruction did not call out painting the rear of the film white. I would recommend painting the areas to be covered by the films on parts P10, P15 and P16 before attaching the film. The inset drawings have you add the compartment walls for the navigator and Weapon Systems Officer which appear a bit barren. Note that part P7 is the cockpit entry door and P28 a curtain to block views to the rear of the aircraft. This bodes well as it seems Trumpeter had access to photos of the aircraft in question. Also note that, due to the canopy being one piece, much of the detail is not easily viewed.
Step 2 has one building the nose landing gear. Some wiring in the bay is missing and I will add nuts to the strut links to match those which are present on part P5. The next step is for the weapons and two variants of the Kh-55SM are offered. However, the two examples with the bulges appear with the turbofan engine exposed. This forces the modeler to use the extended wings, K29 & K30, as well as extending the tail surfaces, parts K24, K25, K27, and K28. Another option is to cut the cruise missile body on the panel line before the turbofan and glue to the tail from parts K20 and K23 after removing the front of that body at the corresponding panel line. In any case, the turbofan is missing details from its inlet and exhaust.
Steps four and five are the bomb bays which again can use some cabling. The details which are present are both accurate and well executed. The main landing gear wells, steps 6 and 8, could also use some cabling and again the detail that is provided is very nice. I suggest painting parts K8 in a gloss red. Placards should be visible and these can be taken from one of the aftermarket sets such as the one from ReHeat.
The air intakes are built in step 7 and I suggest gluing all parts except for the tops, H4 and H28, and just tacking these in place. This will allow the modeler to remove the tops and work on the joints to eliminate and visible seams. For the exhausts, glue all the parts except for K14. By doing so, you can use an airbrush to paint the interior of the cans since airflow is maximized. After the paint is dry, add parts K14.
Wings are tackled in the next four steps. Steps 9 and 10 have one build the left and right flap assemblies (respectively). Be careful when gluing the Fowler flaps as these are easy to damage. In the next steps, 11 and 12, the left and right wing are assembled. An option is given to not have the flaps and slats extended. Choose this is the model is to have the swept wing configuration. The slat rails, parts E24 through E35, are in plastic so allow the glue joint to dry completely before adding the stress of the slats. Note that parts E55 allows for the swing wing to stop at 20 degrees (fully forward for take-off and landing), 35 degrees, and 65 degrees (fully swept).
The next three steps, 13 through 15, have the modeler complete the fuselage and join the halves together. I would suggest gluing the front and rear fuselage parts (C6 to the lower and C2 to the upper) BEFORE gluing any of the other parts inside. Note that part C2 is the result of multi part molds. This has left a seam and some sinkmarks which must be addressed. Jump to the next two steps and work on the landing gear.
Steps 16 and 17 are for the main landing gear and here we use the cast metal parts included. There are supposed to be two 1mm metal shafts measuring 12mm long but I only found one. Some flash clean up was necessary (done when I inspected the kit) with the file and a metal primer was used. To these cast metal parts, plastic bodies are added. Like the nose landing gear, bolt and pin heads can be added along with brake lines. Pay attention to the orientation of part M3 as it is easy to get it on upside down. After this is done, put the landing gear aside to dry overnight and go back to step thirteen adding all the interior elements to the lower fuselage and then add the refueling receptacle well, part D13 to the upper fuselage, as shown in step 14. Let all the assemblies dry overnight before attaching the main gears in step 18.
Only now, attach the upper to lower fuselage. Doing so previously would risk damaging one of the gear legs or getting the gear wells loose within the fuselage.
While the aircraft is on its back, proceed to steps 19 through 24 to add lower fuselage details such as bomb bay doors, tires, exhausts. Just skip the upper fuselage details shown in step 23 until the lower fuselage details are dry.
Now, turn over the aircraft onto with landing gear and add the details to the cockpit glass, Part L1, and decide if the configuration you want will have the refueling receptacle used. I have seen the Blackjack refueling with the wings swept at 35 degrees. On the ground, it would only be seen during maintenance. Moving to step 25, the vertical tail is built. Note that the top of the vertical stabilizer, parts D8 and D9, move completely on a hinge as replicated by Trumpeter.
Be careful with steps 26 and 27. Choose one or the other after deciding on the wing sweep youâll keep. If 20 degrees or 35 degrees, choose step 27 and ignore step 26. If fully swept to 65 degrees, choose step 26 and ignore step 27. When the Blackjack wings are fully swept, the area in question rises to become a small vertical surface.
Paint and Markings
The model comes with two sets of markings, as mentioned before. These are for Ilya Muromets and Vasiliy Reshetnikov. The decals include some stenciling but most of the panels on the real aircraft are numbered and these not represented on the sheet. Authentic Decals, of the Ukraine, has a sheet with several special schemes for the Tu-160 including a Ukrainian example. These can be bought from Linden Hill Imports.
The overall scheme is white so some variations can be added with washes but keep weathering to a minimum. Refer to photos for the bare metal areas as the color page is not clear on this. Now, clear some serious display space as this is a BIG aircraft. The complete model measures 751.4mm long, 773.65mm wingspan, and 178.2mm tall!
Acknowledgements and Recommendation
This kit is quite accurate and deserves a place in the collection of every Cold War aviation fan. Just make sure you have the room to display it! My sincerest thanks to Stevens International for the review sample.
1. Military Aircraft of Eastern Europe (2) Bombers & Attack Aircraft by Piotr Butowski, Published by Concord Publications 1992
2. Russian Falcons, The New Wave of Russian Combat Aircraft by Steven J. Zaloga, Published by Concord Publications 1992
3. Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack: Russia's Answer to the B-1 by Yefim Gordon, Published by Specialty Press 2003
4. Tu-160 by Yefim Gordon and Vladimir Rigmant, Published by Altair, 1993 Polish Language
5. Lotnictwo Wojskowe Rosji (2), Ilustrowana Encyklopedia Techniki Wojskowej, by Piotr Butowski, Publisher by Lampart 1996 Polish Language
6. Tu-160 by Yefim Gordon, Published by Polygon Russian Language
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