Convair Peacemaker – Cold War Giant
This has got to be one of the biggest aircraft models I have ever had the opportunity to build. The Convair Peacemaker was also the largest bomber ever operated by the USAF. Until the advent of ICBM’s, it was the only bomber with the range sufficient for delivering nuclear bombs to Soviet cities during the Cold War. The Peacemaker (typical of Cold War irony) was a curious mix of 2nd World War style fuselage and the coming jet age. It spotted 6 gigantic turbo-prop push engines and 2 sets of jet engines at the outboard sides of the wings, almost like after-thought additions. The wings were huge but not sweptback like the later B-52’s and the tail section looked like a bigger version of the same one found on a B-29 Superfortress. The cockpit and nose were “birdcage” structures grafted onto an aluminum tube.
A customer had wanted the reconnaissance version with the array of cameras under the belly to be built from the 1/72 scale Monogram model. This kit came in a huge box and the wingspan of the model measures 38 inches (96.5cm). The RB-36-H belonged to the 28th Strategic Wing based in Ellsworth Air Force Base near rapid City, South Dakota in the early 1950’s. The color scheme was bare aluminum with shades running from high polished aluminum plate to dull aluminum for the walkways. The kit was built out-of-box without any post-market parts added.
The cockpit and front compartment was divided into 2 decks. Immediately behind the pilot and co-pilot seats, there is another another large panel where the flight control instruments are. On the lower deck, the radio room and navigator’s stations clustered around the wheel well box. The surfaces were largely green zinc chromate and semi-gloss black. Despite the position guides and lugs, getting both decks to fit properly was a little bit tricky.
Once the front compartment was properly installed, the bomb bay bulkheads were added to stiffen up the mid-section of the fuselage. This are is important as the wing supports (a large molded V) fit through the openings and provide the stability needed for the long wing sections. I did not detail the bomb bays since this reconnaissance version did not carry any ordnance and the bomb doors are shut.
Then the fuselage was sealed with quite a bit of clamping. Since the fuselage was a very long tube, getting them properly aligned was a challenge since there are details on both ends (front compartment, rear gun turret). I also added metal ballast to the forward section under the front compartment to avoid a tail sitter for the tricycle undercarriage. A total of 45 grams of ballast were used.
While the fuselage was joints were curing, I worked on the two massive wing sessions. First, the surfaces around the wheel wells were painted. Then the wing halves were joined together. A lot of filing was needed to ensure the joints fitted together properly.
Once the three main sections were properly cured, Mr. Surfacer 500 paste was applied and more sand-papering was done to round off the seams.
Next, I built the two sets of jet engine nacelles for the extreme outboard ends of the wings.
The engine mounts had significant gaps at the seams where they met the curved surfaces of the wings. The gaps were larger than 1/8″ and required some serious seam-filling. You can see my Tutorial 3: Filling large plastic seams on the technique used to fill these gaping holes. Once the seams have been repaired, we can proceed with masking the aircraft for painting.
The cockpit glazing and the nose “birdcage” were really massive. Each section needed about 40 individual masks cut to fit each window panel. There was a total of 88 pieces of masks just for the front compartment. I also left off the clear “bubble” domes around the six camera ports so that I did not have to mask their surfaces. I would only install these at the very end. I had to mask the black coverings for each camera or radar pod (a total of 4 pods, and one very large radar hosing under the front compartment.
After the masking on the fuselage, I attached the 2 wing sections to the fuselage and left the wing root area to cure for 24 hours. These joints have to be very strong as each wing section weighed as much as the fuselage itself!
By this time, the combined size and weight of the aircraft was pretty overwhelming and hard to handle. I set up a special bench to hold the aircraft for airbrushing as the usual bench could not hold it.
The first coat of paint was the high gloss black primer from Alcad II. This was done in two stages about 3 days apart.
Once the black primer coat was properly dry, I applied thin strips of masking tape over the black walkway pattern on the wings. These would later form the black borders around the middle of the wings.
The aluminum coats were applied in 3 separate sessions to achieve the separate shades needed. I used Allclad II High Polish Aluminum first, While Aluminum second and Dull Aluminum last.
The yellow flashes were painted on the engine nacelles and propeller blades. All 10 tires (yes, 10) were also painted.
Finally, the sturdy undercarriage struts were installed and the aircraft could sit on its own tires! I then applied the decals and sealed them under a layer of clear varnish.
The 88 pieces of masking were removed to reveal a pristine cockpit.
The six turboprops were attached to the engines and final details added. It had been 10 weeks of construction to make this gigantic shiny aircraft. Enjoy the pictures.