Accurate Miniatures 1/48 scale TBM-3 Avenger

Kit # AJ3406B                                      MSRP $29.98 USD
Images and text Copyright © 2004 by Matt Swan

Developmental Background
       The Avenger was one of the most famous aircraft of WWII in Navy service and rapidly displaced the obsolete Devastator aboard US carriers. Originally designed as a carrier-based torpedo bomber by Grumman Aircraft, the Avenger found use as a close-support bomber and patrol aircraft. From the Guadalcanal landings in August 1942 until the end of the Pacific War it remained the only shipboard torpedo aircraft of the US Navy and was known as the largest single-engine, carrier-based aircraft of WWII.
       The order for two prototypes was placed on 8 April 1940 and first aircraft was flown on August 1st 1941. The first three-seat Grumman TBF-1 Avengers went into service just less than one year later. The US Navy's demands for Grumman production of the F6F Hellcat fighter led to manufacture of the Avenger being taken over by Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors - the GM-produced aircraft being designated the "TBM". Those manufactured by Grumman were designated ďTBFĒ.
       On the afternoon of December 7, 1941, Grumman held a ceremony to open its new Plant 2 in Bethpage and to display the new torpedo bomber to the public. During the program, Grumman vice president Clint Towl was notified that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor but no announcement was made and the festivities continued. The new plane first saw action on 4 June 1942 against the Japanese carrier striking force at the Battle of Midway - only six Avengers were involved, operating from Midway Island. Five of the six were shot down, the surviving plane returned to Midway severely damaged and with its gunner dead but it demonstrated the Avengerís toughness, and it was immediately apparent that its battle-worthiness justified its production in great numbers.
       The Avenger took part in every carrier-versus-carrier battle and almost all carrier operations from Midway onwards, working from every fast carrier and escort carrier of the Pacific Fleet and from land bases. For almost all of this time it operated as a bomber, a search aircraft and as an anti-submarine aircraft, rather than as a torpedo-plane. As a torpedo-plane it was initially hampered by the many serious defects in the American torpedoes however in the Battle of Leyte Gulf the Avenger achieved one of its most notable successes by sinking the Japanese battleship Musash after delivering nineteen hits.
       The Avenger's virtues, especially its ruggedness, reliability, and stability as a weapons platform, ensured it a remarkably long operational history. It in fact remained in service - as an anti-submarine, search-and-rescue aircraft, an all-weather night bomber and an electronic countermeasures platform - until 1954. Until recently, at least one aerial firefighting operation used Avengers as fire bombers and/or fire spotters over the woods of Canada.
       During its career it was known by many names: Chuff, Turkey, Pregnant Beast or Tarpon (RAF). No matter what it was called it was a widely used aircraft and was produced in great numbers with 7546 being manufactured by General Motors and 2290 manufactured by Grumman. Today, according to Warbird Alley, there are at least 42 of these amazing aircraft still airworthy.

The Kit
       This is a reissue from the recently resurrected Accurate Miniatures Company of the original 1996 release of the radar equipped TBM 3-D #506. The kit has a fairly generic boxing with a simple black and white picture of the aircraft barely tacked to the surface. If you are buying this for the box art, stop right here, itís not worth it. If you want a nicely done model with tons of detail then you may want to continue. Inside this plain white box are two large plastic bags full of light gray injection molded pieces. In these two bags we have eight trees of parts totaling 98 pieces. There is one more mid-sized plastic bag that contains the clear parts. Here we have 25 clear parts that cover not only the various greenhouse parts but the dashboard, an interior bulkhead and wingtip lights. The main body pieces display both finely engraved panel lines and rivets as well as raised rivet detail. Looking at the picture to the right, arrow #1 indicates some of the raised detail while arrow #2 directs your attention to some of the engraved panel line work. Another item of interest in this picture is the detailed engine mount, which tempts the modeler to build this with some panels open. This is further encouraged by a very nicely detailed engine and ignition harness.
       While the wings have all the flaps and control surfaces molded in the close, neutral position the inner sides of the landing flaps are detailed so if opening up engine panels is not enough for you, with a little extra work you can drop the flaps also. There are also small detailed leading edge slots on the wings. When I was looking over the new B-25 C/D kit from Accurate Miniatures I noticed a slight mold misalignment on the engines and that same misalignment is evident with this kit as well. There is some very minimal flash on some of the larger body parts but all of the smaller pieces appear to be flash free.
       After looking over all these wonderful pieces of polystyrene I removed the primary body pieces from the trees and cleaned them up. The main floor pan fit nicely into the fuselage and when I closed the fuselage halves they lined up nearly perfectly right away. All the panel lines formed continuous lines and there was no evident misalignments or warpage in the parts. This held true with the wings also. The wings fit positively into recessed holes on the fuselage so there will be no putty necessary at this juncture. The cowling pieces fit together very nicely also and set well on the fuselage. In the picture below you can see how well all these parts set together with just a little tape.

Click on any of the above pictures for a larger image

Instructions and Decals
       After looking at all those nice plastic pieces the directions come as a bit of a shock. We get a single sheet of directions measuring seventeen inches by sixteen inches, both sides covered with very fine text and several small line drawings. I usually wear magnifying glasses when I build and found that I needed to get these out just to read the directions!
       There are ten construction steps covered and most of the instructions are given as text with few illustrations. It definitely is a bit different and takes some serious study before attempting any assembly. After reviewing the instructions that came with the B-25 C/D these are as different as day is to night. Also squeezed onto this large sheet are painting and decal placement instructions. They follow along the same lines as everything else with lots of very fine text and one picture showing the markings. And lastly is a paint reference chart. Everything is here that you need to build the model with itís just difficult to access all the information and comprehension of the directions takes a little more work than is normal. Just to be fair to Accurate Miniatures, these directions are a result of the previous management and were produced during their final days.
       One aircraft, thatís it. Thatís all the markings you get Ė one. Well, the box lists it as TBM-3D #506 and that is exactly what you get. Stars and bars, aircraft number, propeller logos wing walk markings and a few stencils. The decals appear to be of good quality and good registry but are very disappointing in their brevity.

       I think this model illustrates the level of financial difficulty that Accurate Miniatures was experiencing in the latter 1990s. The tooling for the plastic was done to high standards but by time it came to the paper products such as packaging, instructions and decals, the money was running out. Itís a sad thing to contemplate the death of a model manufacture but we were fortunate when Linda Habovick, Joe Myers and Thomas Myers picked up the reins and breathed new life into the company. This is a fine model, let there be no doubt of that. The decals and instructions could use an overhaul but there are plenty of aftermarket decals available from Super Scale, Third Group Decals, Yellow Hammer Decals and FCM Decals. Other aftermarket parts can be had from Cutting Edge, Eduard, Engines and Things, Moskit, Minimeca and Ultra Cast. Cutting Edge and Eduard offer painting masks for the kit also.
       This makes an excellent place to start construction of virtually any version of the TBM/TBF Avenger for your collection, hey, you could even build the radar equipped #506. Donít miss out, add one of these to your collection of Naval aircraft.

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