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Curtiss-Wright SB2C-4 Helldiver


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Infinity Models

Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver “Atlantic Scheme”

Part No INF 3202

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History:

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, also known as the A-25 Shrike, is a dive bomber developed by Curtiss-Wright during World War II. As a Carrier-based bomber with the United States Navy (USN), in The Pacific theatre it supplemented and replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless A few survivors are extant.

Initially poor handling characteristics and late modifications caused lengthy delays to production and deployment, to the extent that it was investigated by the Truman Committee, which turned in a scathing report. This contributed to the decline of Curtiss as a company. Neither pilots nor aircraft carrier skippers liked it Nevertheless, the type was faster than the Dauntless, and by the end of the Pacific War, the Helldiver had become the main dive bomber and attack aircraft on USN carriers

By the time a land-based variant, known as the A-25 Shrike became available, in late 1943, the Western Allied air forces had abandoned dedicated dive-bombers. A majority of A-25s delivered to the US Army Air Forces were transferred to the US Marine Corps, which used the type only in one side campaign and non-combat roles. The British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force also cancelled substantial orders, retaining only a few aircraft for research purposes.

Nicknames for the aircraft included "Big-Tailed Beast" or just "Beast" "Two-Cee", and "Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class"; the latter nickname was derived from the name SB2C and the Shrike's reputation for having difficult handling characteristics.

Design and development

The Helldiver was developed to replace the Douglas SBD Dauntless. It was a much larger aircraft, able to operate from the latest aircraft carriers and carry a considerable array of armament. It featured an internal bomb bay that reduced drag when carrying heavy ordnance. Saddled with demanding requirements set forth by both the U.S. Marines and United States Army Air Forces, the manufacturer incorporated features of a "multi-role" aircraft into the design.

The Model XSB2C-1 prototype initially suffered teething problems connected to its Wright R-2600 Twin Cyclone engine and three-bladed propeller; further concerns included structural weaknesses, poor handling, directional instability, and bad stall characteristics. in 1939, a student took a model of the new Curtiss XSB2C-1 to the MIT wind tunnel. Professor of Aeronautical Engineering Otto C. Koppen was quoted as saying, "if they build more than one of these, they are crazy". He was referring to controllability issues with the small vertical tail

The first prototype made its maiden flight on 18 December 1940. It crashed on 8 February 1941 when its engine failed on approach, but Curtiss was asked to rebuild it. The fuselage was lengthened, and a larger tail was fitted, while an autopilot was fitted to help the poor stability. The revised prototype flew again on 20 October 1941 but was destroyed when its wing failed during diving tests on 21 December 1941.

Large-scale production had already been ordered on 29 November 1940, but many modifications were specified for the production model. Fin and rudder area were increased, fuel capacity was increased, self-sealing fuel tanks were added, and the fixed armament was doubled to four 0.50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns in the wings, compared with the prototype's two cowling guns. The SB2C-1 was built with larger fuel tanks, improving its range.

The program suffered so many delays that the Grumman TBF Avenger entered service before the Helldiver, even though the Avenger had begun its development two years later. Nevertheless, production tempo accelerated with production at Columbus, Ohio and two Canadian factories: Fairchild Aircraft Ltd. (Canada), which produced 300 (under the designations XSBF-l, SBF-l, SBF-3, and SBF-4E), and Canadian Car and Foundry, which built 894 (designated SBW-l, SBW-3, SBW-4, SBW-4E, and SBW-5), these models being respectively equivalent to their Curtiss-built counterparts. A total of 7,140 SB2Cs were produced in World War II.

Operational history

US Navy

The U.S. Navy would not accept the SB2C until 880 modifications to the design and the changes on the production line had been made, delaying the Curtiss Helldiver's combat debut until 11 November 1943 with squadron VB-17 on Bunker Hill, when they attacked the Japanese-held port of Rabaul on the island of New Britain, north of Papua New Guinea. The first version of the SB2C-1 was kept stateside for training, its various development problems leading to only two hundred being built. The first deployment model was the SB2C-1C The SB2C-1 could deploy slats mechanically linked with landing gear actuators, which extended from the outer third of the wing leading edge to aid lateral control at low speeds. The early prognosis of the "Beast" was unfavourable; aircrews strongly disliked it due to its size, weight, and reduced range compared to the SBD it replaced.

In the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 45 Helldivers, most of which had been deliberately launched from extreme range, were lost when they ran out of fuel while returning to their carriers.

Among its major faults, the Helldiver was underpowered, had a shorter range than the SBD, was equipped with an unreliable electrical system, and was often poorly manufactured. The Curtiss-Electric propeller and the complex hydraulic system had frequent maintenance problems. One of the faults remaining with the aircraft through its operational life was poor longitudinal stability, resulting from a fuselage that was too short due to the necessity of fitting onto aircraft carrier elevators. The Helldiver's aileron response was also poor, and handling suffered greatly under ninety kn (100 mph; 170 km/h) airspeed; since the speed of approach to land on a carrier was supposed to be eighty-five kn (98 mph; 157 km/h), this proved problematic. The 880 changes demanded by the Navy and modification of the aircraft to its combat role resulted in a 42% weight increase, explaining much of the problem.

The solution to these problems began with the introduction of the SB2C-3 beginning in 1944, which used the R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone engine with 1,900 hp (1,400 kW) and Curtiss' four-bladed propeller. This substantially solved the chronic lack of power that had plagued the aircraft. The Helldivers would participate in battles over the Marianas, Philippines (partly responsible for sinking the battleship Musashi), Taiwan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa (in the sinking of the battleship Yamato). They were also used in the 1945 attacks on the Ryukyu Islands and the Japanese home island of Honshū in tactical attacks on airfields, communications, and shipping. They were also used extensively in patrols during the period between the dropping of the atomic bombs and the official Japanese surrender, and in the immediate pre-occupation period.

 

An oddity of the SB2Cs with 1942 to 1943-style tricolor camouflage was that the undersides of the outer wing panels carried dark topside camouflage because the undersurfaces were visible from above when the wings were folded.

In operational experience, it was found that the U.S. Navy's Grumman F6F Hellcat and Vought F4U Corsair fighters were able to carry an equally heavy bomb load against ground targets and were vastly more capable of defending themselves against enemy fighters. The Helldiver, however, could still deliver ordnance with more precision against specific targets and its two-seat configuration permitted a second set of eyes. A Helldiver also has a significant advantage in range over a fighter while carrying a bombload, which is extremely important in naval operations.

The advent of air-to-ground rockets ensured that the SB2C was the last purpose-built dive bomber produced.[18] Rockets allowed precision attack against surface naval and land targets, while avoiding the stresses of near-vertical dives and the demanding performance requirements that they placed on dive bombers.

The SB2C remained in active postwar service in active-duty US Navy squadrons until 1947 and in Naval Reserve aviation units until 1950. Surplus aircraft were sold to the naval air forces of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Thailand. Greek SB2Cs served in combat in the Greek Civil War with additional machine guns mounted in wing pods. French SB2Cs flew in the First Indochina War from 1951 to 1954.

US Army and US Marine Corps service

Built at Curtiss' St. Louis plant, nine hundred aircraft were ordered by the USAAF under the designation A-25A Shrike. The first ten aircraft had folding wings, while the remainder of the production order omitted this feature. Many other changes distinguished the A-25A, including larger main wheels, a pneumatic tailwheel, ring, and bead gunsight, longer exhaust stubs, and other Army-specified radio equipment. By late 1943, when the A-25A was being introduced, the USAAF no longer had a role for the dive bomber, as fighter aircraft such as the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt had shown their ability to carry out tactical air support missions with remarkable success.

The USAAF transferred 410 Helldivers to the US Marines. The A-standard 25As were converted to the USMC variant, SB2C-1 and one squadron, VMSB-151, based on Enjebi (a.k.a. Engebi/Enjibe; part of Enewetak Atoll) conducted bombing missions on bypassed Japanese strongpoints nearby. Otherwise, the SB2C-1 variant never saw combat, and was used primarily as a trainer and target tug.

Australian service

At an early stage of World War II, the Australian government noted that the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) lacked dedicated dive bombers and ordered 150 Curtiss Shrikes. These aircraft were paid for by the US Government as Lend Lease aid.

By November 1943, when the first shipment of 10 Shrikes arrived in Australia, the RAAF had decided that dive bombing was an outmoded tactic. Vultee Vengeance dive bombers, which were already in service with the RAAF, were being replaced by light bombers. As a result, the order for the remaining 140 Shrikes was cancelled.

While the ten aircraft received were taken on strength, with the RAAF serial prefix A69, only one of these Shrikes officially took to the air in RAAF service. A69-4 was assigned to No. 1 Air Performance Unit, for performance testing, between December 1943 and April 1944. The RAAF and US Fifth Air Force already operated a joint pool of aircraft types common to both services in the Southwest Pacific theatre and, by mid-January 1944, the other nine Shrikes had been transferred to USAAF units A69-4 was also transferred to the USAAF in December 1944.

British service

The Helldiver's service with the British resembled Australian experience with the type. A total of twenty-six aircraft, out of 450 ordered, were delivered to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, where they were known as the Helldiver I. After unsatisfactory tests by the A&AEE that pinpointed "appalling handling", none of the British Helldivers were used in action

The Kit

Going on how unpopular the Helldiver was with crews and carrier skippers I suppose it’s not surprising It hasn’t been kitted very often with only a Vacuum form from Combat and a full resin kit from HPH in this scale. And HPH is where this kit seems to originate from. I was at Telford and speaking to Gary from Tiger Hobbies who is distributing these kits. I’ll be honest new kit companies seem to be coming along at a scary rate of knots now. What interested me was two things: firstly the Atlantic scheme of Grey over white which makes a nice change (a Pacific scheme kit is available also INF 3201) and the “plastic by HPH” written on the box, So I bought one mainly because I’m a sucker for unpopular aircraft and I haven’t built a Helldiver since the Matchbox kit of the 70’s with the folding wings. Now the HPH helldiver is completely resin so where does the plastic by HPH come from? My guess is HPH (who marketing as Infinity) have decided to make the most of the hard work of the Resin kit and release it, somewhat cheaper, in Injection moulded plastic. Gary has also told me that this is a kit that doesn’t have multiple options (there are two in the kit but identical apart from markings). When you have finished there will be no spares, no additional parts just empty sprues and this is part of the future, whether we like it or not because this will cut down on plastic waste.

If you do want to add to the detail you can by separate resin and Photo etch parts for extra detail, and these are following

·         INF 3201 1+ Landing flaps

·         INF 3201 2+ Bomb Bay

·         INF 3201 3+ Opened gunner position

·         INF 3201 4+ Weapons set (bombs and Rockets)

·         INF 3201 5+ Control surfaces

·         INF 3201 6+ Photoetched set

·         INF 3201 7+ Wing fold set

Including these would obviously increase the price and if you want to build things closed the truth will be in if you can build a satisfactory model from the box after all the price is RRP £99.00 (equivalent to a trumpeter Stuka) so is it worth the money?

 Contents

In the sturdy lid and tray box there is the following:

·         Eight sprues in grey plastic

·         One sprue in Clear plastic

·         2 Photo etched frets

·         Decal sheet for two options

·         Instructions

Sprues are individually wrapped but not marked A or B, so we must go by the individual sprues,

The first two sprues to be looked at will be the fuselage halves and wings. The first thing to say here is, that this is a limited run tooling so don’t expect location pins or the like, and the plastic feels like it has some mould release on it so a good wash in soapy water before you start would be an essential before you start building. For Limited run, the sprue gates are commendably small. The detail certainly doesn’t look limited run with fine recessed panel lines, and really restrained rivet detail on the outer parts. This detail is as good as I’ve seen from anyone. The interior has lots of interior detail. Which will look nice under a coat of Zinc Chromate green, and a wash. The top section of the wings has some nice rib detail. The bomb bay is closed but this can be built open if you buy the extra set for this (I like closed up aircraft so I’m fine with this).

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Lower wings and tailplanes

great rivet and fastener detail on here and here is where I must confess to not knowing enough about the aircraft, but it looks to me like the top section of the ailerons look to be metal as do half of the bottom section (I have just looked at a couple of walk round photos and this does appear to be the case). Slats will be separate as are the dive brakes.

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Next up is the sprue with the flaps,

I’ll come back to that later because also on here there are a few other bits, firstly, all the ribs for the undercarriage bay (produced in PE on the HPH resin kit). Cockpit internals, including a control column and the rear guns and shield. Finally, Yagi antenna for under the wings the 2 M2 Browning’s look pretty good for Injection moulded items, resin will always be better but all the same these will be pretty good particularly the multi part nature of the gun position.  OK then the Flaps and dive brakes; on first look I just thought “hmm these are going to need drilling out” then I looked at the walk round photos  and the dive brakes on the aircraft are really complex, this means that drilling the holes out won’t be that easy, don’t get me wrong, the detail is really as good as it can get but I also understand why the holes haven’t  been opened out. Its going to need some planning with the painting if you want them open or you may want to buy the aftermarket or scratch build your own.

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Cockpit internals,

Cockpit floor details and bulkheads, the gunner’s seat, and radio boxes are on here, Details here look good, the fabric cover over the headrest armour is nicely done rudder pedals are on here, I would say its pretty good and will look good under a coat of paint.

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Small parts

The pilot’s seat (both gunner and pilots’ seats are two-part affairs and nicely moulded), Undercarriage parts More cockpit parts and all the other ancillaries are on this sprue. Firstly, the undercarriage parts the sturdy nature of the undercarriage is shown well here and communicates the carrier bomber strength well. Wheels are two parts with the tires moulded on, being a cross tread pattern careful cleaning up will be a must that said the wheel detail is very very nice indeed. Finally, the prop boss and wing guns are also on this sprue I would advise drilling out the bores of these but again nicely done.

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The Engine sprue

The engine sprue has two separate banks of cylinders, with nice cooling fins moulded in, separate pushrods, inlet, and exhaust manifolds, finally there is an ignition harness ring on the sprue, out with the drill and some thin wire and the engine is done, good painting will bring out the best in this area. Being a radial, this will be very visible so it will benefit from some hard work being put in. that said the base components look pretty good and its not built up around a central core that’s just too damn tight like a certain Hellcat engine I could mention.

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Mainspar

There is a nice sturdy mainspar to hold everything in place and looking at the sequence it needs to be got just right. The final large parts are on this sprue; Propellers (cuffed Hamilton standard) Exhaust pipes second part of the tail plane, engine bulkhead and under carriage doors, again these look to be nicely moulded. The engine cowling is on here too with moulded in cowl flaps, it would have been nice to have these separate but oh well.

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Clear Sprue

Very Nice crystal-clear mouldings on here, with separate light lenses (a must in this scale), a clear instrument panel, this is not a criticism aimed at Infinty but just a general observation: clear instrument panels. By the time you have finished masking off the lenses and painting it. just mould be panel with holes please, its far easier to drop a bit of clear varnish in the holes than to go through the palaver, which said the lenses are clear and if its done properly it can look very effective. The canopy parts are well defined and will be easy to mask.

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Photo etch

Two frets Dealing with the seat belts, but there are also two machine gun belts for the rear guns, and a ring and bead sight for the guns also the seat belts will need assembling as the straps and buckles are separate that said you could substitute this for fabric if you have them. The etch is commendably thin however and will work nicely.

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Decals

If you are a stencil phobe, look away now there are hundreds of them! The decals look to be commendably thin and in perfect register. There are also decals for the various boxes that go in the cockpit as well as instrument panels and placards (well done Infinity) markings are provided for two aircraft from the same squadron based at Atlantic city in 1946, both schemes are a fetching Dark gull grey over white, which is my favourite wartime US Navy scheme then the tricolour blue scheme.

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Instructions

Nicely printed on quite a heavy paper with colour call outs unusually for the Mr Paint (MRP) range of paints but they also call out what the colours are, so it won’t take long to work out for your favourites forty-five construction stages. Starting guess where? The cockpit, yes well it makes sense, and the cockpit has lots and lots of bits in there due to the green house nature of the canopy all of which can be seen so its worth putting the work in to this then the engine is built up, the radio tray and everything I then bought together sandwiching the mainspar together. Then there is final assembly of the rest of the kit.

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Conclusion

Well, when it was released, I wanted the HPH kit, but I’ll be honest I haven’t seen many built I think due to the price so when I saw this I was intrigued and decided that this would be the big purchase from Telford, so what do I think? Well, I think it will want some work due its limited run nature, but I think I’m going to enjoy this one because of this nature. Its all down to a state of mind take your time and test fit everything and it’ll be fine.

The detail is as good as I’ve seen any where and if you want to throw loads at it there are loads of options to create a real masterpiece, (I’m not sure, I can justify that) It does seem to suffer with some of the issues of modern kits, but this is not a Infinity problem just an industry problem.

So, with all of that in mind do you know what? It is a great kit and will reward the work you put in. it does create the question of value? I think its great value when you look at it.

Verdict

 Highly recommended as probably the best and most accessible Helldiver in the scale 

Review sample courtesy of my wallet and Gary Ford at Tiger hobbies, pick one up from him or one of his distributors.

get it here! 

https://www.tigerhobbies.co.uk/product/infinity-models-1-32-sb2c-4-helldiver-atlantic-scheme-3202/

 

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A bit more advanced than the old Matchbox kit then?

It certainly looks to have some lovely detail and in particular the rendition of the surface panelling but I do wonder what the total cost will be when factoring in all the extra sets.

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12 minutes ago, Col. said:

A bit more advanced than the old Matchbox kit then?

It certainly looks to have some lovely detail and in particular the rendition of the surface panelling but I do wonder what the total cost will be when factoring in all the extra sets.

I suspect you may  be better off looking for the HPH resin kit col 

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10 hours ago, Grunhertz said:

I suspect you may  be better off looking for the HPH resin kit col 

Thankfully it's not a subject that interests me Darren so can save my wallet taking a hit this time :laugh:

Oooh, just realised, now I can find the announcement threads for this kit elsewhere and bemoan the fact that it's not a subject which interests me and they really should have done a something else since that's what the modelling world is really crying out for. What fun ¬¬

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The RRP for the full Resin and multi media kit by HPH is close to £500.00

The RRP for the Infinity version with all accessories is

          INF3201/2   Helldiver                                                   £99.99

          INF 3201 1+ Landing flaps                                          £27.95                                    

·         INF 3201 2+ Bomb Bay                                                 £21.95

·         INF 3201 3+ Opened gunner position                           £8.99

·         INF 3201 4+ Weapons set (bombs and Rockets)       £15.95

·         INF 3201 5+ Control surfaces                                     £21.95

·         INF 3201 6+ Photoetched set                                    £10.49

·         INF 3201 7+ Wing fold set                                         £17.95

total RRP                                                                             £225.00        

So less than half price

The good thing is you dont need to buy every set just what you need.

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2 hours ago, TIGERHOBBIESLIMITED said:

The RRP for the full Resin and multi media kit by HPH is close to £500.00

The RRP for the Infinity version with all accessories is

          INF3201/2   Helldiver                                                   £99.99

          INF 3201 1+ Landing flaps                                          £27.95                                    

·         INF 3201 2+ Bomb Bay                                                 £21.95

·         INF 3201 3+ Opened gunner position                           £8.99

·         INF 3201 4+ Weapons set (bombs and Rockets)       £15.95

·         INF 3201 5+ Control surfaces                                     £21.95

·         INF 3201 6+ Photoetched set                                    £10.49

·         INF 3201 7+ Wing fold set                                         £17.95

total RRP                                                                             £225.00        

So less than half price

The good thing is you dont need to buy every set just what you need.

Either way, OUCH! :blink:

Then again I bet the old Matchbox kit is going for stupid money on eBay as well.

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To be honest I'd probably get the flaps to save some work and maybe the open gunners position  

I have to say I'm like everyone else on cost, but I still have to say I'd have to divide the enjoyment time by the cost. If you were to fire £225 with all that included I'd suggest there must be at least 100 hours of modelling so therefore £2.25 per hour? 

I just think the days of 20 quid for most kits are long gone as the kits have got far more complex 

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That's a useful perspective and one I'd not considered before. If someone is happy with the level of detail and options provided in the box they can go with it or alternatively spend some more and garnish to taste. Good point.

The way I was looking at it is perhaps the more arguably cynical view of manufacturers providing a base kit which then encourages the purchasing of extra parts to realise its full potential (Eduard, I'm looking at you, and Fine Moulds, although Hasegawa and their weapon sets could be blamed for starting a trend).

Then again I have a Hobbycraft Sea Fury in the stash who's box is stuffed to capacity with aftermarket bits so perhaps the manufacturers are simply giving us what we really want?

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11 hours ago, Grunhertz said:

 

I have to say I'm like everyone else on cost, but I still have to say I'd have to divide the enjoyment time by the cost. If you were to fire £225 with all that included I'd suggest there must be at least 100 hours of modelling so therefore £2.25 per hour? 

I just think the days of 20 quid for most kits are long gone as the kits have got far more complex 

I do think there are certain kits that you have to look past the price tag and take into account how much quality modelling time you are going to get from them. Nobody is going to pay £200 for a kit that will be finished in a weekend and doesn't impress once completed however this kit should keep you going for a very long time and will certainly catch the eye on a display table. I used the same reasoning when someone would ask me about the cost of a Wingnut Wings kit, if you averaged out the coast against the time taken then they were actually very good value.

Duncan B 

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5 hours ago, Col. said:

That's a useful perspective and one I'd not considered before. If someone is happy with the level of detail and options provided in the box they can go with it or alternatively spend some more and garnish to taste. Good point.

The way I was looking at it is perhaps the more arguably cynical view of manufacturers providing a base kit which then encourages the purchasing of extra parts to realise its full potential (Eduard, I'm looking at you, and Fine Moulds, although Hasegawa and their weapon sets could be blamed for starting a trend).

Then again I have a Hobbycraft Sea Fury in the stash who's box is stuffed to capacity with aftermarket bits so perhaps the manufacturers are simply giving us what we really want?

That is a comment more and more to be levelled that said some kits are far more basic than others, I'd argue out of the box while you can throw am at an eduard kit for the most part what's in the box is adequate for most, same with this tbh 

As for those who don't even include a set of decal belts for the cockpit??????

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6 hours ago, Col. said:

The way I was looking at it is perhaps the more arguably cynical view of manufacturers providing a base kit which then encourages the purchasing of extra parts to realise its full potential (Eduard, I'm looking at you, and Fine Moulds, although Hasegawa and their weapon sets could be blamed for starting a trend).

But this is a take it or leave it situation, nobody is obliged to purchase the bling. Taking your Eduard example, they provide excellent base kits that can stand alone in their own right. Whether or not you add all the bling is entirely up to you. The fact that aftermarket add-ons is now such a big factor within the hobby suggests there's a lot of demand for it and in any manufacturing/sales environment demand keeps the show on the road. If the demand were to dry up, then so would the aftermarket. 

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