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Scratch built 1/32 scale
Belyayev DB-LK

by Frank Mitchell

Belyayev DB-LK


Tamiya's 1/48 scale P-47D Thunderbolt is available online from Squadron 




This airplane is one of those that most folks, if they have heard of it at all, just assume it was another weird Russian airplane and let it go at that. However, if one thinks of it as a unique flying wing possessing some ahead-of-its-time innovations, then it becomes more interesting. Besides, with my tendency towards “unique” airplanes, it was a natural modeling subject. 

First, some history: 

The Belyayev DB-LK (Long Range Bomber - Flying Wing) was designed for tactical support duties in the late 1930’s. It was a fairly large aircraft, having a wing span of nearly 71 feet, and was termed a “semi-tailless layout” with a marked forward sweep on the outer wings and a backward sweep at the tips. In common with the Burnellis of the same time period (and the much later P-82), there were two fuselages, each containing a 950hp M-87B radial en­gine. Although the prototype had provision for two pilots, the production version was intended to have a pilot and a gunner in the left fuselage and a navigator and a gunner/radio operator in the right. Full military equipment was never fitted.   



For its day, the DB-LK was designed to carry a fairly impressive armament. The tail section of each fuselage ended in a revolving machine gun turret which rotated around the longitudinal axis of the gondolas. Obviously, the ex­tensive glazing gave the gunners an excellent view, but there was a potential for interference of fire between the rear guns. The aircraft also had twin machine guns mounted in the leading edge of the center section. The aircraft had four bomb bays in the center section, and one behind each main gear well. Each bay could carry a 2,205-pound bomb load. The tall fin carried a high-mounted small stabilizer, a much larger elevator, and the tail wheel.   

The one-and-only prototype was delivered in April 1940, and made over a hundred flights during which the pilots reported no dif­ference in handling between the DB-LK and aircraft of conventional design. As with most new and somewhat radical prototypes, there were a couple of mishaps, but on the whole, even though it was underpowered and of unconventional appear­ance, the DB-LK appeared to be a practical bomber with outstanding flight performance. The test pilots did have some complaints, probably the most serious being a high landing speed and terrible visibility from the cockpits. In common with most prototypes, there were a number of changes as testing proceeded, one of the more unusual being the conversion of the rear of the center section into an additional elevator. 

The aircraft was not put into production, probably because the war situation for the Soviet Union in 1940 was not very conducive to the development of radical new aircraft, particularly when its production would decrease manufacture of proven types.





The model was approached in my usual way, but the configuration caused a few problems along the way, e.g., the extensive areas of glazing, the length of the thin wing sections, finding the right sequence of building, etc. 



The first step was to carve and prepare the molds. The outer wings were made in one piece from basswood instead of my usual balsa because of their very thin section. The harder wood made it easier. In addition, after the thin vacuum-formed styrene skins were epoxied in place, the tips ended up being (relatively) sturdy. The wing was cut apart at a later stage. 



Single molds were made for the fuselages, canopies, cowlings and center section, but there was a bit of extra care given to the finish of the fuselage mold due to the extent of the transparencies.. The fuselages were also molded with a horizontal seam since that seemed to make more sense, given the unique layout.  

All the parts were vacuum-formed, but most of the clear parts were heat-and-smashed using clear vinyl. For the fuselages, that was done by vacuum-forming the forward portions of the fuselages, and heat-and-smashing the rear parts. Since all the fuselage portions came off the same mold, getting them to match was (somewhat) easier. 

The styrene skins were epoxied to the balsa molds (both fuselages and the centersection) and the whole thing was squared up. Then a building board was cut, the lower fuselage sections were keyed to the base, and the center section jigged in place over them.  


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


With the center section securely jigged, the upper fuselage sections could be fitted, the wings jigged in place, the holes for the cockpits cut, cockpit fairings matched to the fuselage top sections, vertical tail/stabilizers/elevators fitted, etc. All these steps meant cutting away bits of the center section, but also allowed considerable work to be done without having to glue things in place. 

After avoiding it as long as possible, I finally got to a point where dealing with the interior became unavoidable. The vinyl clear sections are not terribly easy to work with, but if some care is taken, one can match them, glue them together, and even polish them to the point that a coat of Future will return their clarity. Obviously, I tried to place seams so that they would lie underneath canopy frames or some other part of the aircraft. 


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:


Since there is (obviously) not a whole lot of detailed information on this aircraft, a fair amount of the interior is an educated guess. The small number of available photos gave a few clues, as did the written material that could be found, but for the most part, it was simply trying to figure out what makes sense, given the prototype status of the airplane, the intended crew and their functions, etc. One thing I did know was there is a fair amount of space to fill with “stuff”. 

The main gear was made from brass and aluminum tubing, and for once, I lucked out and found a set of wheels that fit and even looked (sort of) correct. They came from a long-departed Revell 32nd Typhoon. The tail wheel came from the scrap box. 

The engines sat well back in the cowlings, so I could not see spending a lot of dollars on aftermarket engines. Therefore, I dug through the scrap box and found two cylinder banks from an old Revell Corsair (at least I think that what they were). They were sized to fit in the cowlings, and a couple of props were found in the scrap box (maybe a Revell Me-110?) that could be modified. I hate to make scratch props. The spinners were vacuum-formed from a wooden master, and cut apart on the propeller centerline.  

After the fuselages and wing center section were (finally) glued together, there began the dreaded period of scribing, sanding, priming sanding, etc, ad nauseum. During all this, the clear portions were covered with tape.



Painting and Markings


Once the prep work was finished, the tape was removed, and the tedious job of masking all the clear panels was undertaken. This exercise took up about 7 – 8 hours. I chose to do that before adding the vertical tail and wing, since I can’t imagine trying to manipulate this thing for masking when it is fully assembled.

After that was complete, all the clear areas were sprayed the interior color after which the vertical tail and wings were attached, trying to use as little filling as possible which, in turn, meant less chance for messing up the masking.

Paint was Gunze, and since all I could determine from the photos was light and dark, I chose typical Russian green and blue/green.



The stars were painted on using a computer-drawn mask made by a good friend (stars are hard to draw accurately). The red wing walk areas were done with decal strips, and were the only markings, numbers, etc. that could be seen in the photos, even with all kinds of manipulations. I am not even entirely sure about the stars, but all that green needed breaking up somehow. The only overcoat was a light mist of thinned Testor’s Flat.




Bottom line was that this was an interesting build.

It also proved, once again, that initial thoughts about a subject can change significantly as one builds the various parts and comes to understand why the designers did some of things they did.



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2007 by Frank Mitchell
Page Created 19 March, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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