Author Topic: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed  (Read 571 times)

Offline Brian da Basher

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The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« on: March 09, 2020, 03:01:51 AM »


While the North American B-25 Mitchell is an iconic U.S. W.W. II medium bomber



less well remembered are some of the concepts it spawned.



This version of the famous B-25 was designed as a more heavily-armed close-support platform taking advantage of the new gun nose developed by Major 'Pappy' Gunn.



The original design was heavily armed with four 35 m.m. cannons and four .50 caliber machine guns in the nose along with two more .50s in the rear turret. It featured a bubble canopy and was converted to a tail-dragger because the guns took up too much space in the nose for landing gear.



The entire project was put under the supervision of chief engineer Throckmorton Twitchell whose experience was seen as key to overcoming any development hurdles.



Of course it was natural this new version of the Mitchell would be called the Twitchell.



The fact that the heavier nose took a strong hand at the stick and fatigued pilots often developed a twitch had nothing at all to do with the nomenclature. North American and the U.S. Army Air Forces however were working under the exigencies of war and such petty concerns as pilot fatigue did not factor into things as the aircraft completed flight tests.



By this time, the new B-25G was entering service and the performance advantage of the Twitchell was only marginal so the project was cancelled. The prototype was instead modified to carry the largest, most powerful airborne radar available and re-designated XNF(R)-25B for Experimental Night Fighter-Radar.



The aircraft was armed with four .50 caliber machine guns in blisters on the sides of the nose and four 20 m.m. Smith & Wesson Aero-Killer auto cannons. Two of these fast-firing guns were located in blisters under the nose and the other two in a remote-controlled Sperry turret. The auto-cannons were usually aimed upwards at an angle in a Yankee imitation of the famous German Schräge Musik.



The XNF(R)-25B sure looked every bit the bomber killer but tests revealed firing the nose guns often put the radar out of whack and the 20 m.m. cannon took it off-line completely until it could be re-booted on the ground. Hence the Twitchell's most potent weapons were in the turret and the nose guns would only be used in extremities.



After being thoroughly put through its paces, the XNF(R)-25B was briefly used for training night bomber crews in defensive tactics. The aircraft was then trialed in new U.S. national test markings before it was ignominiously tasked with providing night fighter defense over western Pennsylvania's vital Moon-Mars air corridor to counter reports of unknown aircraft over-flying the area.



The press of the day followed events closely.



The locals were certainly no strangers to strange things in the sky.



The Graf Zeppelin dirigible had cruised above them on its world tour a decade before.



But this was different and the Army Air Force and its lone Twitchell were called to action against a mysterious enemy.



The XNF(R)-25B was often alerted by ground spotter reports and by the time it came on the scene, the intruder was long gone. But on the night of March 9th, the Twitchell was finally able to engage this amorphous foe. While this air action would prove inconclusive, it did provide the only documentary evidence of these unidentified flying objects.



Just as suddenly as they'd started, the over-flights stopped. And soon the XNF(R)-25B stopped being in front-line service when it was replaced by the far more capable P-61 Black Widow. The Twitchell ended its career as a destructional airframe and nothing remains of it today except this inaccurate replica of the manufacturer's desktop model.



Still, for one brief moment this prototype night fighter was the only defense against the phantom foe even if it was a shot in the dark that missed.



Brian da Basher

Offline apophenia

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2020, 03:10:26 AM »
Oh, that is wonderful!  :smiley: :smiley: :smiley:

Any work-in-progress shots Brian?
"Gentlemen, this is all very well in practice. But does it work in theory?"

Offline Brian da Basher

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2020, 03:14:44 AM »
This all started when a classic 1/72 Testors B-25C Mitchell showed up in the mail recently (thanks a million, Bill!).



This kit's a classic and I fondly remember building it as one of the Doolittle Raiders back when the Bee Gees were big.

Of course, this one was going to be a little bit different.



A few years back, another friend sent me some of their left-overs which included the radome nose from a 1/48 P-61 Black Widow. I put it aside hoping to 'civilianize' a Mitchell, but it was too big for that. However, Mr Wombat's wonderful recent Mitchell build inspired me to work on this version. While I couldn't just swap out the huge P-61 nose with that on the kit, I discovered when the B-25 fuselage is cut at the right place, it converts into an eXperimental Night Fighter (Radar). The kit's clear bomber nose and cockpit with canopy were squirreled away for later use.



I didn't stop at the nose and modified the tail adding a wheel since that enormous radar took up the space for the nose gear. The tail gun position was blanked off, a fairly common field mod oddly enough.



Up top, I added a recycled canopy and the turret from a 1/72 P-61 which fit almost like it belonged there.



Here's how it looked after paint but before decals.



I added a tail light so friendlies wouldn't bump into it in the dark.



Here's a closer look at those nose guns. The 20 mm sponsons were left over from an Airfix Hunter and the four .50 cal. machine gun blisters were brass catchers from Monogram P-36 Hawks.





This is a fantastic B-25 kit and comes with all the options you'd want, including both the bombardier and gun noses (mine was sadly MIA) as well as both styles of cowlings. Now spare cowlings are something you don't often get, so I saved those along with the front engine parts. For this build, I used only the rear cylinder bank backed with a wheel half.



The model was brush-painted by hand in acrylics, Model Masters Flat Black mostly.



The decals were all spares, those mid-1943 red-surround markings from a diminishing sheet by Eagle Strike.



I felt so guilty about not completing it as a Doolittle Raider that I added P-26 squadron badges on the tail mimicking those worn by one of the heroic crews.



I was delighted at the opportunity to deploy this on my classic Airfix stand.



Here's the 'money shots' with a good old copper penny for scale.





It only took me about a week or so to put this all together with the aid of modern industrial adhesives. But between work and a bad back, I was delayed in bringing the Twitchell to you.



I hope you enjoyed the XNF(R)-25B and reading a little more forgotten aircraft history even if the so-called "experts" refuse to believe it and think the whole thing is just some unidentified flying object of dark humor.



Brian da Basher
« Last Edit: March 09, 2020, 03:39:59 AM by Brian da Basher »

Offline apophenia

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2020, 03:34:11 AM »
And the money shot  ;D  Cheers Brian  :smiley:
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Offline kitnut617

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2020, 04:02:25 AM »
That looks pretty darn good Brian -----  :-*

Offline Jeffry Fontaine

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2020, 04:06:21 AM »
Have to say Brian that you had better luck with the P-61 radome than I have had in trying to get it to fit something other than the P-61.  The addition of windscreen/canopy gives your Twitchell the appearance of a heavy fighter instead of the medium bomber/attack aircraft that it was designed to be.
"Every day we hear about new studies 'revealing' what should have been obvious to sentient beings for generations; 'Research shows wolverines don't like to be teased" -- Jonah Goldberg

Offline buzzbomb

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2020, 06:01:51 AM »
As usual highly entertaining on all levels

Offline Old Wombat

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2020, 06:38:23 AM »
Great stuff, BdB! :smiley:

Glad I could be of some small service. :icon_alabanza:
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Offline ChernayaAkula

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2020, 07:13:07 AM »
Awesome!  :smiley: It's just amazing how well the Mitchell works as a scale-o-rama'ed heavy fighter. How was this not discovered earlier?
Cheers,
Moritz

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Offline finsrin

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2020, 07:25:25 AM »
Now thatz gripping forgotten WW2 history including UFO photos.   Again - superb research.   Twitchell kit-bash conversion even though an "inaccurate replica of the manufacturer's desktop model" is convincing to us who don't know the details.   Has cool bad boy night fighter look.  8)

Thought it would have joined P-36 in National Guard service.

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2020, 02:00:03 AM »
I love the look of this one.
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Offline The Rat

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2020, 02:02:24 AM »
Brilliant! But, where's the spats?
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Offline kerick

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2020, 03:32:12 AM »
This is inspired and I’d love to see that attack version with all those nose guns you described in the beginning of your story!

Offline Frank3k

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Re: The XNF(R)-25B "Twitchell" - A Shot in the Dark that Missed
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2020, 06:14:25 AM »
The P-61 radome and bubble top really change the appearance of the B-25!

I agree with Jeff - you may be the first person to adapt a 1/48 P-61 nose to anything else (and make it look so good).