Valiant Wings Publishing | Airframe & Miniature No. 19: The Lockheed P-38 Lightning

Reviewed by Kevin Futter

UK publisher Valiant Wings Publishing has released Number 19 in its Airframe & Miniature series, entitled The Lockheed P-38 Lightning: A Complete Guide to the "Fork-tailed Devil". The author is Richard Franks, and the illustrations are shared between Richard Caruana and Wojciech Sankowski. The terrific cover art is by Jerry Boucher.

The first thing that struck me when I picked up this book was how heavy it is; at a hefty 256 pages plus a gatefold section of scale drawings, it is indeed a weighty tome. It's extremely well printed on quality glossy paper, and the reproduction of all drawings and photographs is first-class.

The contents are broken up into nine separate chapters, grouped into two distinct sections:

There is also a preface, along with a collection of appendices at the rear of the book:

  1. Lightning Kits
  2. Lightning Accessories & Masks
  3. Lightning Decals
  4. Bibliography

The sample images below (courtesy Valiant Wings Publishing) should give a good indication of the nature and style of the book's contents:

While not mentioned in the table of contents, the Preface weighs in at a substantial 25 pages, and describes a potted history of the Lightning, which provides useful support for the subsequent technical information.

The sequence of chapters covering the evolution of the airframe spans 32 pages, and consist of brief summaries supported by crisply-rendered greyscale profile drawings. They are clear and easy to follow, and form a handy guide for discerning what features distinguished which variants.

The Camouflage & Markings section covers 31 pages, and includes a one-page stencil placement guide to 1/72 scale. Rather than a dedicated section for colour profiles, they are instead interspersed throughout the text as necessary. They are by Richard Caruana as usual, and are very nicely rendered indeed. A number of profiles for aircraft in foreign service is also provided.

Chapter 5 features a brief description of the commonly available Lightning model kits. Our options in 1/32 scale are limited to the ancient Revell kit, and the much better and more modern Trumpeter offering—though only in a single version, sadly.

The modelling section features four kit builds, all by Steve Evans, comprising 1/72 Hobby 2000 (ex-Dragon) P-38J and 1/72 Anigrand XP-58 builds (the latter being an odd choice, I thought), along with builds of the 1/48 Hasegawa P-38J and 1/48 Tamiya P-38F/G kits. These models are extremely well done, but I would have preferred to see the esoteric Anigrand XP-58 build swapped out for something like a build of the Trumpeter 1/32 scale kit.

Chapter 7 is called Building a Collection, and features a series of annotated isometric 3D line drawings by Wojciech Sankowski. These are designed to illustrate the salient differences between the various prototype and production airframes as the series developed, and form a perfect companion to the earlier 'evolution' chapters. Taken together, they really do highlight the complexities of the development of the P-38 airframe.

Chapter 8, In Detail, features an extensive selections of archival and contemporary photographs and diagrams, including a series of walkaround detail photos of surviving airframes. The walkaround photos have been selected with a modeller's eye, which is not only welcome, but very handy.

The four appendices cover the usual list of available kits, aftermarket, decals, and mask sets, as well as a concise bibliography for further research.

The scale plans included at the very back of the book are to 1/48 scale, and presented in gatefold format. They're printed on heavy, non-glossy plain stock, covering the following airframes:

These are drawn by Richard Caruana and look very nicely done. Note that many of these variations are rendered only as scrap views that show pertinent differences between the models, rather than as separate full plans.


Not being a Lightning expert, I can't give a considered evaluation of the accuracy or veracity of the text itself, and so will leave that to more knowledgeable readers. All other elements of the book ooze quality however, from the clear photography to the beautiful profiles and the detailed scale plans. Contemporary photographs are plentiful and very nicely reproduced. Overall it's an impressive attempt to be the Complete Guide the title alludes to. Recommended!

Thanks to Valiant Wings Publishing for the review copy.

© Kevin Futter 2022

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This review was published on Saturday, December 10 2022; Last modified on Saturday, December 10 2022