Special Hobby 1/48 X-15A-2 Build Review
|Date of Review||February 2005||Manufacturer||Special Hobby|
|Kit Number||48008||Primary Media||Styrene, Resin|
|Pros||Detailed X-15 out of the box||Cons||Fit is a challenge|
|Skill Level||Advanced||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
The X-15 was one of the most exotic and successful of the entire X airplanes. The X-15 aircraft can trace its origins back to the 24th of June 1952. NACA decided to expand its research into the exo-atmospheric designs capable of Mach 4 to Mach 10 and up to 50 miles high. NACA, Air Force, Navy and North American worked together to design a vehicle to provide information on thermal qualities and high speed control/stability and re-entry characteristics.
X-15A-2 was born following an accident on the 9th of November 1962 when aircraft 56-66671 was damaged. The aircraft was surveyed by the USAF, Navy and NASA and deemed repairable. It was also decided to incorporate modifications to expand its performance envelope. It was planned to fly the aircraft to Mach 8+ or until Vmax was reached.
On the 3rd of October 1967, with Pete Knight at the controls, 56-6661 was launched from its B-52 mothership with a dummy scramjet engine attached to its lower ventricle. The aircraft reached an amazing Mach 6.72 at 4,534 at an altitude of 102,100 feet. This was to be the last flight of 56-66671 due to damage caused through severe heating through the mounting position of the dummy Scramjet. It was so severe that it was deemed un-repairable and the plane was retired to the United States Air Force Museum where it can still be seen today.
I started this kit by washing off all the resin parts. They got a coat of gray primer to show any flaws or pin holes. I found a few that needed filling but not too many. I painted the cockpit light gray and highlighted the side panels in black with knobs and switch covers painted red. The different attitude controls, throttle and stick were added and painted up according to my reference material. The seat was painted a slightly darker shade of gray and the headrest and seat pan were painted dark red. There are two high-speed stabilizing fins that are glued to the seat. The directions are vague at best as to where to place them. Use your reference material here again. The instrument is painted light gray with black faced gauges and white details. A drop of Krystal Clear finished off the panel. I superglued it into place.
The windscreen is next. It is made of two pieces and split right down the middle. It is the weakest part of this kit. I tried to vac-u-form the canopy a couple of times but could never get the right shape. One of my failed attempts became the donor glass for the inside of the oval shaped lenses.
I detailed the inside of the canopy using photos of the real thing then scratch built hinge lugs out of plastic. The kit doesn’t have any way for you to pose the canopy open. You are up to your own on how to do it. I set it off to the side and started on the tail. To make the lower portion of the tail the short version you have to cut it along one of the panel lines. The instructions show you where to do it. You have to thin out the tailpieces to get them to fit right and place triangle shaped pieces to give the tail its wedge shape. There is some nice little resin pieces in the tail that replicate the air brakes that need painting and gluing into place. The instructions are a bit vague in this area also but you can see how it all goes together. I test fitted the top and bottom half of the fuselage together many times with the resin cockpit tub and the nose wheel well to make sure they would fit properly. I drilled out the small rocket holes in the nose and used plastic card to block any light from shining through. Once I was satisfied I superglued them into place and put the halves together.
I had to sand the fuselage many times to get the shape of the nose right and the curve on the sides of the fuselage right. You need to re-scribe all the lost detail. It took a few weeks to get the fuselage ready for the wings. I made a small rig using cardboard to make sure the wings would be absolutely level with the fuselage and superglued the wings on. While I had it in this state I finished the wing roots and glued the tail sections together. The tail doesn’t want to sit flush with the gentle sloping aft fuselage so some sanding needs to be done here.
At this point I painted the model a mix that is an extremely dark blue. The color was almost a black blue. I got the color match from scraps of the X-15A #3 that are in the Edwards Flight Test Museum so I am confident with my source material for the color. Don’t forget to paint the two piece landing gear cover, tailskid rails, and any antennas while you have the airbrush loaded up. Once dry I masked off panel areas and painted it a slightly lighter shade of the same black-blue mixture. I also painted the elevator surfaces and put them aside.
A friend printed up a series of silver dots on his ALPS printer for me to replicate the complex rows of rivets that run all over the aircraft. On hindsight after placing all those rivets I would have sprayed a light coat of black-blue over the rivets to tone them down a bit. They are very noticeable on the real aircraft but not THAT shiny.
I took extra care in aligning the elevators at a 20° down slope by using a modified version of my earlier rig I used to get the wings aligned. The landing skids went on next then I turned my attention to the nose gear area. It is kind of plain and can be spruced up by using bare metal foil for the strut and silver with a coat of future over it to tone down the color a bit. The wheels are resin and need to have the center drilled out so they will fit on the nose gear axle. Be careful and don’t drill all the way through like I did. You can shorten the axle a bit so you will not have to drill so deep but remember the front of the plane is heavy with the resin cockpit tub and resin nose wheel well so you need that extra support.
The external tank mounts are painted Alclad 2 silver and glued into place. The external tanks are oval in shape when glued together and needed to be brought back to round by lots and lots of sanding and re-scribing. There is some small detail on the back of the tanks that needs looking after. So follow kit instructions as far as location and follow your research to add the plumbing that makes the externals look much better. I painted the tanks white then used Testors International Orange in the large checkered pattern. It was difficult to paint and spend a few minutes looking at pictures prior to taping off and spraying the orange.
The towing dolly is a nice little piece of work. It needed some cleaning up and took a few minutes to figure out how it goes together but once done it looks great and really helps to set the model up real nice. I spent some extra time detailing out the nose with different shades of silver and burnt metal colors then turned my attention to the tail again. I added the pressurized canister to the tail of the plane painting the ball silver and the two dump manifolds that I painted Alclad aluminum. Drill out the dump manifolds and drill out holes where they mount then place them on small brass wire. You will be knocking them off all the time if you glue them. If they are held in place by the wire then they can be bent then re-straightened. You will thank me for this advice as many times as I cussed about breaking them off to begin with. The whole rocket area got the Alclad treatment.
Then I used a circle template to mask off the silver area and sprayed white into the rocket motor to simulate the ceramic material in the bell of the exhaust. Black streaks were added and an orange outline around the lip of the bell gave it the final touch according to my reference photos.
The decals were outstanding on this kit. Thin and opaque. I really enjoyed the decal process, except for all those rivets. The whole plane got a thin coat of semi-gloss clear and was set off to the side to dry.
This kit was a bear. I put it down many times and started it over many times.
I could not recommend this kit to beginners or even to some mid-level builders. If you have experience with short run kits then you will feel right at home. I might build another one in the future in the white ablative material as seen on its last flight.