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Lockheed U-2

Hawk 1/48 Lockheed U-2 Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2017 Manufacturer Hawk
Subject Lockheed U-2 Scale 1/48
Kit Number 0209 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple construction Cons See text
Skill Level Beginner MSRP (USD) OOP

First Look

Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2
Lockheed U-2

Here is the aircraft that changed aviation in so many ways. Designed by Kelly Johnson of the Lockheed Skunkworks, the U-2 was to be the first high-altitude reconnaissance platform designed to penetrate hostile airspace well above the air defenses of the day. These original aircraft were so secret in fact that Johnson established a remote outpost in the Nevada desert to test these aircraft before the CIA began operations. This facility was built on a dry lakebed inside what is now known as Area 51. On one such CIA flight, the aircraft was sent to check on military installations deep within the Soviet Union but was shot down by a new air defense capability - the Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM). It's pilot, Gary Francis Powers, was captured and imprisoned before being exchanged for captured Soviet spies.

The original U-2 was a manned spy satellite before man had put anything into orbit. As air defenses became more robust, the U-2 was redesigned to carry a larger payload and be capable of operating a wider array of sensors. Even after capable spy satellites were put into operation, the U-2 distinguishes itself by being able to stay in an area for extended periods where a satellite was limited in its duration over target by its orbit. The U-2A/E/G versions were powered by modified J57 engines optimized for high altitude operations. The J57 also powered the F-100, F-102, B-52, C-135, and more. The U-2C/F versions were powered by modified J75 engines and featured enlarged intakes to handle the increased airflow. The J75 also powered the F-105, F-106, F-107, and more.

Here is a classic kit for your consideration - this is the Hawk 1/48 U-2A first released WAY back in 1962. I remember buying this kit at the local drug store for a hefty 49 cents back then and it was a popular kit. Molded in dark blue-gray styrene, this kit is presented on five parts trees plus one small tree of clear parts. Considered a simple kit by today's standards, this kit was somewhat more advanced than the state of the art kits of the day with the following details and options:

  • Basic cockpit with decal instrument panel
  • Separate ejection seat
  • Choice of optional seated or standing pilot figures wearing pressure suits
  • Positionable canopy
  • Optional ventral strake
  • Optional air sampling module
  • Main landing gear posed extended only
  • Choice of pogo outrigger landing gear or display stand
  • Positionable speed brakes

Markings are provided for one example:

U-2, 55-5741, NASA

While the kit wasn't designed with a cockpit tub, kit did provide a reasonable facsimile of the Lockheed ejection seat and a separately molded seated pilot. In those days, many kits had the upper portion of the pilot molded into the fuselage halves and called it good enough. The wheel well inserts provide wells that are too shallow but provide the well with integral open gear doors for ease of assembly. The molding of the kit is glass-smooth on the parts surfaces with finely raised panel line details.

The good news is that even though this kit has been off the market for some time, they can still be found at very reasonable prices so there are enough of them out there to keep from out of the collector's market. So why was this kit never reissued? Hawk permanently altered the molds when they released the U-2C version.

Until someone releases a new-tooled 1/48 U-2A/E/G in 1/48 scale, this Hawk kit is the only option for the early spyplane in this scale. It wouldn't be difficult to scratch-build deeper wheel wells and a cockpit tub for this model and bring the model closer to contemporary standards. With the recent release of Caracal's U-2 decal sheet, you now have contemporary decals for the early U-2A/F models.