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U-2C Spyplane

Hawk 1/48 U-2C Spyplane Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review January 2017 Manufacturer Hawk
Subject U-2C Spyplane Scale 1/48
Kit Number 0421 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Simple construction Cons See text
Skill Level Beginner MSRP (USD) $27.99

First Look

U-2C Spyplane
U-2C Spyplane
U-2C Spyplane
U-2C Spyplane

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.

When I wanted to show a comparison between the original Hawk 1/48 U-2A/F kit versus this revised U-2C tooling, I was surprised to find my U-2C kit missing from the shelf. While my trusty U-2A was still there, several parts had fallen off the sprue trees over the years (decades) and I opted to get a 'new' (still sealed) U-2A along with a U-2C from eBay. The U-2A kit was indeed still shrink-wrapped, but I stared at the U-2C kit for some time. It too was shrink-wrapped, but everything was wrong. The shrink-wrap was contemporary, not cellophane, and the big sticker on it talked about Cartograf decals. I was actually pondering how long Cartograf had been in business when I had a blinding flash of the obvious - Round 2 Models has reissued the kit. I must have missed the memo but this kit was reissued in 2016 and looks quite nice for its age. Aside from being well-maintained, these molds are still the original Hawk molds with the updates applied by Hawk to render the U-2C.

Molded in black styrene, this kit is presented on five parts trees plus one small tree of clear parts. As with the original U-2A release, this kit offers the following features 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
  • Removeable pogo outrigger landing gear
  • Positionable speed brakes

What Hawk changed in the U-2C release:

  • Fuselage has integral dorsal spine added
  • Fuselage has altered intake truck fairings
  • New intakes
  • Display stand was replaced with an optional dolly to pose the airframe
  • Optional wing leading edge slipper pods
  • Optional underwing pods
  • Optional underwing braces

I had wondered about the optional dolly in the kit since you'd never see this used on an aircraft with functional landing gear, but it would be essential to cradle the forward fuselage when the tail section (and integral rear tandem landing gear) is removed for an engine change). There would be a second dolly for the tail section and a third for the engine in such a case.

As with the original Hawk U-2A instructions, this release shows the ventral fin installed but you should check your references to see if the aircraft you're building has it or any of the other optional mods and pods installed.

Among the decal options included in this set:

  • U-2, N803X, CIA
  • U-2, N804X, CIA
  • U-2C, 56-6681, USAF
  • U-2C, 56-6700, USAF
  • U-2, N708NA, 708, NASA

The decal sheet is nicely done and indeed printed by Cartograf. The artwork has two colors of blue to replicate the NASA racing stripes but neither blue is dark enough for the national markings or the NASA meatball.

This is still a nice kit and the only option for the U-2C available in 1/48 scale. I'm looking forward to seeing what can be done with this gem along with the original U-2A tooling which ironically is also still available on eBay.