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Special Hobby 1/48 XF-85 Goblin Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 1999 Manufacturer Special Hobby
Subject McDonnell XF-85 Goblin Scale 1/48
Kit Number 48003 Primary Media Styrene, Resin, Vac
Pros Beautiful Detailing Cons Out of production
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) N/A

First Look


Foreseeing the need for a long-range bomber in the event that England was invaded by Germany, the US started development of the B-36 Peacemaker in April 1941, month's before its eventual entry into the war, and long before the existence of its eventual primary weapon - the atomic bomb. The B-36 would stage from the US and be able to reach any target in occupied Europe and return, non-stop. As the B-36 came closer to its first flight, it became apparent that unescorted bombers were sitting ducks for enemy fighters. The only way the B-36 could possibly have fighter escort at those distances was to carry them!

The War Department approached the aircraft manufacturers with requirement for a "parasite fighter", one that could be carried aboard the B-36. McDonnell Aircraft took on the job and built two prototypes of the XF-85 "Goblin" The aircraft had to be small enough to be stowed somewhere aboard the B-36 and light enough to minimize the reduction in payload/fuel. McDonnell developed a stubby fighter that was only 4.5 meters long with a 6.42-meter wingspan. Given that the average human is a little less that 2 meters tall, this is a tiny aircraft indeed! Powered by a small turbine engine, the Goblin was to be carried aboard a retractable trapeze in the belly of the B-36, launched at oncoming threats, then recovered on the trapeze. Flight endurance was approximately 30 minutes! In order to save weight, the aircraft was not equipped with landing gear.

Flight testing was done on a modified B-29, but it became quickly apparent that the stubby little fighter was not stable enough to penetrate the mother ship's bow wave and link up with the trapeze. In fact, the first free flight of the Goblin nearly killed its test pilot as the XF-85 failed to "capture" the trapeze and part of the trapeze framework crashed through the canopy during one of the aircraft's gyrations. The pilot made a safe belly landing on the Muroc Dry Lake (later Edwards AFB). The program was cancelled after only 2.3 hours of flight time.

Special Hobby recently released kit #48003, the XF-85 Goblin in 1/48 scale. They've done a fantastic job of capturing the look and detail of this stubby machine. The kit is comprised of 37 injected plastic parts, molded in light gray, that comprise the fuselage, wings, tail surfaces, etc. Another 17 or so resin parts are also provided that make up the nicely detailed cockpit, intake, exhaust duct, and hook mechanism. Molded by CMK, these parts are very well cast and once painted should really look sharp. The canopy is a clear vacuform. A trolley is also provided in the plastic and resin parts to provide a roost for your XF-85.

The kit provides parts to build either of the two Goblins, with the instructions clearly laying out the differences. For example, 46-523 had a leaf spring "Nerf-skid" under the nose to soften future belly landings, whereas 46-524 had smaller leaf springs under each wing.

There are no locating pins/holes in the fuselage, so alignment of the halves is up to you, but this is really a good thing - they would be in the way of the various resin details that go inside! The fit of the fuselage halves is fine. There are no locating tabs for the wings and tails into the fuselage. The assembly is strictly butt-joined, though I would recommend drilling locating holes in the fuselage and into each of the wing and tail surface parts, and inserting brass rods in each joint. This will allow you to properly align the joint and dihedral of each wing/fin before gluing, as well as reinforcing the glue joint.

The kit decals are also nicely done with markings to do either aircraft, as well as the essential detail markings for turbine stripes and walkways. There's not much to go on this dimunitive fighter, though, so the decal sheet is small. Close inspection of photos turns up a fair amount of stencilling, though, so the purist might raid their decal box for additional stencilling.

I'm looking forward to building this little bird.