Testors 1/48 SR-71A/B Blackbird Kit First Look
By Michael Benolkin
|Date of Review||October 2007||Manufacturer||Testors|
|Kit Number||0584||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Highly detailed kit||Cons|
|Skill Level||Intermediate||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
In the early 1960s, the Lockheed Skunkworks developed the next generation of special mission reconnaissance aircraft to provide the capability for deep reconnaissance missions where their previous design, the U-2, could no go. Like the first U-2s, these first aircraft were a series of single- and two-seat Mach 3+ aircraft nicknamed "the article". These were operated out the same desert airbase that U-2 operations were being conducted to maintain secrecy.
Further development of these aircraft were being worked for the US Air Force when-then President Lyndon Johnson revealed the existence of these aircraft in the 1964 presidential campaign to counter criticisms that his administration had let technology fall behind the Soviet Union. Needless to say, the sudden revelation of an operational Mach 3+ reconnaissance aircraft quickly quieted the critics.
As the new USAF reconnaissance aircraft entered service as the SR-71, Lockheed was also looking at an adaptation of this design to serve as a Mach 3 interceptor to replace the F-106 Delta Dart for Air Defense Command. This variant, the F-12 series, was armed with a revolutionary high-speed missile in the AIM-47 and flight tests of the type were very successful. Unfortunately, then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara cancelled further development of the type to help generate funding to pay for combat operations in Vietnam.
The SR-71 did survive budget cuts with 29 single-seaters and two trainers built. The type entered service in 1966 and remained in service until 1989. Political pressure in 1993 forced the resumption of SR-71 flight operations though the Air Force only reactivated three aircraft and these were once again retired in 1999 leaving only two Blackbirds left in airworthy condition at NASA/Dryden.
This is Testor's beautiful 1/48 scale SR-71 Blackbird kit. I don't even want to think how old these molds really are, but this kit has been around a few decades to say the least. Nevertheless, this is still the nicest Blackbird kit available in any scale. Don't get me wrong, Hasegawa's 1/72 scale SR-71 is nice, but this one is better in my view.
Molded in black styrene, the kit is presented on five sprue trees plus a single tree of clear parts. Some of the parts on these trees aren't used as several of these trees were also used for Testor's 1/48 YF-12A interceptor kit.
Detailing in this kit is very simple and the detail inside the cockpit is basic. True Details (Squadron) has a replacement cockpit in resin to overcome this shortfall.
Build up of the airframe is simple enough, but I'd really recommend using liquid cement like Testor's Liquid Cement or Tamiya's Extra Thin Cement to assemble the main airframe components. Use lots of clamps to hold everything together and allow the parts plenty of time to dry. Assembly in this manner will provide a very sturdy model that will not 'snap' later during handling as this is going to be a very big model when completed.
Another area recently renovated is the engine exhaust ducting and nozzle. Cutting Edge Modelworks released a very nice replacement set for both engines which will really add some accuracy to the aft end of the model.
Among the options in this kit:
- Front and rear canopies can be positioned open or closed
- Streamlined 'A' rear canopy or humped 'B' rear canopy provided
While technically only the SR-71A and SR-71B were formally produced, the crash of SR-71B 61-7957 left the Air Force with a single trainer. Lockheed married up the forward section of a ground test airframe with the aft end of a YF-12A and created the one and only SR-71C. This aircraft was serialed 61-7981 and is on display at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Hill AFB, UT.
Markings are provided for four examples:
- M-12, 60-6940
- SR-71A, 61-7972
- SR-71A, 61-7974
- SR-71B, 61-7956
Take a look at our photo walk around of the SR-71A on display at the Udvar-Hazy Annex of the National Air and Space Museum here.