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Testors 1/48 YF-12A Kit First Look

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2007 Manufacturer Testors
Subject YF-12A Scale 1/48
Kit Number 0588 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Highly detailed kit Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) Out of Production

First Look


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.

As Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson would later reflect, with the cancellation of the F-12 program, the US did not have an effective interceptor to rendezvous, escort, and visually verify a high-speed aircraft that would enter US airspace every day - the Concorde. While an F-14 or F-15 could shoot at aircraft in that flight profile, they couldn't typically reach them. With the Backfire and Blackjack bombers coming online, this could have posed a problem. Nevertheless, in its final flight tests, an F-12 at Mach 3+ and at altitude scored a direct hit on a QB-47 drone (a remote-controlled B-47 bomber) flying at 500 feet.

This is Testor's beautiful 1/48 scale YF-12 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 YF-12 kit available in any scale. AHM released one in 1/72 which I believe has appeared with other brand names as well.

Molded in black styrene, the kit is presented on six 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 SR-71 Blackbird kit.

Detailing in this kit is very simple and the detail inside the cockpit is basic. True Details (Squadron) has a replacement SR-71 cockpit in resin that can be tweaked to reflect the interior of the interceptor version.

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.

Among the options in this kit:

  • Front and rear canopies can be positioned open or closed
  • Port weapons bay can be posed open with a pair of AIM-47 missles inside
  • Ventral fin can be posed folded or extended
  • Ventral camera pods are supplied to replicate the flight test aircraft

Markings are provided for two examples:

  • YF-12A, 60-6935
  • YF-12A, 60-6936

This kit has been unfortunately out of production for a while but these are still available at kit swaps and online auction opportunities. I've had this one stashed away longer than I care to admit, but had to pull it out when I recently obtained the companion SR-71 kit ( reviewed here).

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.