Revell 1/72 X-15A-2
KIT #: 5247
DECALS: Two options


Ford Prefect: It's so black! You can hardly see it. Light just falls into it.
Zaphod Beeblebrox: Hey, feel this surface!
Ford: Yeah ... Hey, you can't!
Zaphod: It's just totally frictionless! This must be one mother of a mover.

OK, so Ford and Zaphod were talking about Disaster Area's blacker-than-black, faster-than-fast sundive ship in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But they could have been talking about the X-15, a real life mother of a mover.

The X-15 literally rocketed along at 7,273 km/h, or just over 4,500 miles per hour.

Of course it didn't go that fast every time, but of the 199 X-15 flights, more than 30 maxed out above 6,000 km/h.

This beast could go pretty high, too. It had a reaction control system (RCS) of little thrusters to provide control in the thin atmosphere at high altitudes. Test pilot Joe Walker flew his X-15 into space, twice topping out more than 100 km above the earth. The US regards 50 miles (about 80 km) as space, so by US logic eight pilots were actually "astronauts" on the X-15, according to the US. One of them, Michael Adams, was killed in the process. In a scene worthy of a Disaster Area concert, his plane was torn apart in a 15g Mach 4 accident around 65,000 feet, after spinning uncontrollably and supersonically from 230,000 feet. His astronaut wings were awarded posthumously.

One X-15 test pilot who didn't get his X-15 into space - international or US versions - was Neil Armstrong. I guess he more than made up for it on a couple of his other missions for NASA.

The X-15 program gathered a wealth of important information about high speed, high altitude flight, much of which helped the design of future spacecraft. And maybe, this blacker-than-black mother of a mover inspired a few future starships too.

I was a bit reluctant to submit this review, coming on the heels of Leszek Golubinski's remarkable 1/144 model recently reviewed right here on MM. But I was going for something different - a desktop model. So here it is, and keep in mind the different objectives.

This is an oldie and a goodie from Revell. One of MM's very knowledgeable real space modelers, who is always helpful and friendly with his advice, had this to say about this kit:

"This kit has been around for a while. ...The kit comprises 36 pieces molded in gray and clear with fine raised panel lines. The kit is broken down in a way that will move assembly along quickly. The fuselage is split horizontally with the wings molded to the upper half. The Dorsal and ventral fins are also molded to their respective fuselage halves. Pleasantly the kit also includes a stand for those that may want to display their X-15 in flight. The instructions are presented in 13 construction steps and a marking diagram for the decals. Two markings options are given. The options represent the X-15A-2 at different times in the flight program but the instructions label them as X-15A and X-15B. Option one is the X-15A-2 in the standard black scheme that was worn for the majority of the flight program. Option two is the X-15A-2 as it appeared in 1967 when it wore an all white ablative coating for the high speed flights. Out of the box the model best represents the X-15A-2 from the 1967 high speed flights in the ablative coating."

I built this kit straight from the box because I wanted a representative X-15 on my shelf but in the style of a desktop model.

There are a range of modifications you can do to the basic kit to increase its accuracy and some of them are set out in Zach's review (link in references). I didn't do either of these mainly because the mood I was in when I built this meant I wanted a fast easy build.

And I got that. It's a great looking plane, the X-15, and fairly simple. The cockpit window is so small (even if, as I should have, you open up the other side window) that you won't see anything inside. I painted that area black and assembled the plane without trouble. Some putty was required underneath where the wings join the fuselage.

There are two small parts at either side of the rear fuselage which I put on at the end so they wouldn't be damaged. They are the pipes for jettisoning LOX and venting fuel.

I deliberately chose not to attach the big fat fuel tanks to the side of my X-15. These weren't carried on every flight, and to my eyes they detract from the sleek shape of the plane.

Following my normal practice, I brush painted my X-15. I know from experience that I don't get the best finish on a large surface with flat black, and as I pointed out, my concept for this was more of a desktop style display model.

So I bought a new jar of Tamiya X-18 semi-gloss black. I got a pretty decent finish the first time, except on one of the wings. So when it was dry, I sanded it back and tried again. A bit boring and annoying, but the effort was worth it because I think it's a pretty decent finish for a paintbrush.

The whole plane got the semi-gloss treatment, except for the rocket exhaust, a bit of equipment tucked inside the tail, and those two stalks at the end for ditching the unwanted fuel and chemicals

The decals were nice and applied easily. I used Mr Mark Softer as well. They don't shine except in a couple of photos here under direct flash.

Studying photographs of the 66671 revealed that its markings varied from time to time. I went with what I thought was a representative combination of markings, but I couldn't say which flight in particular my model depicts.

I sprayed the display stand silver, painted the label with Tamiya metallic blue and gold, and did the astronaut figure based on some NASA photos of X-15 pilots. The little astronaut is nicely done and a welcome addition to the kit.

A great kit. It forms a suitable basis for an accurised model, but I think it also serves well for the modeler who wants a display-worthy X-15 in his or her collection straight from the box.

Richard F

July 2013

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