Starfighter Decals 72-156: F4D-1 China Lake


$5.00 SRP from


China Lake


Scott Van Aken


This new sheet is for an aircraft involved in a rather unusual test project, and that was the air launch of a satellite.

 The US Navy's 'space program' in the 1950's consisted of several largely independent space projects run by different internal bureaus and laboratories. The NRL (Naval Research Laboratory) ran Vanguard, while NOTS (Naval Ordnance Test Station) at China Lake, CA was secretly conducting an independent military satellite program called  'Project Pilot', whose existence was not acknowledged until 1994.

Project Pilot used a six-stage air-launched system capable of orbiting a 2.3 lb satellite. The first stage was a Douglas F4D-1 Skyray. NOTS LV (stages 2-6) had a total length of 14.4 feet and weighed but 2,100 lbs. A total of six orbital attempts were made between July and August of 1958. It is possible (though no one is exactly sure) that launches one and three were successful in putting satellites into orbit.

I built this combination in 1/48 scale, but we now have it available in 1/72. This is the decal sheet for the project and while it is a different aircraft from my 1/48 build (mine was 745), it is quite probable that more than one aircraft was involved in the project.

The sheet is nicely printed and provides all the markings you need for '747. A painting guide is also provided. Note that on 747 the lower wing markings are different from '745 shown to the left. The insignia and NAVY were masked off prior to painting the da-glo and the control surfaces were left in gloss sea blue. The sheet also includes markings for the test shape, that was in overall dark grey.

A nice sheet and one that will make for a most colorful model when done. It could be used on the old Airfix Skyray, but most modelers will choose the much nicer Tamiya offering.

Starfighter decals often sell out quickly so you have been advised.

March 2018

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