|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, very high-altitude (70,000 feet / 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering. The aircraft is also used for electronic sensor research and development, satellite calibration, and satellite data validation.
The U-2R, which first flew in 1967, was an enlarged and much more capable version of the original aircraft series. These planes were basically the second production batch of U-2s with the third production batch of U-2Rs being called TR-1s, though the airframe is pretty much the same. The U-2R, which is the subject of this kit, was also flown by 35 Squadron, Republic of China Air Force. this unit flew all the previous models as well. The ROC U-2 program ceased in 1974 as a result of President Nixon's PRC visit in 1972 with any remaing U-2Rs being returned to the US.
Despite the program being cancelled by Donald Rumsfeld in 2006 with all airframes to be grounded by 2012, the debacle with the USAF's RQ-4 Global Hawk and the mothballing of these ineffective, and very costly airframes, the U-2 program will continue until at least 2023.
Nice to see Dragon building this one and I guess it was bound to happen, based on their recent release of the SR-71. It is also quite obvious that this is only the first boxing. If you look at the sprue diagram, you will see that the wings and center fuselage section are on one sprue, which will allow for a variety of different nose and tail configurations to do all the other versions.
Because of the breakdown of parts, the fuselage is four sections: nose, cockpit section, wing section and tail section with a tailpipe piece running through the last two pieces. Intakes are also separate. The kit's cockpit is rather basic consisting of a but, seat, control column and instrument panel. Actually, there is probably not much visible through the somewhat thick canopy as all that is to be painted black.
The tailplane section is separate from the aft fuselage piece and is to be assembled and then attached to the tail. Though nodisplay stand is provided, the kit can be built with the gear up and separate pieces are given for that. Landing gear and outriggers are appropriate for the scale in terms of the amount of detail they provide. For those wanting to do an in-flight display, the holes in the lower wings for the outriggers will need to be filled.
Instructions are a single sheet of paper with the four construction steps all on one side. The markings guide is on the back of the box and the thumbnail sized sheet gives markings for two planes. One is a 9SRW plane operating out of Mildenhall in 1977 while the other is a ROCAF plane of 35 Squadron, sometime prior to the type's retirement.
Just like their SR-71, I am sure this one will sell quickly. It is a neat looking plane and not burdened by a lot of parts. Perfect for those who like the scale and are looking for a trouble-free build.
Thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Grab this one at your local retailer or have them order one for you.
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