Cutting Edge 48292


Testors/Hawk U-2A/F




Steve Mesner


Resin Upgrade Set

My Dad spent most of his working life as a corporate/flight test/demo pilot for a major airframe manufacturer, and he was away from home a good deal when I was a kid. Every so often he’d bring me a model airplane kit back from his travels. Two that I remember with special fondness were the old Revell “box scale” B-52 with X-15, and the Hawk U-2A. The former has been out of production for many, many years (priced them on eBay lately?), while the latter has been reissued by Testor, although somewhat altered (larger intakes) to the U-2C version.

Someone at Meteor/Cutting Edge must also have a soft spot in his heart for the 40-year-old Hawk/Testor U-2, as they have recently issued a very complete and thorough series of conversion and detail parts (as well as decals) for this simple but still elegant kit.

Before getting into the review proper, let me give you a word of advice about building an upgraded Hawk/Testor U-2: To save yourself time and money, do your homework and figure out exactly what kind of U-2--and preferably the exact airframe and markings--you want to build before you buy anything. U-2s “sorta all look alike,” but there are subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences. To do a 21st Century update on this kit using the CE products, you’re going to have a substantial dollar amount invested even in the best case scenario; at today’s prices you don’t want to buy anything you don’t absolutely need.
(More on this later.)

The best U-2 reference for the modeler I’ve personally seen is the old AeroGraph #3, copyright 1983, which now seems to be out of print. I don’t remember what I paid for mine when it was available--somewhere between $12 and $20. It’s easily worth every penny of that and more. If you can find one, grab it! Squadron/Signal recently issued a revised edition of their U-2 Spyplane in Action book, which is also good for the modeler, available, and reasonably priced. I believe there’s a Warbird Tech volume on U-2 but I’ve never seen it so can’t comment on it, nor can I comment on other U-2 books from a
modeler’s perspective as I haven’t seen them.

On to the business at hand, which is a look at set CEC48292, the U-2A/F Airframe Upgrade (the word “Conversion” is a misnomer here; the set doesn’t convert anything). My first thought on opening the package was “What a ripoff! The only thing I want here is the main gear wheel well; why do I have to buy $19 worth of this other stuff to get it?”
Well, I was WRONG. Almost everything in this set is useful--hell, necessary, even!--and I’ll be using damn near all of it!

Here’s what you get for your nineteen bucks:

*Main gear well
*Left and right main gear doors (misidentified on the instruction sheet as “sugar scoop”)
*Front landing gear upper leg, lower leg, upper and lower scissors arms, and retraction
*Landing lights
*Left and right air brake bays
*Left and right air brakes
*Air brake actuating arms
*Rear gear strut
*Rear gear doors
*Three fuselage scoops
*Dorsal “canoe”

To answer an obvious question right up front, NO, these parts are not copies of parts from the Testor/Italeri TR-1 kit (whose gear doors, etc. are a bit better than the old Hawk U-2,but nowhere near as nice as the Cutting Edge stuff).

Another obvious question is, “What about the rear landing gear well?” You’ll have to buy CE set  48298 for that, and it comes attached to a tailpipe. That set’s “only” $9, though.

The CE resin is beautiful stuff. It looks like Tamiya gray styrene. There are NO pinholes, virtually no flash, and the resin seems strong enough for the gear struts. The parts themselves are also delicately shaped and molded--very well done indeed!

The instructions are also great. Written in the informal, friendly, even humorous Cutting Edge style, they show you where everything goes, and how (except for that little goof about calling the main gear doors a “sugar scoop”). They also tell you why you need the three scoops in this set instead of the Hawk/Testor kit’s fuselage scoop.

I hadn’t thought to use aftermarket air brakes, but after looking at numerous U-2 photos, I’ve decided to. The U-2’s air brakes are almost always seen open on the ground, and the resin parts (brakes and wells) in this set are so much nicer than the Hawk/Testor kit’s parts that there’s just no comparison.

Nineteen dollars is a lot of money to me, but upon reflection, this Cutting Edge upgrade set seems like a bargain. I could scratchbuild everything in here, but it would take me ten hours--or twenty or thirty--to do so, and my homegrown parts wouldn’t look half as good.

Since the nasty subject of money has raised its evil head, let’s talk Snakenomics here. (You all should know by now what a cheap SOB I am!) If you just want a 1/48 U-2 shape on your shelf, buy the Testor U-2C kit (currently lists for $14, Squadron sells them for $11.50, and you can find them for $5-$10 at swap meets, shows, club meetings, etc.), build and paint it as directed, leave the canopy closed, have a blast with it, and get on with your life (the kit decals are even usable!). In fact, I did exactly that a few years ago, and the model looks quite nice.

If you want a U-2 model that looks like it came straight out of a Tamiya, Hasegawa, or ProModeler box, it’s time to hit the Meteor/Cutting Edge catalog. At the very least you will need the $15 cockpit and the $19 airframe upgrade (subject of this review) sets, along with the $9 rear gear well/tailpipe. That’s $43 in aftermarket, to which you have to add the cost of the basic kit (call it $10 for a Testor C, or $20 for an original Hawk A), and you’re looking at a $53-$63 model before you’ve even bought decals! (Converting a Testor C to an A, or adding any of CE’s other extras or conversions, will of course run the tab even higher.) But consider: Were ProModeler to do a new-tool U-2, it would probably cost at least $30-$40; Tamiya or Hasegawa would charge $45-$65 or more for it--and if such a kit were available (and so far there’s not even any rumors of such), some of you would still put the CE cockpit in it! (Oh, almost forgot: For that ProTamiGawa “look,” you’ll have to rescribe the Hawk/Testor kit, but there’s probably not an easier airplane around to rescribe.)

So tricking out a Hawk or Testor U-2 kit with the Cutting Edge goodies is really not that bad a deal in light of today’s prices (but remember what I said about knowing what you want to build before you go shopping). The basic shape of the old kit is fine, and it can be turned into a show-stopper if that’s what you want to do. I hope to be building a couple more Hawk/Testor U-2s in the near future--more details to follow.

Model on!


Resin set provided courtesy Cutting Edge.

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