Revell 1/48 SR-71 Blackbird

KIT #: 04967
PRICE: $130.00
DECALS: Four options
REVIEWER: Donald Zhou
NOTES: Advantages: All new tooled kit, Full intake trunkings with detailed “bullet” fairings, fan face and afterburners, Detailed cockpit, landing gears and two Pratt & Whitney J58 engines. Disadvantages, engine faces cannot be seen when assembled and wings separate from main fuselage, could lead to fit issues.


So much was and is still being said about this aircraft that I’ll not give out a detailed history and try to reinvent the wheel, but basically…The legendary SR-71 was developed by the even more Legendary Kelly Johnson when the U-2 was shot down over Russia, causing an international crisis. What many don’t know was the sheer effort, and some would even call the callous disregard for human life that the Russians displayed in shooting down the “Dragon Lady”. It took no less than 14 SA-2 “Guidelines”, hundreds of man hours and the loss of at least one, if not two MIG-19 Farmer, with at least one casualty and who knows how many on the ground to finally bring down the American recon plane! But what is done is done. The political fallout was massive and the Pentagon demanded a replacement. Thus was born the SR-71, developed within 2 years, the aircraft still look futuristic even to this day and yes, if you read the history, the aircraft was originally named the “RS”, for Reconnaissance/Strike, but of course then President Lyndon B Johnson “misread” it as SR-71…..Behind the scenes though, it was Curtis Lemay, who favored the SR designation, changed Johnson Script to SR, while the press script was unchanged, creating the mix up.

The Blackbird, named after its matt/flat black RAM absorbing paint, could be classified as the world, not exactly stealth, but world’s first “low-observable” aircraft. Yes, there were aircrafts, like the Horton Brothers HO-229 and Northrop’s own YB-49 flying wing bomber that showed capacity for stealth, they were not stealthy aircrafts. They are what I like to call, “accidental stealth” since flying wing itself is remarkably stealthy but otherwise, it’s just a byproduct of their design since both did not hid their engines for example (and for the record, the Hortons were heavily inspired by Northrop, not the other way around).

Once in service, the aircraft gained a nickname that stuck with it throughout its service life, Habu, named after the indigenous poisonous snake located on Okinawa. Once reached operation, some of the Blackbirds were transferred and served on the island to gather critical intelligence over North Vietnam and Laos for the Vietnam War. Its sinister shape, especially the Darth Vader like nose quickly inspired the local to call the plane that name. The name were quickly adapted by the Blackbird community. In fact, Blackbirds serving in the Pacific quickly started to wear tiny snakes to denote a successful mission completion. In fact, there is a story of the U-2 and the SR-71 community always messing around with each other. One goes, one day, a local squadron of Blackbirds from the Pacific went to visit their U-2 brethren and promptly stole something of high value from them when they weren’t looking and forced the U-2 guys to admit the Blackbirds are the bestest, most awesomeness recon planes ever created. Not to be outdone, when the U-2 guy visited them back, they stole a bottle of preserved Habu snake from the Blackbird guys…However, nothing came out of this as the Habu guys just laughed it off since preserved “habu wine” are on sale everywhere on the island since the locals believe drinking it will prevent and cure many diseases and especially increase a man’s virility.

And finally, if you ever read Ben Rich’s (who designed the entire SR intake, intake trunking and the “bullet” shock cone nose) “Skunk Work”, you’ll know just how hard it was to build the SR’s titanium skin, which by the way, was mostly purchased from Russia through various nefarious means since the U.S. lacked the ores necessary to build enough titanium to build all of the birds. A couple of hilarious stories went when they were trying to stabilize the titanium and prevent it from getting too hard, and thus too brittle, one day, all of a sudden, the test titanium just went to hell the instant it was bought out and cooled down. Sheet after sheet just went to hell like this. The whole entire Skunk Work plant was turned upside down to nail down the problem before finally, the problem was found in the water solution used to cool down the metal. As it turn out, in the summer months, in order to prevent algae from forming in the water in the hot, humid California sun, the local Palmdale water treatment plant would add a little chlorine into the water to keep it sanitize and safe for drinking….Except the chlorine played HELL with the titanium since that metal is notoriously temperamental to work with! So there they went! Since Lockheed at that time did not have their own water treatment center, all of the guys, including Ben, had to drive around a 50 mile radius and bought out every single bottled water they could find in grocery stores around the area that did not contain chlorine to use as the cooling agent to the point all the stores can’t keep their shelf clean until Lockheed built their own water plant…I would guess the stores were really sad when the demand stopped all of a sudden…

The other story went. Ok, after the water problem was resolved, progress continued until all of a sudden, the nuts and bolts and screws, which had to be all made out of titanium (least some of the metal clash with the temperamental titanium and started to rub it the wrong way again), all of sudden decided to throw a temper tantrum from hell and went all brittle and started to break, fall off, and generally collapse from any sort of pressure! Once again, progress stopped and the plant was turned upside down before the problem was nailed. It turned out the majority of tools, wrenches, screwdrivers, hydrospanners mostly contained a compound known as cadium to add strength and prevent corrosion…..Except like chlorine, this stuff really love to get it on with titanium by changing its chemical and atomic make up into something far less sturdy and far far more brittle!...Yep! You guess it!....The next thing was basically, “Gentlemen! START YOUR ENGINES!!!!” VROOM! VROOM! VROOM! And remember, in those days, the Intertubes was barely in some knucklehead’s imagination and places like Amazon and evilBay would not exist until 40-50 years later! So yeah, ZOOOOOOOOMMMMM! There goes everyone out of the Skunk Work gates, hitting every single tool shop around Palmdale and the surrounding areas buying up every single tools that did not have cadium in them! Shenanigans like these soon wore down everyone’s patience and temperament to the point Clarence “Kelly” Johnson quipped one day, “Now I don’t know if it’s my age that’s adding wrinkles and turning my hair white…Or is it those F**King titanium stuff!!!” I’m pretty sure everyone felt the same!.....Anyways!


Some 40 years ago, God, is it that long ago now? Testor’s, in conjunction with Italierie I think, made a 1/48th scale SR-71 that took a HELL of a lot work to do! Problems included too weak of an airframe (this plane at 1/48 scale is big with a long fuselage section. This proved to be a huge Achilles heel since the molding technology of the time can’t keep up with this and the kit did not offer any strengthen agent), raised panel lines, plenty of fit issues and accuracy issues. This is why many bought the Monogram 1/72 scale version instead, even though that kit also was plagued with issues as I know since I did built that one when I was young. For many years, people always wanted another SR-71 made with modern molding technologies. Finally, this year, Revel announced a new tool version of the classic legendary plane. I got really excited since I always wanted another Habu but over the years, I forswore the older kits since they are such B**ches and a half to build! The kit was released in Europe first, finally two weeks ago, a seller on Amazon was selling this at $156 a pop…Fair since the kit in Europe is like $100 (exchange rate when applied) and charge in the shipping fee etc, it should be around that price point when shipped to the U.S. The kit arrived two days ago and I promptly opened the rather large sized box. Just how big? It’s slightly wider than my Anzio Annie box, half as deep but nearly 2/3 across it! That’s still a big box!

The reason why is obvious! Upon opening it, right at the top, on a top cover sheet, are the upper and bottom fuselage, and both are nearly as wide and took up the entire length of the box! Just how long? It’s about as long as my 1/32 scale Tamiya F-16CJ Fighting Falcon fuselage, perhaps a bit longer than that! That is long! Beneath that, are all the relevant parts and the instruction book, yes, book in total. Total part count comes to 206 parts even though it don’t feel like it. Options includes open or closed canopies, two different nose cones, open or closed in-flight refueling opening, closed or deployed landing gears, for the up landing gear option, a display stand is included and two detailed J58 engines, and ohh, if you are worried if you display the engines, then the tail end of the Habu would be empty, don’t as a separate set of engine faces and afterburner cans are provided to plug up the holes there!

Construction begin with the…plane’s “spinal cord”? Yes, to add strength to the entire long airframe, three ribs and a long spinal cord are added to the center of the bottom airframe that stretches across the entire length of the fuselage before the nose gear wells is added. Then the main gear wells are build and added to the bottom of the airframe along with all the relevant gears…Grr…I don’t like adding the gears this early but this cannot be avoided as the gears cannot be added after the upper fuselage comes down.

Only after those steps, are the cockpit build. Both the pilot and RSO stations are separate so you have to build them individually. Decals are provided for the instrument panels so you can use them if you want. Afterwards, the cockpits are put in their places before the upper fuselage closes them down.

The next major assembly are the two intake trunkings and all of the associated parts. When I say intake trunkings, I mean the entire, full intake trunkings with the complete bullet intake shock cones and the pipes connecting to the engine fan face are all included in the assembly. Unfortunately, the trunking is divided into three pieces. How bad will the seams be is a huge question. Also, the fan face and the afterburner cans are all separate. How heavy will these pieces be is another problem and how will they attach to the fuselage is a big question mark. Also, another quibble, when young and living near the old USAF Museum, I often took a look at the SR-71 there. Still remember even when I grew up, I can barely, barely see the bottom of the engine face even though I was straining on my tippy toes and looking the through crevice between the intake lip and the shock cone….I would wager once the shock cone on the model goes on, you can barely see down the trunking to the engine fan face!

The next phase concerns the accessories, the vertical stabilizers, the elevrons and the canopies, which can be posed opened or closed. Next concerns the landing gears. Again, you can build up the display stand and pose the model on it so an all gears up version is offered. Hopefully, you didn’t put in the landing gears but if you did, just snap them off if you are going for this option, otherwise, build up the gears so the model can fall on its legs.

The last steps will have you finish the model by making the display stand and the two detailed J58 engines. Four markings are included, these include: AF61-7958 in high visibility mode with a striking white cross on the bottom since this aircraft, on July 27 and 28th 1976, achieved absolute world speed record in a closed circuit and straight course of 2092 and 2193 MPH respectively. Second marking is for a bird AF61-7955. This is “Lockheed Flight Test Aircraft” operating out of Edward AFB. Third is AF61-7972. This bird is now on display in the Smithsonian-Steven F Udvar Hazy Center. On the way from its birth place in Palmdale to Virginia, it broke several records, including from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. in only 64 minutes and 20 seconds. This aircraft also holds the record for New York to London in less than 2 hours. The last marking is for AF61-7967, which did “USAF Last Flight”. This means you got some serious world record breaking aircrafts to choose from!


What can I say, I can’t wait to get started except well, for next year March Atlanta Con, I gotta finish several project for the theme of “Anything and Everything from T.V to Movies”. I still got the Alien Queen and DS9 to do (and hopefully, I can squeeze in my Vor’cha Class Attack Cruiser). That, and my goddarned Anzio Annie, which is now in limbo because my stupid dad decided to raid my man cave and threw away the D and E Sprues with over 50 parts on them! Sigh, made him pay by forcing him buying me another kit and this one!!! (HeeeeeeheeeeheeeeeheeeHAHAHA!!! That’ll teach him to mess around with something he has no idea with!). Until my replacement kit arrives, I’ll have to get on my horse and finish those first. Anyways, there is already someone screaming, as Tom Cleaver so eloquently puts it, “That place that shall not be named” about all the mistakes in this kit, “WAHHH! The missing raised details, WAHHHH! The canopy is misshappened etc etc etc!” Grrr! Rivet counters! Me? I’ve been waiting for fourty years now and this is a Blackbird/Habu bar none! For me, if those are the mistakes……I can swallow it and it should build into a show stopper for 2023’s Atlanta Con!


Donald Zhou

January 2022

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