|PRICE:||2900 yen SRP from Platz Hobby|
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
|NOTES:||Go Navy; Army-Navy Game boxing|
The Northrop Grumman X-47B is an American demonstration Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which first flew in 2011. The X-47 project began as part of DARPA's J-UCAS program, and is now part of the United States Navy's UCAS-D (Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration) program, which aims to create a carrier-based unmanned aircraft. Unlike the similar Boeing X-45, the development of the aircraft's predecessor, the X-47A Pegasus, was company-funded.
The first flight of the X-47B demonstrator, designated Air Vehicle 1 (AV-1), took place at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on February 4, 2011. The aircraft first flew in cruise configuration with its landing gear retracted on September 30, 2011. A second X-47B demonstrator, designated AV-2, conducted its maiden flight at Edwards Air Force Base on November 22, 2011.
The two X-47B demonstrators are planned to have a three-year test program at Edwards AFB and NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, culminating in sea trials in 2013. The aircraft will be used to demonstrate carrier launches and recoveries, as well as autonomous inflight refueling with a probe and drogue. The X-47B has a maximum unrefueled range of over 2,000 miles (3,200 km), and an endurance of more than six hours. In November 2011, the Navy announced that aerial refuelling equipment and software would be added to one of the prototype aircraft in 2014. In 2012, Northrop Grumman tested a wearable remote control system, designed to allow ground crews to guide the X-47B into precise carrier landings. In May 2012, AV-1 began high-intensity electromagnetic interference testing at Patuxent River, to test its compatibility with planned electronic warfare systems. There is still much speculation as to whether these will be deployed or if they are simply technology demonstrators for a future drone. Recently the type has completed carrier compatibility trials with success.
In February 2015, the Navy stated that the competition for private tenders for constructing the UCLASS fleet would begin in 2016, with the aircraft expected to enter service in the early 2020s. Reportedly, despite the X-47B's success in test flights, Navy officials were concerned that it would be too costly and insufficiently stealthy for the needs of the UCLASS project. In April 2015, it was reported that the X-47B demonstrators would become museum exhibits upon the completion of their flight testing. In June 2015, United States Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus stated that the X-47B test program should continue but that Northrop-Grumman should not gain an unfair advantage in the competition for the UCLASS contract. In July 2015, the Navy stated that the X-47B demonstrators would remain in flying condition rather than being converted to museum exhibits, allowing for a variety of follow-on evaluations.
This is the third boxing Platz has provided for this kit. Apparently it is selling quite well. The molding on the two sprues that come with this kit is as good as you will find from anyone, and that includes Hasegawa or Tamiya. As you might expect from a UCAV, the parts count is not as high as on a manned aircraft simply because there is no need to include the cockpit or the clear bits for the canopy.
Looking very much like a small B-2, the two main fuselage halves are the largest pieces in the kit. One simply installs the intake sections and then closes up the two halves. The rest of the bits all attach to this construct. The kit comes with a pair JDAMs. Where other boxings did not include a gear up option, this one not only has separate gear doors for an in-flight display but also provides a very nicely done display stand.
The wings are separate items and here there are options. One is for the wing spoilers to be either flush or deployed. The other wing option is to have them folded or not. For this there are two inserts that go into the roots of the wings and fuselage. These are a single mold and quite sturdy for the folded option. It may even be possible to have these interchangeable by not gluing them in place, though I am sure most will choose to do so. I should also mention that no nose weight is indicated and I doubt if any will be needed.
The instructions are well done with painting information given with Gunze and Model Master references. Just about all of the information provided is in both Japanese and English so no worries there. The decal sheet is quite large and superbly printed by Cartograf. There are two options, one each for the two prototypes, both of them in overall FS 36270 Neutral Grey. Personally, I would lighten this up a bit as most Neutral Greys are quite dark. Anyway, the markings are for the two currently flying aircraft, AV-1 and AV-2 which are different primarily in serial numbers, though it seems that each has a different modex. The special markings are provided for each aircraft, one stating "Go Navy" and the other "Beat Army".
This is another superlative kit from Platz. They do not produce a ton of kits each year, but each one is well worth the wait. This one is no exception.
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If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact me or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
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