X-15-2, in 1/48th scale....

dhanners

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Mar 17, 2004
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I’ll will try and take some “beauty” shots later and post them, but here is my latest....


After finishing Ken West’s great X-15A-2, I became convinced that, despite his claims to the contrary, the model could be converted into the shorter, original X-15. It was just a matter of what you cut and where you cut it. So here is X-15 No. 2, 66671, in its pre-stretch configuration, in 1/48th scale. (Ken’s model comes at 1/32nd scale, but I shrunk it.)


The major change involved cutting a 28-scale-inch chunk out of the fuselage, as well as a similar length from the chines. The challenging part is you have to trim the chines in a different location than the fuselage. I shortened the fuselage by cutting off 1.5cm of Part 3, where the fuselage was extended to house a liquid hydrogen tank on the real ‘A-2. Fortunately, Ken’s piece has a panel line near there. Once the entire fuselage was assembled and dry, I assembled (but didn’t install) the six forward pieces of each chine. I cut the rear chine pieces at the panel aft of the “U.S. AIR FORCE” legend, shaped and assembled those pieces and glued them to the forward chine assemblies. Those assemblies were then glued to the fuselage.


The rear chines each come in three pieces -- top, middle and bottom. The top piece carries the lower half of the national insignia, which has to line up with the top half of the insignia on the fuselage. I lined up the markings and that told me where to cut the piece to meet up with the forward chine assembly. While I had the piece lined up, I also determined where I had to cut to remove the rear chine extensions. This newly trimmed top chine piece told me how much I had to cut from the middle and bottom chine sections. I did this for each side. Once that was done, I shaped the chine pieces and glued them together. They were then glued onto the fuselage, joining up with the forward chine sections. I fashioned a new end piece for each chine from black card.


I wanted to model 66671 as it appeared in the summer of 1962, before the November hard landing that led to its conversion to the ‘A-2. X-15 markings varied widely from mission to mission and vehicle to vehicle. References are a must. On the fuselage, the “U.S. AIR FORCE” legend could appear in different places, as could the national insignia. On the dorsal stabilizer, the yellow NASA band could be on both sides of the rudder or just one side or not at all. Similarly, some flights had the serial number on both sides of the fixed portion of the dorsal stabilizer, while others just had it on one side. Still others carried the serial number on the rudder; it could be on one side or both. Like the NASA tail band, the font of the serial numbers also could differ from flight to flight. The wings could carry both the national insignia (left wing) and USAF (right) or just the national insignia -- or no markings at all.


In the summer of ‘62, 66671 had the yellow NASA band on the left side of the dorsal stabilizer but not the right, and it carried the serial number on the right but not the left. The wings carried no markings, except for the white “Beware of Blast” warning on the right wing only.


I modeled the tail markings by cutting apart Ken’s pieces, adding some of the pieces from the “in-flight version,” and mixing and matching pieces and assembling them into the tail. I also improved the accuracy of the model by splitting the dorsal stabilizer into two sections -- the fixed portion and the rudder. Ken models the dorsal stabilizer all as one piece. On the real vehicle, there is a gap between the fixed and moving sections; you can see daylight between them. For this model, the wing markings were removed electronically.


A list of my additions/modifications/corrections, from fore to aft:

-- The fuselage nose piece immediately behind the Q ball was replaced with black card, using the kit piece as a template;

-- Cockpit windows were changed from ovals to the proper pre-stretch shape;

-- The kit piece for the section immediately aft of the cockpit was replaced with black card, using the kit piece as a template;

-- Bug-eye camera housings were scratchbuilt, and cameras added;

-- The liquid oxygen vent on the top of the fuselage was detailed;

-- Replaced the various kit drains with smaller, more accurate ones made from wire coating;

-- The fuselage was shortened 28 scale inches;

-- The chines were shortened 28 scale inches;

-- Strenghthening strips were added to the wing-fuselage joint, as on the real vehicle;

-- A gap was added to replicate the gap between the fuselage and wings forward of the first panel line on the wing, as on the real vehicle;

-- The fixed and moving sections of the dorsal and ventral stabilizers were split and a pivot added to replicate the gap between the two;

-- Plumbing on the back of the rudder was replicated with wire;

-- The horizontal stabilizers were altered to reflect the accurate cross section;

-- Pivot points were added to the horizontal stabilizers to replicate the fuselage-stabilizer gap seen on the real vehicle;

-- A new engine rear section was built from black card, using the kit part as a template;

-- The end piece of the rear engine section was inset to improve accuracy;

-- The chine extensions at the rear were removed and new end pieces were made from black card;

-- The shape of the stowed landing skids was altered to more accurately reflect those on the vehicle;

-- Silver card was used to model the exterior housing of the XLR-99 rocket motor, using the kit parts as templates;

-- Replaced the parachute cover on the section of the tail jettisoned before landing;


I need to thank Ken West for designing a great model. John Bowden also helped out. Research on markings by Jeffrey Kubiak of Hypersonic Models was invaluable. It feels good to finally add this important research vehicle to the collection....
 

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zathros

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Those are beauty shots!! Your attention and detail, the explanation of the real workings of the craft always add to the viewing pleasure. ;)
 

Rhaven Blaack

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You did a PHENOMENAL JOB on this model! It looks like a completely different model. With all of these changes that you have made, you have essentially created a new model. This would be a great addition to the collection. My question is, did you change the template as well?
 

dhanners

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st. paul, mn, usa
You did a PHENOMENAL JOB on this model! It looks like a completely different model. With all of these changes that you have made, you have essentially created a new model. This would be a great addition to the collection. My question is, did you change the template as well?
Thanks for the kind words. I didn't change the template. A friend electronically removed the wing markings (I only have an iPad and no Adobe Acrobat) but everything else was old-school cutting and pasting and grafting....
 

Rhaven Blaack

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Thanks for the kind words. I didn't change the template. A friend electronically removed the wing markings (I only have an iPad and no Adobe Acrobat) but everything else was old-school cutting and pasting and grafting....
I fully understand. I would have loved to have seen a build thread on this. I think that it would have been very informative.
 

Revell-Fan

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This is breath-takingly beautiful! It looks like the real thing. Great work and thank you for these pics! :)
 

Gandolf50

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I thought it was "Plastic" when I first saw the pix... that fuselage and translations are SMOOTH !! Very NICE!!
 
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