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Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird


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Well another project completed.

Revell SR-71A Blackbird based out of Beale Air Force Base, California.

My only criticism with this kit is that even with all of the decals they say to put on it for the Beale Air Force Base version it appears slightly plain (no pun intended). To that effect, I am thinking of using some of the decals from the alternate version of this kit (USAF/ USAF Symbol and US Air Force text) to improve the look of it, but the Beale AFB version did not have these decals on it. Opinions on this welcome.

Anyway onto the photos.

Blackbird head on.

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Blackbird in its new home (at least until the B-1B is decalled) excuse part of my book collection :-)

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Comments on this welcome, but again I have to say this one has come out quite nicely, especially as this was one of my earliest model builds after restarting the hobby.

Thanks for looking.

Rick

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Blackbirds were nearly always plainly marked as a security precaution. Besides which, the markings burnt off halfway through their flights so they always came back totally anonymous. The markings were peel-and-stick decals which were applied during servicing. Quite often they'd put one number on the left tail and a totally different one on the right. This made life difficult for both spotters and spies.

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All of the SR-71s operating out of Beale AFB (and TDY to Kadena AB, Japan), had full color markings from the beginning in Jan 1966 through the early 1980s when USAF/SAC started using the low visibility scheme. The markings you have on your model are from the 1995-1997 reactivation period when Detachment 1 was part of Air Combat Command's 9th Strategic Wing, operating out of Edwards AFB, California. The low vis markings used during the 1980s were a small, red serial number on the rudders and ground crew instructions in red in the appropriate places.

This SR-71A # 17964 at the SAC Museum, Ashland, Nebraska. It carries the original markings.

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Blackbirds were nearly always plainly marked as a security precaution. Besides which, the markings burnt off halfway through their flights so they always came back totally anonymous. The markings were peel-and-stick decals which were applied during servicing. Quite often they'd put one number on the left tail and a totally different one on the right. This made life difficult for both spotters and spies.

The three A-12s (06930, 06932 and 06937) that the CIA operated out of Kadena AB from May 1967 to June 1968 were all black with the exception of bogus red serial numbers on the tail fins. These bogus numbers were changed from one mission to the next, but they were painted on and did not burn off. All markings on the SR-71s that the USAF/ 9th SRW operated out of Kadena from June 1968 thru Dec 1989 were also painted on and did not burn off. They carried full color, high visibility markings from the beginning until early 1980s when they switched to the low vis markings.

Darwin

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Very nice build.

I will confirm Jessica's comments. Somewhere I have photos of a SR-71 taken at an open house at Beale sometime in the early 1980's (I'll try to dig the photos out.) However, if memory serves (which it might not at my age) the only markings were the safety markings and a few numbers on the tail- very plain looking. We got to see it take off- loud as anything I've ever heard iIncluding the Concorde.) About 60 minutes later it appeared high over the base. It was just a black dot but assuming the announcer was telling the truth, he said it was getting ready to head off on a mission and had just refueled... over Seattle- that's about 1250 air miles round trip plus the refueling time. Amazing aircraft.

Edited by louiex2
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Very nice build.

I will confirm Jessica's comments. Somewhere I have photos of a SR-71 taken at an open house at Beale sometime in the early 1980's (I'll try to dig the photos out.) However, if memory serves (which it might not at my age) the only markings were the safety markings and a few numbers on the tail- very plain looking. We got to see it take off- loud as anything I've ever heard iIncluding the Concorde.) About 60 minutes later it appeared high over the base. It was just a black dot but assuming the announcer was telling the truth, he said it was getting ready to head off on a mission and had just refueled... over Seattle- that's about 1250 air miles round trip plus the refueling time. Amazing aircraft.

As I commented in the above 2 posts, the SR-71s had very sparse, low visibility markings from the early 1980s until the end. When I worked on the SR-71s at Beale and at Kadena for 12 years, from June 1965 to May 1977, they all carried full color markings.

Darwin

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Very cool, what scale?

Rod

Thanks Rod,

It is 1;72 scale which according to Google, makes this kit 46.1 cm long by 23.6 cm long.

And thanks to everyone who has advised about the decals. There are lot of very knowledgeable people who know about the Blackbird.

Then again it is a cool plane.

Rick

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Great-looking Blackbird, Rick. I have this kit as well, so can I ask whether you used a regular black model paint, or a mix of colours to achieve the authentic look?

Thanks very much.

I actually only used Revell Acrylic Matt Black number 8, painted on with a brush. Didn't mix the colours at all.

Cheers,

Rick

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The SR-71 is like many other military aircraft in that the overall appearance varied considerably depending on the time and particular airframe. When they first came out of the paint barn, new or after IRAN/Phase inspections, they were as black as a lump of coal, uniform in color, with no visible panel lines and flat reflectivity. The paint had iron ferrite particles mixed in it and was a unique Lockheed paint with NO particular FS #. As each airframe started adding flight hours, the paint faded a small amount to a very dark gray which varied depending on how hot that particular part of the plane became during high mach flight. The nose cones were interchangeable, depending on what sensor was carried, ie OBC or Optical Bar Camera, early SLR or Side Looking Radar, the later high resolution SLR or just a ballast nose. Depending on how many flight hours a particular nose had, it could be the same shade as the rest of the fuselage, darker or lighter. Sometimes individual panels had a different hue to them than their immediate neighbors and sometimes not. Panel lines were miniscule on the full scale and sometimes they were noticeable and sometimes not.

Some details very seldom seen on Blackbird models are:

- There were air data sensors that looked like small 90 degree pitot tubes located on the top of the nacelles a little outboard of the center and centered on the bottom. These were used to measure pressure differential of the air entering the nacelle and this data was primary in determining the position of the air inlet spikes.

- The tips of those spikes were left unpainted, usually polished and the center of each spike was canted down and in rather than dead center in the nacelle.

- There were two red, rotating beacon lights, one top and one bottom mid-way back on the fuselage that were retractable. They were extended for flight at lower altitudes were other aircraft flew and the SR-71 was under ATC control. Two UHF blade antennas were on the underside and were also retractable during high speed flight. Both the lights and antennas had to be retractable to avoid damage from the high speed heat and to lower the overall RCS.

- The nose pitot tube was angled down 7 1/2 degrees, not straight in line with the airframe centerline. The fuselage was designed to fly at a 7 1/2 degree angle of attack while the engines, pitot tubes and cameras were angled such that they remained parallel to the ground and line of flight. After a few test flights, the Lockheed engineers determined that 6 degrees of AOA worked better, but by then, it was too late to change the design.

- The flame holders at the back end of the engines were located about 6-7 feet in front of the aft bypass doors with the intervening distance taken up by the afterburner. Nearly all of the models have this aft face of the engine barely in front of the bypass doors. There is an aftermarket resin set that does a superb job of correcting this for the 48th scale birds, but you have to improvise for the 72nd scale.

- The nose landing gear had two lights on it, one centered and one off center and slightly lower to the right. Most models have only the center one.

- The1/72 Monogram, (later Revell), kit has a rectangular shaped area embossed proud of the surrounding surface on the outside of the rudders and towards the front. The full scale had a panel that shape in that location, but it was flush with the surrounding area.

- The Monogram kit has camera windows located in the chine bays a little ways ahead of the wing. The windows are in the center of each equipment bay and should be at the very aft end of each bay. The Technical Objective Camera or TEOC framing camera in the forward bay had a square window, slight larger than the rectangular window for the Operational Objective Camera or OOC panoramic camera in the aft bay. The starboard TEOC bay was frequently filled with ELINT and ECM gear on operational flights, so eliminating that window would also be correct. There are several pictures that show the belly of the plane and there is a white square clearly visible in the center of each camera bay. This is not the camera window, but rather a ground crew warning instruction that reads, "Heavy equipment may be mounted on the inside of this panel. Remove with care".

- The Terrain Objective Camera or TROC or tracker camera is a framing camera located in the C bay just in front of the nose landing gear. There is no indication of this camera on any SR-71 model that I have seen.

- Those pie shaped, radar defuser panels on the SR-71 are located on the wing leading edge between the fuselage and inboard side of the engine nacelle and on the outer edge of the wing from the nacelle, around the wing tip and across trailing edges/control surfaces. They are NOT on the chine between the air inlet and the outer wing LE. A couple of the early A-12s had them all along the fuselage chines, but they were later removed and replaced with standard panels.

- The lower, rear fuselage between the main landing gear and the tail has a distinct bulge to it, but it is not nearly as pronounced as some of the models kits have it. I don't know of any feasible way to correct this.

-Every Blackbird built has "In Flight Refueling" capability. The IFR hatch was hydraulicly operated and was open on the ground and of course during IFR. It was closed during other phases of flight. The A-12, YF-12 and SR-71 each have this hatch located in a slightly different location. The SR-71 hatch is furthest aft, with the A-12s hatch being about a half hatch length further forward. The YF-12 hatch is a full hatch length forward of the SR-71.

- You have to be a little careful when using museum displayed aircraft as your reference. There have been at least three SR-71s on display where the museum staff painted them with HIGH GLOSS black paint. That NEVER happened during their operational time. A-12 # 06937 on display at the Southern Museum of Flight in Birmingham, Alabama, has the main gear wheels painted silver. They should be either bright red or green. That plane also has two of the CIA pilots names on the canopy rails, which weren't there originally. It is a very appropriate honor for them, but modelers beware. The same name thing is on the A-12 # 06938 at the USS Alabama Battleship Museum.

I hope this information is of interest and helpful to those wishing to model a "Titanium Wonder Bird"!

Edited by yardbird78
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