by: Tim Hatton [ ]
The SR-71A is a two seat reconnaissance aircraft, while the SR-71B is a two seat trainer. The ‘HABU’, so called after the venomous snake that inhabits the area around Okinawa, is built for speed and to fly high, very high, which is just as well as this particular aircraft is only armed with cameras and sensor for its role as an information gatherer. As a reconnaissance aircraft the HABU has great flexibility in the type of sensors it can carry, thanks to the interchangeable nose. Three different suites of sensors can be carried:
-Optical Bar Cameras [OBC]: high resolution cameras.
-Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar [ASAR]: high resolution radar imagery.
-Capability Reconnaissance Radar [CAPRE]: which was a precursor to ASAR.
The Testor’s kit depicts the SR-71 with the OBC sensor suite, which was not used that much on the Blackbird. Thankfully the good folk at Afterburner describe how to convert the nose of the kit.
The YF-12A was essentially a modified version of the CIA’s A-12. The nose section of the A-12 was redesigned to incorporate a large radome to house the Hughes AN/ASG-18 Pulse Doppler Radar. The payload of the YF-12A consisted of 3 AIM-47’s individually carried in three weapons bays located on the underside of the forward fuselage. Incredibly the AIM-47 had a nuclear warhead; the stand-off missile was designed for long range attacks against multiple aerial threats. Although the YF-12 test program was highly successful, Defence Secretary Robert McNamara decided not to proceed with the programme. The production version of the YF-12 would have been designated the F-12B. After the cancellation of the programme two of the three remaining aircraft were transferred to NASA in June 1969. Much of the AIM-47’s technological advancements would eventually be incorporated in the US Navies AIM-54 Phoenix programme.
The Testors kit provides a pretty accurate YF-12 straight out of the box.
Inside the resealable transparent bag is:
-5 x A4 pages of colour guides including the front cover.
-2 x A4 pages of stencil guides.
-1 x A4 sheet of decals.
-1 x smaller sheet of decals, containing the red walkways and window frame outlines.
Markings include :
YF-12A 60-6934: 1964 and 1965. ‘934’ comes in two different guises, the 1964 version is finished in natural titanium and black, while the 1965 version comes in the more familiar black overall. ‘934’ was the first of three YF-12A’s, but was subsequently damaged by fire on 14th August 1966 while attempting to land. Following the loss of SR-71B 61-7957, a replacement trainer aircraft was required. In 1969 the rear fuselage of ‘934’ was salvaged and mated with the front portion of one of Lockheed’s static test models. The result, the SR-71C, was constantly plagued by problems, one of which was apparently a natural tendency too yaw left. The ‘Bastard’ as it became known was in service from 1969 up to 1976. The sole SR-71C now resides at the Hill Aerospace Museum in Utah.
SR-71A 61-7978, ‘Rapid Rabbit’: 1968. ‘978’ crashed during landing [20-07-72] at Kadena AB due to high cross winds, while it was flying operational missions over Vietnam. Both crew survived, the remains of ‘978’ were buried at the end of the runway under a mound of earth, now known as Habu Hill. ‘978 has the ‘Playboy Bunny’ painted on the fin.
SR-71A 61-7961 ‘Bald But Bold’: 1968. This aircraft has the head of a bald eagle with the words ‘Bald But Bold’ painted on the tail.
SR-71A 61-17970 ‘Super Skater’: 1968. The aircraft number seems to be carrying an extra digit, probably just a typo. There is a rather smug looking ‘Pink Panther’ smoking while riding a skate board on the tail of ‘970’. ‘Super Skater’ is printed underneath the image.
SR-71B 61-7956 ‘1000th Flight’: 1982. On January 15th 1982, ‘956’ recorded its 1000th sortie. Special marking were applied to commemorate the event, ‘1000th Sortie’ was painted on the fin and a large ‘1000th Flight was painted underneath the rear fuselage. After the Air Force cancelled the Blackbird programme ‘956’ was transferred to NASA. This ‘Habu’ now resides at Kalamazoo Air Zoo.
SR-71A 61-7976: 1977. ‘976’ was one of the original three Habus to deploy to Kaneda AB, Okinawa in support of operations in Vietnam and was the first Blackbird to start operational mission on March 9th, 1968. ‘976’ sports the badge of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on the fin. She now resides at the USAF Museum at Wright Patterson AFB. ‘976’.
SR-71A 61-7964 ‘The Bododian Express’: 1981. ‘964’ acquired the moniker ‘The Bododian Express’ in 1981 after an unscheduled diversion to the Norwegian AB at Bodd due to engine problems. Its arrival must have caused a bit of interest. The title ‘The Bododian Express’ appears on the fin in white with an image of a white crab.
SR-71A 61-7967: 1977 and December 1978. For the 1977 livery ‘967’ has the number one in red with a yellow lightning bolt super imposed over it on the fin. For the 1978 version ‘967’ has red coloured one on both fin. The port side fin has a caricature of a black cat in a red circle just to the right of the red number one. The starboard side fin has a hash mark and a zero in red either side of the one. Also on the fuselage there is painted “FOR SALE 69$”. The reason for this is that the aircraft was zapped by personnel from the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, while ‘967’ was waiting for engine repairs at Osan AB Korea.
SR-71A 61-7974: 1969 and 1970. In March 1968 ‘974’ along with ‘976’ and ‘978’ were the first three SR-71’s to deploy to Kadena AB in support of the operations in Vietnam. Widely regarded as the Queen of the Blackbird fleet by pilots and maintenance crews, ‘974’ had the unfortunate distinction of being the last Habu lost. It crashed after take-off from Kadena AB on April 21st 1989 after an engine explosion and loss of hydraulics and flight controls. Both crew ejected safely. The earlier markings feature a pair of Gooney birds painted on both main landing gear doors to mark the fact that ‘974’ as a result of a diversion to Midway Island because of mechanical problem. The markings from 1970 would have not included the Gooney birds, but does include two sets of mission tallies, one set is for 1968 and the other is for 1970. Each mission represented by a serpent. The fins features a white serpent coiled behind a red number one. This emblem features on both aircraft.
SR-71A 61-7972 ‘Charlie’s Problem’: 1975. ‘972’ set the trans-Atlantic speed record on 09-01-74 by flying from New York to London in 1hr 54mins at an average speed of 1807 mph. On 03-06-1980 ‘972’ flew its final record setting flight by travelling between Los Angeles to Washington DC in 1hr 7mins at an average speed of 2145 mph. She is now prominently displayed at the National Air and Space Museum UDVAR-HAZY Centre. The character on the tail has the appearance of a Charles L. Schultz character from ‘Charlie Brown’ looking very pregnant. The words ‘Charlie’s Problem’ appear underneath.
SR-71A 61-7955: 1968. ‘955’ was used by Lockheed as the primary flight test vehicle for its entire flying career. The ‘Skunk Works’ emblem was proudly worn on the fin until 1985 when the aircraft was retired.
Sr-71A 61-7975: 1969. Features a cat defined by a red outline on the fins.
All aircraft with the exception of the first option of YF-12A are finished in the distinctive flat black [FS37038] painted overall. In reality because of the rigours of flying in excess of Mach 3, the black paint faded to a very dark grey. All the aircraft carry national insignia on the fuselage and on the port upper wing and starboard lower wing.
Stencil guide: provides upper and lower plan views with three separate diagrams illustrating the stencil placement around on the both sides of the crew area and the port engine air intake. There are red coloured frame outlines for the canopy and windscreen. There are enough stencils to complete two aircraft.
Instructions: there are full colour views of the portside of each aircraft to aid the placement of markings. There are upper and lower plan views providing the guidance for applying the walkways. There are very useful smaller illustrations for the placement of decals around the outside of the crew’s cabin and around the port air intakes. Also included with the instructions are suggestions for update sets from Fisher Models & Pattern including replacement exhausts, wheels and FOD covers.
Decals: the quality of the print by Cartograf is simply stunning. Decals are glossy with a minimum amount of carrier film and excellent colour depth. All the written stencils are sharp and legible, even the tiniest of stencils, that you have to view with a strong magnifying glass. There are enough stencils and wing walk ways for two aircraft, but there is nothing to stop the modeller from using the kits stencils to be able to utilise even more of the above markings, although I think most modellers will be struggling find in space for three 1/48 scale Habu’s.
Application: Decals respond very well too Microsol, you will see the decals crinkle slightly, but don’t be tempted to brush out the creases. I found that the decals conform very well too low relief detail. Afterburner has reduced the amount of carrier film to a minimum so do not attempt to cut too close to the decal in order to reduce the amount of carrier film. It’s not necessary. In fact it is well worth your while taking a close look at some of the markings to determine the extent of the carrier film. You will notice that the carrier film will follow the shape of the letters or stencils very closely rather than surrounding them with excessive carrier film. This does have an effect when moving decals from the sheet to the model and you need to move them with a little caution. As there is little carrier film the decals look almost painted on after a coat or two of Kleer.
This is another superb release from the team at Afterburner Decals. They just keep delivering these subjects with all the enthusiasm and dedication too accuracy and quality we have now come to expect from this company. I for one am very pleased and surprised to see decal releases for the Blackbird. Surprised, well the Sr-71 and the YF-12A are not exactly well known for displaying colourful markings. Outstanding Afterburner, outstanding.