SR-71A Blackbird, “Gravestone” Limited Edition
Conceived originally as a high-altitude, high-speed interceptor to counter an anticipated Soviet strategic bomber threat (YF-12) and a strategic reconnaissance platform replacement for the U-2 (SR-71) in 1959, Lockheed’s “A-11” platform has become one of the most recognizable and awe-inspiring aircraft designs of all time. Setting and holding world speed and altitude records for decades, the SR-71 variant came to symbolize America’s manned strategic reconnaissance program from the mid 1960’s until its retirement in the mid 1990’s – when, ironically, it was retired in favor of the more cost-effective U-2.
Another recent 1990’s re-release from Hasegawa, this Blackbird seems a bit old school by modern standards. Although molding of the 42 parts is crisp and detail is fine, all panel lines are of the raised variety. Canopies are crystal clear and fit perfectly to the top half of the fuselage. Cockpit console and control panel detail is portrayed by decals, which work okay in this scale. Seats, as in nearly all Hasegawa kits, are basic and lacking in detail – disappointing, compared to the attention to detail demonstrated elsewhere in the kit. Markings are provided for 2 aircraft, including the “Gravestone” tail art from the 9th Strategic Recon Wing, 1st Strategic Recon Squadron, Detachment 1, based at Kadena AB, Okinawa.
Shake the box, out it comes. Well…almost. Having originally reviewed an earlier release of the Hasegawa SR-71A, I decided to let my son and modeling apprentice, Camden (age 7), undertake this one with some close parental coaching and supervision. With such a small parts count and outstanding engineering, the kit flies together and is paint-ready with only a handful of hours invested in construction. No notable faults or gripes…not even a speck of putty…just an easy build.
Gloss Black…from a Testors spray can. Yes…a Testors spray can. Again, an easy, basic build with a monochromatic finish. Testors Gloss Black provided the perfect, glass-smooth surface needed for decal application. At the hands of a young modeler, there were a couple of puddles, but nothing terribly hateful. Wheel wells and inside the gear doors were airbrushed Floquil Old Silver and masked prior to applying the rattle can black.
Decals lay down well over the gloss black, but did leave a matte appearance relative to the gloss. This was remedied later with application of the clear coat. The only challenge with decals was the long red walkway strips running the chord of each wing. Much careful coaching and occasional parental intervention kept things from getting out of hand. It was a great exercise in decaling patience and dexterity. Once positioned, the decals responded well to the Microscale system and snuggled right down with the surface detail.
Leery of applying straight flat finishes to black surfaces for fear of a “frosting” effect, we used Model Master Acryl Flat and Future in a 1:1 ratio. A few misted coats yielded a convincing flat black finish without the dreaded frosting effect.
Hasegawa’s SR-71A is an easy and delightful build for all aircraft modelers having graduated the snap-together ranks. The only barrier to some may be the hefty $50+ price tag. I’ll leave it to the reader to draw his own conclusions regarding the overall value of the kit.
Thanks to Hobbico for the review sample and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to build and review a classic with my modeling apprentice.