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Special Hobby 1/32 scale X-15A-2 plane

Kit: No. SH 32022
Scale: 1/32
Manufacturer: Special Hobby, from Squadron Mail Order, 972-242-8663,
Price: $64
Comments: Injection-molded, 174 parts (68 resin, 23 photoetched-metal, 1 film), decals
Pros: Lots of detail; great decals
Cons: Some fit issues; no external fuel tanks; stabilators too small
Issue Published: March 2008
As an X-plane/spacecraft fan, I was thrilled to hear of Special Hobby's 1/32 scale X-15A-2. The kit doesn't disappoint, with nicely molded medium-gray styrene parts as well as a raft of photoetched-metal and cast-resin detail parts.

The first nine steps of the instructions cover assembling the highly detailed cockpit. There are seat belts, film-and-photoetched instrument panels, and lots of tiny cast-resin details. Unlike many research aircraft, modeling the X-15's canopy open reveals most of the cockpit, so extra time spent here will certainly pay off.

Speaking of the canopy, the kit should include an injection-molded one, but apparently they weren't finished when my early-run kit left the factory. Instead, my kit included a note of apology and two replacement canopies: one vacuum-formed and one cast in clear resin. I used the resin version since I planned to model the canopy closed. Little of the cockpit can be seen through the two tiny oval openings.

Four large pieces make up the main fuselage. As with any limited-run kit, your building mantra should be "test fit, test fit, test fit." A little extra sanding and alignment time was required here and there, but I used very little filler on my model.

The stabilators in the kit are a little small. On the full-size ship they have considerable anhedral (15 percent), and that might have thrown off Special Hobby's scale calculations. Replacements are already available on the aftermarket but, to be honest, the shortcoming's not that noticeable unless you really know to look for it.

The speed brakes on the thick vertical tail surfaces can be posed open, and beautifully detailed hydraulic actuators are included among the cast-resin parts.

With its large, two-wheel nose gear and spindly main-gear skids, the X-15 has always looked a little ungainly to me on the ground. I built my model in "gear up" configuration so I can mount it on an in-flight support base. The seven-piece skids aren't difficult to assemble tucked up against the fuselage (they were externally mounted), and the two-piece nose-gear door closed up nicely.

The kit doesn't include the A-2's giant external fuel tanks or the two-wheel rear dolly used to move the aircraft on the ground. It would be nice to see them in a future version of the kit or from the aftermarket.

I painted the model with Tamiya flat black (XF-1), then applied a gloss coat of Future for the decals. The kit supplies markings for a November 1965 flight. The decals, by Aviaprint, were great to work with. Best of all, all the yellow, red, and white markings are opaque, even over the jet-black paint. A lightly airbrushed coat of Testors Model Master Acryl flat clear (No. 4636) sealed everything up.

I used two great references to build my X-15: Jay Miller's The X-Planes: X-1 to X-45, and Spacecraft Films' ten-hour "X-15: The Edge of Space" DVD set.

While I wouldn't recommend Special Hobby's kit to beginners, it'll make a great project for modelers who are used to working with limited-run, multimedia kits. It's a real stunner, and it looks great next to my 1/32 scale Revell X-1.
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