X-15A-2 Accuracy Review
Special Hobby, 1/32 scale
by Daniel W. Rees
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Special Hobby 1/32 Scale North American X-15A-2 Kit Accuracy Review:
The good news is that the kit looks like an X-15A-2!
Most of the major elements of the kit are accurate according to my
personal measurements and confirmed in the three references listed
below. Later I’ll list some corrections to enhance what is actually a
good kit, but even if you decide not to make any of these corrections
you’ll still have a pretty good model worthy of your showcase.
The history of the X-15A-2 and specific fit of the Special Hobby 1/32
kit will be and has been covered elsewhere, so this analysis will
concentrate on the technical accuracy of this kit. The Special Hobby
X-15A-2 kit was released at the 2007 IPMS National Convention in Anaheim
in August 2007. Dave Klaus at Meteor Productions lent me his kit so I
could review it for accuracy.
I had the opportunity to measure the only existing X-15A-2 at the Air
Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. I was lucky enough to be able to spend
nearly two full days on this project at the museum.
The museum policy is that the aircraft shall not be touched as it
hastens the corrosion and damage to the aircraft due to oils left behind
from human hands. Instead, I dropped plumb bob lines to do the
measurements. I located the critical points of the aircraft, dropped a
plumb line from that point, and marked the locations on the floor. I was
then able to measure the distances between those marks to come up with
Three specific books were also critical to confirming the kit’s
accuracy. They are the Aerofax Datagraph 2, North American X-15/X-15A-2,
by Ben Guenther, Jay Miller, and Tony Panopalis; X-15 Photo Scrapbook,
compiled by Tony R. Landis and Dennis R. Jenkins; and Hypersonic: The
Story of the North American X-15, Dennis R. Jenkins and Tony R. Landis.
I have never met any of these authors but I commend them all for their
efforts on researching and publishing on such an important research
aircraft. These books should be in your library if you’re interested in
the X-15. I would also like to thank the staff of the National Museum of
the United States Air Force for allowing me access to measure the
As you would guess, I took these measurements some time ago in
preparation for scratch-building a 1/32 model myself. And, of course
soon after Special Hobby announced their 1/32 kit was coming, so my
scratch-building project went on the shelf in anticipation of the
injection molded kit.
Now on to the review!
Corrections Required for the X-15A-2
Nose “Q-Ball” holes
RCS nozzles on the nose & wings
Nose bay location
Nose gear door
Skylight compartment just behind the
Wing flaps size
Horizontal stabilizer hinge fairing
Main landing gear skid pads
And, for certain configurations:
Modified lower vertical stabilizer
Dummy scramjet is not represented in
External fuel tanks missing
The published overall length of the X-15A-2 is 52 feet, 6 inches. The
measurements of the actual aircraft, based on my plumb bob drops at the
Air Force Museum, revealed an overall length of 51 Feet, 11.5 Inches
from the tip of the nose to the aft end of the exhaust cone, a 6.5-inch
Actually it is fairly common for the published dimensions of research
and formerly classified aircraft to differ from actual measurements. For
example, when I measured the Tacit Blue airframe at the Air Force
Museum, again using plumb bob drops, I discovered the fuselage was
substantially (about six feet) different from the published dimension!
The X-4, again a plane I measured at the AFM, has a vertical height at
the tip of the fin that is nearly three feet LESS than the published
dimension (and no, it was not because of flat tires!).
The good news is that the kit fuselage is only .1-inch too long, and
even better, it’s easily fixed. Just glue the Q-Ball (part A-6) in place
on the nose, measure aft .1 inch, then cut off that .1 inch. Round off
the nose section to create a “new” Q-Ball section. Very easy!
The Reaction Control System (RCS) holes scribed on the nose of the kit
should be drilled out for a better scale appearance. Note that the RCS
on the kit are in the correct locations, and are NOT at the common 12,
3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. Check page 49 of the Aerofax Datagraph 2,
North American X-15/X-15A-2, by Ben Guenther, Jay Miller for proper
location and offset.
The wing RCS units are scribed on the wing are also in the correct
locations, but also need to be drilled into the upper and lower surfaces
of each wing. Again, check your photographic references.
The forward edge of the nose gear bay is .06 inches too far aft of the
correct position. This is essentially impossible to fix, and not really
off by enough to worry about. If you decide to correct this minor flaw,
the leading edge of the nose gear door is located .98 inches from the
The nose gear wheel well and nose gear door are .10 inches too long.
Again, this is not worth fixing, and would be a major job in any case.
If you decide to correct the nose gear door, the door is 1.20 inches
long, .44 inches wide at the door’s aft edge, and .50 inches wide at the
door’s forward end.
The cockpit is very basic, as is the ejection seat. Both could use
The Skylight research compartment, shown as a scribed rectangle on the
turtledeck just aft of the canopy, is too short and too narrow. The
actual dimensions are 20 inches long by 17 inches wide, which is .625
inches by .531 inches, centered on the existing door. You can reach the
same result by scribing new lines .16-inch outboard of the existing
panel lines for the width and scribing a new panel line .10 longer on
the aft end of the compartment.
The optical port on the bottom of the fuselage (about 20 feet aft of the
nose) is too small, in the wrong location and lacks its raised fairing.
Since I did not measure this specific location on the Air Force Museum
bird, see page 60 of the Aerofax Datagraph 2, North American
X-15/X-15A-2, for a photograph of the port and the fairing. Another
excellent view of the location and configuration of the optical port can
been seen on the cover of Hypersonic: The Story of the North American
The kit wings need to be moved forward by .1 inches to be accurately
located. This is another exceptionally easy task. Just enlarge the
forward end of the wing tab locating slot in the fuselage by .1 inch and
glue the wing in place. The distance on the kit from the corrected nose
to the correct wing leading edge location is 10.6 inches. The angles and
dimensions of the wing outlines are accurate.
The flap outlines are too small and in slightly the wrong location, and
are easy to rescribe. The correct leading edge span of the flap is 1.688
inches long; the flap chord at the wing root is 0.96 inches; and the
chord at the outside edge is .39 inches.
The horizontal stabilizers are in the correct location, but are too
short by 3/16th inches, although the leading and trailing edge angles
are correct. This was probably caused by Special Hobby measuring the
“footprint” of the stabilizers, which have considerable anhedral, rather
than the same-plane length. Cutting Edge already has a replacement part
available for the horizontal stabilizers. The leading edge of horizontal
stabilizers should be 1.14 inches aft of the trailing edge of the kit
The horizontal stabilizer hinge fairing is the wrong shape and should be
corrected. See the photograph on page 57 in the Aerofax Datagraph 2,
North American X-15/X-15A-2.
There are some minor problems with the landing gear, which are supplied
in the kit in both the “landing” and “flying” configurations. The gear
is comprised of a front skid pad that actually touched the earth and a
rear support strut that attached the skid pad to the aircraft.
Surprisingly, the front skid pads are NOT the same length in the kit’s
“flying” and “landing” configurations. The “flying” (or folded)
configuration has the correct length for the skid pad.
For the “landing” configuration, the front skid pad should be shortened
by .05 inches measured from the aft end forward. The resulting part
should be 1.20 inches long.
The rear support strut is also not the same length in the “flying” and
“landing” configurations in the kit, but the change you may want to make
will depend on which configuration you are modeling.
For the “flying” configuration, cut the front skid pad and rear support
strut apart at the scribed line and ADD .24-inches from the front end of
the rear support strut section. Glue the two parts back together,
rescribe the line, and you’re ready to go. When you’re finished, the
overall length of the combined assembly should be 2.35 inches.
For the “landing” configuration, the correction is more difficult
because to make it will significantly decrease the strength of the
landing gear, which in this case are supporting the weight of the model.
The rear support struts are .21-inches TOO LONG in this configuration.
The obvious fix would be to cut the strut at the point where its
diameter changes, the REMOVE .21-inches from the larger piece at the end
where you just made your cut. Glue the two parts back together with
something inside to add extra strength and you’re finished. The finished
strut should be 1.39 inches long.
The small holes in the periphery of the engine exhaust nozzles will look
much better if they’re drilled out. As cast, the holes lack depth.
The modified lower vertical stabilizer is not represented in this kit.
This additional stabilizer was used to carry various payloads such as
the dummy scramjet that was attached during the speed record run. The
modified lower vertical stabilizer is 2.72 inches long, with the height
at leading edge of .55 inches, and a trailing edge height of .71 inches.
The dummy scramjet is not represented in the kit and must be
scratch-built, although there are rumors Special Hobby plans to release
this version later. Page 85 from the X-15 Photo Scrapbook shows the
dimensions of the scramjet in inches and centimeters.
For the speed record run there were six pitot tubes attached to the
leading edge of the modified lower vertical stabilizer. Depending on the
specific mission, as many as ten pitot tubes could have been attached to
its leading edge. Consult your photographs to ensure the correct numbers
of pitot tubes are represented.
You may be able to obtain the generally very good set of X-15A-2
drawings published in the Quarterly Volume II – Issue 5, July 2005 issue
of Sky Models magazine. I ordered my copy of the magazine from The
Squadron Shop. In my case, I corrected the Sky Model drawings based on
my own measurements.
One important error in the Sky Models drawings is that they show the
fuselage length as .1 inch too long. All of the error is at the very tip
of the nose. If you move the tip of the nose on the drawing aft by .1
inch, everything else on the fuselage lines up very nicely.
Finally, I am a long-time friend of the owner of Meteor Productions,
Dave Klaus, and I have supplied research for some of his projects in the
past. This was done as a friend helping a friend with a project; I am
not an employee of Meteor.
Review Text Copyright © 2007 by Daniel W. Rees
Page Created 20 September, 2007
Last updated 24 December, 2007
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