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1/72 Italeri SR-75 and XR-7 Aurora

Gallery Article by Andy Davies on July 20 2010

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This is the Italeri'/Testors Lockheed/Boeing SR-75 Penetrator/ XR-7 Thunderdart combo known more famously as Project Aurora. The 'mothership' was basically touted as being a development of the SR-71 Blackbird only considerably larger and capable of carrying the XR-7 Thunderdart hypersonic sub orbital aircraft to be used in a variety of roles including high altitude recon and the destruction of low orbit satellites. The project was given the code name Aurora and though there is no hard and fast proof of its existence many people both inside and out of the aviation industry claim to have knowledge or have seen evidence of such a program including many alleged sightings. Several names have been given to the SR-75 component including Brilliant Buzzard and Snowbird, (as the prototypes were allegedly painted high gloss white), and Penetrator.

This extract came from US sources dated 1992....
'' An indication as to the aircraft's manufacturer came on January 6, 1992, when there was a sighting of an SR-71 shaped forward fuselage section being loaded onto a C-5 transport plane at the Lockheed Skunk Works facility in Burbank, California. It was about 65 to 75 feet long and 10 feet high. The C-5 was bound for Boeing Field in Seattle. ''

The Sr-75 was supposedly powered by 4 massive high by pass turbofans and the Thunderdart by a revolutionary new power source namely PDWE propulsion or Pulse Detonation Wave Engines which operate on a different principle then conventional ramjets, PDWEs don't continuously burn kerosene, but detonate fuel as it starts to leave the combustion chamber. This generates a regular pulse which may be responsible for producing the unusual "doughnuts-on-a-rope" contrails. The most probable fuel for PDWEs would be cryogenic liquid methane, which could also act as a structural coolant. The other option would be the use of a methane-burning combined cycle ramjet engine (uniting rocket and ramjet designs).

Whether or not it really exists is wide open to debate, there is an awful lot of 'information' about the project on the net so it's interesting to speculate....

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This then is Italeri's rendition of the Aurora program. The first thing that strikes you is the size...it's enormous!!...almost as big as the B-70 Valkyrie that I built earlier and dwarfs the YF-12/SR-71 that it so resembles. A much sought after kit, and a bit of a pig to put together, (mainly joint issues, warped parts and filling due like the XB-70 mainly down to its size), so basically just my cup of tea.......not really being a great fan of 'shake n bake' kits.

I decided that the all white or black approach was too bland and an easy option so went for an operational ADC/Strategic Air Command scheme, special recon unit based at Offutt AFB, Nebraska in the mid nineties. The Thunderdart has been painted using a mixture of prismatic and hot metal tones from the Alclad range as this airframe would have needed to have been specially treated for hypersonic flight giving it a crystalline patina indicative of sustained exposure to high temperature. . . allegedly a 'a burnt carbon odor exudes from the surface!!'.

All finished off with careful masking, (a LOT of masking!!!) and Tamiya smoke, Promodellers dark dirt wash and the usual oil and turpentine panel washes.....

The only mods I did were to add new resin seats. scratch the cockpit panels and use the undercarriage from a 1/48th Revell/Monogram B-58 as this was a lot beefier than the kit parts, (plus I added a four wheel unit to the nose gear).

The XR-7 being operated by the NRO...(National Reconnaisance Office), a specialist satellite development division used by the DoD and CIA).

Decals, as usual come from many sources the only kit ones used were the complex red walkways...this time I used a new technique for applying them as the walkways were very matt. This was suggested by Spence to me at Cosford and I've been looking forward to trying it out. It simply involves dipping them in warm water as per usual, then with tweezers dip them into Klear for 30 secs or so , quickly apply to the surface and roll out excess CAREFULLY with a cotton bud.  I say carefully as they can ruck up and crease very easily. The result though was spectacular....absolutely no silvering or lift anywhere, no sign of the carrier and a rock hard finish to varnish over.  If you wish to attempt this then I suggest you practice a fair bit before you try it on your pride and joy!!

What doesn't show up in the photos are the subtle shades of grey used on various panels across the SR-75's skin surface..you'll have to see it in the flesh to see what I mean...

The ground support equipment comes from the Hasegawa set slightly modified to be suitable for use within the time frame for this aircraft .

Overall great fun, starting the next one soon........now I'm running seriously low on shelf space!! ....don't think it'll be doing the round of shows either for the same reason.....unless I invest in a motorhome!!!

This one recently won 'best in scale, best in class and best in show' at the UK Coventry model show which made all the effort well worth while, hope you like it,

All the best and happy modelling, 

Andy Davies

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Photos and text by Andy Davies

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