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Anigrand #AA3003 1/144 Sound Barrier Breakers Special Set



 
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Kit #AA3003. 1/144 scale. This is a set of four highly-detailed resin kits, complete with decals. It contains early sound-barrier record challengers including Chuck Yeager’s Bell X-1, the Douglas X-3 Stiletto, and the Douglas D558-1 and the Douglas D558-2 Skyrocket.

Bell X-1: Originally designated the XS-1 (for eXperimental Supersonic) to test the transonic speed range, this became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. It was a joint project between NACA, Bell and the US Army Air Force, which became the independent US Air Force during the plane’s operational life. Designed in 1944 and built in 1945, long before any German research had been captured, the Bell X-1 was a thoroughly American design. It’s shape was modeled closely on that of the .50 caliber bullet, known to be both stable and supersonic. Its engine was the Reaction Motors XLR-11 four-chamber rocket.

After Bell’s test pilot, Chalmers “Slick” Goodlin demanded $150,000 to break the sound barrier, the USAF took over flight testing, and Chuck Yeager did it for his standard monthly pay as an Air Force Captain. A decorated WW-II ace, Yeager named this plane for his wife, as he’d done for all his combat P-51s – the overall “test-flight orange” aircraft became “Glamorous Glennis.” With Yeager as pilot, the X-1 broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 and reached a top speed of 957 mph (Mach 1.26) in 1948.

This design set the civilian/military cooperation pattern followed for all subsequent X-craft projects – it also spun off the X-1A, the X-1B, the X-1C, the X-1D and the X-1E, which are not included in this Anigrand packaging.

Douglas X-3 Stiletto: The aptly-named Douglas X-3 Stiletto was a beautiful example of the aircraft designer’s art – and a disappointing failure for being unable to push past a 700 mph speed. It had been designed to test sustained supersonic flight – the goal was to reach 2,000 mph, Mach 2.63, but was unable to break the sound barrier in level flight. The problem was in the Westinghouse J34 powerplant, not the airframe design – Lockheed later successfully used the X-3’s wing design in their Mach 2 F-104 Starfighter. The test craft had been built around a pair of Westinghouse J46 turbojets, but those never lived up to their design performance, and led to the cancellation or short service life of the F7U Cutlass, the F2Y Sea Dart and the A2U attack aircraft, among others. The J34s came up 2,100 pounds of thrust shy of what was intended for the Stiletto.

While unable to explore Mach 2-plus flight conditions, it did prove helpful in identifying the transonic “roll inertial coupling” problem that plagued early F-100 Super Sabres and other early supersonic aircraft. It was an aircraft whose beauty outweighed its utility, but it is a pure example of the 50s mania of “design for speed.”

Douglas D558-1 Skystreak: A joint project of the US Navy and NACA, the D558-1 Skystreak was a turbojet-powered aircraft intended to explore transonic and supersonic flight regimes, without the need of rocket power or mother-ship launch aircraft. The program had three phases – a pure turbojet research aircraft, a mixed-power jet/rocket aircraft, and a third optimized for combat. The Navy ordered six test aircraft in June of 1945, but this was quickly cut back to three aircraft with an open-nose intake and a 5,000-pound thrust Allison J-35-A-11 axial-flow turbojet. The phase two mixed-power aircraft was canceled in favor of the D-558-2 Skyrocket, a different aircraft entirely. The design was stressed for 18 Gs, the better to test the transonic realm. In an emergency, the entire forward fuselage could be jettisoned, with pilot, for a safe parachute landing.

The three aircraft were initially painted scarlet – and nicknamed the “crimson test tube” – but this was changed to white to enhance optical tracking and photography. Less than four months after its first flight, the D-558-1 set a world speed record of 640.744 mph, exceeding the record previously held by the Messerschmitt Me-163A Komet rocket-fighter. The three test models, Bureau Numbers 37970, 37971 and 37973 (NACA numbers 140, 141 and 142) made 228 test flights, adding greatly to understanding of high-subsonic flight, and freeing the X-1 to explore the supersonic realm. The Skystreak could reach Mach 0.99 in level flight, but could only go supersonic in a dive.

Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket: This aircraft replaced the phase two D-558-1 as the Navy and NACA’s mixed-powers supersonic test aircraft. It became the first aircraft to reach Mach 2 – 1,290 mph – in 1953. Though originally planned to be an up-engined D-558-1, an entirely new aircraft design was required to contain both engines. Six D-558-1 Skystreak aircraft had been ordered, but the final three were canceled in favor of the D-558-2 Skyrocket. Like the earlier design, this sleek, swept-wing aircraft was built to stand up to extensive G forces. It was powered by a Westinghouse J-34-40 turbojet and a Reaction Motors LR8-RM-6 rocket engine (the Navy’s designation for the XLR-11 used in the Bell X-1). This aircraft had the same detachable forward fuselage, which became an escape capsule in case of a catastrophic failure at high speed.

The three aircraft flew 313 missions, and generated an incredible amount of valuable research related to high-speed and low-speed control issues in swept-wing aircraft, including lateral and longitudinal coupling, and pitch-up, a chronic and deadly low-speed handling problem in early swept-wing aircraft. As a pure rocket plane, and launched at 30,000 feet by a P2B – the Navy’s B-29 Superfortress – it flew to Mach 2.005, being the first aircraft to exceed Mach 2 and, while piloted by Marine Ace Lt. Colonel Marion Carl, it reached 83,235 feet to set a world altitude record. The aircraft’s final tests involved carrying external stores (bomb and drop tank shapes) at supersonic speeds, another first for this remarkable jet/rocket aircraft.


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