Danny Attree presents a multi-build he completed recently for a client - 4 Italeri YF-12/SR-71s built as an A-12, M-21, YF-12A and SR-71A, reproduced (in edited form) courtesy of Britmodeler. This is part 1 of his build.

The plan

The plan was to build 4 airframes as follows:-

  • A-12 "Oxcart", using the stock 1/72 Italeri kit with the Kiwi Resin conversion set;
  • M-21 with drone; unlike the kit offering, this will be properly represented using the two seat A-12 (not the SR-71), based on the Italeri kit and Kiwi Resin conversion set;
  • YF-12A interceptor, using the stock 1/72 Italeri kit;
  • SR-71A, using the stock 1/72 Italeri kit.

Additional items to be used include Wolfpack Design seats (which have very impressive detail) and the Eduard Etch set for each aircraft.

All aircraft will be finished using Tamiya Metallics with the exception of the SR-71A, which will use Tamiya Matt Black.


I started with the cockpit tubs. These are basic (to say the least!) and, as with the whole kit, are just scaled down versions of the 1/48 Testors/Italeri offering. Not much to see here on the kit tub...

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Eduard etched brass in place, together with Wolfpack seats and a scratch built throttle.

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All four tubs completed.

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Standard and modified instument panels, with Eduard etched parts.

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Forward fuselages

Next up were the resin conversions for the A-12 and M-21. These required some minor hot water manipulation and filler, and suffered from air bubbles. Once the airframes are complete, liquid primer/filler will be used to repair these.

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The tubs were then assembled into their individual upper fuselage sections:-


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 And all four side-by-side for comparison..

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 The plan was to replace the glare shields on the forward cockpit coamings with etched parts later in the build.

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Main body

I approached the assembly of the main body in such a way as to preserve the raised panel line detail for later on when I paint the individual panels and chine detail. I used masking tape to make sure I get the filler exactly and neatly on the seam and not all over the detail. The tape protects the detail during sanding, and once completed, liquid filler will be used to to go over the coarse Plasto filler in order to give a smooth finish and iron out the last of the defects.

The raised panel lines will all be reduced slightly but in a controlled way, with just enough left to be visible after the main base paint goes on. These remaining details will serve as a guide for all the masking later. The remaining raised lines should be barely visible when all the painting is complete.

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All four fuselages in the process of being filled...

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Continuing assembly of the M-21

Alignment of the resin nose with the fuselages was not too bad, but the real effort was in filling and sanding in order to try and get all joins to be as smooth as possible. The trick with resin is knowing when to stop as it is very thin and full of air bubbles.

M-21 nose in place - lot's of air bubbles to be dealt with.

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Side view of the M-21. There are a lot of gaps to fill, and the old refuelling port will also need filling.

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A base coat of coarse filler was applied and re-applied until the nose was formed. The problem with the Kiwi Resin castings was that they had air bubbles right through the castings, so as you fill one lot the process of sanding away the filler reveals more!

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From here, liquid surface primer was reapplied to fill in the air bubbles and level out any minor deviations in the surface. At this point I was using very fine abrasive paper to smooth out the finish and (hopefully) avoid revealing any more air bubbles. The surface was now ready for a primer coat.

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Primer coat applied to the nose area only, from here I just gently rub with 1600 grit abrasive paper to smooth the finish ready for the gloss black base coat.

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The A-12

From here we moved on to the A-12, although I was switching between this and the M-21; as one coat of filler dried I was sanding the other! The A-12 conversion was much tougher, firstly because the casting was much poorer and needed far more work, and secondly because the second canopy needed to be installed and filled so that it does not show. The 'Q Bay' hatch will be represented by masking and spraying a different shade of titanium.

The 'Q-Bay' windows in place.

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 With the holes cut for the transparencies, the nose was glued to the body and filler was applied. As can be seen, there were some large issues to deal with!

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The initial rub down completed, followed by the next coat of filler and then some liquid filler.

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It was at this point i knew it was going to turn out ok...

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Liquid primer added and smoothed and ready for primer coat.

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Primer coat applied as before and smoothed with 1600 grit paper.

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All airframes ready for base coat of gloss black.

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The next step is a crucial one as it will determine how the Tamiya metallic finish will look. All four airframes have been sprayed with a few coats of thinned gloss black - using gloss helps to smooth out the surface and a gloss finish is simply a better finish for the metallics to lie on. Naturally the SR-71 will be all matt black apart from the burners. Once this has dried properly I will add some top coats of thinned acrylic gloss, I will use Future for this, and it is very thin and gives an even better shine than gloss, perfect for metallics.

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Once the paint and gloss top coats have properly dried (Monday) I will add the topcoat of Tamiya Titanium Silver. This stuff is the perfect Titanium shade, silver but with the slightest orange hue, no need for a metalizer finish as Titanium is pretty dull.

The next goal is to get the Titanium top coat on, spray the minor fuselage parts such as tails, burner bodies and Nozzles. I will prepare the Drone and getting that sprayed up to the same point. The titanium top coats will need a day to dry properly but I should be well into to spraying the individual panel colours by next weekend. No idea as to how much of the panelling will be done but the madness will have begun. Base coat on the drone, thinned gloss black sealed with Future for extra shine, Tamiya X-32 Titanium Silver thinned and applied over top in a few coats.

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Panel shading complete, various mixes and shades of Tamiya Titanium Gold, Titanium Silver, Gold and Flat Aluminium. Once dry they are sealed with a slow build up of Future and buffed a little.

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With the basics done I could move onto painting the chine, this was just masked and painted Tamiya Matt Black. From here I masked out individual sections and added some colour variation using a filter of Nato Black and German Grey.
The final step was to gently brush Sand/Light sand from my Tamiya Weathering Set over the chines, I wish I could get the pictures better but it has worked out well and got the weathering effect I wanted. When I come to do the SR-71 it will be treated in the same way, I think the effect should be a little more visual then.

The standard Pitot tubes from the left and right of the intake have been removed and replaced with needles - this reflects more accurately to my reference material.

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Next up the Base coats of Titanium Silver were applied to the 3 NMF Fuselages and Matt Black to the SR-71, same process as the drone, Gloss Black Thinned, Future to bring up the shine, a few thinned coats of Titanium Silver 50:50 from a new bottle. Once the variations in panel colour have been applied they will be sealed with a few light coats of future and buffed.

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The SR-71 is simple enough just Matt black for now, in the long run this scheme may turn out to be the most challenging.

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These were all put to the side to dry for a day so I moved on to the burners/feathers. The A-12, YF-12A and M-21 burners have all been finished in various shades the above colours.

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The burners for the SR-71 are a little different as they will have black bodies but finished with weathered/tempered feathers.

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The flame holders for the SR-71 have been sprayed matt black then a Nato Black filter and dry brushed as before.

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Next up are the inlet spikes, with variation for each airframe.

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Naturally in reality while I am waiting for one thing to dry I have moved on elsewhere, the tails received the same treatment as everything else.

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In the main wheel bays are a set of tyre shrouds, these are to protect the airframe if a tyre explodes, I have some good images of these and they all have a red outside, although a bit dirty. I will weather some more when they are installed later.

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Last but not least is the real long haul part of the commission, masking and painting the panel variations. I have started with the A-12 and I will finish with the SR-71.

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Next are the 7 ejection seats, these have all been painted as identically as possible then a little dry brushing with my Tamiya weathering sets to age the seat a little.

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Once the paint had dried I added a coat of matt lacquer to seal them and applied a black wash to bring out the detail.

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I think they have come out quite well, the little red handle on the top left of the seat is the safety/arming pin for the seat. As I understand it this is the very last thing removed from the aircraft before the canopy is closed and the aircraft taxis away for flight. I have noted a couple of areas that I need to touch up but essentially they are completed.

Next up was the masking of the various panels on the airframe for the A-12, M-21 and YF-12A, I will come back to the SR-71 when these are done as you cannot keep swapping between metallic and black paint.

I have given myself the goal of having all 3 NMF airframes completed in the next two weeks,hopefully this will include the Black portions of the Chine as well.
The key is to take it steady and allow the paint to dry properly, basically you are masking one while painting another while the 3rd dries. I just keep rotating them but as you all can imagine this is not a 5 minute job.happy.gif

The A-12 is coming along nicely, when the top surface is complete I will cover the whole surface with a very much diluted filter coat of the base Titanium colour.
This helps blend all the colours together and reduces the sharp contrast between the panels, well thats the plan anyway, it worked last time i tried it.

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Next up is the YF-12A, I have completed the top surface and applied the filter coat, this has then been sealed in a coat of lacquer. The blending has worked very well but you have to see it by eye to see the contrast the camera does not really show the difference because of the diffused flash.

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Lastly, this is where I am now...

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YF-12A top surface NMF complete, the A-12 is about 80%, I am doing the Dielectric Triangles now and the M-21 is about 50% complete. Once they are done they I can flip them over and repeat for the bottom. When I am happy with that I will then add the black chine areas to the YF-12A and M-21.

The A-12 is the greatest challenge as we have the Dielectric Triangles to do all the way around the airframe chines. It is not as tough as you think - it just takes time and patience. From my reference material I have counted out the Dielectric Triangles for the forward fuselage and marked them out accordingly. It gets a bit tough when you are near the nose as the images make it hard to get it 100% correct but I am pretty happy. You then also have to make sure they are symmetrical across both sides, hopefully you will see this in the images. I kept my reference material from the 1/48 A-12 I made and cross checked in scale to make sure.

Once both the A-12 and M-21 were finished they were sprayed over with a filter of Tamiya X-32 base Titanium, this helps blend all the panels together so the difference between each shade is more subtle. In the naked eye as you can imagine they look a little bit different but not much.

A-12 Top Completed.

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M-21 Top Completed, the chine areas will be sprayed black and weathered later.

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YF-12A top completed. The chine areas will be sprayed black and weathered later.

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A-12, M-21 and YF-12 top natural metal finish complete.

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M-21 bottom started.

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YF-12A bottom started.

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If all goes well I may even have the black areas of the Chine/s painted on the YF-12A and M-21 by next week but the bottom of the A-12 will take some time. You have to carry the symmetry of the dielectric triangles on the forward fuselage to the underside as well, essential from any angle top, bottom, left and right should match.

M-21 underside complete.

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A-12 in progress.

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A-12 bottom complete.

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Chine symmetry.

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All three airframes with their metal finishes completed.

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Inbetween things, I have sprayed and masked the flight fins and the Drone mount.

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