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Testor's 1/48 scale kit converted
Lockheed U-2A

Part One

by Jan Forsgren


Lockheed U-2A


Testor's 1/48 scale U-2C is available from Squadron.com





The Lockheed U-2 was originally developed from one of the Starfighter prototypes, with a shorter fuselage and an extremely wide wing span. The design was later changed but the typical Starfighter cockpit and air intakes are easily recognized. In July 1955 the first prototype was test flown and it was quickly put into service.

When Gary Powers was shot down over the Soviet Union May 1st, 1960 and the reds made it publicly known that CIA had violated their airspace the U-2 became THE spy plane. By that time the U-2 had received more electronics and the A had been replaced by the U-2C with larger air intakes and a more powerful jet engine.

In the late sixties Lockheed the U-2R, R for revised, was developed, this was an altogether new and larger airplane.

Kit History

The kit was tooled by Hawk in the 1960s and released as a U-2A, in white styrene and also a chrome version picturing the same subject as this feature article.

Click the thumbnails below to view full-sized images:

Testor acquired the molds and retooled it into a U-2C with larger intakes and a dorsal spine and the kit was also released by Italeri and eventually made a kit of the U-2R/TR-1, of which you can read in David W Aungst’s excellent feature here at HyperScale.

As late as 2002 Testor re-released the U-2C with new box art together with a cart to move it around.

My interest for the U-2 started a few years ago when I bought the Italeri TR-2 and discovered all the Cutting Edge goodies for the U-2, and I am very impressed with the quality of the resin; it’s almost impossible to break even the most delicate parts! At Scale Modelworld in Telford I have bought several old U-2C kits and I plan to build many of the variants in different paint finishes.

I chose the most striking scheme for my first U-2: NMF. Little was I to know of the problems awaiting me before packing my finished model in the box for Telford.





To convert the U-2C to an A the air intakes must be changed to the smaller intakes for the J57 jet engine, the rear part of the intakes can be found in the Cutting Edge set 48287 together with the flat spine and rear fuselage, but for the front part of the intakes and the seamless intakes with the turbine blades you must have set 48293.

Those two sets are necessary for the conversion, but when you start cutting the styrene, why don’t you do it properly and get the other resin sets as well!

The cockpit set 48288 is a major improvement to the kit and can not be left out, as the set 48292 with air brakes, main wheel well and some air scoops and finally 48298 which is the rear wheel well with the exhaust pipe that fits snugly to the new rear fuselage.


Fuselage conversion and improvement

The old spine is cut away from the fuselage halves, using the resin exchange parts to measure correctly. I strengthened the fuselage top with a suitable straight sprue supported from the fuselage bottom. (Picture 1)
This strengthening is necessary considering the rough handling needed using a coarse grade file to shape the fuselage, and wet and dry sand paper to do the finer work.

Cutting away the plastic gets most tricky where the new resin parts meet the fin; it’s very easy to cut away too much. You must be prepared to do a lot of work tidying up around the new parts on the fuselage. I used CA to get a strong seam against the fuselage before starting the abrasive work. The resin exchange parts all have recessed panel lines, which I filled with CA glue as I wanted to make new panel lines later all over the airplane.

Most of the parked U-2 airplanes seem to have their air brakes extended showing the air brake interior. To replace the coarse kit items is quite easy, starting with my Dremel tool and a sharp knife but I had to add some thin plastic card to both the upper and lower edges of the opening as the resin air brakes were smaller. The resin interiors are glued from the inside.



The original rear fuselage is cut off and the resin part is glued to one of the fuselage halves, but before the glue is used I recommend fitting the exhaust pipe. This calls for some dry fitting and cutting in the resin lump that fits between the two air brake interiors. At the same time the rear wheel well must fit the fuselage opening. As I said, lots of dry fitting and maybe it’s necessary to glue some thin shims to the rear inside of the resin tail cone to center the exhaust, but in the end all resin was glued to the left fuselage half and the right one fit perfectly! Well done Cutting Edge!



Replacing the rear part of the air intakes demands some careful cutting close to the wing root, and the new part is glued with CA, and then the new front part is attached. Note that the “seamless” part fits inside the rear part with a smooth joint to the front part. I managed to misalign the left side intake parts slightly and had to thin down the “seamless” intake part to get an acceptable seamless fit. I used sprue to support the inside seamless part.

The resin cockpit comes in very few pieces; the whole tub, the seat and the instrument panel. The entire cockpit interior was painted a medium to dark gray, and the instruments were hand painted black. A white plastic card was used behind the printed clear acetate instruments dials. (Picture 5)

The resin instrument panel has an interesting feature; the instrument dials are not bare holes through the panel but have very thin dials that may give a good result when you don’t use the clear acetate dials, but I chose to sand this gimmick off.

The clear acetate sheet was glued to the white backing with epoxy glue, and all was glued to the instrument panel, but before assembling the panel all visible parts except the dials were airbrushed satin.

All internal tabs where the cockpit tub should be located were cut off, and the tub was dry fitted. As expected a perfect match and even the side panels I glued to the fuselage halves fit perfectly.

The main wheel well was also installed in the left fuselage half, and to the top strengthening sprue with a shim.

The cockpit set contains an ejection seat, whereas most U-2A planes had ordinary seats installed. Eventually most had their seats replaced with ejection seats, a good measure especially after several pilots were lost, when they were unable to leave their cockpit or hit by the tail plane.

The seat was painted the same gray as the cockpit, with a black seat cushion and the integrated seat belts were painted gray silver. There was a resin part for the tube on top of the seat that breaks the canopy, but I made a new from thin piano wire.


Click the thumbnails below to view full-sized images:

Final fuselage assembly

More testing of the fit between the fuselage halves before applying CA glue to all resin surfaces meeting plastic, and finally I joined the fuselage halves over all this expensive resin! It’s massive!

When the CA glue had set the plastic seams were filled with liquid glue and the fuselage was held together with both tape and different clamps.

One part I did not glue: the fin. I discovered it was not orientated exactly as I expected so I chose not to glue it yet.

After a week the fuselage was retrieved to the work bench and I studied it carefully. I had a notion something was wrong when I was dry fitting the fuselage, and now I could perform the real tests.

From straight ahead it seemed the air intakes and the wing roots were not really in unison. And when I compared them to the cockpit my suspicion was confirmed.



The lower line in the picture is the cockpit sill and the upper line is the top of the air intakes, and through the slots for the wing tabs I inserted a tube. The molded wing roots doesn’t seem to be in the same height, they differ 1,5 - 2 mm. I don’t know if this is an inherent flaw in the kit, or if my excessive conversion had distorted the fuselage, but examining my other U-2C kits I found signs of the problem comparing the panel lines around the wing roots of the left and right fuselage halves.

It was impossible for me to ignore this problem, because if I would have assembled the wings they would either have been on different levels or not parallel to the inlets and the cockpit.

I decided to tackle the problem right away, at 9 pm on a Saturday night. I thought it would be easier to move the right wing root up than it would be to move the left wing root down, and a square was marked where I would cut around the wing root. The lateral cuts were made with a razor saw and the horizontal with my Dremel.


The rough edges in the hole and on the wing root piece were cleaned, and when inserted against the top edge in the hole the wing root was 1,5 mm higher than before, and more or less in level with the left one. A plastic card shim of 2 mm was glued below the relocated piece and CA glue was used abundantly around the seams. All this took less than 30 minutes, much less than my anxiety period before I dared trying.

But all was not perfect yet. Theoretically this was an easy operation, but in reality there was a problem as the wing root is located on the rounded surface tangential to the arc of the fuselage, and when I moved it upwards the upper part was outside this arc and the lower part was inside. A lot of Milliput and sanding was necessary but it turned out good and I was very satisfied with my modification which is virtually impossible to trace when the model is ready.

Click the thumbnails below to view full-sized images:

Once again the fuselage was put aside to completely cure for a week. After that I started with a coarse file and gave it a straight dorsal profile cutting away CA glue, plastic and resin, then sanding and finally I applied Milliput where it was needed. The process was repeated, with painting in between with a contrasting color, for a week before the result was acceptable.


Click the thumbnails below to view full-sized images:

Continued in Part Two

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2006 by Jan Forsgren
Page Created 03 May, 2006
Last Updated 21 February, 2007

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