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U-2S "Senior Span/Spur"
Part One - Fuselage Construction

by David W. Aungst

 

Cutting Edge U-2S Cockpit

 


HyperScale is proudly sponsored by Meteor Productions

 

Introduction

 

As I mentioned in my U-2R/S / TR-1A Cockpit Review, this project was started some years back when Cutting Edge first released all their original conversions, updates, and decals for the U-2R/S / TR-1A. Without a cockpit set, though, I was not up for completing the kit and re-boxed it to await the release of a resin cockpit set. When Cutting Edge released their resin cockpit set in the end of 2002, I dug out the kit and re-started it.

On all of my current projects, I tend to be writing my model postings at the same time as I build the models. This posting has been reworked several times as the project changed its focus. Originally, I was planning a very simple build with a replacement resin cockpit, resin nose, and resin Senior Span/Spear upgrade. These were all simple, drop-in additions that required almost no surgery to use.

Then, I got more into the project and ended up going hog wild on detailing, scratch building all sorts of details on the model. I have never claimed to be unaffected by AMS (Advanced Modelers Syndrome), I just seam to be able to work through it when the bug bites me hard. This posting swelled into a monster five-part posting detailing all sorts of scratch-building items for the U-2R/S.

Then, a HyperScale friend convinced me that all these scratch-built items should get cast into resin so that others (espescially him) could use them, too. To that end, the scratch-built stuff became masters for Cutting Edge to use to market some more U-2R/S resin update sets in their already extensive resin line. To see more about the scratch-building I did on the masters for the Cutting Edge sets, see the reviews I wrote on those sets. This posting will only deal with the usage of those sets in the Italeri U-2R/S kit.

The outcome of all this reworking of my writing is now a three-part posting. The writing is not as long as when I had all the scratch-building work highlighted. This is the first part and deals with a brief history of the U-2S "Dragon Lady", a review of the Testor/Italeri kit, and the construction of inside portions of the fuselage using lots of resin goodies. The second part will come along later and detail the exterior of the fuselage, the construction of the wings, and the completion of the airframe construction. The final part of the group will detail the painting and finishing of the model.


 

A Brief U-2 Family History

First, let's do a little historical writing on the U-2. This is a very brief (and vastly over-simplified) review of the U-2 development history. In the beginning, there was the U-2A. With an engine upgrade, many of these were redesignated to U-2C. Further modifications to the U-2C created the U-2E, U-2F, U-2G, and U-2H. The U-2D was a factory-built two-seat U-2, basically equivalent to the U-2C. A couple U-2A/C aircraft were also re-manufactured into two-seat aircraft and designated as U-2CT. As the sensor systems got heavier and bulkier to carry, the performance of the U-2 started to suffer quite a bit. An upgraded U-2 was needed.

Answering the call, Lockheed revised the U-2 design and increased it in size (both in length and width) with the new aircraft being designated U-2R ("R" for "Revised"). As attrition and combat losses mounted, the Air Force determined they needed more U-2R aircraft. To distance the additional aircraft from the "black-ops" reputation of the U-2 designation, they designated them as TR-1A (two-seat TR-1B). These were basically carbon copies of the U-2R.

In time, the logistics of supporting two mostly identical airframes with two designations got to be a problem. Also, the TR-1 designation failed to distance the new aircraft from the "black-ops" reputation of the U-2 designation. In 1991, to solve the logistical issues, all TR-1A aircraft were re-designated to be U-2R aircraft. The TR-1B became the U-2RT.

The U-2S designation came along in the 1990s when the surviving U-2R aircraft were upgraded with newer engines. According to most references, all U-2R aircraft are now U-2S aircraft. The upgrade has almost no outward feature to tell whether an aircraft is a U-2R or U-2S. The deletion of two small air louvers on the fuselage over the wing root is the only way to tell for sure that a given aircraft is a U-2S.

I saw the U-2S aircraft in the picture below at the 1996 Andrews AFB air show. It inspired me a lot and is the reason I decided to built the model you see in this posting. I knew very little about the U-2 before starting this project, so I needed to do more research on this aircraft than I have had to do on any of the other projects I have completed in the last few years.

Figuring I was not the only person with limited U-2 knowledge, I created a reference web page for the U-2S. I have also written quite a bit more in this construction feature than I typically do. My hope is to save other modelers from having to search as hard as I did for this information.

 

Documentation Picture
U-2S at the 1996 Andrews AFB Air Show Click the Picture to View My Reference Page on the U-2

 

For more information on late model U-2 aircraft, see my reference list at the end of this posting.

 

 

Testor/Italeri U-2 Kits

 

The Testor / Italeri late model U-2 kits have been marketed a few times as different designations. One of the original releases from Testor called the kit a "Lockheed TR-1A". Another release was from Italeri and was for a TR-1A/B "Sky Patrol". Both these releases contain identical plastic components to each other, only the instructions and decals changed. Both these releases provide alternate pieces for building either a single seat U-2R / TR-1A or a two-seat U-2RT / TR-1B. The super pods in these kits are smooth and regular with no sensor systems represented.

Caveat

I have defended Testor/Italeri's late model U-2s as being good kits on the HyperScale Forum, and I stand by that assessment.

Built out-of-the-box, nobody would miss the fact that this is a late model U-2 "Dragon Lady". However, that does not mean the kit is perfect. There are notable accuracy issues and ommissions with several points in the kit, but most all of these amount to details that only a U-2 crew chief might see. Indeed, it took me weeks of research to find out all I have concerning the U-2 and apply my findings to the model.

What I write from here out about all the things I fixed or changed on the kit relates to myself wanting to stretch my legs and take on some challenges. The kit for the most part, except for the cockpit, would be quite acceptable out of the box.

The Testor / Italeri late model U-2 kits are actually not bad kits on their own. They were above average when they were released in the early 1980s. They require some care in construction, have a few fit problems, and are a bit "soft" on some details, but overall they are not bad. Built out-of-the-box, they are plausible representations of the late model U-2 as it looked in the 1980s. They do not provide any of the more common sensor fits seen on current U-2 aircraft.

The scribing is the raised variety, which turns some modelers off, but it is petite enough for my taste. The accuracy of the scribing is up for grabs, though. Italeri had very little information to work with when they originally tooled this kit. They got as close as they could with very limited and (in some cases) sketchy data.

And, let me stress that the constructed model is HUGE! The wingspan is a very impressive 26 inches when done. This caused me to have to think of unique ways to display the model on my shelves, but that is a different story...

The latest release of this kit is from Italeri and is for a U-2R "Senior Span". This release differs from the earlier ones in that it deletes the two-seat option and provides an extra sprue tree with all the updates to build a Senior Span/Spear/Ruby aircraft. The extent of updates provided on this extra sprue caught me by surprise. I was initially going to build the "Sky Patrol" release of the kit, which I had picked up back in 1996. After acquiring the "Senior Span" release, just out of curiosity over the new pieces, I decided that I would build it instead of the "Sky Patrol" kit.

Just looking at the box art before I opened the "Senior Span" kit, I noted both Senior Spear and Senior Ruby installations on the aircraft as well as other airframe updates that I knew were not in the "Sky Patrol" release of the kit. Would all these be in the box?

In a word -- YES! The new sprue tree was much larger than I expected and provided the Senior Span/Spur dorsal antenna pod, the Senior Spear super pod antenna canoe with ventral antenna farms, and the Senior Ruby flattened super pod sides. Additionally, there were a number of airframe updates included to provide the GPS antenna on the left wing and the ECM dimples on the engine entake sides. Besides removing the parts for the two-seat aircraft, another change to the original "Sky Patrol" sprues was the deletion of the standard super pod nose cones. This then forces the build of only a Senior Ruby updated aircraft from this kit.

Other new parts found only in the "Senior Span" kit relate to very early airframes, also. These include an alternate tail top without any ECM fairing, an alternate ADF antenna for the spine, and alternate/different style ECM pods for the wing tips. Expect to see a very early U-2R released from Italeri at some point in the future.

The Testor "Lockheed TR-1A" and Italeri "Sky Patrol" kits are both comprised of 85 pieces. The "Senior Span" kit deletes 5 pieces from the kit associated to the two-seat option and the standard super pod nose cones. It then adds 41 pieces to the kit on a new sprue that provides all the new airframe upgrades, bringing the count of pieces up to 121 in the "Senior Span" release. Everything is molded in black styrene (with clear canopy pieces). I would prefer the more standard gray colored plastic because the black color makes it hard to see molded details and imperfections, but I had to make due with what Italeri provided.

 

Italeri Box Art
Italeri Box Art
Kit Sprues
"Senior Span" Kit Sprues

 

 

 

Cutting Edge 1/48 Scale U-2 Update Sets

 

I used six different Cutting Edge update sets on this model as shown in the following pictures. I have some personal pictures I took at the 1996 Andrews AFB air show of a Senior Span/Spur/Spear U-2S and wanted to build that same aircraft. These sets provided me all the necessary updates to do this (and then some). Indeed, Dave Klaus at Cutting Edge confirmed to me once that this exact aircraft (from the 1996 Andrews AFB air show) was a major source for the documentation that went into the Cutting Edge Senior Span/Spur/Spear update set and ASARS II nose.

 

Senior Span/Spur/Spear Set (CEC48104)
Senior Span/Spur/Spear Set
(CEC48104)
ASARS II Nose (CEC48106)
ASARS II Nose
(CEC48106)
Cockpit Set (CEC48409)
Cockpit Set
(CEC48409)
Wing Correction Set (CEC48441)
Wing Correction Set
(CEC48441)
Fuselage Update Set (CEC48442)
Fuselage Update Set
(CEC48442)
Engine Exhaust Set (CEC48443)
Engine Exhaust Set
(CEC48443)

 

All the sets are quite nice. For full reviews of each set, click on the photos above.

At this point, you might be trying to add up the cost in your head for all these sets. Let me help you out. Altogether, these sets amount to just over $100.00 USD (as calculated from the prices listed on the Meteor Productions web site). Add some Cutting Edge decals (which I did for my model) and the cost rounds out to about $110.00 USD. All this is for a kit that you can find at swap meets for about $12.00 USD (the early, non-Senior Span releases).

Whether all this is worth it for any kit is a decision between each modeler and his wallet. For me, the answer is, "Yes, absolutely".

Your opinion may vary, though.

 

 

Construction Begins

 

I started tinkering with this kit almost five years ago. When push came to shove and I was ready to start work on the fuselage, I found the kit cockpit rather simplistic and lacking in details. I figured that I could start scratch building a new cockpit, or I could put off building the kit in hopes that someone would release a resin cockpit update. A brief talk with Dave at Cutting Edge confirmed they eventually were going to do a cockpit set. So, I re-boxed the kit and placed it on the "inactive pile" to await a resin cockpit set.

Now, roll the clocks ahead four and a half years.

Eventually, Cutting Edge released the U-2R resin cockpit update set. It is a really great cockpit set and immediately had me wanting to dig out the old U-2 kit which was still sitting in the "inactive pile" in my closet. Check out my cockpit review to see how easily the resin cockpit dropped into the kit. By the time I had finished writing the cockpit review, I already had the cockpit integrated into the U-2 kit and ready for paint.

 

Cockpit
Cockpit
Ejection Seat
Ejection Seat
Main Instrument Panel
Main Instrument Panel

 

From photographs, U-2R (and presumably U-2S / TR-1A) cockpits appear to be Dark Gull Gray (F.S.36231). I painted the entire cockpit in this color, then picked off the instrument panels with Interior Black. Various details were painted yellow and red and I dry brushed the whole cockpit in Light Ghost Gray (F.S.36375). Pictures showed the ejection seat to be black, so I painted the whole thing in Interior Black. The rear cushion is a green-gray color and the lower cushion appears to be black leather. I painted the seat harnesses in Light Ghost Gray (F.S.36375). I know -- cloth items do not have F.S. numbers for color, but I find this color best captures the color of the sort-of metallic looking silver/gray cloth from which many seat harnesses are made.

With the cockpit painted, I mounted it inside the right fuselage half.

 

Cockpit
Cockpit
Ejection Seat
Ejection Seat
Main Instrument Panel
Main Instrument Panel

 

Cockpit with Ejection Seat

 

Next, I turned my attentions to the main wheel bay. The Italeri representation of this area is complete fiction. The kit piece is not even deep enough to hold the wheels if they retracted. Fixing this shortcoming lead me down the path that eventually had me scratch-build a new wheel bay and provide it to Cutting Edge so they could use it in thier U-2R/S Fuselage Update set.

I removed the slag from the Cutting Edge wheel bay unit and painted it according to the colors stated on the instruction sheet. For the weird light greenish color, I was speaking with a friend in my model club, Ed. He said the color reminded him of the green color in the new Israeli camouflage (like on the F-15I). I had to agree, although I had not made that connection myself. I compared this color (F.S.34424) to the color pictures I have, and sure enough, it was a pretty close match. Hence, the areas of the wheel bay and the engine intakes that required this color were painted using F.S.34424 from the old Floquil Military Colors paint line.

Referring to documentation pictures, I added some varying colors of wiring to the bay that were not part of the cast piece. Because the wires stand well away form any of the inner surfaces, having them cast in place was not feasible and still look right to me. Using pre-colored ignition wires for 1/24th scale car models, the job of wiring the wheel bay went fast. There are flashed-over holes in both bulkheads of the wheel bay to assist in holding the wiring in place. I just re-drilled these open and added the pre-colored wiring to match what I saw in the pictures.

The following series of pictures traces the wheel bay from raw resin to installed wheel bay.

 

Unpainted Wheel Bay
Unpainted Wheel Bay
Unpainted Wheel Bay
Unpainted Wheel Bay
Painted Wheel Bay
Painted Wheel Bay
Painted Wheel Bay
Painted Wheel Bay
Completed Wheel Bay
Completed Wheel Bay
Completed Wheel Bay
Completed Wheel Bay
Completed Wheel Bay - Installed
Completed Wheel Bay - Installed
Completed Wheel Bay - Installed
Completed Wheel Bay - Installed

 

The only detail items on the U-2R/S airframe not covered in the Cutting Edge update sets are the speed brakes. They did ask me to create a set for these, but the complexities of creating all the piping in the wells and still have it be cast-able got the best of me. I found myself drifting away from the project because I did not want to deal with it. I decided to drop the idea of creating masters and just created some speed brake details for myself. Sorry guys...

I completely cut away the kit-provided speed brake wells and scratch-built new ones from sheet and strip styrene. I detailed the new wells using assorted sizes of brass and copper wire. The speed brake wells on the U-2R/S are not really "wells" and are more "bays". That is to say they really do not have walls to box them off. They are backing walls with assorted ribbing and plumbing that are mostly open all the way around the speed brake opening on the fuselage. The images below show the completed wells before and after painting.

 

Left Speed Brake Wells - Unpainted
Left Speed Brake Wells - Unpainted
Right Speed Brake Wells - Unpainted
Right Speed Brake Wells - Unpainted
Left Speed Brake Wells - Painted
Left Speed Brake Wells - Painted
Right Speed Brake Wells - Painted
Right Speed Brake Wells - Painted

 

With the bays completed, I used my Dremel tool to remove the kit-molded details inside the speed brake doors. I rebuilt the details using more sheet and strip styrene. With the doors done, I could then measure the precise length for the brake actuators and scratch-built these from styrene rod and brass wire. All painted and finished, the final speed brakes looked much better than the kit-molded version.

 

Installed Left Speed Brake
Installed Left Speed Brake

 

The engine on the U-2 is buried deep inside the airframe with a rather lengthy tail pipe to reach all the way to the engine exhaust point under the vertical tail. The kit piece for the tail pipe is about 1/4" deep and includes details on the inside that are intended to represent the rear turbines of the engine. Cutting Edge's exhaust pipe corrects this area of the the kit with a unit providing a much more realistic depth to the engine exhaust.

I painted and installed the replacement engine exhaust following the Cutting Edge instructions.

The kit tail landing gear strut needed some minor detailing added to represent the rigging used to steer the aircraft when it is on the ground. I added these details and installed the strut into the wheel well that is molded as part of the engine exhaust piece.

 

Engine Exhaust
Engine Exhaust
Tail Wheel Well
Tail Wheel Well

 

With all the update sets installed, the inside of the fuselage was getting to be a very busy place. I finally could assemble the fuselage and move on to other areas of the model.

 

Fuselage Interior, Prior to Assembly

 

This completed my major construction work inside the fuselage. I had a lot more to do to the exterior of the fuselage and big plans for the wings, so I decided these areas deserved their own posting to describe what I did. Look for the fuselage completion, the wing construction, and the assembly of the complete airframe in part two of my U-2S "Senior Span/Spur" project postings.

 

 

References

 

(Newest to Oldest)

  • U-2R/S Walk Around by David W Aungst
    On-Line HyperScale Reference, 2003

  • U-2: The Second Generation by Chris Pocock
    World Airpower Journal, Volume 28, AirTime Publishing, 1997

  • Dragon Lady by Ted Carlson / Toyokazu Matsuzaki
    Koku-Fan Magazine, Volume 1996-04, Bunrin-Do Company, Limited, 1996

  • Recce Tech by Paul F Crickmore
    Osprey Color Series, Osprey Aerospace Publishing, 1989

  • U-2 Spyplane in Action by Larry Davis
    , Squadron In Action #86, Squadron Publishing, 1988/2002

  • Lockheed U-2R/TR-1 by Jay Miller
    AeroFax MiniGraph #28, AeroFax, Inc., 1988

  • Lockheed U-2 by Jay Miller
    AeroFax AeroGraph #3, AeroFax, Inc., 1983

 


Model, Description and Images Copyright 2003 by David Aungst
Page Created 26 May, 2003
Last Updated 25 March, 2004

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