North American F-107A Ultra Sabre by Trumpeter
Kit No. 1605
Decals: Three versions - all U.S. Air Force prototypes
Comments: Crisp detail, engraved panel lines
Developed by North American Aviation in the mid-1950's, the F-107 was the company's entry into an U.S. Air Force competition for a supersonic air superiority fighter with fighter-bomber capabilities. Design work began in June 1953 and was initially based on the F-100 Super Sabre and designated the F-100B, but the airframe came to incorporate so many innovations that it evolved into an entirely new design and was dubbed the F-107. It was the final member of North American's Sabre line of jets, and among its innovations was a semi-recessed weapons bay, an automated flight control system and a variable area inlet duct (VAID).
The dorsally mounted VAID was the aircraft's most distinguishing feature. While the VAID was a system unique to the F-107A, it was an early form of a variable geometry intake ramp which automatically controlled the amount of air fed into the jet engine. Although the preliminary design of the air intake was originally located in a chin position under the F-107's fuselage (an arrangement later adopted for the F-16), the air intake was eventually mounted in an unconventional position directly above and just behind the cockpit -- leading flight crews to sometimes refer to the aircraft as "the man-eater." The VAID system proved to be very efficient and North American later used the design on their A-5 Vigilante, XB-70 Valkyrie, and XF-108 Rapier aircraft designs.
The intake was mounted in a dorsal position above and behind the cockpit due to an Air Force specification that the new fighter-bomber carry a nuclear weapon in a recessed position in the belly; the original chin intake created a shock wave that interfered with launching the weapon. The position of the intake also raised the question of a pilot's chances of survival during ejection, should it become necessary. It also limited the pilot's visibility to the rear, although this last flaw was not considered terribly important at the time, for in the 1950's it was believed that fighters would only engage one another with air-to-air missiles from beyond visual range. The U.S. Air Force signed a contract for three prototypes in June 1954.
The first F-107A (serial number 55-5118) took its maiden flight on September 10, 1956 at Edwards AFB, with North American Aviation test pilot Bob Baker at the controls. It went supersonic on its first flight, attaining a speed of Mach 1.03. The F-107 reached Mach 2 on November 3, 1956. With its high speed and numerous design innovations, it was a promising aircraft, but the F-107 ultimately lost out to the Republic F-105 as the Air Force's standard tactical fighter-bomber in 1957.
Thereafter the F-107 was relegated to aerodynamic testing duties. There is some controversy about whether the F-107 was ever officially named. Some sources (Trumpeter included) claim it was designated the Ultra Sabre, while others maintain that at least unofficially it was dubbed "the Super Super Sabre," a reference to its parent aircraft, North American's F-100. The first and third F-107A's were turned over to NACA for high speed flight testing work. One of these (serial number 55119) was subsquently donated to the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio.
Wingspan: 36 ft. 7 in.
Length: 61 ft. 8 in.
Height: 19 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 40,000 lbs.
Armament: Four 20mm cannon
Powerplant: Pratt & Whitney J75 turbojet rated at 23,500 lbs. thrust with afterburner
Maximum speed: Mach 2
Crusing speed: 700 mph (Mach 0.91)
Range: 1,200 miles
Service ceiling: 50,000 feet
Trumpeter's F-107 is molded in grey plastic and consists of 62 injection molded parts. The cockpit is fairly well detailed with a five-part ejection seat, raised detail on the main instrument panel, and a separately molded control stick. There are also separately molded dive brakes and flaps. The landing gear are pretty well detailed, but the wheel wells are bare, and the variable air inlet duct over the cockpit is faithfully recreated. The instructions bear a helpful paint guide for nearly all the parts in both English and Chinese, but for some reason they omit the fact that most of the aircraft has an aluminim or natural metal finish. Another omission worth noting is that this kit does not include any color plates of the aircraft, but does include a small bit of history on the box. Overall, a nicely detailed, accurate kit of a Cold War fighter that might have been.