Kit No. 8619
Decals: One version – U.S. Air Force test aircraft
Comments: Engraved panel lines, flush rivet detail, variable geometry wings, optional position canopy
The Bell X-5 was the first aircraft capable of adjusting the position of its wings in flight. This unusual research plane was based on the design of a swept-wing German fighter captured at the end of World War II — the Messerschmitt P.1101. The X-5 is distinguishable from the P.1101 in two ways: the P.1101 was never fully operational, and its wings could only be adjusted while the aircraft was on the ground. In contrast, the X-5 made hundreds of test flights, and could vary the sweep of its wings in flight using a complex series of electric motors.
The mission of the X-5 was to perform supersonic flight research and test the feasibility and aerodynamic effect of movable wings in flight. Testing of the new plane began on June 20, 1951, and its pilots soon learned they could outperform their chase planes by the varying the angle of the X-5’s wings. Several unique problems were resolved in the X-5’s design. To adjust for a change in the center of gravity during wing positioning, the wings would move forward along the fuselage while the wingtips were sweeping to the rear.
A streamlined “glove” blended the wing root into the fuselage at any sweep position, reducing turbulence and drag. Although designed as a fighter, it had no armament for the duration of its test period. The X-5 never achieved supersonic speed, but it did provide abundant data from research yielded from 200 high-speed sub-sonic flights approaching the speed of sound (Mach 0.9). Although the performance of the X-5 was not outstanding, the technical knowledge gained from flight testing its advanced design led to the development of such exceptional aircraft as the F-111, the F-14 Tomcat, and the Rockwell B-1 bomber. Only two X-5’s were built. One was destroyed in the October 14, 1953 crash at Edwards Air Force Base that killed test pilot Captain Ray Popson. The second continued the flight test program until 1955 and is now on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
Wingspan: 33 ft. 6 in. (extended); 20 ft. 9 in. (at full sweep)
Length: 33 ft. 4 in.
Powerplant: One Allison J-45-A-17A of 4,900 lbs. thrust
Performance: Maximum speed: 705 mph
Service ceiling: 45,000 feet
Range: 1000 miles
Initially released by Revell in 1960, the Bell X-5 kit was re-released in 1982 along with a series of other historic kits appropriately dubbed “The History Makers.” Revell’s Bell X-5 is molded in white and consists of 56 parts. It was ahead of its time in that it featured engraved panel lines, flushed rivet detail, and a fully detailed internal jet engine along with functioning swing wings. The only give-aways as to the kit’s true age are the spartan cockpit tub and the pilot figure, which is crudely molded even by the standards of the mid- to late-1960’s.
The decals are standard national insignia and serial number for a U.S. Air Force Bell X-5. They appear to be thin and of good quality, but there is some variation in the shade of blue between the national insignia for the wings, and those for the fuselage, which may or may not be noticeable on the finished model.
This is an interesting kit of a first attempt at a new airframe design that paved the way to the XF10 Jaguar, the F-111, F-14 and the Tornado. An historic kit of the first variable geometry aircraft built in the United States, notable for its engraved panel lines. Highly recommended.