Kit No. 8620
Decals: One version – U.S. Air Force
Comments: Old mold; 1982 “History Makers” re-issue of a 1950’s kit
The lance-like Douglas X-3 flew for the first time on October 15, 1952, taking off from the desert strip at Edwards Air Force Base in California. This experimental jet aircraft was built as a testing platform to probe conditions found in supersonic flight, and to investigate the design features of an aircraft capable of supersonic speed for an extended period. One of these features was the use of titanium in major components of the airframe. While the X-1 and X -2 were supersonic rocket-powered aircraft, their motors could only run for about four minutes, and the planes had to be launched from a larger aircraft. The X-3, however, was designed to use two turbojet engines which would permit a normal take-off and landing in addition to sustained high-speed flight.
The initial plan was for the X-3’s engines to be capable of 7,000 lbs of thrust, but the contemplated powerplant, the Westinghouse J46 turbojet, could not perform to that specification. Unfortunately, the powerful engines originally planned for the sleek jet had to be abandoned, and smaller J34 engines of only 4,900 lbs of thrust were installed. The result was that although the X-3 was designed for Mach 3 flight, once operational it was significantly underpowered. Its small engines could barely nudge it past the speed of sound, and even then only in a dive — it could not achieve supersonic speed in level flight. Nevertheless, the X-3 provided valuable information on the use of diamond-shaped airfoils and titanium structures, which proved useful in the development of subsequent supersonic aircraft.
The X-3 had an unusually high take-off speed of 299 mph, but in flight it was underpowered and difficult to control. The X-3’s fastest flight, on July 28, 1953, achieved a speed of Mach 2.03 in a thrity degree dive. Plans to re-engine the X-3 with rocket motors like its X-1 and X-2 predecessors, were contemplated but later dropped, and the craft had an abbreviated testing program. The X-3 was retired from service in May 1956, but much of the flight and design data that it generated were later used by the Lockheed design team during the development of the F-104 Starfighter.
Wingspan: 22 feet, 8 inches
Length: 66 feet, 9 inches
Powerplant: Two Westinghouse XJ34-WE17 turbojets of 4,200 lbs. thrust with afterburners
Maximum recorded speed: 650 mph in level flight; Mach 1 could be achieved in a shallow dive.
Maximum recorded altitude: 35,000 feet
Revell’s X-3 is molded in white and consists of 28 injection molded parts. This kit is from an older mold and like many Revell kits dating back to the 1950’s, contains raised detail where the decals are to be placed, perhaps to give the modeler the option of painting on the markings instead. The kit features raised panel lines and a surprisingly detailed but still not quite well-formed pilot figure, given the age of the kit.
This is a great kit from the classic era of Revell’s 1950’s kits, that despite its lack of detail continues to have appeal due to its historic significance.