Kit No. 5247
Decals: One version – U.S. Air Force
Comments: Former Monogram kit; includes display stand, auxiliary fuel tanks, and standing pilot figure
Built by North American Aviation and Reaction Motors in the late 1950’s to determine if manned aircraft could safely achieve speeds of up to Mach 6 (4,520 mph) and reach altitudes of 100,000 feet, the X-15 took its maiden flight on September 17, 1959. One of the more famous of the X-series of experimental research aircraft that began with the Bell X-1, it was flown by NASA and U.S. Air Force pilots in the 1960’s who achieved speed and altitude records that in some cases remain unbroken today. The X-15 flew at the edge of space and brought back valuable data that was incorporated into future aircraft and spacecraft design.
During the X-15 program, eight of its pilots met the Air Force spaceflight criteria by flying at the altitude of 50 miles high (264,000 feet). Some X-15 pilots qualified for NASA astronaut wings, including future astronaut Neil Armstrong. Armstrong actually made the 3rd fastest recorded flight in an X-15 on July 26, 1962, achieving a speed of 3,989 mph at an altitude of 18.7 miles. For all flights above 264,000 feet, pilots were awarded the coveted astronaut wings.
Initially, the Air Force and the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) planned an orbital spacecraft version of the X-15, the X-15B, that would be launched into space on top of an SM-64 Navajo missile. The X-15B was cancelled in July 1958 when NACA became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the plan for manned spaceflight took the form of Project Mercury.
Three X-15s were built and made a total of 199 test flights from September 1959 to October 1968, each time launching from beneath the wing of an airborne B-52 bomber. This practice saved the X-15’s precious fuel for speed and altitude tests. The first glide-drop was made on July 24, 1959, and the first powered flight on September 17 of that year, when the X-15 immediately exceeded Mach 2. By the end of the program in 1968, all three X-15’s had flown at Mach 6 and climbed to an altitude of 354,200 feet, both unofficial world records — only because the X-15 did not take off under its own power.
The X-15 depicted by this kit is on display at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. It was nearly destroyed in a crash landing on November 9, 1962, but was rebuilt with a longer fuselage and redesignated X-15A-2. A pair of giant fuel tanks could be strapped onto the new version to extend its powered flight. This aircraft set the world speed record on October 3, 1967, reaching a speed of 4, 520 mph. That was the 199th and last X-15 flight, in an impressive series of tests that ultimately led to the successful development of the space shuttle.
- Crew: one
- Length: 50 ft 9 in (15.45 meters)
- Wingspan: 22 ft 4 in (6.8 meters)
- Height: 13 ft 6 in (4.12 meters)
- Wing area: 200 ft² (18.6 meters²)
- Empty weight: 14,600 lb (6,620 kg)
- Loaded weight: 34,000 lb (15,420 kg)
- Maximum takeoff weight: 34,000 lb (15,420 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Thiokol XLR99-RM-2 liquid-fuel rocket engine, 70,400 lbf at 30 km (313 kN)
- Maximum speed: Mach 6.70 (4,520 mph / 7,274 km/h)
- Range: 280 mi (450 km)
- Service ceiling: 67 mi (354,330 ft / 108 km)
- Rate of climb: 60,000 ft/min (18,288 m/min)
- Wing loading: 170 lb/ft² (829 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 2.07
Revell’s X-15 is molded in gray, sports raised panel lines, and consists of 36 parts, including a two-piece display stand and four parts for the large auxiliary fuel tanks. There is molded detail on the instrument panel as well as the cockpit tub. The landing gear that can be omitted if the display stand is used. There are parts affixed to the tail for pumps that bleed off either ammonia or hydrogen from the engine. In general, this kit has the look of a “weekend kit” given its relatively few parts and straightforward assembly instructions. Interestingly, this version of the X-15 has a windshield on only one side of the canopy frame. There is an option for the more familiar flat black paint scheme, as well as the scheme of flat white heat-resistant paint employed during the October 3, 1967 flight that broke the world speed record. Parts are provided for the scramjet mounted beneath the lower fin for that record-breaking flight.
This X-15 provides a nice blend of detail and simplicity for a truly historic aircraft model. Highly recommended.