Big Supersonic Jets
Myasishchev M-50 – North American XB-70 – Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde
Last time we looked at the early days of aviation when the force of war created new advances in technology very quickly. This time I thought we’d move to the other extreme and look at the development of large jet powered aircraft capable of flying faster than the speed of sound. Many smaller aircraft, such as fighters, routinely exceed the speed of sound but not large aircraft. Perhaps this is because it is much more difficult to fly large aircraft so fast or perhaps it is because of the enormous financial cost of making large aircraft fly so fast. While all three aircraft we’re looking at could sustain very high speeds, none of them was a success and all now are museum pieces.
Myasishchev M-50 in 1/144 by Anigrand
This aircraft was a high speed long range strategic bomber developed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The prototype made its first flight in October 1959. It has a maximum speed of 1,950km/h, a cruising speed of 1,500kmh and a service ceiling of 16,300m (54,100ft). Only one M-50 was built and it made its final flight at the annual Tushino air show in Russia, causing quite a stir in the West. A more advanced version, the M-52, was built but never flown. Neither were put into production because the introduction of ICBMs made them obsolete. The M-50 is currently on display at the Mroina Museum outside Moscow.
This model was made using the Anigrand 1/144 resin kit, which comes with three additional and smaller ‘bonus’ kits. I wrote a Workbench Note of this kit you can read. I found no great difficulty in making it but perhaps it is not the kind of thing that most modellers are used to putting together. You can find a review of this kit on the Cybermodeler Online site. MicroMir have shown 3D renders of a kit they are proposing to publish which might be as better bet when it is released. If you prefer 1/72 scale there is an Amodel kit that was published in 2007 which Cybermodeler Online recommends for those ‘with experience in limited run kits’.
North American XB-70 in 1/144 by Anigrand
This aircraft was a high speed long range strategic bomber developed in the United States in the 1950s. The prototype made its first flight in September 1964. It had a maximum speed of 1,787km/h, a cruising speed of 1,738km/h and a service ceiling of 23,580m (77,350ft). It was expected this performance would put it out of reach of defending fighters but the introduction of Russian anti-aircraft missile defenses in the 1960s made it obsolete so only two were built. One was destroyed in an accident in June 1966 and the other was used to test high speed flight until it was retired in February 1969. It is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
This model was also made using the 1/144 Anigrand resin kit which also comes with three smaller resin ‘bonus’ kits. I found this a rather enjoyable build, the kit is simple enough but more than adequate for this scale. There is an excellent build review on the IPMS/USA websites that says everything I would say about this kit, only better. In 1/72 scale there is an AMT/Ertl/Italeri kit which is legendary for the amount of filler it needs. It is not impossible to build but, boy, is it big. The review of it in Fine Scale Modeler also summarized my thoughts on this kit well when it says ‘There’s nothing complicated about the assembly, but making everything fit seamlessly will require experience.’
Aerospatiale/BAC Concorde in 1/144 by Airfix
This aircraft was a jointly designed and built French and British supersonic air transport. Studies began in 1956, France and Britain signed a treaty to build the Concorde in 1962 and the first flight took place in March 1969. Although there was a predicted market for 350 Concordes and airlines took out options for about 100, the economics of Concorde operations and concerns about its environmental impact meant only 20 were eventually built. They flew for Air France and British Airways, mainly on trans-Atlantic services, but occasionally on other routes including one flown jointly with Singapore Airlines to Singapore. They were withdrawn from service in 2003 and seventeen are now on display in museums in Europe and North America.
This model was made from the Airfix kit. There are two versions of this kit, one of the prototype which was first published in 1966 and re-released in 2021, and one of the production aircraft first published in 1977 and re-released many times since. I liked this kit, it went together relatively easily and, like the other two models I’m mentioning this time, it is relatively simple but more than adequate for its scale. The other kit you are most likely to come across is the Revell one which was first published in 1983. The review of it in Modelling Madness is generally positive but when I set out to build a Concorde in this scale I decided I thought the Airfix kit was slightly better. In 1/72 your only option is the kit released jointly by Heller and Airfix in 2004, and Revell in 2015. The review in Fine Scale Modeler points out most of this kit’s many problems but also says why the pain and struggle is worthwhile, ‘Arguably the most beautiful aircraft to rise from a runway’.