Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird with D-21
This model is a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird with a D-21 drone attached. While this is something of a "what-if" model, I imagine a lot of people end up building it this way. Despite all the models that have come out with the D-21 drone attached to the SR-71, the drone never flew on an SR-71. All those pictured are of a D-21 attached to an M-21.
You can look up the history of Operation Tagboard online, but the short of it is they used a modified A-12, the predecessor to the SR-71, as the mothership. They named the Drone the D-21 and the mothership the M-21. They had three successful launches of the D-21 before they had a fatal accident. During the fourth launch, the drone tipped over and hit the mothership. The crew ejected just fine, but the back seat observer drowned in his pressure suit while at sea. After that, they cancelled all launches from the M-21 and switched to using a booster rocket and launching it from a B-52.
The program progressed slowly and had limited success for a while, however satellite technology improved dramatically and made the D-21 program unnecessary. The resulting D-21s were mothballed and ended up going to various museums over time. Not a very good start to the US reconnaissance program.
Why not an M-21?
So, why didn't I make it an M-21? After all, the M-21 and SR-71 look very similar. Well, it's because of lack of information. I didn't have much more to go off than the Wikipedia articles, so I didn't want to just wing it. I would also have to make some new decals for the model, and without good references, the model just wouldn't have turned out good enough for me.
That being said, I figured that I could do what just about everyone else does and make it as shown on the box. I mean, an SR-71 with a drone on the top of it is pretty cool looking. I also figure that if I ever decide to switch it back, I easily patch up the top of the SR-71 and you'd never know. I might do that when I have more UAVs built.
So, for now I'll just leave this as a 'what could have been' model. It still looks cool. This is also one of the biggest 1/72 scale models I have. It was pretty easy to build, and the paint scheme wasn't that challenging. I mean, how much easier can you get than 'all black'?
Why was this in the Stealth section?
That's a good question. You see, Lockheed felt that they could reduce the radar signature of the plane by using some new stealth technologies. It didn't work out as well as the hoped, but it was the first attempt at making a stealthy plane. So, because of that, I figured that this would be a good addition to the Stealth list.