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Sunday, April 3, 2016

MPM Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet

You'll often find me working on an experimental type or prototype version of an aircraft. I'm especially fond of the many dead ends of aviation history; things that seemed like a good idea at the time, but have us shaking our heads decades later. Such is today's completion, the Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet, an attempt at a light weight, tailless fighter. It is not quite a flying wing, but the tail surfaces are minimized. A last minute engine change in the design process meant that the fuselage is pretty bulbous, however.

Development began in the early war period, and a design was test flown in 1943. After the destruction of the first prototype (which blew out a tire on a high speed test run), a second was built with a bit more tail to help cure some of the instability that testing had revealed. Still, the aircraft exhibited a litany of bad habits, and technology eventually passed it by when it was obvious that the jet was going to be the engine of the future. In 1946 the program was shut down.

In 2001 MPM released a 1:72 kit of the Black Bullet. It wasn't as sharply molded as later MPM kits, but it did have an injected canopy, always a good thing in my book. A couple of the parts, including the wing intakes, are produced in resin, but it is mostly plastic. Detailling is good enough, though nothing super, and the parts went together pretty well too. I did manage to lose the decals somewhere along the line; national insignia was no issue, but I had to find an alternative for the tail codes.

I found out one thing I never knew: apparently the N1M flying wing was built as a test bed for some of the XP-56's concepts. That is interesting because Planet's resin kit of the N1M is on short finals for my workbench.

It's not a tiny aircraft (like, say, the XF-85 Goblin) but no one will mistake it for a B-17 either. The props were probably the most difficult part, since the attachment points were vague. I drilled holes for the fore props and used the slightly indented lines on the hub to guide the aft ones. After I took the photos below, I noted that I had not yet attached the antenna onto the upper canopy. I'll have to do that the next time I'm inside that particular display case.

This is completed aircraft #454 (#20 for the year), finished in March of 2016.

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