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"Rat 55" NT-43A Build


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Posted (edited)

Hi everyone,

     A little while back I decided to tackle the 1/72nd BPK T-43 kit. For those who haven't seen the kit, it is a nicely done short run kit of Boeing's 737-200. It is mostly injection molded, but does have some photo etch, and resin details, along with paint masks. It is a short run kit, so some experience will be necessary and you will have to trim everything to fit. 

     I've always liked the 737/T-43 and when BPK released the kit I had to have one! In the process of starting the kit I was doing some research, and came across a strange beast known as "Rat 55". I have a thing for airliner and cargo type aircraft with all sorts of electronic lumps and bumps all over them..... don't ask me why..... I have no idea. When I saw "Rat 55", I knew that I had to build it! Research shows that it is a one of a kind highly modified T-43 that was pulled out of the Boneyard in the late 90's and fitted with large radars in the nose and tail among other modifications. The aircraft is used by the USAF to test the radar signature of stealth aircraft. It is often used in the Death Valley area of California due to the area's topography and low incidence of "stray" radar returns. It is thought to be based at Groom Lake, Nevada, but reports vary.

     For an aircraft that's been around for close to two decades there just aren't too many photo's available. The aircraft seems to be quite secretive. SO, I will state this up front: This is a Mk 1 eyeball build! The only references that I was able to find with exact measurements were, thankfully, the size of the front and rear radar radomes. Everything else will be eyeballed from photo's, many of which aren't of the best quality. Feel free to point out anything that I may have missed, but please keep in mind that a lot of what I do will be a best guess.

     I hadn't originally planned on doing a build thread, but several folks suggested that I do, so why not. I did not take any pictures of the kit before I started it, so the pics start in the early stages of the build. I do have a couple more of the BPK 737 kits enroute, and will take pics of one of them when they arrive. Also, I'm about a third of the way through the build now, but will start with my earliest pics and commentary until I catch up to where I actually am, so you can follow the build easier.  Lets start with a couple of photo's of "Rat 55". Thanks for having a peek at this thread! Fred K.

T-43A 75-155 AFMC.jpg

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Posted (edited)

So this is where my pics start. The first thing that I did was to try to figure out what to make the huge nose and tail radomes out of. I had already glued the T-43's normal nose radome in place and filled it with lead. While rummaging through my spares bins, I came across the exhaust section from a 48th scale Hasegawa F-16A. After a little trimming and test fitting it fit quite nicely! As you can see in the background, I already had built up the cockpit. More later.... Fred K.

rsz_rsz_220200507_111152.jpg

Edited by f5guy
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Posted (edited)

My original plan was to use the exhaust tube section from the same F-16 kit to make the long nose radome. Here's what that looked like.

rsz_20200507_113020.jpg

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Posted (edited)

I added a wooden jewelry bead to make the radome. However, in the end, I wasn't happy with how it was turning out, so I scrapped that idea. I had used plastic coin tubes in the past for exhaust tubes, so I tracked some of those down at the local craft store and the nickle size was just about right. Now came the tough part.... what to use for the round part of the radome that would really be round? The wooden bead was definitely not symmetrical! I thought about a ball bearing, which would be fine for the nose as I needed the weight anyway, but it would be far too heavy for the tail.

 

One of my other past times is that I love to fish. So my brain started thinking about a round nose lure that I could cut up. But I couldn't think of one. On a trip to the local store I made a pass through their fishing section, and lo and behold I came across a pack of bobbers of various sizes. One of them looked like it might work, so $2 later I was out the door!

 

Once I got home I cut the smallest bobber in the pack in half and it was almost a perfect fit! It being plastic, I glued it right on to the cut down coin tube. More later.... Fred K.

 

rsz_1rsz_11rsz_20200604_141112.jpg

Edited by f5guy
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Posted (edited)

The revised nose packed with as much lead shot and 5 minute epoxy as I could get in it.

rsz_1rsz_20200521_224946.jpg

Edited by f5guy
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Nice work Fred  :thumbsup2:

 

I had started to gather pictures of this bird with a view to building one. I have the BPK kit as well but thought I may do mine in 1/144 scale

 

Anyway, I'm watching with interest

 

:popcorn:

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2 hours ago, Trojan Thunder said:

Nice work Fred  :thumbsup2:

 

I had started to gather pictures of this bird with a view to building one. I have the BPK kit as well but thought I may do mine in 1/144 scale

 

Anyway, I'm watching with interest

 

:popcorn:

 

Thanks for the encouragement! This build is definitely outside of my normal realm, but I am enjoying it very much! Stay tuned, Fred K.

 

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You gotta love those aircraft that have been turned into electric porcupines with antennae all over them!

 

 

HAJO

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More progress. The wings and stabilizers are together. No real issues, I just had to file the edges down to get a good fit.

rsz_1rsz_20200513_161050.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Time to add the windows. They fit pretty good, but I did try to remove my left thumb with an Xacto blade. Thankfully no hospital visit was required, but it was close!

rsz_1rsz_120200508_031944.jpg

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Posted (edited)

The windows are in, and the ones that I need to keep are taped over. I did have to add a little bit of strip styrene in a couple of spots, but otherwise had no issues.

rsz_1rsz_20200513_160934.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Last pic for the day. I decided to start work on the tail empennage. It was made using Evergreen tubing with a larger diameter at the top, and a smaller at the bottom. Pictures of the real aircraft show that it is wider at the top. Again the radome was made from a nickle coin tube and the other half of the fishing bobber. The base of the radome was again an exhaust part from a 48th Hasegawa F-16A out of my spares bin that I rounded the edge off of. The normal APU section of the 737 was left off and replaced with the tubing. I angled the second half of the upper tube up slightly as it appears to be slightly higher in photos. All for now ;0) Fred.

rsz_1rsz_20200521_224200.jpg

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Posted (edited)

So I got a little ahead of myself on the last post. Before I glued the fuselage halves together and started on the tail empennage, I first added what I believe to be an APU to the left side of the aircraft near the rear of the windows. I was taking a guess from one or two blurry photos as to the size and location of the APU. I used a brass tube, cut it down, and installed it in a previously drilled hole. Later I found another, better quality photo and discovered that the APU exhaust is slightly oval in shape, and not round as I have it. Oh well... too late now!

rsz_1rsz_20200514_174740.jpg

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Posted (edited)

After filing the joint side of the fuselage halves, they were glued together. Fit was okay, but I did decided to reinforce the joints with some Evergreen sheet plastic cut into strips and pressed into liquid glue (MEK actually). This made the joints very strong.

 

One thing that I'd like to point out is that you will need to make the cut outs for the nose gear well in the fuselage halves and clear nose section, and install the nose gear box before you add the clear nose section. The instruction sheet does not tell you to make the cut outs at all, but later tells you to add the nose gear box once the clear nose has already been added several steps earlier. There is no way that the nose gear box will fit in once clear nose section is glued on, but that is what the instructions tell you to do. Do yourself a favor and add the gear box early!

rsz_1rsz_20200514_165117.jpg

Edited by f5guy
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Posted (edited)

So now back to the tail empennage.....   I glued the radar section on to the Evergreen tube. Specifications on the internet state that the empennage measured 19 feet long. I measured out 19 feet using my scale ruler from where the rear empennage on the 737 usually starts. After getting everything glued up it became quite apparent that it was too short. I looked at the pics some more an realized that the 19 foot empannage must have started at the very end of the aircraft. So I cut the radar section off and ran into another problem: the Evergreen tubing was interfering with the horizontal stabilizers.

rsz_1rsz_20200522_031946.jpg

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Posted (edited)

I had to cut down the girth of the tubing to get the stabilizers to fit properly.

rsz_1rsz_20200526_001143.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Next came rebuilding the the tubing to extend it, but I had to be mindful to keep it thin enough to not interfere with the stabilizers. I added five scale feet to the length of the empennage to compensate for the standard 737 rear section.  In the end it looked like something from Dr. Frakenstiens laboratory! However, the length looked much better and measured out at 24 scale feet (19 + 5) Despite the look it is quite strong, light weight, and is all going to be covered by Milliput anyway! At the last second I decided to add the turkey feather section of the 48th scale Hasegawa F-16 that I had cut the exhaust section from. In retrospect I think that the shape would have looked better had I left it off. All for now. Fred.

rsz_1rsz_20200526_012610.jpg

Edited by f5guy
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Very interesting subject Fred. Great work so far "thinking outside the box."

Will she require a lot of weight in the nose, not to become a tail sitter or, will the nose mod be enough ?

 

Steve

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Fred, I know that the added tail readome is hollow, but don't forget to add a little weight to the nose.  I've made that mistake more than once.  Just saying. K/r, Dutch

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Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, A-10 LOADER said:

Very interesting subject Fred. Great work so far "thinking outside the box."

Will she require a lot of weight in the nose, not to become a tail sitter or, will the nose mod be enough ?

 

Steve

 

Hi Steve,

       I'm not taking any chances with it being a tail sitter, so I packed the entire nose section with lead shot and epoxy. I do believe that it will be enough, but there is still some room beneath the cockpit section to drill an "emergency" weight hole if I have to add more. Due to the added weight, I also reinforced the nose gear box to support the extra weight. I will post a pic of that in a later update. Thanks for checking in ;0) Fred.

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