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MPM's XP-56 "Black Bullet"

1/72 scale

by Fabian Vera


In 1939 Louis K. Johnson, Assistant to the USA War Secretary, distributed 6 million dollars among five companies as an incentive for the development of a new and radical single seat fighter. The Army Air Corps named this project as the "R-40C", and only three companies had the resources to develop and build their prototype. Vultee proposed the XP-54 "Swoose Goose"; Curtiss named his as XP-55 "Ascender", and Northrop opted for the XP-56 "Black Bullet", (our subject for this note).


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The XP-56 wasn't a successful airplane, in fact, the whole program was a failure because it never reached its expectations. But it gave Northrop the opportunity to use new materials (magnesium), as well as the development of new and revolutionary ways to construct airplanes.

There were only two prototypes built. The first of them (our subject) was destroyed when the landing gear failed during high speed take off testing.

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 The pilot survived to the accident, but the plane wasn't repaired because the second prototype (with the appropriate corrections and improvements) was ready to fly.

The kit

When we see a kit of an experimental, or prototype, airplane that didn't succeed, comes to our mind the idea of putting our money and efforts in another airplane with a relevant presence in history. Well, this is a special case because we are not talking about a relevant model, this is out of the question; but it had a lot to do in the first stages of the development of what is nowadays, the most revolutionary strategic bomber in the world, we're talking about the B-2 "Spirit".

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The first thing that called my attention was the picture of the real plane as the "box art" (like in the old Esci kits), which gives us the historical reference of this model. Then I opened the box and revised the plastic parts (around fifty) with their very finely engraved panel detailing; the transparent cockpit, and the resin parts (five), that completes our model.

The instruction manual


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The building process is very simple, due to the fit of the parts which is so good that we barely needed some very small amounts of putty here and there. As an advise, it is better to glue the vertical fins to the fuselage halves (that is, 12 to 1 and 13 to 29) as a first step, because that way it will be a lot easier to clean the joint line along the fuselage. The cockpit interior is very simple, with the added detail of the radio equipment, made out of resin.

The fit for the air intakes, and the wing radiators (resin parts), is very good; all you have to do is a little filing in the rear surplus (hidden) in order for the parts not to touch the landing gear wells, which are separate from the wings.

The weak point is the spinner for the counter rotating propeller. The problem is that it comes in a single piece, with the openings for the propeller in such a position, that it takes away the idea of "motion", proper to this model.

Once the assembly was finished, we began with the painting job which is not very complicated. And we finally get to the decals, which are excellent, very thin, and with an outstandingly exact print; even those markings with a red fillet, which is very finely printed and without the common "blurred definition".

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There are many brands commercializing "rare" kits, and this is due to the fact that the modeler who is looking for a very particular "subject", doesn't have the chance to be "picky" about the model quality. Well, in this special case we must say that MPM has done a remarkable job with this model. We are in the presence of an exclusive and unique kit (no other brand manufactures it), with a very high quality level. A beautiful "flying wing".


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