Very Gerry Anderson! A real plane that seems to have stepped out of a “Thunderbirds” movie!
“Very Gerry Anderson”: this comment could be read in a model building forum where this model building project was presented. After a short pause for reflection and some research I soon realized how accurate this comment is. The VJ 101 really seems to have originated from one of the legendary “Thunderbird” movies, which once enjoyed great popularity with its puppet actors!
But the background to this futuristic design was very real: At the end of the 50s, the development of a VTOL fighter, in the nomenclature of the time still called “fighter”, was put out to competition in Germany. The companies Messerschmitt, Heinkel and Bölkow finally united their efforts in the “Entwicklungsring Süd” to design a vertical take-off and landing as well as supersonic fast fighter aircraft. Just how ambitious their plans were is revealed by the plan to use the VJ 101 series aircraft as the successor to the F-104 Starfighter.
Development and testing appear to have progressed relatively quickly and successfully. The first supersonic flight was carried out in 1964. Although one of the two prototypes crashed shortly after due to the failure of a flight controller, the concept of a supersonic VTOL fighter of this design seemed to be successful in principle.
This remains astonishing, considering that the first truly series-produced supersonic fast prototype in the form of the contemporary Lockheed Martin F-35B was still a few decades away.
However, the VJ 101 was to remain a pure experimental aircraft. After 1968, flight testing was discontinued and project development ended soon after. The surviving VJ 101C X-2 can be admired today as an impressive exhibit in the Technical Museum in Munich.
The Ukrainian manufacturer A&A seems to have specialized in rare aircraft types and prototypes. This alone is enough to please, but in addition to this, this kit also has the ambition to bring a well-equipped and carefully planned model to the market. For illustration: the ejector seat alone consists of 11 parts! When building the engine nacelles you should also take your time to appreciate the complex and detailed construction.
Points on the minus side are mostly due to the short run nature of the kit. The fitting accuracy is more than extendable in some parts and the detailing of clearly visible areas such as the undercarriage/chassis legs justifies the desire for more precise and less washed-out contours. In this sense it would have been nice to be able to build the nose wheel with its own component and not, as here, with a cast-on rim/tyre.
All in all, the model builder is called upon to think and improvise in all construction steps. The pleasure of working with putty and sanding material also helps to positively master this thoroughly worthwhile model building project.
The building instructions must be studied carefully, and a thorough research of models is also recommended. The instructions require, for example, the attachment of a rear measuring probe, which was only attached to the X-2. As a result the thickening at the rudder must be sanded down – a necessity I learned about from the helpful advice of a model building colleague. Unfortunately only after finishing the painting, but you can’t always choose that
To sum up, I would like to draw a consistently positive balance. Thanks to A&A, a whole “small” world of prototypes and rare birds is open to you, bringing colour into the showcase and – perhaps more importantly – onto the workbench in a number of ways. This manufacturer has really done a decent job here, without boring the model maker with a casual “no fuss” kit where there is nothing to learn.
The VJ 101 has not only expanded my knowledge of the history of technology, but has also given me a new dictum: “very Gerry Anderson- indeed!
10 additional images. Click to enlarge.