On The Bench


Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS - Build Review
Freedom Models (FD18001)
Scale: 1/48

Started:    October 2014
Finished:  January 2015

Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS

The U.S. Navys X-47B Unmanned Combat AirSystem (UCAS) program was designed to demonstrate the ability of a tailless, fighter-sized unmanned aircraft to land on and be launched from the flght deck of a Navy aircraft carrier while underway at sea, one of the most challenging aviation environments.

Under a contract awarded in August 2007 by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), Northrop Grumman designed, produced and is flight testing two autonomous, low-observable relevant demonstrator aircraft designated the X-47B UCAS.

In 2013, the company used these aircraft to demonstrate the following “firsts” for unmanned jet-powered aviation:
• First catapult launch from the deck of an aircraft carrier
• First arrested landing, or “trap,” on the deck of an aircraft carrier

Completion of these historical events meant that all carrier demonstration objectives had been met. However, the Navy decided to keep the X-47Bs fling to learn more about, and reduce risk for, unmanned carrier aviation.

To date, the X-47B has conducted operations aboard three different aircraft carriers: USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). In addition, the capability to conduct autonomous aerial refueling has been developed utilizing a surrogate aircraft, in anticipation of demonstrating the refueling of an X-47B in flght.

The successful X-47B flght test program is setting the stage for the development of a more permanent, carrier based fleet of unmanned aircraft.

Modeling Reference Material
During my build I discovered several online resources that you may find useful:

Photos, Videos and Reference Information about the X-47B Other Online Model Builds/Reviews of the Freedom Models X-47B UCAS kit

Thoughts on Building the Freedom Models X-47B UCAS
Freedom Models is a relatively new entrant in the plastic scale modeling market and for their debut kit they chose to model a subject that I found both interesting and topical, the Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS in 1/48.

As a kit, the X-47B has been done before in 1/72 by Platz but never before in 1/48. Being an unmanned drone the X-47B seems (like most unmanned aircraft) to polarise the modeling community into those that love it and those that hate it. I definitely fall into the first camp. I find the concept of both remote piloted and now autonomous combat/recon aircraft to be a fascinating subject for modelers.

Upon first opening the box I noted that the main fuselage parts had that subtle "orange peel" roughness to the surface. This I have found is quite common with kits manufactured in China and is similar to what you would find in recent Kittyhawk or Kinetic boxings. The roughness is easily dealt with by some light sanding which is no drama on the X-47B as its a very streamlined shape. Of course being a drone there is no cockpit to contend with, which means the build proceeds a lot quicker than your more traditional aircraft build. I found the general fit of the parts to be excellent requiring little or no filler. A small photo etch fret is provided and unlike other manufacturers, Freedom have sensibly provided parts in PE that make benefit from the scale thinness afforded by brass which you just can't reproduce in plastic, the wiring loom in the wingfold is a good example.

A feature of the kit that I thought was above average was the instructions. I really like the way Freedom have provided clear diagrams of how parts should be aligned to each other which is of great help when assembling the model. Freedom have clearly done their homework and it shows in the details. The inclusion of options to fold or unfold the wings, open of close the bomb bays and several "what if" decal options for possible future carrier deployments are testiment to the effort that went into this kit by the Freedom team.

If I had to pick one thing I would like to see Freedom improve it would be the decals. Not in terms of accuracy (although I did smile when I saw one of the stencils said "BEWERE OF BLAST") but in terms of the thickness of the decal material itself. Compared to high quality decals from the likes of Cartograph (which these days you get even in a $10 Airfix kit) the box decals for the X-47B are very thick. The decals did perform well and responded to setting solution but I found myself cutting away as much of the thick clear carrier film as possible.

Overall I'd rate this kit an 8/10. It's an interesting subject, it's been well researched, it's been properly engineered with sensible parts breakdown and the assembly/painting instructions are clear.

The Build
The following photos and comments relate to my build of the Freedom Models X-47B which I chose to model as the 2014 demonstrator used in carrier trials. As the build is relatively simple I have taken a slightly different path for this build report. Typically I document my builds in chronological order (ie the order in which I do things, which is almost never strictly as the instructions specify) but this time I have used the kit assembly sequence as the ordering for the build report.

As a die hard aircraft modeler it feels odd starting a new model and not doing the cockpit first. Step one however this time around was the nose undercarriage. Options are provided for you to display the catapult arm in the raised or lowered position. This is a nice touch by Freedom and lends itself to those that want to display the model ready for a launch. I had other plans so went with part E5 rather than E6.
There is room to add some detailing to the kit parts, mainly in the form of cabling and hydraulic lines. As this picture shows, the nose wheel strut is quite complicated (more so than normal aircraft I think) and perhaps this is because of the extra gear required to remotely steer the machine.
I added some small amount of details to the nose gear in the form of lead wiring and enhanced some of the bolt heads using my Historex Agents hex punch set. The PE tie down rings and the launch bar actuator rods shown here are provided in the kit (another nice touch by Freedom)
A quick test fit of the completed nose gear assembly confirmed that it could be left till the end to be fitted to the main airframe. The undercarriage bays are pretty sparse but two things stopped me from adding extra detail here: a) I had no useful reference photos and b) I have decided that pouring hours into detailing parts that will almost never be seen on the finished model is not productive.
Painting of the landing gear is pretty straightforward, a black undercoat followed by a couple of coats of white (in my case Tamiya White Primer which I find covers very well). The details were picked out by hand using Vallejo paints and the chrome oleo strut is fitted with some Bare Metal foil (Chrome)
A final oil wash of Davys Grey over the white sections (landing gear, wheel well and wheel hub) completes this step.
Step 2 has two stages. Stage 2.1 deals with the right hand main landing gear whilst 2.2 deals with the left. Optional Photo Etch tie down rings can be used here. The correct alignment of part E21 for the right MLG (and E20 on the left MLG) is best handled by dry fitting the main strut to the undercarriage bay and then gluing part E21/E20 to the strut to ensure the correct angle is achieved.
A good overall view of the undercarriage shows us the colors, cabling details and general sit of the aircraft on the undercarriage. Never trust a model manufacturer too much, always use your own reference to double check even the most basic of things. Happily Freedom Models has done a good job here.
Reference photos show us the location of hydraulic lines as well as the use of color variations in the lines themselves. This photo is also useful to show the correct alignment of the bay doors when we get to that point.
The main landing gear strut and main support had some visible ejection pin marks that I dealt with using plastic card discs (glued then sanded flush). Like the nose gear I have added some hydraulic lines from 0.3mm lead wire and assorted hex bolt heads using my Historex Agents punch set.
The kit tires have no tread (the real tires have a standard tread pattern). MustHaveModels have recently released a set of resin replacement wheels which do provide a tread pattern.
Here we see the parts being test fitted in the wheel well. The parts were left in place while the glue dried to ensure the correct angle was achieved on the support strut (part E21).
With both MLGs complete a final test fit into the wheel wells to make sure the general alignment is accurate and that both sides are even, after all we don't want the finished model to sit lop-sided and now is the best time to check so we can correct it if any problems are found.
During my recent builds I have taken to base coating cockpits, wheel wells and assorted accessories (like landing gear) in black. It may seem a little counter intuitive to prime a part that is to be white with black but it actually works well because it helps to give the white some depth rather than being too stark (which can happen to white if not toned down in some fashion). For the X-47 landing gear I have used Tamiya NATO Black XF69.
A couple of coats of white have been applied to the landing gear. I have been experimenting with different whites to see which one provides the best coverage and for now have settled on Tamiya White Primer which is only available in a rattle can. I don't like rattle cans and so prefer to decant the cans contents into a normal bottle for use in my airbrush. The Tamiya White Primer is very hardy and covers very well in only one or two applications which means you don't need to build up several coats to avoid the transparent effect.
Once the white is dry its time for some final detail painting on the landing gear. Vallejo paints are my favorite for brush painting as seen here on the hydraulic lines. Most every modern aircraft has some for of shock absorbing strut built into the landing gear. The piston in the strut is often visible and typically a very shiny chrome finish. The best way to simulate this I have found is to use a small strip of self adhesive Bare-Metal Foil (Chrome) wrapped around the strut. It's easy to use and looks very convincing. For metal parts that need to be hand painted I like to use the metallic colors in the Citadel paints range.
The wheels and tires have been painted (Tamiya Rubber Black XF85 + Tamiya White Primer). I normally paint the black first then mask off the hub with Tamiya tape cut using a cirular scribing template and then apply the white. The detail in the wheel hubs has been accentuated with a light wash of Davy's Grey oil paint.
A view of the finished port MLG fixed to the main airframe during final assembly.
Here we see all three landing gear assemblies fixed into place on the final model. To ensure a very strong bond I like to use two part epoxy glue for any load bearing parts like undercarriage.
Steps 3.1 and 3.2 cover off the assembly of the left and right wings. Due to the unique shape of the X-47's fuselage the wings themselves are quite stubby. Air brakes (or spoilers) are fitted to the top of each wing and when the wings are folded the airbrakes droop open with gravity making for an interesting feature on the model.
A useful study of the wings in the folded position. Note that because power is applied the hydraulic systems are pressurised and the air brakes are closed. When powered down the air brakes open with gravity and hang down below the folded wings.
Both wings are easily assembled with a minimum of fuss. The fit is good and only the seams on the edges need sanding when dry. The ailerons seem to always be in the neutral position and the the inner end of the wing contains the support bracket for the wingfold. If you plan to display the wings unfolded be sure to consult the instructions as the parts needed are different than shown here.
A close in view of the port wing upper surface. Note the small circular PE disc in the center of the air brake recess. I am not sure why Freedom provided this as PE because it is used to cover a hole in the recess which I assume was originally molded inaccurately (perhaps for an actuator ??) and rather than remove it they simply provided a cover in PE. Also note that I have filled the panel line on the aileron. I repeated this on both top and bottom of both ailerons and flaps. Based on photos of the real X-47 I could no see evidence of any panel lines here.
The air brake recess and wingfold have been masked and sprayed with Tamiya Primer White.
Painting and decaling on the wings is now complete. Its a pity that with the wings folded most of the nice detail provided here will be hard to see on the finished model. Its a nice touch by Freedom that the decals which touch the navigation lights have a small cut out which helps to position the decal correctly and means you do not have to fuss around with getting the decal to sit over the raised detail. The only final touches needed on these parts are to paint the navigation lights (Mr Color Clear Red and Green) and apply some weathering (with pastel chalk) to the leading edge of the ailerons to simulate wear and tear of the moving parts.
Here we see the folded wings on the finished model. Note the open air brake and the pastel chalk weathering applied to the front of the aileron. This weathering is to simulate scuff marks left by the movement of the aileron in flight.
A good shot of the wings showing the folded angles as well as the red and green nav lights on the tips.
Step 4 involves the assembly of the intake and exhaust trunking. This configuration is about as simple as it gets for jet aircraft models with a top and bottom and two internal "plugs" for the front and rear of the engine.
From experience I know that it will be virtually impossible to mask this type of intake once the parts are assembled. Instead I have pre-painted the bottom portion of the intake trunking and pre-masked it. I now need to make sure that when I glue the top and bottom (C1 to B1) together that I do not get any glue seeping inside (to ruin the paint). The front face of the engine has been painted Alclad Aluminium and the rear section of the exhaust painted basic black.
Rather than follow the assembly sequence in the instructions to the letter it was now that I deviated based on experience. I knew that if I glued the intake parts together at this point and then tried to mate them to the fuselage it would be challenging to get a clean join. So instead I first glued the top of the intake (part C1) to the upper fuselage (part A1). This allowed me easy access to clean up, paint and mask this area prior to mating the bottom of the intake trunking and then closing up the fuselage. Step 1 is to glue and fill the seam between the parts C1 and A1. Tamiya Basic Putty does the job.
Step 2 is to sand the seam and check with a coat of grey primer (Alclad Grey primer in my case).
Step 3 is to paint the interior white and then mask off using Tamiya tape. This assembly is now ready for mating with parts B1 and then to A3.
Step 5.1 involves mating the intake/exhaust assembly with the fuselage and closing it all up.
The shape and contours of the nose of the X-47B is quite distinctive. To minimise radar reflections it is desirable to eliminate all panel lines or sharp edges on the nose. The kit seems to accurately reproduce the complex compound curves of the area in and around the intake inlet.
The fit of part B1 to the triangular hole in the top fuselage is pretty good but the lip on the intake part does not allow it to rise up enough to meet the fuselage and a small step is the result. No panel lines or steps are evident on the real aircraft so I needed to do some adjusting and trimming here to eliminate as much of the step as possible before gluing.
The first task in minimising the step is to remove the alignment lip from the intake part. With this removed it is possible to now lift the part up higher to better match up with the forward fuselage. It would be possible to just glue the two together and then use filler to eradicate the step but that somehow seems like even more work.
With the lip removed its time to join the lower intake (B1) to the upper fuselage. As I had already painted the interior of the intake and exhaust trunking I did not want to risk the chance of any glue seeping inside of the join and potentially ruin the paint. So rather than running glue along the join like I normally would do I used a series of plasticard braces along the length of the two parts to glue them together. These braces had the glue on them and therefore I did not need to apply glue to the seam itself. It seemed to work ok so score one for lateral thinking I guess.
With the nose parts now glued together I needed to sand the curved nose section in front of the intake to match the contours of the real aircraft. This photo provides a good side view of what this needs to look like.
After much sanding and a little filling with super glue and a strip of 10thou card the nose cross section looked about right to me. The seams and panel lines were removed completely from the section of the model.
This angle shows how the pre-masked intake interior looked after the parts were mated together. I have used some damp tissue paper to fill up the intake hole and act as a cheap masking material. A small amount of Milliput has been used on the very front of the join to blend the top and bottom together. Take a moment and imagine how difficult would be to achieve this masking once the intake was assembled like this ...
Many times its only under a coat or primer that we really find out how our efforts have turned out. I was very happy with how the shaping of the nose curves had ended up. Notice that I have rounded out the curve at the very front of the bulge. This was much more pointed out of the box which did not match up well with photos of the aircraft.
With all the nose work complete to my satisfaction it was time to glue the top and bottom fuselage parts together. She was finally starting to look like an X-47. The fit was very good and the clamps are really only needed as a precaution while the glue sets.
The exhaust was masked after assembly mainly because it was far more accessible than the intake would have been. This will be later sprayed with Alcald metaliser and masked off prior to main painting.
Steps 5.2 and 5.3 cover the assembly of the landing gear bay doors.
Each hinge bracket is supplied as a separate part which are glued to the relevant door. Proceed carefully here as many of the parts look the same but have subtly different angles that can impact the fit and alignment of the door when attached to main airframe later on. To assist with holding the parts for painting I like to use some Tamiya tape wrapped to form double sided tape. This is stuck to some spare cardboard and the door then stuck to the tape. Very solid and alleviates the mess.
Being a USN aircraft the gear bays are white and so is the inside of the doors. First step is to paint them white (again Tamiya White Primer has been used).
Another feature of most USN aircraft is the use of safety red on the edges of all gear doors (and often other protruding airframe parts). A light coat of red was applied over the white around the edges. This red was subsequently masked off and the white was touched up to cover the red oversrpay.
The finished gear doors make a colorful addition to the otherwise very gray model.
Step 5.4 focuses on the assembly of the lower antennae and gear bay details (such as they are). Parts E8 (left & right) are installed in the main gear bays and provide the attachment points for the support struts on the landing gear themselves.
With all the relevant antennae attached to the lower surface (at the appropriate angle to the fuselage) I also spent a little time adding some ribbing detail to the tail hook bay. This just looked so bare that I felt it needed something so I used my imagination as no picture showing the interior were available.
Step 5.4 continues with the remainder of the lower surfaces assembly. If like me you plan to close the bomb bay doors now is the time to do that. The flaps can be attached and I preferred to leave the undercarriage legs/ doors plus the tail hook off until all major painting was complete. As mentioned at the start of this article I like the attention to detail that Freedom has included in the instructions by providing the small callout diagrams on the side showing mostly how things should be aligned and closeups of how things fit together. This helps take the guess work out. One tip I would offer is that you should also leave the two pitots (E3 or P1 in photo etch) off until the very end as they are very prone to breakage (don't ask me how I know this).
I captured this photo from a youtube video of the tailhook testing. It was about the only way I could get at least some form of reference. Notice the wiring attached to the surface of the hook body. Also note that the tailhook bay is not painted white (well it does not look white to me in this or any of the other photos I could find).
Another photo captured from a video. This time the X-47 control surfaces are being put thru a self test and as the flaps are fully deployed I hit pause. Notice the 3 white sections on the leading edge of the flap which are very visible when its extended. My guess is that these correspond to the hinge points on the flap. As I planned to drop the flaps on my X-47 I wanted to try and re-produce this interesting detail.
The fit of the bomb bay doors was pretty good, especially considering the complex curvature of these parts. Freedom did a good job of getting this right. Still, I found that the gap at the rear join on both bomb bay doors was too wide for my taste and so I filled the join with super glue and then re-scribed the panel lines. Here you can see I am using my favorite Pactra vinyl tape as a guide for the scriber.
I did not want to "goto town" on the tailhook but decided that some effort was warranted as I planned to show the hook in the down position. Here you can see some 0.3mm lead wire attached to the hook and the hook being test fitted to the airframe. This view also affords us a good shot of the basic ribbing I created inside the bay itself to add a little interest.
Like the ailerons, I filled the panel lines on the flap and then used some Verlinden scribing templates to help create the three hinge covers as seen in the photo above. These would later be painted white and weathered to match photos of the X-47.
The tailhook has yet to have the cabling painted but the base white has been done. The black bands on the rear section are actually decals supplied in the kit. I used these instead of masking and spraying black because I thought it would give me a better result. Trying to mask the small undercut edges of the part would have been quite challenging.
Steps 6.1 thru 6.3 relate to the assembly of the model with the bomb bay open. I have seen several builds done this way but as I wanted to reproduce the carrier trials configuration of the aircraft this did not interest me. The kit provides two GBU-31 JDAMs and the doors can be fitted to the bay in the open position. The bomb bay itself has some basic ribbing detail provided.
Step 7 covers the upper fuselage assembly (mostly antennae) and for those that do not plan to fold the wings, this will be the final assembly step.
One thing to be mindful of when attaching the antennae is that they all need to be aligned to the part of the fuselage that they sit on. For the antenna on the centerline, they sit perfectly vertical, for those on the curve sections they need to sit vertical to the curved surface etc. This means the antennae are not symmetrical so make sure you check your reference photos or they will look odd. I also added some small punched discs to enhance the kit round antenna on the spine. These need to be raised off the surface and 15 thou card seemed about right to my eye.
Step 8.1 is only used if you decide to fold the wings (like me). The wingfold provided by Freedom is quite detailed and the icing on the cake is the addition of a PE part for the flexible ribbon cabling that runs between the two wing parts.
The wingfold on the X-47 is fairly simple and Freedom have captured pretty much all the detail you need in a 1/48 model.
A little trimming and shaping was needed to get a glove tight fit of the wingfold parts in the wing but I wanted this to be tight so a strong bond was formed with glue. This is the port wing fold. The one thing I would have liked to see was longer fingers on the three mounting points so they extended deeper into the folded section of the wing/ This would offer more strength and a more positive attachment point.
The same wingfold (port) as seen from the bottom. Once glued into the wing the parts are very strong. Despite my misgivings in the end the wingfold was more than string enough when I attached the wingtips using super glue.
Step 8.2 is the final step in the kit assembly. I left the wing tips off until the very end and they were in fact the last thing I attached the finished model.
The completed wingfold viewed from the bottom. Note the fine photo etch wiring ribbon between the two wing sections. Tamiya White Primer was again used and a light wash of Davy's Grey oil paint to highlight the detail and give a slightly grimy appearance.
You can paint the X-47B any color you want as long as its USN Light Ghost Grey. Like most aircraft in the lo-viz area we need to get creative with our painting lest we end up with a bland, lifeless gray hunk of plastic. It's quite a challenge actually and I have tried most of the methods to try and achieve that almost elusive "realistic" look on my models. Like all creative endeavours in life you never really master it (well most of us anyway) and I certainly continue to try new things in search of the perfect result.
Freedom Models have provided us with markings for both X-47B evaluation airframes (501 and 502) as well as a bunch of alternate carrier airwing options for those wanting to have a crack at a what-if scheme.
With the assembly complete and the intake and exhaust masked off its time for a coat of primer. My favourite primer is Alclad Grey Primer. A quick check for any blemishes is made before moving onto the next paint layer.
The bottom also received a coat of grey primer. I paid particular attention to the area around the bomb bay doors where I had done some sanding and re-scribing.
As I had done just recently with my F-15DJ I decided to use a black base coat over which the light grey top coat could be built upon. For this coat I have used Tamiya NATO Black thinned with Mr Color Leveling Thinners which helps produce a lovely smooth finish.
As I was applying the top coat of Mr Color C306 as per the Freedom instructions two things happened. Firstly I decided that C306 was too dark when applied over the black and perhaps it was because I was not paying attention that I managed to spill the contents of my airbrush color cup onto the nose of the model. This made a mess of course (accompanied by a few choice words) and I quickly wiped away the majority of the liquid paint and then sensibly set the whole model aside to dry overnight. If I have learned one thing over the years its that you never try and "fix" anything to do with paint while its wet. Leave it alone, let it harden and then deal with it.
Next evening, when the paint was dry it was time to attack it with some sanding pads. I took the paint all the way back to the plastic and then feathered the edges of the various paint layers in an effort to blend the whole thing together. It did occur to me how lucky I was that this model was in fact a UAV with no cockpit because this mess would have ended up exactly on top of the cockpit otherwise. !!
Back to square one, out with the Alclad Primer and another coat to check my work.
I took the opportunity to reboot the top coat application as well by re-applying my black base coat. From looking at photos of the X-47 I noticed that certain panels were less grimey than others and it occurred to me that I could possibly reproduce this look by masking off these panels now and applying a base coat of the final C306 color, not a lighter or darker color but the actual top color itself.
So now we had the two tone base coat with black for the sections I wanted to be the most grimey and C306 for the panels I wanted to appear cleaner. Normally I would simply spray the top color over the whole model and then post fade with a lightened mix of the top color those selected panels but I like to try new things because you often surprise yourself and find a better (or alternate) way of doing things.
Next up was the application of the Mr Color C306 coat. Although its subtle you can clearly see the effect I was going for with the "cleaner" panels. The photo does not show it very well due to the flash lighting flattening the model surface but the patchwork effect is more pronounced on the model than is evident here.
The wheel wells were now masked up and Tamiya White Primer applied.
Wishing to create more variance in the paint finish I loaded up the airbrush with a very thin mix of C306 + White. This was sprayed across the surface and particularly in the center of panels to accentuate the fading effect. I next picked up a bottle of C307 (a different shade of grey) and used this to simulate random "repair" on the airframe as often evident on USN aircraft. One I was happy with the overall effect I proceeded to mask up and paint the assorted lumps and bumps on the airframe including the wingfolds and antennae.
Much like the upper surface the bottom received detail painting and restrained paint fading as this part of the airframe is less exposed the sun but it does get more grimey, which we deal with later on. At this point the painting was pretty much complete.
The decal sheet is quite comprehensive and accurate with several options available to the modeler. As mentioned previously I had already settled on making my model as close to the carrier trial configuration as possible. My only concern at this point was how thick the decals looked on the sheet.
First step before any decaling occurs is to apply a thin coat of gloss clear. My preferred option here is Future floor polish. When airbrushing Future I normally thin with Tamiya Acrylic thinner as it gives me better control of the Future as it leaves the brush. When the gloss coat is dry decaling proceeded as normal. Unfortunately the decals not only looked thick on the sheet but were indeed quite thick once I started to put them on the model. I therefore did as much as I could to remove any visible clear carrier film from around each decal, especially the larger ones on the wings and main airframe.
Another view of the completed topside decaling. Note the quite visibly thick clear carrier film on the NAVY decal closest to the camera. In hindsight I should have cut each letter from the decal and applied it separately to achieve a better result. Live and learn I guess.
The lower surfaces have far less decals than the top (as is normal).
Leaving the decals to set overnight it was time for a panel wash. Before the panel wash its an important step to seal the decals under another light coat of clear gloss. The panel wash I chose to use here was my normal Model Master Burnt Umber. If you would like more details on this technique I have written a "step by step" article here.
The panel wash looks very messy at this point but have no fear it cleans off easily with a soft cloth dipped in white spirit. Its important to select a panel wash color that does not overpower the model surface as this becomes distracting to the eye.
In the bottom of most aircraft you can go a bit harder with the wash and be less particular with the clean up. The helps make the undersurface look more grimey than the top. Note that I did not use this Burnt Umber wash in the white wheel wells or wingfolds, preferring instead to use a more subtle Davy's Grey oil wash later on.
The home straight. The excess panel wash has been cleaned up and panel lines now look sharp and help bring the surface of the model to life. Many modelers don't like panel washes as they claim the real aircraft does not have visible panel lines or rivets. In the case of the X-47 that is not the case and almost any photos of the real aircraft show they have gotten quite grotty already.
The bottom looks much more busy now that we can see the panel and rivet detail. Once we have applied a final flat coat I will apply a light oil wash to make this section look dirty. Take note of the highlighting in the wheel wells. This is result of the very useful Davy's Grey oil wash which does an excellent job of reproducing shadow type effects on light colors like white.
The last weathering task is to use some pastel chalk to reproduce the smudge marks evident on the flaps and ailerons. This looks to me to be the result of the flaps rubbing against seals inside the wing and is quite distinctive on all photos.
With the painting and weathering now complete the final task is to assemble the various sub-assemblies like wingtips and undercarriage. The following few photos show the completed model.
In addition to building the Freedom Models X-47B I also wanted to add some context for the aircraft with a small vignette base. I find that a couple of figures to give some scale and a suitable base is often all that is needed. This photo gave me enough inspiration as I already had the SkunkWorks deck tractor in my stash and all that was needed was a couple of 1/48 deck crew figures.
The deck tractor is a fairly simple machine and having good reference photos makes the task a lot easier when figuring out detailed colors and configuration for our model.
The Skunkmodels tractor is part of kit #48005 and readily available from LuckyModel.
A small modification was need to the tractor to allow it to fit the X-47's nose wheel width. Some 20 thou card extensions allowed me to get the desired width and height without much fuss.
Assembly of the tractor is trouble free and took about 20 mins in total.
Painting instructions in the kit match almost exactly with the reference photos I had of this style of tractor. Stencil decals are also provided in the kit.
A coat of Tamiya NATO Black has been masked in preparation for the white top coat.
Tamiya White Primer covers the black easily and provides a durable finish for further weathering stages.
Detail hand painting using Vallejo and Citadel paints has been completed and decals have also been applied. All that remains now is to dirty her up with some washes and add some accessories (chains and chocks).
Figures are not my favourite modeling subject, however they are an important part of the overall result I am aiming for, so I do my best. In this case I selected two figures, one from CMK and the other Verlinden. I've had the CMK figures for some time and never really liked the look of them, something was not quite right and I never managed to put my finger on why. When I stood the CMK figure next to his Verlinden colleague it struck me that the CMK figures legs were out of proportion to his torso. To correct (or adjust) this I cut his legs and removed about 3mm and rejoined them. This made him look better and in proportion to the Verlinden figure.
Painting is progressing mainly by hand with Vallejo acrylics.
The final layout I chose to display the X-47B on the deck with tractor and figures. I think it all came together pretty well. The deck itself is another example of pre-printed cardboard by Uschi Van Der Rosten. The chains and wheel chocks are from the spares draw.

So thats my first completion for 2015. I'm really happy with how it all turned out (even the figures). Freedom Models has done a great job with their debut kit and I look forward to seeing whats next from them in terms of aircraft. I hope they continue how they started with subjects that are a little off the beaten track. Heaven knows the modeling world needs more variety.

For more photos of the finished model jump over to the Gallery.