Out of the black - Rockwell F-120 Strike Sabre

Started by CammNut, July 30, 2018, 04:24:56 PM

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In the early 1980s, sensing its days as a leading combat aircraft manufacturer would soon begin to wane, Rockwell International took a bold step. At that time, the U.S. Air Force was beginning its search for an F-111 replacement. Buoyed with revenues from building the B-1B, Rockwell approached the Air Force with an unusual offer: it would use company funds to build a prototype fighter if the USAF agreed to test the aircraft in secret. If the Air Force did not like the design, it would remain forever secret. If it passed the tests, Rockwell would openly compete with Boeing's F-15 Strike Eagle and General Dynamics' F-16XL for the Dual-Role Fighter (DRF) requirement to replace the F-111.

The Air Force accepted the offer and two prototypes were built, then put through their paces in the secrecy of Area 51. To conceal its existence, the aircraft was given a cover designation from the series used by the Air Force for classified projects - a sequence that included the YF-113 (various MiGs), YF-117A (the F-117) and YF-118G (Boeing's Bird of Prey). Rockwell's private-venture fighter became the YF-120A. The fight tests went well - so well that Rockwell went public with the aircraft, entered the DRF competition and won, it's once-secret fighter becoming the F-120 Strike Sabre.

The aircraft won because of its combination of large internal fuel capacity, heavy external load capability and the high manoeuvrability enabled by two-dimensional thrust vectoring using flaps in the jet exhaust.

I have often wondered whether any of the VF-series of "variable fighters" from the Macross anime series could be made into a "realistic" whiff, but most of them seem too extreme to be de-cartooned and turned into a feasible-looking fighter. But then Wave of Japan produced an injection-moulded model of the VF-4 Lightning III. I saw potential.

The kit is snap-together, and here it is, snapped together minus the bits I wouldn't need.

The first step was to cut the rocket pods off the top of the engine nacelles, and add a new radome:

Then I extended to wing aft to form a "beaver tail" between the nacelles:

And, finally, I built up wing leading-edge root extensions that faired into the forward fuselage:

With the addition of tall, all-moving vertical tails, an underfuselage targeting pod, underwing pylons for eight (!) GBU-12 laser-guided bombs, rails for AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles on the nacelles, and a coat of paint:

The color scheme is modelled on an F-15E, but decals are a hodgepodge mix from the spares box:

In the VF-4, the F-18-style trailing-link landing gear retracts into the nacelles, which makes it very short. I cut new gear bays into the wing center section, just inboard of the nacelles, and used straight landing legs from an English Electric Lightning.


Yes indeed, I like that a LOT!  :thumbsup:

The changes you've made have improved it greatly, well done.
Kit's Rule 1 ) Any aircraft can be improved by fitting longer wings, and/or a longer fuselage
Kit's Rule 2) The backstory can always be changed to suit the model

...and I'm not a closeted 'Take That' fan, I'm a REAL fan! :)


The Rat

"My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives." Hedley Lamarr, Blazing Saddles

Life is too short to worry about perfection

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Paper Kosmonaut

That is a very pretty and pleasing looking airplane. My compliments.
dei t dut mout t waiten!


I love the idea of scaling back a futuristic fighter into something a little more "today".  Usually it's the other way around.  I think you've accomplished what you set out to do in spades.  I totally believed it.  :thumbsup:



That's just awesome! I thought you'd completely scratched one of the first ATF concepts as I know one - can't remember whose - had a beavertail very similar to that.

Bravo. That is an inspired, very plausible, and fantastically-executed piece of work.
Zac in NZ
#avgeek, modelbuilder, photographer, writer. Callsign: "HANDBAG"


Quote from: KiwiZac on July 30, 2018, 10:49:02 PM
That's just awesome! I thought you'd completely scratched one of the first ATF concepts as I know one - can't remember whose - had a beavertail very similar to that.

Rockwell themselves!  Check out the wind-tunnel models at the bottom of the page:


Very nice conversion, this looks excellent!  :thumbsup:


Will die without understanding this world.


That looks really good!  Nice work!   :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Clicking on the posted Rockwell link, I found this - just in case someone needs some ideas.  ;)

Thistle dew, Pig - thistle dew!

Where am I going?  And why am I in a handbasket?

It's dark in the dark when it's dark. Ancient Ogre Proverb

"All right, boyz - the plan iz 'Win.'  And if ya lose, it's yer own fault 'coz ya didn't follow the plan."



- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


Thanks everyone - and, yes, Rockwell's ATF has always been a favorite of mine and was an inspiration here


OH MAN!!!! I purchased two of these models so I could do EXACTLY what you did!!!



Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.