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Starship Modeler: Two-seat X-Wing Conversion

I've had the old MPC X-Wing kit (the larger, maybe 1:48 scale one) in my closet gathering dust for years. I've intended to build it for the longest time - but every time I've pulled it out, I see all the flaws that need correcting , sigh, and put it back.

No more.

The idea for a conversion came to me one night during a conversation about kitbashing and conversions - and came to life a day or so later after reading a series of posts on rec.models.scale about various other folk's ideas for non-standard X-wings. I had considered building a two seat 'trainer' variant, then changing the markings to illustrate a ship bought/captured by some third-rate, backwater warlord using it as a fighter/attack craft. After reading descriptions of the two-place 'Raider' fighter, and seeing some stock footage on CNN of an EA-6B on DENY FLIGHT duty, I decided to build a specialized Electronic Warfare (EW) version of the X-Wing. I mean, it only makes sense that someone would build a craft capable of eavesdropping on, jamming, spoofing, and otherwise harrassing the enemy, right?

Even if you don't want to convert your X-Wing, most of what follows can be applied to building a 'stock' version. In either case, you'll want to cut the wings off to make detailing and fixing flaws easier, fill in the various gaping holes throughout, etc..

Overall Plan | Fuselage Modifications | Copyright Info

The Plan.

Even without modifications, the inadequacies of the stock kit force one to have a detailed construction plan. Mine is:

  • Cut apart the 'S-foils' (wings). This will make it a whole lot easier to detail them and fix all the holes between them when the 'foils are open ('attack position').
  • Glue fuselage together.
  • Make modifications to fuselage for extended cockpit (crew will sit one behind the other as in an F-14) and electronics suite. This will involve cutting apart the fuslage and building an extra inch-long section from sheet styrene, a new rear canopy, and placing one small and one large dome on the underside for antennaes and such. Other fuselage mods and fixes will also be done at this point.
  • Build and detail the S-foils.
  • Paint and mark the kit. Canopies will be tinted black with an overlay of gold (as on an EA-6B, to protect the crew from their own jammers) - this will also convienently hide the fact that I'm not detailing the cockpit. The overall craft will be painted black (deep space camoflauge!), with lo-vis grey squadron markings.
  • Put wings and fuselage together, and mount kit on a home-made stand.

Pretty ambitious, I know -

Fuselage Modifications.

First off, cut apart the S-foils. Cut each wing from parts 3 and 4 right where it takes a 90 degree angle. What you should have left is the center part that fits around the pivot cylinder (parts X and XX). Assemble this and glue to the bottom fuselage, then glue the stubs of the wings to the fuselage as well (if you'll be modeling the craft with wings open). After this has thoroughly dried (like the next day) glue the fuselage halves together. (If you're building the kit without the extended cockpit, install your cockpit first). Carefully align the fuselage halves so the overhang is the same on both sides - you should have a pronounced 'step' running from the cockpit area to the nose. Parts of this gap will need to be filled with putty in a later step. Also glue the stubs of the top wings to the fuselage at this point, and tape everything in place while the glue sets. Let this dry overnight as well.

Now for the surgery. Saw through the bottom fusalage, using the recessed panel line right in front of the cargo compartment as your guide. On the upper half, cut straight down from the edge of the canopy. I cut four 2-inch long pieces of 1/4 inch wide .040 strip styrene to use as 'longerons' to connect the two fuselage halves. Two of these were glued to the bottom of the forward half; the other two to the sides of the rear half. While these were drying, I cut small rectangles of .040 sheet styrene to fill in the large gaps between the 'S-foil' stubs on the forward and aft walls of the fuselage. (Note: these would have been easier to place before I glued the upper and lower halves together). After the plastic glue had set, I reinforced the places where the new pieces met the kit parts with a layer of superglue. The next day I applied putty to the joins and sanded the area smooth. There were still two small triangular gaps on the rear 'walls', but these I plan to fill when I detail the 'wings'.

I wanted the ship to look like one of the post-war anti-submarine Hunter-Killer aircraft (like the last model of the TBF Avenger, since there aren't really hardpoints on the wings to which I could attach electronics pods (a la the EA-6B). I scouted the local craft and hardware stores over a weekend, looking for just the right piece to make a jamming pod. I eventually found just the thing - a 1" wooden apple - in the local craft mart, along with some tear-drop shaped wooden 'wren's eggs'. The 'wren's eggs' were already cut in half - so I super-glued one to the underside of the nose, just aft of the nose gear doors, to represent an electronics blister. The 'apple' I placed where the cargo compartment would normally be. I carefully traced the outline of the piece directly on to the model, then used a moto-tool to drill small holes close together all along the inside of the marking. These I joined with a keyhole saw to make the opening for the sensor dome. The hole was widened an shaped with a micro-file and hobby knife until the 'apple' sat snugly inside, with perhaps two-thirds of its bulk prodruding from the ship's underside. I then applied super-glue to the inside and outside to secure it place. After that dried I puttied up the joint and sanded it smooth with 320-grit wet-and-dry sandpaper.

I also puttied over the proton torpedo ports on the nose - figuring the weapons would have been dropped to make space for electronics.

When everything was dry and sanded, I carefully glued the two fuselage halves together and allowed the model to dry overnight. I then added a 'rib' brace between the two side spars and reinforced the joins with superglue. After all this was dry, I carefully measured and cut hull panels to build up the fuselage, first from .040 sheet styrene, then again from .020 (since the kit plastic is so thick).

Next: The 'wings'.

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Last updated on 15 May 1998