Nasa YF 12 -Blackbird pics

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Apr 2, 2009
Reaction score
I did this one earlier this year, and never got around to posting these (at least I don't think I did). This is an Estes SR 71 with custom decals to make it an experimental NASA yf 12. The were used for all sorts of atmospheric testing, and the different planes had all sorts of cool markings. This is sort of a standard version.
The decals were done by Tango Papa. They are water slide versions of the Estes ones, and custom tail markings that I worked out the sizing for with Tango Papa over phone and e mail. I think the came out really cool.
Here's the cockpit. The Estes window trim looked like crap as peel and stick decals, so the water slide one's were a vast improvement in my opinion. Tango's red ink is brighter than the actual red used, but it stands out more on a all black rocket.
I primed and sanded and filled forever. The paper skin on the kit is very cool, but difficult to apply. I eventually got it pretty nice.

Getting the blackbird look with the paint was tricky. Before the paint went on I coated the decal sheet with future floor wax to seal the decals. Then I put almost a whole can of high gloss black on the rocket so the decals would go on nicely. The future wax on the decals was about the same shine as the black. Then when everything was in place I put a ton of testors dullcoat over the whole thing. It created the cool semi-flat-ish finish I've seen on Blackbirds at two museums I've visited. I sure it weighs a ton, but it looks pretty good!:D
Most excellent job of blending the decals in!
I've seen alot of flat rockets with glossy decals and it just kills the look

it's nice to see one done right !
You did a great job. The SR-71 (and variant) were and still are awesome birds.
So the 'skin' is paper? I'll be that is hard to manage...
That looks awesome. I was wondering how you got the nosecone and body transition looking so good? Mine looks like crap. I am going to paint mine with Krylon’s chalkboard paint. Then finish with a matte finish.
Justin shows an important example

ALWAYS apply decals to a GLOSS surface than spray matt over it
flat black is the absolute worse surface to put a decal on

heres an example,

the cluster bomb in the top pic shows the wrong way to do it
putting a decal on a flat paint, it doesn't matter how many times you spray over it , the decals will never blend in

the bottom pic show my honest john, I sprayed it with gloss green, applied the decal than sprayed it with a Matt finish
can you even tell it's a decal?

the same rule applys to peel and stick decals,
Thanks for the example. I will use black gloss to paint. apply decals then spray with matte finish.
no prob , I have learned that from my own mistakes and this forum
I have alot of rockets that look like the cluster bomb so I thought it would be good to show an example , good luck with the rocket
and post some pic if you can.
Thanks for the compliments guys. I worked a long time on that bird.

Cummins- The nose fit was a pain. I actually had to remove plastic from the portion of the nose that fits inside the paper. It was the wrong angle and bulged the body skin funny. I had to do that with the sides at also, even cutting all the way through it at one point. A little putty later though, all was good.

Bcdlr-Yes the skin is paper, and VERY cool paper at that. It is actually imbossed with SR 71 surface details. You have to be careful sanding and priming so you don't wipe out all the details.

I just need to fly it now....
nice job Justin! I think the Estes SR-71 is a tough kit to get right(at least it was for me)

I screwed up the paper shrouds so badly I wound throwing the whole thing in the trash!

Nice to see that it can be done so well!!
It's been more times than I'd like to admit that I've spent what I thought was a great deal of time and effort building and finishing a model - then been blown away by an example built by someone else who just nailed it. Now I have to pick up another SR-71 and try and get it right this time :).

Great looking rocket, Justin!

Thanks again guys. I'm glad you all like her.

I was thinking if I did another yf12 I would like to add some of the scientific equipment they hung on them. These doo dads all seem to be centerline and could conceal the launch lugs..
I found this in my research pics. I think I would freak right out if this happened to me driving to work...
Did you know that the model kit to which you refer as the 'YF-12' is not a YF-12? You are definitely modeling an SR-71.
This is probably not important, more along the lines of trivia, but the SR had the big 'spoon' nose fairings that blended the fuselage strakes to the very front end of the aircraft. That aircraft was limited to performing recce missions, and it was OK to 'cover up' part of the radome.
The YF was a prototype for an interceptor, intended to shoot missiles, and requiring a long-range radar to see distant targets. The radome was a round cross-section over the entire length of the nose (for optimum radar performance) and the fuselage strakes began alongside the cockpit. The appearance of the YF front end is entirely different than the SR.
Also, the YF had a pair of near-vertical ventral surfaces (these show up in the picture in your last post). Early flight-test versions of the YF also had a third vertical ventral surface under the far aft end; this was a huge surface that had to fold to the side for takeoff and landing.
I noticed there were variations in fusaloge shape on some of the variants, but there were a few that were more or less sr71 shaped. I'll try to attach a pic.

If I am understanding you correctly, those almost vertical ventril surfaces are on my model. Only two though, I didn't add third as the launch lug is there.
The Estes SR-71 is challenging, takes some time and patience to get right. The embossed skins are tricky, but look real good if you get them on right.

I built one 10 years ago, and it came out real nice. I modified it to fly on dual motors built into the wing nacelles, and installed a tail cone in the main fuselage in place of the standard motor mount. Separate 8" chutes for each nacelle mount.

It flew fine on dual A's, although it did corkscrew slightly on the way up - not violently, just a medium speed barrel roll. With all the wing and rudder surfaces on the bird, probably something was misaligned just a tad, plus if either of the two motor mounts was off just a couple degrees, that would set it into a roll too. But overall it still flew OK.

That model is in a box somewhere in my attic -- gotta dig it out. It was pretty cool looking.
Okay, found 'em. From my pictures I have 3 distinctly different yf 12's, though I think there are more.

This first one is what I was going for as a sort of "standard" one like I said in the first post. It's pretty close. Not a total scale, but close.

I say "standard" as in I didn't want to add extra doo dads or reshape fairings like in some of these pics.
This is one with the different nose I belive Powder burner was reffering to. Or maybe I switched 'em and it's the next pic. Anyhow, this one seems to have more fin around the nose.
Here's one with a really cool front end. But like I said, I wasn't up to all that sculpting..
More research is required if you want to be sure
The blackbird variations consist of

A-12, F-12, M-21, D-21, SR-71 and the different sub-variations of them.
The M-21 and D-21 were designations for the drones that were launched off the back/top of some of the SRs.

Justin's post above ("3 distinctly different yf 12's . . . This first one is what I was going for as a sort of 'standard' one ") is a YF prototype. You cannot see the shortened strake very easily, but you can see the ventral fins clearly.

Justin's second post ("one with the different nose ") is an SR airframe. The full-length strake was only put on the SR-71 design.

His third post ("a really cool front end") is another YF. In this view you cannot see the ventral fins but you get an excellent view of how the strakes were shortened.
Hey guys-

"the one with the different nose" is from a NASA photo. If you look at the un cropped photo at the bottom, it says YF12-C.

It looks like crap, but you can read it.
Hey, does any one have a pic of one of those M21 or D21 drones you guys were talking about?

Wouldn't it be cool to make an SR with a parasite glider drone. I bet someone has done one..... somewhere....Hidden deep in the caves of the forum......
Here ya go! I have more pictures and drawings if your interested.
That would be great. I'll send you details in a PM. Thanks.
Originally posted by me
Early flight-test versions of the YF also had a third vertical ventral surface under the far aft end; this was a huge surface that had to fold to the side for takeoff and landing.

Found a photo of this configuration:
This mother-of-all-ventral-fins had to fold sideways for landing or while the aircraft was on the ground. Look closely under the rear of this aircraft to see.