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with X-45 Phantom Ray

Series: TFC Toys
Allegiance: Autobot
Year: 2013

Prelude: Legal stuff first as always. SR-71 Blackbird and his partner X-47 Phantom Ray are not figures released by Hasbro or Takara-Tomy and thus not official Transformers toys. They’re from third party provider TFC Toys and an obvious homage to the G1 Aerialbot Silverbolt (and his previously non-sentient, non-transforming chest plate), but for legal reasons they can't be called by that name. And the mystery of why they didn’t get different proper names remains, I fear.

Robot Mode: G1 Silverbolt was a robot with a Concorde hanging off his back. Universe Silverbolt was a robot with an XB-70 Valkyrie hanging off his back. So it’s not really that surprising that TFC Not-Silverbolt here is a robot with an SR-71 Blackbird hanging off his back, is it? To be fair, it’s only the main body of the Blackbird that’s hanging off his back, while the nose and cockpit go into his hand as a weapon, but you catch my drift, I hope.

Leaving aside the fact that SR-71 has a huge rocket backpack, what you have here is a very good-looking robot that nicely captures the look of the original Aerialbot leader (more his cartoon version than his toy incarnation). The colours, the general build, the chest plate with the little wings on the shoulders, it all fits together quite nicely. Unlike the original G1 figure Blackbird is also nicely articulated and can assume all sorts of poses. Despite his big backpack, there are no stability issues.

Two things worth noting: The rocket boosters on Blackbird’s backpack can be extended outwards and swivelled, but I don’t really see the point. It doesn’t look that hot and there are no flip-out guns or anything, so unless you want to imagine the exhaust ports of the engines themselves as gun openings, it doesn’t really make much sense. Second, Blackbird’s big weapon (really the nose and cockpit of the jet mode) has an extending barrel, which I’ve left unextended in most of the pics above. See the next-to-last picture for one where it’s extended. To me it looks even more oversized than it already is when the barrel is extended, so I’ll leave that option for when Uranus is assembled.

So bottom line: a good robot mode that nicely captures the essence of the figure it pays homage to. Not revolutionary or anything, but good.

Alternate Mode: As you might have suspected SR-71 Blackbird transforms into a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, one of my favourite aircraft of all time. Developed in the 1960s, it was the fastest (non-rocket) aircraft of its time (Mach 3+) and still holds the record for fastest air-breathing jet aircraft ever, attaining 3,529.6 kilometres per hour in 1976. Of course Silverbolt used to transform into a Concorde, but given that the Concorde is well over 60 meters in length, it was always vastly out of scale with the other Aerialbots. So I have no problem with having unofficial Silverbolt here become a Blackbird instead, whose “mere” 32 meter length is much more fitting when compared to the other Uranus team members. And besides, the Concorde maxed out at a mere Mach 2.

Once you get over the weirdness of seeing a white Blackbird - not only because of the name but because pretty much every Blackbird ever seen in any media was black – you find yourself holding a very nice aircraft. Okay, it’s got the same problem as many, many other jet Transformers, meaning that you have the largest part of the actual robot hanging underneath the jet as a bulky belly, but it’s still a better job than Universe Silverbolt did. The jet has a working landing gear, a cockpit that opens up to reveal two seats, and nice detailing all over the hull, though much of it is swallowed up by the nearly all-white paint job.

Not much more to write here. Except for the big underbelly it’s a very nice jet mode. I’m sure some people will bitch about him not being a Concorde, but as I said, I can live with that. Nicely done.

Partner / Add-On: G1 Silverbolt came with a white chest plate that he used in both his individual robot mode and when forming the torso of Superion. For whatever reason TFC decided to make that chest plate into an individual figure. Blackbird does not wear it in robot mode, but it becomes the chest plate of Uranus. Individually it’s a small (roughly the size of a Cyberverse Commander / Scout-class figure) red and white robot that transforms into an X-47, an unmanned combat aircraft built by Northrop Grumman (though it’s called Pegasus, not Phantom Ray in real life). It’s more or less in scale with Blackbird (being 11 meters long) and can attach to the top of the larger aircraft.

In robot mode Phantom Ray is small, but highly articulated and got good detailing, even though the white colour swallows up most of it. Not much else I can write here that you can’t see much better in the pics. A nice little extra figure I wouldn’t have needed, but which I certainly don’t mind, either.

Combiner Mode: SR-71 Blackbird forms the torso of the Uranos combiner robot and X-47 Phantom Ray becomes the chest plate. I'll do a separate review for the big guy once I've assembled all the component figures. In the picture above one of the legs is borrowed from Hercules, as the connecting ports are compatible.

Remarks: Silverbolt is the most well-known of the Aerialbots and the name has been recycled numerous times, too. And with the Aerialbots being the most popular of the (comparatively few) Autobot combiner teams, it was a given that he’d return. TFC’s non-official version of Silverbolt shares not only the look of the original G1 toy, but also some of the limitations. Given that the toy has two serve as the entire torso of a big combiner robot as well as have two modes of its own, there probably wasn’t that much that could be done differently. So bottom line, SR-71 Blackbird is a nice toy, dragged down only by the fact that he’s either a robot with a jet on his back or a jet with a robot under his belly. He’s far from the worst example of this particular trend among jet formers and if you want the Uranus team, you’re gonna have to get him either way. So while certainly not a revolutionary toy by itself, it’s still pretty good.

Rating: B-
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