Estes BLU-97B Cluster Bomb

Estes - BLU-97B Cluster Bomb {Kit} (2055)

Contributed by Max Handly

Construction Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Flight Rating: starstarstarstar_borderstar_border
Overall Rating: starstarstarstarstar_border
Diameter: 2.22 inches
Length: 14.40 inches
Manufacturer: Estes
Skill Level: 2
Style: Scale

This is Estes new 1:6.4 scale BLU-97B Cluster Bomb. The rocket is fat (2.25") and short (14"). It comes with 4 "cluster bombs" which are small, about 1.5 inches long that get ejected at deployment and streamer to the ground.

The kit contains:

  • one body tube
  • two part nose cone (cut in half)
  • two part tail cone (with through the tube slots!)
  • die-cut balsa fins
  • bomblets
  • streamers
  • parachute
  • the standard 18mm motor mount and recovery system
  • clay weights and decal sheet.

All this for $9.95 from Tower Hobbies! I was convinced that I . . . I mean my boys would love this rocket.

The directions seemed very clear, good diagrams and plenty of words. I followed them pretty much, except I put together the tail cone and tested the fit of the motor mount for length before gluing it in. I highly suggest this as I used a slightly different position than was stated in the instructions. I glued the motor mount in and then, after drying, glued the tail cone on, careful to line up the notch with the engine hook. Next came the fins. I had to really sand them flat for them to fit into the through the tube slots. One gave me fits and I was convinced that the fin tab was hitting the motor mount. I finally got a fit and epoxyed the fins in. This is a wood to plastic joint so used the right glue. There is no access to the inside of the tube/tail cone at this point so I dropped epoxy in before the fins. I did use a different recovery system with Kevlar® string and shock cord, and a Thrustline parachute.

The body tube was a bit flimsily, even for a rocket this short, but the tail, engine mount, and nose cone firmed it up quite nicely.

Cons: Not many, level one construction, good instructions, standard Estes stuff.

For the finish I used automotive rust colored primer. Two coats with sanding makes a darn smooth surface, even on the fins. I had some military flat green spray paint that matched the picture fairly well. Flat finish seems to be the choice here. I hand painted the nipple on the nose silver. With one solid color for the rocket, painting went quick. Decals were good and didn't give me any trouble installing. I painted the bomblets bright orange so I could find them. I used some flat paint I had around, but after a couple of launches, the bomblets are getting dirty and flat paint doesn't lend itself well to being cleaned. I would suggest some bright color GLOSS paint for the bomblets.

For the price this is a fine kit and a good looking model.

Construction Rating: 4 out of 5

The recommended motors are B4-2, B4-4, B6-2, B6-4, C6-3, C6-5. For the first flight, I opted for the B6-4. My RockSim file says this should go only to about 150 feet and I was a tad bit worried about the speed of the rocket as it left the rail, but the winds were low so I went for it. Hey, I build this to spec and this was a recommended more, right? I put in 5 sheets of wadding and put in the bomblets. The motor went in fine and we set her on the launcher.

The flight was nice and straight, even with the winds at about 3 mph. I'd say the 150 feet was right on. The 4 second delay seems good with the rocket still pointing up somewhat at deployment. With this motor, you see the entire flight. My boys loved it. The four bomblets ejected just perfectly and came down in a nice pattern just 20 feet from the launcher. The Thrustline parachute just wasn't balanced right and the rocket came down pretty fast. Those Estes 12 inch 'chutes can just make a rocket hang in the air sometimes, so I put a spillhole in them. This nylon 12 inch Thrustline parachute had no spill hole and it came down fast. Maybe it was just this one 'chute. I'll try another next time.

Next we flew it on a C6-3. Again it was a nice straight flight, so high that I could not see the bomblets deploy at all. I finally saw two of them but the others weren't too far away so all was recovered. Again, the rocket came down fast, but no damage. All the wadding didn't leave the rocket and had to be removed by hand. I think the C6-5 would be better and would aid in a nicer deployment of the bomblets.

Since I used a different recovery system, I can't speak to how the supplied system would work. My experience with the standard Estes stuff, and with a rocket this small, is that it would work fine except for a short shock cord life.

Flight Rating: 3 out of 5

We really had fun with this rocket, and because this is no performance demon, I would suggest sticking with the smaller motors and longer delays. It would be nice to have the rocket pointing down at bomblet deployment. My next launch will be with a longer delay, or a tilted launch rod. I know, I know, bigger is better, but you'll want to see the action with this one.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

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