Media: Injection Plastic
The introduction of the UH-1 Iroquois during the Vietnam War also brought the concept of air cavalry into reality: troops being carried by fleets of UH-1s to fight the enemy at time and places of their own choosing. However, the UH-1s would prove to be vulnerable to ground fire as they drop and pick-up their troops. The decision was made to develop an attack helicopter to provide escort and fire support. This would become the AH-1G Cobra.
The AH-1J SeaCobra was the twin-engine version of the original AH-1, with the AH-1W SuperCobra the further improvement of the AH-1J by adding day/night capability, more powerful engines and advanced weapon capabilities.
A total of 222 AH-1Ws were delivered to the USMC and they have served as the backbone of its attack helicopter fleet until replaced by the AH-1Z Viper variant in recent years. The AH-1W is scheduled to be totally phased out by 2020.
Info adapted from Wikipedia
This is a Tamiya rebox of the Italeri kit that was first issued in 1987. As it is meant for the local Japanese market, it has Japanese only instructions and Tamiya color call outs.
The kit has raised panel lines, pretty OK details but typical of Italeri, the plastic is on the soft side and doesn’t have the finesse of Tamigawa. The canopy is one-piece and thick. Clarity is OK. As per reports on the Internet, there are 2 major mistakes: the engines were only found on the prototype SuperCobra and the main prop blade is molded in the wrong direction. I’m also not too sure about the shape of the AGM-116 Hellfires. Only 1 generic line bird marking is included.
If you’re looking for an AH-1W variant in 1/72, this is the only game in town as this mold has also appeared under Revell’s banner.
Much like aircraft kits, I started with the cockpit. The seats didn’t have any details on them and due to the large canopy, I decided to add some seatbelts using 1mm masking tape. I draped them as randomly as I could so they look different. I then sprayed Black Grey for the whole canopy with the seat cushions Green Brown and the belts US Grey. The dials and monitor screens on the instruments were randomly brushed with Transparent Green over Dead White. I then drybrushed US Grey to bring out details. The inside of the cockpit was also sprayed Black Grey. The canopy was brushed with Future, masked and put away. I diverted from the instructions for the fuselage by assembling each side first. To help with alignment I added plastic cards to act as guides. However, there was still a noticeable seamline running across the fuselage that needs fixing. There are also noticeable steps between the upper fuselage and where the tail starts. I decided to fix the nose sensor and gun in place to make my life easier. The gun housing needed some trimming inside and finesse to get into the proper position.
The AH-1W has a thicker nose compared to other variants and the kit replicates this by having additional ‘cheeks’ that wrap around the nose. Before closing both halves, I also added 2 fishing weights in the nose. The fit is OK on top but it was seamlines and gaps galore on the bottom. The intakes were then installed and these also have pretty obvious gaps, made especially more obvious because the rest of the panel lines are raised. I then attached the wing stubs which made my work more difficult down the line: the stubs cut through the big seamline running across the fuselage. There’s also a noticeable gap on the back of the tail which will need fixing. Engine exhausts were kept separate.
To ease construction and painting, I left part A18 off the main rotor assembly so I can deal with it separately from the fuselage. It will still fit without this small part and stays in place even without cement. The main rotor blade is apparently molded in the wrong direction so I decided to fix this. I cut off the blades, drilled a hole in each of them and added a 0.5mm brass rod as pins. I also added some sag to the blades by running each blade between the edge of the table and my thumb.
Fixing seamlines was next with Vallejo Plastic Putty. It’s easily cleaned with water/Windex but shrinks after it cures. I also tried Future + talcum powder which sands very easily but again it shrinks after curing. I went through multiple sessions of fixing the seamlines and along the way the wire cutter looking blade behind the canopy broke off. I decided to move on before being bogged down for too long and breaking more stuff.
The other smaller seamlines were scraped off and I very carefully sanded around the raised panel lines. The results aren’t perfect but it’s more obvious at the bottom. Since they are at the bottom though, I can live with it. The final step was to attach the canopy with Gator Glue while the skids were inserted without glue to ease painting. I had to thin the front section of the canopy to make it fit properly.
The rocket pods are each made of 4 parts and assembly is straightforward. To detail the Hellfires I decided to drill out the exhausts with a drill and router. I managed to ruin 2 of them so my AH-1W will be armed with only 6 Hellfires. These were set aside to be painted separately.
Painting and Markings
I first base coated with AK Black Primer. This kit will be painted in the 3 tone camouflage of the 1980s. I like this scheme a lot. Colors I used for this after checking the internet are US Grey, Black Grey and US Dark Green. I prefer Black Grey over straight black paint when painting black. I first sprayed the gray, then masked with blutack for the green and then more masking for the black. This was done in stages and multiple sessions to tweak the camouflage and fix the overspray. I also did my best to get the demarcation lines as tight as possible without being solid. Unfortunately though, there were some parts that I resorted to handpainting so the demarcation is solid. I’ll chalk it up to on the field touch-ups by the ground crew. 😀
For this build I tried 3M Microfine Sanding Sponges to buff the paint before the first gloss coat. It might have been too fine to see any effect but it did work to buff off overspray.
Major colors used for this build were:
The props and skids were then all given a quick spray of Black Grey while the exhausts and actuators on the props were handpainted Gun Grey. The rocket tubes were sprayed Dark Green with the ends Gun Grey and the mount in gray. The nose gun was also handpainted at this point in Gun Grey. I then proceeded to drop the kit nose first on my thigh. 2 of the gun barrels broke on one end and got bent. So I had to slowly and carefully bend the 3 barrels back in place and run some thin cement on the breakage points.
I’ve always assumed that Hellfires were olive drab in color. Turns out, they are actually always black. In the 1980s, a live Hellfire had 2 yellow bands, so I went ahead and painted Dead White as a base and layered with Sun Blast Yellow. After this has dried I carefully masked the yellow off and sprayed Black Grey over all the missiles. It took a while but it’s a lot neater than my previous attempt. These were then mounted onto the missile racks (which were also painted in Black Grey) with Gator Glue. On each winglet there is a box that I assume to be chaff dispensors, these were also handpainted and attached.
After a night of drying and curing, all the parts were then given a gloss coat of Vallejo Gloss Varnish. After another day of drying, I added the decals which were easy to use and reacted well to Mark Softer. The next day I airbrushed more Vallejo Gloss on the decals after a quick wipe down with a wet cloth. At this point I then added all the small antennas around the kit. These were either attached with Gator Glue or superglue and then brushpainted. Last on were the Hellfires with superglue.
Then it was time for the oil wash. I went easy this time as I didn’t want to end up darkening the paint work even more. Then the whole kit was given a flat coat of Vallejo Matt Varnish after another day of drying. After that it was adding the small details like painting the lights by layering with white before putting on transparent red and green. These along with the sensor window on the nose and the tips of the Hellfires were then glossed up with Future.
The last step is to remove the masking tape and trim and clean up any errant paint on the canopy with a toothpick. (Add: After the photos were taken I noticed the very obvious white/grayish lines around the canopy sills. I’m guessing this is dried Tamiya Polishing Compound. Chalk it up to not enough careful cleaning on my part.)
This is my first helicopter and raised panel line kit. The raised panel lines and fit issues caused some problems but at the end of the day, they were OK. Being the only game in town and a massive fan of the Cobra, I think this build turned out quite well. Just don’t look too closely. 😉
Number 7 of 2016
Majority of painting done though I’m still fixing the paintwork here and there by hand.
Relatively trouble-free until I dropped it on my lap nose first and almost breaking off the nose gun. I had to carefully bend the 1 remaining barrel back straight and ran thin cement on the other two breakages.
So after a few rounds of fixing seamlines, I thnk I’ll go ahead with the painting stage. It’s hardly flawless but I think I’ve gotten it as far as I’m willing to go.
I cut the main rotor into 3 pieces after reading that Italeri (this is a Tamiya rebox) molded the blades on backwards. I also added a bit of a sag to the blades by running each blade in between my thumb and the edge of the table. I’ve also read that the main engines are correct only for the prototype Super Cobra but I can live with it.
The weapons were also prepped. I ruined 2 of the Hellfire missiles when I drilled exhausts to the back of them so my Super Cobra will end up only being armed with 6 of these.
Media: Injection Plastic
The Douglas (later McDonnell Douglas) A-4 Skyhawk is a single seat subsonic carrier-capable attack aircraft originally developed for the US Navy and US Marine Corps. While relatively lightweight, it was nimble, had a top speed of more than 670mph and could carry the same bomb loads as the B-17 Flying Fortress. Deliveries to the USN and USMC commenced in late 1956 and withdrawn from front-line service in 1976 and 1994. The A-4 would however remain in USN service in training units (like TOPGUN) flying as stand-ins for the MiG-17 in Dissimilar Air Combat Training. It will serve in this role in TOPGUN until 1999.
This build depicts an A-4E serving with TOPGUN in the early 1980s. During this period, the squadrons were constantly trying different camouflages. TOPGUN 56 had the silhouette of a camouflaged MiG-17 painted onto it but was only dressed up this way for a short period of time.
This is pretty much the definitive 1/48 A-4 kit in the market right now. Hasegawa has boxed every major variant of the Skyhawk except for the OA-4M, with each box usually including parts to do up various versions of the A-4 if you know what to look for.
The kit comes in 7 light grey and 1 clear sprues. Panel lines are nicely done and recessed. Options include open canopy, dive brakes, slats, flaps and two different types of fuel probes. As per usual with Hasegawa, no weapons are included but a nice touch is the inclusion of a crew ladder.
Construction was pretty straightforward and fitting was generally OK. As it’s a modular mold, there are a lot of small parts that need to be added or cut off to get the exact variant you’re building. It’s also quite obvious that Hasegawa didn’t design the dive brakes to be closed as it took some sanding and finessing to get them to fit. The brakes also do not have the same â€˜curve’ as the fuselage so when fitted in, they aren’t perfectly flushed.
TOPGUN 56 had some specific features in which Dave Aungst has wonderfully documented in his article on Hyperscale. I referred to it quite heavily for this build.
The showcase of this build is of course the camouflage pattern which I have detailed here. It took a few rounds of tweaking and respraying but in the end, I think I got a decent result.
The markings are on the TwoBobs Heinemann’s Hotrods but it turns out I only had the other options and not TOPGUN 56. I had to custom make my own decals so this was what I came up with. Since it’s my decal sheet, I decided to assign Lt. Pete Mitchell as the crew chief for TOPGUN 56. It didn’t come out perfect (the font is not 100% same, some of the sizes were off, BuNo in the wrong color and the nameplates aren’t in gold color) but it will have to do. Annoyingly, I placed the MARINES decals onto the tailfin before inserting the stabilizers. Turns out the starboard stab covers a bit of the marking. I cursed but had to move on. Otherwise though, the custom decals went on fine. The remaining ones came from the original TwoBobs sheet which worked very well although having to stack some of the decals was a bit challenging.
The edges of the MLG doors were painted with a red permanent marker. This is a whole lot easier than using a paintbrush.
After another gloss coat over the decals it was time to put everything together. The arresting hook, flaps, slats and refueling probe were attached with superglue and the 2 blade antennas with Gator glue. For some reason (and it seems like not many bring this up), the MLG doors are attached via a butt joint which isn’t ideal. To strengthen the joint I drilled a small hole in both the bay and the MLG door and inserted a 0.5mm brass tube to pin them together.
I then noticed that the brown camo on the port nose needed to be fixed: the demarcation between the brown and the grey was too low. I spent about 10 minutes cursing and 30 minutes deciding if I could live with the mistake. I decided that I couldn’t so I carefully masked off the decals with a Post-It note and rolled the blutack needed. Then I carefully sprayed on more paint to a somewhat finished kit (with all the fragile parts on). I made sure to spray in a very low pressure and in layers. I think I also held my breath on every color I added. Anyway, luckily for me it got done with no problems.
Then I gave the whole kit a wash of black grey oil wash (yeah I’ve given up on the Vallejo Wash for now). My gloss coat wasn’t smooth enough so I had some difficulty removing the wash in some spots. In fact, my turpentine rubbed off a whole section of gloss from the upper fuselage. I’ll just say it’s patchy weathering on the plane. Interestingly the nose camo that I fixed also has a different tone even after the wash: yepâ€¦ more ‘weathering’. I then attached the clear bits with Gator glue. These were colored with transparent Vallejo model color paints by hand.
Then an overall flat coat was sprayed on. After that I go back to brush Future onto the clear bits to gloss them back up. The exhaust is then cemented in place. The final step as per usual is removing the tape off the canopy which is always teeth gnashing. It wasn’t too bad though. Just a bit of scraping with a hobby knife after which I brushed on Future to clear up all the tiny scratches.
I made quite a few mistakes on this one:
But most importantly, I’m done! Onward to the next imperfect build! 🙂
Number 6 of 2016
Media: Injection Plastic
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of both remote and autonomous flight operations. It was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the USAF and is a larger, heavier and more capable UAV than the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator. It has a carrying capacity of 3,000 pounds and is capable of fielding the AGM-114 Hellfire, GBU-12 LGBs, the JDAM family of GPS-guided munitions and even AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. Missions include close air support, air interdiction, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) and border monitoring.Â Operations began in 2007 with combat missions starting in Iraq and Afghanistan in the summer of the same year. The first ‘kill’ was achieved in October 2007.
Production has totaled 163 as of 2014. Operators include the USAF, US Customs and Border Protection, most NATO countries and even NASA.
Skunkmodels released this kit in 2011 and a pleasant surprise is they include 2 units in the box. I think this is the first 1/72 scaled Reaper in plastic form and would be reboxed by Italeri (though you can only build 1 MQ-9 from that boxing). Parts are molded quite well although the panel lines look somewhat soft and deep for the scale. Details however are quite nice with sunken rivets around the fuselage although the ball turret’s details are on the softer side. Underwing pylon holes come opened but I guess everyone will want to arm this thing. Weapons include 2 GBU-12s and 4 AGM-114 Hellfires.
Another pleasant surprise is the inclusion of 2 of the same set of decals and is designed by Crossdelta. Colors look good, crisp and are on register.
First up, I did a thorough washing of the sprues as they have an oily residue out of the box. Since it doesn’t have a cockpit and canopy, construction is quite straighforward and fitting was generally good. The plastic feels similar to Kinetic Models’ but seems to be less brittle. The biggest challenge is the tail section but some dryfitting should eliminate serious seamlines. There is however a tiny groove in the housing on the tail which can’t be reached and there is an obvious gap in there. I put in fishing weights in the nose as specified in the instructions. I tested the weights by friction fitting the landing gear.
The main wing is molded as one piece with the main fuselage fitting top to bottom. This eliminates any alignment issues which is nice. Unfortunately though, the main wings are long and thin and the port wing on my set came warped. It went through a few sessions of heat treatment with hot water and hair dryer and was bent to straighten them. I did the best I can but it’s still slightly warped.
The antenna were all left out till the end.
Colors and Markings
The instructions lists the MQ-9 to be an overall FS36375 but some research on the Internet (I referred to this Britmodeller MQ-9 walkaround a lot) shows that it’s actually 2 tones with the top being FS36375 and bottom FS36176. The painting guide is also not clear like Hasegawa’s. It’s grayscale and looks to be a photocopy. For example the colors of the nosewheel and the ordnance look similar in the instructions. A lot of callouts were also missing (see below). I used the following colors for this build:
I first primed the kit with AK Interactive Black Primer and the landing gear and weapons with Vallejo Grey Primer. I used Light Compass Ghost Grey on top. My table says that Vallejo Model Air Dark Sea Gray is similar to FS36176. It’s not. It dried into a very dark grey that’s almost black. So I ended up mixing my own FS36176 by adding some Foundation White to Dark Sea Green (about 1:5 ratio). I think it’s still too dark but I’ll live with it (at least it doesn’t look black).
By a happy accident, I completely forgot I used the Ammo paint and I touched up the lighter grey sections with Model Air Light Grey instead. So now there is a bit of subtle patchy variation in the colors. Looks quite good actually.
The gearbays were sprayed Black Grey although that’s not mentioned in the instructions (thanks Internet). Most of the other components were handpainted. The nosegear was Gunmetal Grey, MLG was Light Grey and the prop housing Steel. The prop blades were Black Grey with the tips being Deep Yellow over a base color of Foundation White (color callouts also missing in the instructions for these).
The ball turret is actually a housing for various cameras and sensors. According to photos, there should be 4 small windows and 1 big main one. However, Skunkmodels doesn’t indicate what needs to be done here. No decals are included as well. The detail on the ball turret itself is also not very sharp so I decided to just paint Black Grey on the main big one. I’ll Future over this to simulate a glass panel at the end.
To save time, I gloss coated the kit with Krylon Gloss Preserve it but due to the humidity at the time, it went on uneven and splotchy. It also frosted when wet which luckily cleared up when dry. Still splotchy though.
I decided to model MQ-9 05-4016 from the 432rd Air Expeditionary Wing which has some â€˜kill’ marks’ on the port fuselage. The decals went on very easily and was pretty much trouble free. Strong enough to be moved about and yet snuggled down to the kit with a spot of Mark Softer. I was glad that the decals were strong enough that I could cut the band on the tailfin without any problems even before it has cured. After half a day of curing I wiped all the decals down with a wet cloth to remove any residues. I then brushed Future over the decals to seal them.
I did an overall panel wash with Vallejo Dark Grey Wash. These were wiped with Windex soaked tissues. Some of the wash were harder to clean due to the splotchiness of the gloss coat so some elbow grease was required. Yet some others couldn’t be cleaned up completely.
I then attached the landing gear with super glue. These actually fit well enough without any glue but I did so anyway just in case.
For the Hellfires, I first drilled holes at the back to simulate the exhaust ports. I then painted yellow over a base of white to prepare for the bands. Turns out though, they were too tiny for my 1mm masking tape to grip onto so I couldn’t do a mask and spray. I ended up hand painting everything with Future on the missile tips. The Future frosted after I brushpainted on so they look really â€˜used’. After some touch-ups and a wash they look OK from 2 feet away but yikes, they are very roughly done. They also took a bit of finessing to fit onto the small bomb racks due to their size. A thing to note is that based on photos, the racks should mount at a downward angle but the kit’s racks point straight forward.Â The GBU-12s faired better. I masked off the initial yellow color with 1mm masking tape and I then airbrushed Olive Drab 41, Futured and then given a wash. Of course, the tip on one of them broke off but I managed to superglue it back on.
Along with the weapons, the prop and the antennas which were painted separately were then attached and an overall satin coat was sprayed. The nose probe should be pointing straight forward but mine sits at an angle. It’s quite fragile so I decided to live with it. Lucky for me the splotchiness of the gloss coat was fixed by this final satin one. Then lastly I removed the masking tape from the cano… wait… nevermind. 😀
Definitely not my best work. The finishing took a while with a ton of minor disasters but in the end, I’m done!
Number 4 of 2016